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Peaceful Path of the U.S. TourA gracious “Thank You” to all you Pathfinders who followed the 10,000 Miles posts. I’ve enjoyed being your guide and hope the ride was interesting and entertaining. From pictures to journal I relived many incredible moments from the two month journey.

There is much written about life’s journeys and I can not compare to the many articulate writers and philosophers, but I leave you with this:

When your soul  needs fulfillment, pack your backpack, pack your tent, pack your car and connect with nature. Even if only for a night, a weekend, or a week, get remote as possible. Include children since many are connecting with the unnatural social environment. Let them be social with you and connect with the directions of the east, south, west, and north, the trees, the water, and the sky. Mountains and stones last forever, iProducts do not. Build a fire together, tell stories, watch the stars and sleep well.

Peace – Greg

More adventures to come…

Top Ten, Poll, Quotes and Favorite Pics

My Top Ten

  1. Most diverse park – Yellowstone
  2. Wildlife at distance – Wolves & Grizzly, Yellowstone
  3. Wildlife close up – Elk, Rocky Mountain N.P.; Bison, Yellowstone
  4. Most thought provoking park – Badlands
  5. Best campsite(s) – Camp 2 in Badlands & Gallatin National Forest
  6. Most nerve wracking – Scrambling at 2k ft. Sacajawea Ridge, Lost in Badlands, Off trail at Tetons
  7. Most humbling experience – Mexican home builders, Taos
  8. Most amazing sunsets – Bozeman
  9. Longest treks – Bike, Boulder – Brainard Lake & Climbing Middle Teton
  10. Hottest drive (No A/C!) – Houston to Wyoming – 108°

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Your time to vote!

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Favorite quotes on journeys:

Not all those who wander are lost.” ― J.R.R. Tolkien

“Sometimes, reaching out and taking someone’s hand is the beginning of a journey. At other times, it is allowing another to take yours.”  ― Vera Nazarian

“We travel, some of us forever, to seek other states, other lives, other souls.” ― Anaïs Nin

“Never stop just because you feel defeated. The journey to the other side is attainable only after great suffering.” ― Santosh Kalwar

“We should not judge people by their peak of excellence; but by the distance they have traveled from the point where they started.”  ― Henry Ward Beecher

“I am no longer afraid of becoming lost, because the journey back always reveals something new, and that is ultimately good for the artist.” ― Billy Joel

“Not I, nor anyone else can travel that road for you.
You must travel it by yourself.
It is not far. It is within reach.
Perhaps you have been on it since you were born, and did not know.
Perhaps it is everywhere – on water and land.” ― Walt Whitman

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It’s a difficult task following the previous post of Bear Lodge and Badlands. Their uniqueness and history offer a variety of physical, intellectual and emotional experiences. This post is the return to New England from the two month tour and the end of one personal journey. The adventure in this segment was different than previous posts with great timing meeting my brother on the road.

Heading home…

Farewell to the BisonDriving slowly out of Badlands looking into the horizon I thought of times when Native Americans respectfully lived with this land “taking” only what was needed with honor. This land was so difficult to live with even they called it “land bad” because of the scorching summer heat and brutally cold winters. I imagined millions of years previous when a variety of dinosaurs roamed long before the bison I was now bidding farewell to. There’s much to the imagination of Badlands, one of the most unique places I’ve visited which sits the strongest within me.

Wall Drug StoreContinuing the hesitant press in the direction of the East the first stop was to fuel myself and Mitzy (the Montero) in Wall, South Dakota, home of the famous Wall Drugstore, a place I never heard of. A quick picture was enough since man made big box “landmarks” are of no interest. There was a greasy spoon diner across the street to supplement early oatmeal and coffee. Tasting a few forkfuls I should have found a rest area to make more oatmeal but hunger was setting in. After drinking a half gallon of water to wash breakfast away I hopped on 91 East setting the cruise control for a flat, uneventful 500 mile ride ending the day at Maple Springs Campground in Preston, Minnesota. John, the welcoming owner of the quiet family campground who hasn’t seen many CT plates, signed me in and gave directions to the campsite. I encountered the first camp rain that night since starting theOvernight home in Minnesota tour almost two months previous. If you haven’t experienced being in a tent during rain it is one of the most soothing sounds as the raindrops quickly put you to sleep. Hearing bullfrogs with the rain was a reminder of being in a different climate zone with the dryness of the Midwest behind me.

With Jamie in ChicagoEarly the next morning Chicago was on the radar. My brother Jamie was in the city attending a tradeshow so timing to meet would be perfect. Being on the road throughout my career it’s nice to meet familiar people when away from home, especially family. The dirt roads and bison were now replaced with a web of concrete pathways and four wheeled transporters. I was missing the National Parks already. Jamie and I met in the lobby of a Marriot conference center where I didn’t feel out of place wearing jeans and a safari shirt since I’ve done the dress attire for years. I made myself more presentable with a shower and power nap before Jamie’s day was over. Walking to dinner the vast horizon could no longer be seen with towering skyscrapers filling the landscape. We caught a view of Jesse Jackson having dinner outside one of the restaurants on the way to our restaurant where we had an incredible dinner. The amount of food was the most I’ve eaten in one sitting since leaving Houston and much, much better than Ramen noodles and tuna! (Inside joke if you’ve been following the Tour!). We caught up on our latest life events and made it an early night for his work the next morning and the traveling I had ahead. After a pampering of a comfortable bed and a good night’s rest we had coffee before the city fully awoke and the concrete pathways filled with iron buffalo.

Allegheney SignageTaking longer than expected to get to Minister Creek Campground in Allegheny National Forest five hundred miles later, I was setting the tent with the aid of a headlamp. The overnight stop was short to rest my eyes before driving to Kane, PA recommended by my father who stops in this now quiet town on his way to his favorite hunting area. In early mill and manufacturing days Kane was a bustling town. Now, the antique town is fairly quiet with many empty storefronts. Continuing on I stopped at a More Lost Peacerest area in New York where there stood a sign that told of an unfortunate battle between the Native Americans and American forces where the original land owners were overtaken. Three hundred miles later I was at the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, NY. I had dreams of playing professional baseball for the Red Sox as a youngster and played until college where studies dictated my time. The museum changed quite a bit from what I remembered many years previous and it was fun to see the old equipment and read of past Hall of Famers including one of the best, Ted Williams. Best Hitter Ever - Ted WilliamsIt also reminded me of the baseball card collection I should have held on to! Having plenty of daylight hours after visiting the museum I drove back roads of upstate New York before heading southeast a few hundred miles further to Connecticut ending an exciting lifetime tour with mixed emotions and many thoughts.

