Zippy Morocco (& Diddo!) in Idaho

After three months of working, painting, and packing mail drops– and, for Zippy, three months of walking in heat, snow, up and down and flat– we reunite! In a beige mobile home dropped in a valley of sun-bleached sagebrush, essentially a tin can baking in the late July heat. Our gear sprawls across the floor and we hang out as if we’ve never been apart. It’s so casual it’s strange. I cut his hair, revealing the border between tanned nape and Irish white above. He shaves his beard, we shower, and he eats the food I brought from Missoula (his request: a veggie wok bowl from the Good Food Store), plus a half-gallon of Meadow Gold chocolate ice cream from the gas station down the highway.

I drove down to Leadore, Idaho this morning to meet him, the truck cab packed with hiking gear, treats in a cooler, new shoes, the bathroom scale (we learned his weight was the same – just solid muscle now), expired Starbucks Via packets bought by the hundred on eBay, and a jug of Dr. Bronner’s Tea Tree Soap.

En route, while stretching my legs in Hamilton’s Hieronymus Park trail along the Bitterroot River, J. called to ask me to pick up a few things for an ailing hiker. Collin, Brit and creator of the tightest, most awesome cuben fiber tent we’ve ever seen, has not been able to keep anything down for four days, and he needs:

  1. A loaf of plain, white bread
  2. Apples
  3. Oral Rehydration Solution, sugar-free, powdered if possible, whatever that is.

Two hours later, I roll into “town” (Leadore has not so much as a traffic light, nor a store selling such luxuries as apples or bread) to deliver the humble trail magic and meet J. We have never seen a guy so grateful for a cheap loaf of bread, which Collin insists is far tastier than the last loaf he procured. The Leadore Inn has accidentally overbooked, so the friendly proprietor Sam puts us in the mobile home, which is actually an upgrade, as we have it all to ourselves. Sam rolls cigarettes on the inn porch, calls himself lazy, but Zippy shows me an old boxcar filled with Sam’s amazing wood carvings–eagles and bighorn sheep heads and skittering chipmunks chipped out of blackened tree burls.

We eat dinner at the one restaurant in Leadore (population: 103), and another hiker strides in and pulls a soda from the fridge. She and Zippy start talking, and I ask her name. “Angelina,” she says in a Russian accent. Holy smoke! I met her on the John Muir Trail last year, and now here we are in the Silver Dollar Grill & Bar (staff: one). What are the odds? Pretty good, actually: the long-distance hiker community is surprisingly tight-knit and these sorts of long-shots aren’t uncommon.

It cools off graciously overnight, and after a leisurely c-store breakfast of bottled OJ, raspberry fritter, and expired Via coffee, we drive the 13 miles up to the CDT junction.

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I hike with Zippy for a few miles, so he can get a good look at my backside after such a long dry spell. We feast on tiny strawberries growing in the duff, and gentian and big-pod mariposa lilies bloom along the trail: both things he never would have noticed hiking alone. It is hard to turn back and hike away after three miles, but the goodbye is sweetened by knowing we will meet again at Lost Trail Pass in a few days. And of course, more strawberries. (Wild strawberries, which are ripe even before they turn red, have an ecstatic floral savor not found in even the best farm-fresh, juice-bomb, cultivated kind).

Ta-ta for now, ZM!
Ta-ta for now, ZM!

Also, once I get back to the truck, I aim to do some touring of my own. Zippy does not get all the fun (though, this year, he gets significantly more). Now mid-afternoon, it’s way too hot to hike, so I stop at the Sacajawea Center and walk near the river, past tipis and a woman weaving beautiful baskets from cured willow twigs. I learn the incredible but woefully short life story of Sacajawea. In the town of Salmon, I amble around the shady side of Main Street, sampling the candy shop (stale but friendly) and the natural food store (homemade vegan tamales!). Then I drive south toward my holy grail: Goldbug Hot Springs. It is still hot even after six pm, but only a two mile hike, and the springs are gorgeous. Eight or ten pools stack one above the other up the creek, each gradually cooler as the water rushes downhill, which is perfect since the heat takes its time dissipating.

The hot hike up. Cactus, even.
The exposed hike to Goldbug. Cactus, even!
One of the many warm pools at Goldbug
One of many warm pools at Goldbug.

There are three naked dudes up there, one of whom recognizes me from the Good Food Store (sigh… the minor celebrity of working at the health food mecca of the West! glad I am not naked myself) and we are soon joined by five Utahans enjoying their first mushroom trip. We watch the stars come out, and the water is wonderful. When the oldest naked dude asks if I would like to exchange back massages, despite knowing I’m married, I decide that’s enough for tonight, and hit the tent. (If there were nothing sexual about his request, as I’m sure would be his defense, then why did he only ask the lady and not the gentlemen to partake? Harumph.)

The morning after, I hike out in the fleeting cool before the sun hits the canyon. I stop at a fishing access along the sparkling Salmon River, reading How to Be a Woman by Caitlin Moran under a shady tree while I wait for the oats to simmer.

Funny, feminist summer reading in the national forest
Funny feminist lit in the national forest negates dirty-old-man requests.