The next and final post on the U.S. Tour are my thoughts and highlights and a chance for you to vote for your favorite Tour stop!!

– Greg

“It is good to have an end to journey toward, but it is the journey that matters in the end.” ― Ursula K. Le Guin

 

This post is dedicated to Hazel Birdsong, the strong mother of my friend Bob. Here’s to you Hazel. All good medicine for your health and happiness! Aho.

I was now driving in a direction untraveled in almost two months, due east. The time in Bozeman was fulfilling seeing the city and experiencing the surrounding areas in the mountains and forests. The land is beautiful and is an outdoors mecca with many natural resources to admire and enjoy for adventure. Horseback riding is on the agenda for the next trip.

Devils Tower / Bear LodgeDriving six hours in the direction of the sun I noticed signage for Devils Tower(5,114 ft), or the Lakota name Bear Lodge, America’s first national monument and place of sacredness to many Native American nations. Approaching from a distance I saw the massive protrusion which the vertical columns became defined as I drew closer. I stopped before the park and wondered how this object came to be with nothing similar or taller in the vast surrounding area. There is no definitive scientific explanation how this structure was formed about 200 million years ago. I entered the park and walked around the igneous intrusion continuing to be in amazed Devil's Tower - Wyomingby its size and formation. There were two climbers making an ascent and although a climber, I thought it to be sacrilegious to climb something so sacred to the Native Americans. Would it be OK for people to climb the Statue of Liberty or the presidential faces of Mt. Rushmore? Almost completing the walk around the monument I noticed small cloths that look like little ghosts tied to tree branches. These were prayer ties and prayer bundles. At the time I visited I only knew them to be an offering and have since learned the small swatches contain Prayer Ties and Prayer Bundlesa pinch of tobacco and before being tied closed a prayer is made or an intention set then are tied to a branch. Tobacco is used for prayer, to show respect, to heal, and give spiritual protection. The cured leaves are unprocessed unlike cigarette tobacco which contains poisonous additives never to be used for ceremonies. Prayer ties are an important part of offerings for vision quest and sun dance ceremonies where many are tied together. Prayer bundles are larger than prayer ties and are offered individually. Colors are important signifying the four directions, east/yellow, south/red, and west/black, north/white. Colors of the directions may vary depending on the tribal nation. Some nations include the directions of above (sky)/blue, below (mother earth)/green and within (our spirit)/purple or gold. With nothing in hand I made a silent offering to “Bear Lodge” giving thanks for this icon and prayed for safe travels. Respect SignI continued for a short stop into the visitor’s center to learn more of the site then carried on to Badlands, or as the Lakota named the area, “Maka Sica,” meaning “land bad”, wanting to arrive before dark.

To nowhere!Using the worlds biggest GPS (my laptop) I followed the red arrow while the orange setting sun was providing spectacular colors against the multi-layered eroded clay buttes on the outskirts of the park. I was further away than I thought as light was fading quickly. Having too much faith in the GPS I followed a right turn down a dirt road literally to the middle of nowhere. I reluctantly followed the GPS arrow and road driving slowly with thoughts of trespassing rolling through my mind. This was the first time on the trip an uncomfortable nervousness set in on what I could stumble upon. My heart was racing, beating faster and harder as I approached the crest of a small hill. I noticed the end point of the destination was just ahead. Being lost in daylight is one thing but in the dark on an abandoned dirt road approaching Pine Ridge Reservation where the Wounded Knee Massacre still scars Native Americans was unnerving. Not living near poverty stricken Native American communities caused from past European and government invasion I didn’t know what could transpire. Making the crest I saw nothing except the final rays of the day’s sun. My heart started to return to a normal rhythm and I went from fear to wondering, wondering where I was and where the park entrance could be. I stopped where the GPS said I arrived and stepped out of the truck. There was nothing except what looked like a stone foundation. I reentered the truck and made way back to the main road continuing in the eastward direction. A half hour later I came upon the interior entrance of the park at the Ben Reifel Visitor Center and Cedar Pass Campground. “Home” at last!

Camp 1I was exhausted and hungry and found an open tent site in the massive camp area full of simple tents and over the top forty plus foot “campers”. Setting up the tent was quick since by now I could almost erect it blindfolded. A meal was prepared, quickly ingested and my head laid to rest tired from the driving, site seeing and expended nervous energy.

The next morning was time to move my legs after a day of driving. I perused the visitor’s center and watched a short video detailing the park and its natural creation millions of years ago then set out for some trekking. I hiked the flat Medicine Root, Castle, and Fossil Exhibit trails winding around layered formations giving the feel of being on the red planet Mars. After heavy rains a layer of ground is washed away sometimes Lower jaw Fossilexposing ancient articles. If you’re lucky as I was you could stumble upon dinosaur fossils. The park service asks that these fossils remain where found, the area marked and the service notified for a paleontologist to investigate. Completing loops and out and backs I drove through the park heading to the western Sage Creek Primitive Campground with no electricity or running water for solitude and trekking.

Grazing CloserA herd of buffalo were slowly grazing their way toward my direction while setting camp. Not wanting to be surrounded and trapped I grabbed light hiking gear and water and set out to investigate unmarked trails. I encountered prairie dog colonies which kept popping up from there boroughs “barking” their mouse barks then disappearing back into them. I now understood the silly prairie dog game found at traveling Praire Dogcarnivals. This area had scattered barren patches where buffalo would cool off by rolling in the dirt. In one patch was a prairie rattlesnake (Crotalus viridis). Looking and thinking the snake must have been slow to have a 2,000lb. muscular animal roll on it the snake suddenly coiled back not content with my presence. After observing for a few minutes it slithered away and I carried on the path taking me through dry riverbeds, flat lands and high grass until the sound of a rattle made me jump up and over 4 feet in the air. This wasn’t a cute little prairie rattlesnake this one was two Prairie Rattlesnake #1feet long and very agitated that it was almost stepped on. Being struck by a rattler in these wilderness areas would most likely not be a survivable situation. We were both, ahem, rattled by this encounter. I took a few pictures and headed back to camp to enjoy the rest of the evening and see if the buffalo left my tent standing or any surprises.

All was well and only a few sites were occupied as night fell. With no lights an infinite amount of stars could be seen in the planetarium sky. My eyes took in layer after layer of the dark atmosphere as stars and shooting stars appeared exponentially. During very early morning hours the buffalo came in again surrounding the area eating and grunting. In a stampede I would have been flattened, but all was Finding His Pathsafe while grazing. This area was home for a few days hiking the trails, taking in the views and wildlife only encountering one more snake. Knowing this was the last Midwestern national park I would be at before continuing east was slightly unsettling, but I enjoyed each minute of all of them. Bear Lodge and Badlands Packed and ready to go....Again!were two more great stops and there was much appreciation before packing up preparing for continued travel to…

Minnesota, Chicago? (I’ll explain!) and Allegheny National Forest…

Greg

“Sacred sites and areas are protection for all people — the four colors for man — and these sites are in all areas of the earth in the four directions.” – Traditional Circle of Elders, Northern Cheyenne

Note: Being at Badlands and Yellowstone increased my awareness of areas where Native Americans lived with the land and their history which I continue to expand personal knowledge today. Interest has pulled me to experience a few Native ceremonies and ways. The history I’ve read written by Natives and non-Natives has been interesting and disturbing. Much more occurred than was taught during early school years. I ask you to consider watching this 15 minute Ted Talk which details pieces of current times and past history. Also, I highly recommend reading Black Elk Speaks to learn more about Native American ceremonies and ways and Black Elk’s visions. Wopila. – Thanks in Lakota.

Takoda Leaving Yellowstone was bittersweet since there was much more to see only being there a short four days. Plenty of area was covered and I had entertaining experiences seeing wildlife and intriguing natural resources. The wolves, Selway of the Gallatin Packboth wild and captive, were the highlight of this stop on my journey since they’re my spirit animal. I plan to continue learning the diverse traits these advanced animals have. Impressive also, was the animal of abundance to the Native Americans, the bison with their raw strength and casual demeanor.

Gardiner, MTI had excitement going to Bozeman, a city I’ve heard much about and wanted to spend enough time there to see if this would be a place I would consider living. As I hoped for, a café was just outside of the park in Gardiner, MT. The aroma in High Country Trading and Espresso spiked my craving for a large dark brew. With java in hand and after taking a quick stroll throughView to Bozeman this tiny western town that gets buried with snow in the winter I hopped in the truck for a short scenic drive to Bozeman. Highway speed felt strange after the relaxing pace in Grand Teton and Yellowstone national parks.

Welcome to BozemanThe first stop in Bozeman was to the visitor’s center to find a local campground. I chose Bear Canyon Campground on the outskirts of town keeping close to see what the city had to offer. This stop was different than the others staying in a busy environment and reconnecting with the general population. The family style campground offered more than found at the national parks and includedBear Canyon Campground laundry and showers, a bonus since most showers have been from a gallon container with cool water. The hot showers were excellent and it was time to wash well worn clothes!

Sunset Over BozemanBozeman has the western feel you think it would. The wide Main Street had a variety of shops, cafés, museums and restaurants. I toured the small city and found the area to have a pleasant atmosphere. After a few days hearing the light roar of Route 90 from the campground it was time to visit at least one of the six different mountain ranges that surround the area. I found a local climbing shop to query With my shadow overlooking I-90experienced locals to find a rigorous hike. The decision was made to hike Sacagawea Peak(9665 ft), the highest point in the Bridger Range, a sub-range of the Rocky Mountains and visible from Bozeman.

Road to Fairy Lake CampgroundI took an investigative drive to the Gallatin National Forest and Fairy Lake campground. The drive was hilly before the long dirt road to the campground located at the base of Sacagawea Peak. I saw both  wildlife and “domesticlife”, a curious cow, on the slow drive in and captured a section of the Bridger range which is on the Peaceful Pathfinder homepage. The crystal blue water of Fairy Lake and the bare mountain range looked and felt perfect for the next few days. The campground was empty being a weekday now that families were Evening Entertainmenthome with school underway. This was the spot I’d return to the following day. The next afternoon I broke camp at Bear Canyon and made the one hour trek back to the secluded campground. When camp was set I gathered enough firewood for a few nights of entertainment and meditative medicine from a warm fire.

Looking north at Sacagawea PeakWaking to a cool crisp morning with an orange sky I prepared oatmeal and coffee before donning the backpack for the short steep two plus miles to the peak. The moderate to strenuous hike matched the rating of the guide shop and I decided to continue along the ridge encountering a few risky areas that weren’t difficult to maneuver. No mountain goats could be seen roaming the ridge, but a large black and red hairy tarantula was almost under foot. Turning back after encountering a section of the ridge that was too risky to scramble I stopped at the summit to take in the Tarantulaviews and serenity where the absence of sound was peaceful. The quick, steep return to camp left plenty of time to hike around Fairy Lake before sunset. Arriving back at camp a fire was lit and enjoyed for a few hours before ending a rejuvenating day.

Fellow Adventurers Larry and MollyThe next afternoon I checked back in at Bear Canyon Campground meeting fellow adventures and climbers Larry and his wife Molly. We exchanged travel stories and the generous couple offered a place to stay if I was in the area of Glacier National Park. Glacier N.P. was the favorite park of my most preferred college professor Richard Picard who I learned passed Richard Picardfrom a very coincidental encounter with his widow Anne at an Appalachian Mountain Club function in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. I had the opportunity to tell Anne a few great stories how Richard prepared us for the real world awaiting us after graduation. I wish I had the chance to join him in the mountains. Aho Mr. Picard!