Then I drive north, stopping at the grocery in Darby for Flathead cherries. Two hikers are resting outside, about to resupply. One of them is Double Magic, a friendly, lanky guy, one of only four who is farther north than Zippy. I urge them to sample the rare joy of these only-in-Montana cherries: “Trust me! I just washed my hands, and the cherries!”

My last stop before home is Lake Como, named after the eponymous body of water in the Italian Alps. I have always wanted to hike all the way round, but J.’s not interested in this, thus, a perfect solo hike. Looking for the trailhead, I meet an older man who knows it well. “I used to walk around this lake every day after teaching school. It is a great walk, just beautiful–” he gestures, kissing his fingertips and opening his hand to the sky– “and you know, being out here, away from people… it helps up here.” He points to his head. I couldn’t agree more. I thank him and begin my walk, carrying a sunbrella for the first time. It yields funny looks from the beach-bunny types, but not from the hiker types. The deep blue lake sparkles under the Bitterroot peaks, a few of which still have snowy caps despite the week of egg-frying weather. The serenity is pierced by Ski-Doos and motorboats of cavorting weekenders, and it’s about 94 degrees, but I choose a private spot for a personal beach, wade into the water and swim and laugh all by myself like a loon. The sweat is gone, I am clean, it’s cool, pure pleasure. Any day now a fire could start. We are all waiting. But I’m satisfied, having honored each day with a bit of time in the natural world.

Non-Italian Lake Como
Non-Italian Lake Como
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Pre-swim happies

Indeed, as I begin the drive home, a plume of smoke rises from somewhere to the west of Victor. Fire season has begun. Within 24 hours, a 7,000-acre blaze will erupt in Hamilton, engulfing several homes and creating a wall of flame visible from the highway, and a mushroom cloud of pink-black smoke trailing miles eastward. It is wonderful to have Zippy close enough for day-trip visits… to see him, to have an excuse to explore on my own, and to know I could help out if he had to reroute due to an inferno. Our next visit will be in Sula, Montana…  yes, he will arrive in his home state at last! Home stretch, baby, well done!

Zippy Morocco in Wyoming

Zippy is actually hundreds of miles past Wyoming, but I had been too busy to write. Still am… so the photos will do the heavy lifting today.

The finale of Colorado, at its northern border, was the Rocky Mountains National Park, including these astonishing blue columbine:

Did you know they are different colors depending on the type of soil?
Did you know columbine grow in different colors depending on the type of soil?

And then he marched into Wyoming, land of flat jeep roads, long vistas, cow pastures, and as a result, questionable water sources. We have few photos of the flat roads, because honestly, why photograph that? But do not be fooled: there is plenty of the CDT that is not dramatic or stunning. There is a bit of drudgery involved.

This might actually be Idaho. Idunno.
This might actually be Idaho. Idunno.
The Winds.
The Wind River Range, one of the most picturesque parts of Wyoming.

On the road to Rawlins, Zippy came around a bend and heard little whizzing sounds on either side of him. He’d heard gunshots earlier, target practice, and realized that he was in the line of fire. He jumped onto a hillock and waved his hands for the marksmen to stop. (I would’ve dropped to the ground and shouted, but to each his own.) Thankfully, they saw him, and were properly aghast.

Magnificent porcupine.
Also, a magnificent porcupine. 

Zippy kept a wise distance from the creature, who looks as though she is regrowing some quills. He is in good health, and unscathed except for a bruised knee, which he acquired while climbing a fence in the Winds. He tripped on the top and fell off the other side, on his knee, on a rock. And onward…

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Fun with clouds

And then came Yellowstone. I had hoped to meet Zippy there and hike with him, but the logistics didn’t work out. And I confess to feeling very jealous – a rare emotion for me – when I learned that he had scored a room in the Old Faithful Inn.

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He’d walked up, exhausted, many days since sleeping anywhere except his tent, and asked if they happened to have an opening. “No,” she said, then “Oh wait!” Despite high tourist season, there was a cancellation. He got to chatting with the seasonal staff as they booked his stay, and they were curious and fascinated to learn about his journey. He was the first thru-hiker they’d ever met. (Although there are at least four northbound hikers farther along than J.: Double Magic, Mammoth, and these two dudes from the Bitterroot, but apparently none of them had asked for a room at the Old Faithful Inn.) And when Zippy checked out the next day, refreshed, he learned that they must have given him an amazing discount, as his bill was $40 less than expected. Very kind!

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So that’s it for now. Idaho is next… in which we are finally reunited after three months apart!

Zippy Morocco in Colorado

Zippy sez:

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“Welcome to Colorado!”

…so it’s time for another photo essay from Zippy’s camera roll.

 

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Check out how far under the snow that sign is. At least he knows he’s still in the right country.

As you can see, Zippy encountered a lot of snow as he hiked up from the New Mexico desert to the San Juan Mountains, which are having a very high snowpack season. It’s been some of the most difficult hiking he’s ever done, even with snowshoes, sidestep crampons, and an ice axe.