Gallatin National Forest (South)Saturday of the last weekend in Bozeman I hiked another beautiful area of Gallatin N.F. south of the city, then on the overcast Sunday made a three hour drive northwest to Missoula. The small city was quiet and most stores were closed except for a cavernous café with a beer and wine selection from around the world. I knew which beer was calling after meeting Belgian friend Oliver in Grand Teton National Park. Westmalle! I purchased the beer along with the proper accompanying beer glass.(Different shapes of Belgian beer glasses complement varied styles of beer enhancing aromas and showcasing appearance.) Four months in Belgium taught me plenty about the best beers in the world. The Belgian treat Westmalle!was saved for dinner the last night in Montana NOT to include Ramen noodles and tuna! This time jambalaya and extra sharp cheddar cheese were cuisine of the night. The taste bud trio more than satisfied my pallet and eating outdoors with a beautiful sunset added that special touch to the meal.

Preparing to leave Bozeman a disappointing realization set in that travel would be eastward from here back to New England. There was still more to see and the next stops to Devils Tower National Monument and Badlands National Park were places of intrigue since the formation and landscapes were to be different than anything I’ve experienced. Locating the campsite at Badlands at night eerily sits in my bones today.

Stay tuned for Badlands and powerful Native American lands…

– Greg

“Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure. Life is either a daring adventure or nothing at all.”  – Helen Keller

Already there…

South EntranceThe drive to Yellowstone National Park from Lizard Creek campground was over before I knew it and the unknown little critter in back of the truck didn’t have time to catch any sleep or eat more Reese’s. (See Grand Teton post.) Yellowstone is the first national park in the world created in 1872. Putting land aside to preserve national treasures is important, but I’m torn with the loss of land the Native American tribes of the Shoshone, Bannock, Nez Perce, Flathead, Crow, Blackfoot, and Cheyenne called home. As protocol I went to the visitor’s center, collected maps and spoke with  Grazing Bisonrangers to make the best use of my time in the park. You could stay for weeks or months since the 3,500 square mile park has countless different areas to explore with varying landscapes and attractions including wildlife, geysers, hot springs, the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone, Yellowstone Lake and plenty more. Next time I’m bringing my fishing gear!

Courtesy of the Grizzly & Wolf Discovery CenterChoosing Madison campground in the northwest location of the park placed me in areas of personal interest. After setting camp I actually made my way out of the park to visit the Grizzly & Wolf Discovery Center in West Yellowstone, Montana since I have a passion for wolves. The wolf is an animal that keeps coming into my life without physically being present since it’s no longer a native species in New England. They’ve come as different types of gifts without asking or telling Mexican Grey Wolf-hybrid Saxonof my interest. Seeing them for the first time in the center touched my soul with their great presence. The only wolf I’ve been in contact with was a Mexican Gray Wolf-hybrid, Saxon, from the SOLO Wilderness Medicine School who moved with a purpose and unfortunately passed a few years ago. There are two wolf  packs at the center that could not survive in the wild after being bred in captivity. Not being many visitors I had uninterrupted time to observe them resting, playing and feeding. Watching the hierarchy is an incredible site and I Wolves at the Grizzly & Wolf Discovery Centerrecommend the documentary Wolves filmed in Yellowstone to understand their family and community structure. They are the most amazing animal I’ve watched because the way the pack “works”. I did spend time watching the grizzlies as I find bears entertaining and they sure were at feeding time. Feeling very content by closing time of the center I returned to the park to end a great day.

Old FaithfulI covered many miles the following day waking early driving to geysers and hot springs and of course seeing Old Faithful. The morning mood was eerie with a foggy sunrise from steam rising from hot springs with the morning sun giving the steam an orange glow. The ground in these areas was warm to hot with times of a light sulfur smell and my surprise was the clarity of the spring water. I waited patiently to see Old Faithful erupt which she does every 91 minutes, but after doing this millions of times I think she was a little tired for the morning effort. After a walk around the area Hot Spring to see the many springs and geysers I went to the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone. The yellowish, whitish cliffs were different than I’ve seen at the White Cliffs of Dover in England. Yellowstone River carved its way through the canyon and the geothermal activity caused the colorful tint. Beautiful as it was I thought one day I’ll make it the real Grand Canyon! After lunch (some of you knowing myNortheastern Mountains staple of Ramen noodles and tuna) I drove to the northeastern entrance of the park seeing a combination of plains and mountains, passing pronghorn and bison as I reached the exit. Viewing open areas with a few hundred bison provided images of what the landscape looked like when over 50 million roamed the prairies. U.S. Dept. of Wildlife Rick Wilcox, Head of the wolf project in YellowstoneNoticing a crowd on a hillside when returning to camp I pulled over to see what the commotion was. People with spotting scopes were viewing wolves and I met Rick McIntyre, a wildlife-biology Ph.D. who heads the Yellowstone Wolf Project and a contributor to the first book on wolves I’ve read, The Company of Wolves. We had a short conversation and with daylight waning he invited me to return the next morning when wolves would be more active. I gladly accepted.

Up Close BisonHeading to the spotting site predawn I wasn’t expecting traffic caused by roaming bison. At a hefty 2,000 lbs. and unpredictable bison can use their head as a battering ram making for an interesting story to tell your insurance agent. By no choice I “let” Black, grey Wolfthem roam and slowly drove by. A half dozen early risers from within and outside the park go to this location to spot the Junction Butte wolf pack. The newly met friends offered their scopes and seeing a black wolf, a color variant of the gray wolf, for the first time was a special sight. Pictures through the scope were the best that could be done at the ½ mile distance with my camera and decided to post one for your viewing. Just as special was seeing a grizzly enter the field the Camp Mascotwolf pack was in. The two species went about their business like passing acquaintances which was an exciting moment to witness what could transpire. I stayed until noon returning to break camp chatting with the campground hosts who made suggestions for places to visit while traveling to Montana and South Dakota. Their recommendations were The Black Hills, Devils Tower and Badlands, two of which I visited during near future travels (and writing about in upcoming posts). For now I was making my out of the park into Gardiner, Montana to have a fresh cup of coffee for the journey to Bozeman, Montana, a place I’ve heard much about.

Up next, Montana mountains and a Belgian treat….

– Greg

“For the strength of the Pack is the Wolf, and the strength of the Wolf is the Pack.” – Rudyard Kipling

Native American thoughts and words on the wolf:

Learning wisdom, Instinct Linked with Intelligence, Social and Family Values, Outwitting, Steadfastness, Skill in Protection of Self and Family, Taking Advantage of Change, Intuition, Guardianship, Ritual, Loyalty, Pathfinder, Psychic Energy, Teacher, Careful Study, Cunning, Ability to Pass by Dangers Invisibly, Spiritual Guidance in Dreams and Meditations, Success, Perseverance, Stability

Please consider the Adopt a Wolf Program from the Grizzly & Wolf Discovery Center.

Driving to Wyoming I played the first CD of The Way of the Peaceful Warrior (Dan Millman’s international bestseller about the universal quest for happiness) audio book Pam offered before leaving Boulder. The journey, U.S. Tour, wasn’t just about seeing friends and great places it was also a time for looking inward to connect with my soul desires. I had endless time on the roads, trails, and journaling to think about important aspects of life and career direction, companionship, where to live and thrive, and find purpose giving attention to family, friends, and relationships. The deepest times for expression were while journaling looking back on the day and life experiences. My personal journey will continue with the interest of growth walking a desired path Native Americans call the Red Road.

On the road …

PronghornTo have manageable road time I drove to Rock Springs, Wyoming keeping to daylight hours after being forewarned of pronghorn dashing across roads at dusk. Three hundred miles and six hours later this small trucker town just off of Route 80 was roaring with big rigs. Not interested in the fast food stops and diners I unpacked the camp stove and cooked dinner outside my room at an aged, never updated, “Bates” motel. The tent would have been preferred over this shady looking place but I made the best of it throwing the sleeping bag on the bed getting a few hours of sleep. Checking out early with an hour’s drive down the orange sun lit road I entered the Wrangler Café for breakfast and conversation with locals. The Connecticut plates would draw the comment, “Connecticut?! You’re a long way from home!” These are places of meeting interesting down to earth people and hearing talk of local and The Wrangler Cafénational issues. The smell of bacon and seeing biscuits and gravy leave the kitchen made me order the hungry man’s special while drinking too many cups of coffee before sliding into the truck.

Inspiration Point & Jenny LakeA few hours later I was in Jackson Hole stopping for supplies and the Craig Thomas Visitors Center collecting information for the stay in Grand Teton National Park. Shortly after entering the park and selecting a campsite near the Grand Teton Lodge I hiked around Jenny Lake to calming area at Inspiration Point before sunset. In need of good rest before climbing Middle Teton (12, 804 ft.), camp was set and the lantern was out early after dinner. The following morning, rising before the sun, forcing down a few packets of instant oatmeal, cheese and coffee I made way to the Lupine Meadow Trailhead passing more than a dozen grazing elk. Boots were laced, the backpack slung over my shoulder and I started on the trail just as the sun was breaking over the eastern hills. A short time into the hike I met my first friend. She didn’t say much but was willing to lead the way with a funny walk. After a few minutes I asked if this was the correct trail to Middle Teton. There was no answer.  What did I expect from a two legged feather friend, the Ruffed Grouse. Food was more important than companionship to this bird!

AscendingNot far back was the trail junction to Garnet Canyon Trail where I connected with three men from Idaho who welcomed me to their team after a quick introduction. During this non technical climb, we hiked packed dirt, rock, scree and crossed a few snow fields to the base of the final ascent where we visually marked the best line to take. The final ascent was slow due to loose talus and being ready to duck or move to the call out of “rock” when some became ajar, which they did. A helmet would have been a good idea through this area. We scrambled the final boulders and formations to make the summit where a misstep could mean tumbling Geodetic Marker (Unfortunate Writing)down 1,000 plus feet. Six hours and 6,000 feet of elevation gain later the summit geodetic survey marker was within reach. Our team stayed at the summit having lunch and taking in the views causing times of vertigo in the calm 65 degree day. The descent was fairly quick and uneventful except for foot glissading down a few snow fields. At the trailhead thanks were given for the invitation to join before they returned to their home state and I back to camp. This was a truly incredible and epic day.

Nibbled Reese's from a StowawyTaking the backpack out of the truck I noticed signs of a stowaway since a few mini Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups had been nibbled on. After a quick look and being too tired the critter could stay for the night to finish the treat it started. The stove was lit and dinner was a few packs of Ramen noodles, a staple for the trip, always having a chunk of cheese to enjoy with the meal. I slept deeply and awoke to birds and quiet sounds of a new camp neighbor before French pressing coffee, asking a new Belgian friend Oliver to join. Spending four months in Belgium earlier in my career gave us plenty to talk about since favorite foods, chocolate and beer are from the small quiet With Belgian Cyclist Olivercountry. Friends made in Belgium were inviting especially in the historic town of Lier where there’s a plethora of restaurants and cafés. I made note of Oliver’s favorite beer, Westmalle Trappist Ale, (remember this for the upcoming Montana post!) and even though it was breakfast we both could have enjoyed one at that moment. We sipped two brews of fresh coffee and told a few travel stories before I broke camp and he headed into the back country.

Two Ocean's Lake with TetonsWith the stowaway still enjoying the Reese’s I packed the gear and drove north to Lizard Creek Campground on Jackson Lake to reserve a campsite. Two Ocean Lake Trailhead wasn’t far down the road where a leisurely hike was a nice change from scrambling steep talus. The trail wasn’t always next to the water’s edge and decided to bushwhack through a small wooded area to make it to the lake. Noticing huge moose tracks and bedding areas thought came to mind it was probably best to stick to the trail and leave their territory.Two Ocean Lake Closed Trail With slight nervousness and caution I stalked back to the trail since outrunning a bull moose or worse a grizzly wasn’t going to happen. I realized how risky my action was after encountering two Park Rangers closing the trail, one with a loaded and drawn shotgun when they asked if there was sign of an elk carcass from a grizzly kill nearby. Thankfully there wasn’t and I was now at a safe area.