Spot the hikers...
Spot the hikers…

Fortunately, he has fallen in with a great group of people to brave and enjoy the astounding terrain together, including the president and vice-president of ALDHA West (the American Long Distance Hiking Association)… Liz “Snorkel” Thomas, who held the unsupported speed record on the Appalachian Trail for five years… an international mountaineering guide, a backcountry ski guide, and other super experienced hikers. Usually he prefers to hike solo (or with me :-), but for safety’s sake he’s buddied up, and these folks are his tribe: serious, skilled, dedicated, but fun.

They found a patch of bare ground to camp on.
Under this beautiful sunset, they found a patch of bare ground to camp on.
Definitely obey this warning sign.
Definitely obey this warning sign.
The crew makes it to Wolf Creek Pass

He has also stayed in town a bit more than expected, as he and his fellow travelers resupply and rest, so don’t feel too bad for him up there shivering. They have enjoyed lots of restaurant meals and friendly barbecues. Plus, Allgood is a champion yogier. (Yogi-ing, according to that font of wisdom, urbandictionary.com, is “the art of politely gathering food from other hikers/campers by means of conversation without actually asking for it. If one asks for the food it is no longer yogi-ing, but rather it is simply begging, which is shameful.”

Dessert for three.
Dessert for three!

They even did a bit of sightseeing, including the Museum of Mining:

This wasn’t even the creepiest tableau. I don’t know who made those mannequins… stuffed with love, no doubt, but this museum could pull off one hell of a haunted house come October.

And in their spare time, one of the hikers is doing gear reviews, so J. and his companions got to help test out sleeping pads:

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After town, smaller groups of hikers split off to take different routes: some are waiting for snowmelt, three took the high route, and Zippy, Allgood, and Buttercup are taking the lower route, the “Creede Cutoff.” Here’s some wildlife from his last stretch…

Almost as adorable as Zippy in the sunshine on a brand new sleeping pad.
Almost as adorable as Zippy in the sunshine on a brand new sleeping pad.
And a happy buddy.
And a happy buddy.

That’s it for now. Zippy is now in town celebrating the birthday of POD, one of the hosts of the popular Trail Show podcast, with a gaggle of other hikers. Further updates as events warrant! And if you can’t wait for more, Zippy got himself an Instagram account, so to see extra photos, follow him there–under Zippy Morocco, of course.

Zippy Morocco in New Mexico

The intrepid Zippy Morocco is hiking northward from the Mexican border. After three weeks, he’s almost through New Mexico. Want stories and photos? He’s got no interest in blogging or writing. So I’m all you get: secondhand, better than nothing…

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On April 30, he took a plane to Tucson, an Uber to the bus station, a Greyhound to Lordsburg, and on May 1, an ATV shuttle to the border. He started with all these folks but they are likely far behind him by now. He’s excited, doing thirty and forty mile days. He says he doesn’t get physically tired, just sleepy, and that’s when he stops and makes camp. That’s all he does: walk and sleep. He loves it. He loves being alone. Loves walking, walking forever.

Here, he pitched his tarp by a windmill water spigot.

It’s a desert. The middle six hours of the day are darn hot, and nary a sliver of shade. But it is less hard on him than the desert of the PCT was. He credits that to better electrolytes. He’s taking Hammer Endurolytes every day, and eating better – no gag-inducing peanut butter tortillas, he’s getting high quality Good Food Store bulk grub for every meal. Corn chowder, split pea soup, couscous pilaf, refried black beans with tomato powder, mashed potatoes with stuffing and dried herbs, freeze-dried veggies, Pro Bars, granola with organic coconut milk powder… fella is set up.

The CDT isn’t really a trail, usually. It’s a route. Map and compass all the way. Even when there’s a sign, it’s not exactly clear…

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…or else, in New Mexico anyway, it’s just walking along the side of a road.

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Sometimes for seventy miles.

It’s flat in most of the state, so he’s had a lot of cell phone reception. We sometimes chat while he’s hiking. He freaked out his mom by texting her a photo of a rattlesnake in real-time, mid-call, as it shook its tail at him and she urgently reminded him exactly how many times its body length a rattler can spring:

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Despite the desert, water caches and pumps and streams – even a beautiful hot spring – crop up occasionally. One day he called to tell me about his latest water source: a big water tower with a spigot at the bottom. But he didn’t want the water from the dirty ol’ spigot. He wanted the water that was shooting out of what looked like a bullet hole in the side of the tank: higher water, better water. He tried to catch the stream as it shot every which way, and got a refreshing shower in the process.

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He skirted El Malpais National Monument, the famous arch of which he viewed from above, and not below, as in most photos you see…

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And he takes photos of wildflowers, only because he knows I like them. Otherwise, he registers that flowers exist, but pays them no mind.

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But this cannot be ignored!

At night, we look at the moon. We both see the same white globe, thousands of miles apart, but it is as if we are close.

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So he’s closing in on Colorado. Snowpack in the San Juans is at 144% of normal. This is the point where I get nervous and he gets excited. Our friend Samson is plowing through, ten days ahead. It’s heartening to hear that it is possible. And there’ll be one more week, at least, of snow melt (we hope) before Zippy’s turn to posthole his way into the highlands. I’ll keep you posted.