Jackson Lake and the TetonsBack at Lizard Creek I set up the tent, AGAIN, made Ramen noodles and tuna, AGAIN, then relaxed for the rest of the evening spending much of the time at the shoreline of Jackson Lake listening to the water wash upon the rocks and viewing the north faces of the Tetons. The stowaway stayed comfortable in the truck Orb Web Weaverand I in the tent waking to a new friend the Orb Web Weaver. Company was everywhere and anticipation set in that morning knowing just fifteen minutes further north was the next stop to one of America’s most visited national parks, Yellowstone.

Next…Wolves, bison and hot springs…

-Greg

“Balance is implicit in the Red Road. When you’re on the Red Road, you are in the center. Yet, you do not go to either extreme, and you allow both sides to exist. This is accomplished by continually postponing surrendering to temptation, whatever it may be. It is saying `later’ instead of `no.'”

— Dr. A.C. Ross (Ehanamani), LAKOTA

 

Coyote CantinaReturning to Boulder I was seeing the same landscape for the third time passing Great Sand Dunes National Park, Collegiate Peaks and the eclectic looking Coyote Café. I decided to forgo the café and stop at Hog Heaven, a great barbeque restaurant a short distance up the road. Eating there on a previous trip my taste buds were ready for ribs, jalapeno cornbread, beans and bread pudding. The heavy food would last me a long while.

Mountaineering Museum, Golden, CO

I detoured to Golden, CO, home of the Coors Brewing Company but more importantly (for myself anyway), the home of the Bradford Washburn Mountaineering Museum dedicated to the climbers, technology, culture and spirit of mountaineering. Mountaineering caught my interest ten years ago and has brought challenging climbs ever since. The museum displays exhibits on climate, science, cultures and the humanities as they relate to mountains. Bradford Washburn was an American explorer, mountaineer, photographer, and cartographer who A Bradford Washburn photograph of Mt. Huntington’s Incredible North Face. Alaska, April 2, 1978established the Boston Museum of Science. He and his wife, Barbara, the first woman to summit Mt. McKinley (Denali), lead incredible lives  spending much time in Alaska pioneering the use of aerial photography of mountains and glaciers.

After looking at exhibits and early clothing and gear mountaineers used it’s easy to realize today’s mountaineers are spoiled by high tech gear allowing many to go beyond their capability where some will never leave mountaintops such as Mt. Everest. Having good gear is necessary, but experience and common sense keeps you alive!

Roosevelt National ForestRoosevelt National Forest was an hour and a half drive, the end following the same mountainous route I rode the bike on making me think how crazy, but accomplishing the ride was. I signed in at the park, selected a camp site and set out to get in a quick evening hike. Taking that time before sunset was a nice way to ground myself after an exhausting day of driving and sightseeing. Finishing the Hog Heaven leftovers I was ready for a good night’s sleep before continuing on to Rocky Mountain National Park.

Elk Outside of Estes ParkNo time was wasted breaking camp in the morning for the short one hour drive to Estes Park, CO where elk can overrun the town during the rut (breeding season). Being a few weeks early the town was elk free but many were roaming just on the outskirts. I entered the park with a seasonal Interagency Annual Pass then studied a map to see the lay of the land to best make my way through the park the next few days. “Home” was at three different campgrounds, Longs Peak the first few nights, Aspenglen the next, and lastly Timber Creek.

HomeLongs Peak is a tent only campground having platforms at each site. No RVs in this area means no running generators which owners are required to turn off at night. After constructing the tent and purchasing firewood I drove to nearby vistas, taking a hike and returning a few hours later for dinner, a fire and journaling. This was the first campfire of the trip surprisingly enough. Nights were cooler being at a higher elevation (9,500 ft.) than at Roosevelt N.F. making the fire great to get warm before slipping into the sleeping bag.

Grazing Bull Elk

Deciding to see as much of the park as possible I opted out of back country camping moving campgrounds to appreciate more vistas and see more wildlife. Aspenglen campground was the next stop a few mornings later to reserve a tent site before the possibility of a full campground with late season vacationers. Elk were expanding roaming areas as each day of the mating season came closer bringing a massive majestic bull elk close to the road that was undeterred by a train of vehicles.

Elk Grazing in Campground

Final camp was the barren Timber Creek in the southwest corner of the park having almost no trees due to the mountain pine beetle killing tens of thousands of pines. This area of the park was quiet and I met a few friendly travelers, Leroy and his dad out for father and son bonding, two recent college grads on a bike tour of the Midwest and a wildlife photographer. Rising early on a quiet starry morning I walked along a watershed hoping to see wildlife and was fortunate to see moose, deer and elk.

Tom and His Father Leroy

Meeting good people and seeing wildlife was a perfect way to end the stay in Rocky Mountain National Park. I savored a burger and fries just outside the park before the next destination of Grand Teton National Park.

 – Greg

“In every walk with nature one receives more than he seeks.” – John Muir

The tour continues…

For the second time in two years I was in the beautiful little city just east of the Rocky Mountains, Boulder, Colorado. A good friend Pam moved to Boulder from Connecticut more than a few years ago and is responsible for getting me on an upgraded 1989 Trek and introducing me to winter on Mt. Washington. I’ve been hooked since. The nice friend she is she sent me on a crazy bike ride outside of Boulder, details to come.

Eldorado Canyon outside of BoulderThere are incredible place to hike outside of Boulder and I chose Eldorado Canyon State Park spending a day trip in and around the canyon logging about 12 miles on the trails. It felt great to be back in the wilderness after the long drives and stops from Asheville. During the stay I went further into the back country to Arapaho National Forest then mildly “attacked” two 14,000 footers, Grays(14,278 ft) and Torreys(14,275 ft) Peaks, probably two of the easiest 14,000 footers to hike. I could feel the thinner air at about 13,000 feet needing a few short rests and noticed recovery was quick. The trip to Arapahoe N.F. was a long day trek through semiGrays and Torreys Peaks mountainous areas to a few crystal clear ponds. Making a late start this particular day made for dicey conditions when summiting one peak. Peaks should be summited by 1:00 or you face the changing weather coming in early afternoon. Summiting on a bare mountain peak during thunder and lightning strikes is a harrowing experience.

Indian Mountains in Roosevelt National ParkI rode the Trek once on this journey and it was an epic ride Pam mapped out. Knowing it would be in the hills made me step up for the challenge. Long story short, the 60 mile ride was MOUNTAINOUS (short video end of post)! This is an average ride for the super fit who live in Boulder, a training Mecca for world class athletes because of the elevation, good climate and terrain. A few highlights of the ride were stopping in the small mountain town of Jamestown, population 250 and going in to the Jamestown Mercantile for a great IOU malt. I continued through the town gaining elevation until reaching Brainard Lake of Roosevelt National Forest. Destination success! I cruised a few short roads of the park before heading back to Boulder burning the brakes offRiver in Roosevelt National Forest of the bike from the steep down hills that could have you going over 60 mph. The following day I returned to the Mercantile (in my truck this time) to square up my IOU, have a beer and listen to a great “Newgrass” band. The welcoming comfort of the rustic local gathering place made for an enjoyable restful evening.

Collegiate PeaksWith friends arriving to fill Pam’s home and wanting to return to New Mexico to hike/climb Wheeler Peak (13,167 ft.), the highest point in the state, I made the return 300 mile drive. Seven hours later, passing Collegiate Peaks, I was back in New Mexico finding a great location to set up camp just outside the small quaint town of Arroy Secco next to Carson National Forest. After the long drive I was looking forward to spending the night in my tent and sleeping bag.

Double RainbowThe first morning I woke to a double rainbow. There’s no video with me hallucinating or trying to understand the meaning of it. (Some of you will know what I’m speaking about.) Having the small town nearby for good coffee, natural foods and the famous Taos Cow ice cream parlor was a bonus.

Returning to camp one evening after surveying the area was a large van with six men of Mexican decent at the adjoining campsite. I thought this was going to be a long sleepless night because of the number of men and music. I made assumptions I shouldn’t. While pulling a few items from the truck one of the men respectfully told me they were staying to cook dinner and return to a local motel for the night and asked me to join them. I felt empty and didn’t know what to say with a feeling of shame that came over me for making judgments. I couldn’t say no to the offer from this generous man and company would be good. I grabbed something to drink to not go empty handed. Approaching the group I sensed I was not welcomed by all and now I was being judged and was going to eat their food! Did I do the right thing accepting the offer!? A few of the men spoke English and we had a spirited conversation about where home is and what it’s like being on the road for extended time. The mood lightened, but a few men weren’t completely welcoming which I accepted and understood.

Mixed Meat Mexican DinnerOverhanging the fire was a cast iron kettle filled with pork, beef, cut up hot dogs, jalapeños, all combined with a red chili sauce. I followed their lead grabbing a tortilla and filling it with the spicy meat mixture. I have to say it was pretty tasteful and satisfying. We ate and traded stories for a while before they broke camp. When leaving the man, who I took as the group leader, offered the rest of the food otherwise it was going to waste since they had no way to store it. The kindness was humbling and not having to cook dinner the next night was fine by me.

Onto Wheeler Peak…

Not being a skier I didn’t know the Taos ski area is a great place and is highly recommended from reviews I’ve read. The resort was closed, but the parking area was open for hikers who want to roam the trails or summit Wheeler Peak.

Wheeler PeakA few miles on the trail I approached a few people from the New Mexico Mountaineers making the climb to the summit. They were a fit spunky group of retirees with an average age of late sixties who travel and hike mid west and western mountains. After a lively conversation and a few pictures I continued on to the summit passing big horn sheep and little furry creatures. The summit had a great view and I carried along a ridge to the boarder of the 17,361 acre Taos Pueblo Native American property. This sacred land with a view of the sacred Blue Lake was not to be trespassed or photographed(the lake). On the decent I was able to view more big horn sheep and returned to a truck covered with snow from the changing mountain weather. The rest of the Mexican mixed meat dinner tasted great. Probably anything would have at that point.

Taos Pueblo Indian ReservationThe following day I visited the 1,000 year old Taos Pueblo Indian Reservation. Very few acres are available for non-natives to see and explore which was disappointing but understandable since they should have more land than they were given. (after it was taken away, but I digress). I toured the reservation where some Indians live and have shops as part of their homes. A few highlights were a Native man drumming and singing, Fry Breadmiscellaneous jewelry and craft shops and fry bread for lunch. Rest was a good part of this day and visits to shops and long talks with owners made for interesting conversation on how some visitors have expectations of a movie style Indian life.

Returning to camp early evening I prepared dinner and spent time journaling before a good nights sleep. Travel the next day would be passing through Boulder, back to Roosevelt National Forest then onto Rocky Mountain National Park. The trek back to New Mexico was well worth it.

– Greg

“No individual or group can block another individual’s path or change it against what fits his nature and his purpose.”   

– Rolling Thunder, Cherokee

Ronald Bradley Mack

Ronald Bradley Mack

This post is dedicated to my friend Ronald “Ron” Bradley Mack who passed recently. A favorite place of Ron’s was Boulder, CO where he studied at the Rocky Mountain Healing Arts Institute. Ron was a healer using The Bradley Technique energy work he developed and evolved over the 30 years of his practice. He performed his healing work in his home, the historic Melville House Bed & Breakfast in New Bedford, MA, where he was the proprietor.

Ron was a friend and mentor who put me on the path of the journey I walk today. Peace to you Ron!

Ron's favorite evening place

Ron enjoying his front garden

Driving across the United States was a desire since high school. The thought of being on the open road, driving through different states, seeing new places and meeting new people seemed exciting. I’ve spent more time than one should behind the wheel for previous employers and driving throughout New England to destinations for hiking, fishing and camping trips so making the effort didn’t faze me as long as I had good music or company.

The U.S. Tour with Detailed StopsOn July 22, 2009 I embarked on my longest and most distant road trip, a 10,000 mile tour lasting almost two months traveling from CT to North Carolina, Texas, and Montana then returning east. Spending two months traveling throughout Utah, Oregon and parts of Washington State a year earlier kept the trip from going as far as the west coast.

World's Largest GPSThe loosely thought out plan was to visit friends in Asheville, NC, Houston, TX and Boulder, CO, see areas I was interested moving to and visit national parks and forests. Instead of one hundred of AAA maps I used an application on my 17” laptop making the world’s biggest GPS (Which sat on the passenger’s seat.). I wanted to make this journey as free form as possible having the only schedule be the segment to Asheville. My career has been full of strict planning and promptness with executive teams and customers making this a relief to do what I wanted and when. The trip was like Forrest Gump on his run back and forth across the country. When I wanted to see something, I saw it. When I needed to eat, I ate. When I needed to sleep, I slept and when I needed to…., you know, I went!

Full LoadTo start off the road trip Mitzy the Montero was packed with a bike, camping and hiking gear, clothes and a small amount of food and water. With 176,000 miles, no air conditioning and a recent tune up I knew she would be fine although the thought of no air conditioning wasn’t pleasant.

The tour started in Connecticut with a short stop in Massachusetts to pick up a climbing and hiking friend. Chris made the trek to Asheville then flew back. From Asheville onward I’d be going soul”o”. My soul needed a break from my home area and was touched, tested, and poked more than a few times on this journey. (See the Emerson quote in the Peaceful Introduction.)

Making almost 90 noteworthy stops there are too many experiences to tell in this post and will follow with more. For now, I bring you the beginning of the trip, will introduce you to a few friends and tell you of places visited.

Hop in and enjoy the 10,000 mile ride….

Copperhead (Coiled) & Brown Water Snake

There’s a sense of freedom and increased adrenaline I experience being on the road knowing new places for adventure are in the near future. The early part of the trip was familiar territory from driving south more than a few times. We rested for the night in Winchester, NC before navigating the winding Skyline Drive of Shenandoah National Park the following day. Stops were made for a few short hikes to scenic overviews, entertainment for the afternoon being a few snakes, deer and watching people with cameras chase bears with cubs. Not wanting to use my wilderness medicine training Chris and I shook our heads and guided our way through the park. As much as we wanted to experience the Blue Ridge Parkway, which follows Skyline Drive, too many additional hours would have been added to meet our friend Tricia waiting for us in Asheville.

Tricia on Shining Rock Pisgah National ForestTricia, who moved to Asheville more than a few years ago to open a yoga studio, greeted us with good cold beer and welcomed us into her home where we chatted for the rest of the evening. The next day she gave us a tour of one of the coolest, eclectic small cities I’ve been to on the east coast. Asheville offers a welcoming atmosphere, great food, wine and microbrew beer with community activities taking place throughout the city on weekends. There are many similarities to Portland, Oregon. In a short ride you could be in Great Smokey Mountain National Park or Pisgah, Nantahala or Cherokee Mt. Mitchell Eastern U.S. HighpointNational Forests. In an hour’s drive Mt. Mitchell (6684 ft.), the highest point east of the Mississippi River, is an easy to moderate hike. The only likeness to New England’s highest point, Mt. Washington (6288 ft.), is an access road to the summit. Mt. Mitchell can’t boast of the world’s worst weather or the difficult terrain of Mt. Washington, although it provides excellent views of Pisgah National Forest. A trail I embarked on before leaving the area had signs of bear and the quietness of only a few late season campers.

After visiting Tricia, hiking and seeing the quaint, spunky city of Asheville Chris flew back to Massachusetts and I began a long, scorching drive southwest to Houston needing to stop in Lafayette, LA before falling asleep behind the wheel. The heat while driving was hardly bearable rising over 100 degrees causing the power supply for my laptop to melt.

LeoA business colleague and friend I hadn’t seen in 10 years was the reason for the Houston stop. Leo is a proud decorated Silver Star Purple Heart Vietnam Veteran fighting effects from Agent Orange exposure. He’s one of the most interesting and funny men you’ll ever meet. Leo “Gets” from Lethal Weapon is almost as entertaining.  If you have an interest in Vietnam War history, Leo fought in one of the most brutal engagements documented in The Lost Battalion of TET: Breakout of the 2/12 Cavalry at Hue. Time was well spent catching up, keeping company and visiting a few of his favorite restaurants. For “protection” he gave me a set of mounted steer horns you would see on a Cadillac at a big Texas ranch.

HOT and no A/C!Leaving Houston was the most sweltering drive yet. Outside temperature was 106 to 108 at times and hotter in the truck.  Mathew Broderick’s line in Biloxi Blues kept coming to mind “This is Africa hot!” when he disembarked the train in Mississippi. The hot wind blowing in the truck didn’t help and being stopped by a road worker made for a big white sauna on four wheels. Kudos to the workers doing road repairs in the sun and heat.

My plan was to camp after leaving Houston except a stop was needed before leaving Texas given the heat was physically draining and setting up a tent didn’t seem to be the best idea. Coming to the rescue was my brother Jamie, a traveler for work who has a million travel miles. I placed an SOS call and he made a reservation in Amarillo, TX offering his miles for the stay. Jamie, a savior for the evening, and I would meet later during the trip in Chicago.

The Hot Flatlands of TexasPsychologically it felt good heading north early the next morning after a refreshing stay and saying goodbye to the desert heat of Texas. In short time I was in New Mexico where mountains and appealing landscapes were coming into view. Boulder, CO was the next stop and while driving through New Mexico the thought of staying a few nights came to mind but I had Boulder in the sights. As fate would have it I would return to New Mexico a week and a half later because of a full house at my kind friend Pam’s place. Thoughts of climbing the highest peak in New Mexico and visiting the Taos Pueblo Indian Reservation also intrigued me, so back on the road I went driving 300 miles south where I recently driven….

Stay tuned for the next stops…..Taos and Colorado for hiking, camping and more.

– Greg

“Once you make a decision, the universe conspires to make it happen.”R.W. Emerson

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