Angle to Key West: Trail Talk (7/28)

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Past Bissett Creek, Ottawa River, Ontario – July 28, 2013

One-Gallon and I met in the middle of the Ottawa River. I was heading upstream, he was heading down. We stashed our paddles, said hello, and held onto each other’s bow as we drifted up the river. After a few lines in, we didn’t talk like normal people, like two strangers meeting in the street.

“One-Gallon,” he said.

“Out of Order, ” I said.

And that changed everything. We talked like two old friends, two people who understand a piece of the other more than most anyone in the world. We’d never met before, but we already knew each other.

…I started in Crazy Cook…we were in Pooh’s Corner…it’s pretty high up there around Cumbress Pass…that’s a rough hitch into town…I would have been standing in the middle of the road after eight hours…which pass were the Dinsmores at again?…Jerry with his cigar…Miss Janet…there’s that cut by Apalachicola…I loved the spoil islands in Florida…hike your own hike…you ever meet Buck 30…Skittles…Wildcat…almost on the Mississippi…no…we hiked out of Overmountain Shelter in a blizzard together…used to call me Sunshine…

Words flowed in an almost foreign language. Sayings, phrases, places loaded with meaning that didn’t need explanation.

…that steak place in Lima…we started at Chief Mountain…Antelope Wells…campsites in Glacier…the Bob..Whitney…Meadow Ed…the Kickoff…couldn’t even make it 14 miles…Wolf Creek Pass gets tons of snow…hiked with Sweep…Wilderness Bob…Yeti…take a picture with the Jackelope in Dubois…

We were like two starving men at a buffet, piling stories on top of stories, stacking them higher and higher in a never ending chain. We didn’t stop talking until a rainstorm forced us under our tarps six hours later. Then we yelled back and forth until the rain grew so heavy we couldn’t hear. This morning we started up again as if we’d only paused to catch our breath.

…Pie Town…I was in the Gila when…made it to the Saufleys…so it was raining…snowing…hot as hell…just perfect…Katahdin is the place to end…you remember that shelter where…met some oystermen in the bay…where’d you keep your boat in New York…that piece of river south of St. Louis…trail magic…white blazes…blue blazes…right there on Lake Superior at Grand Marais…Jim Wolf’s route…the Winds…the Sierras…the Whites…you could go into town every other day on the AT…the trick to yogiing…biggest stretch is in the Smokies…all crowded into a shelter…that is a long hitch…short…easy…crossing the Divide Basin…

We packed our boats and stood on the beach, the conversation ending and continuing a dozen times, “we’ll I guess we should go” and “I don’t want to hold you up” always leading to one last story.

…the tide there by Yankeetown…cut across to Stewart…you know where Pelican Key is in the Ten-Thousand Islands…if I go to ADZPCTKO I’ll probably just end up hiking again…down by the border…yea, I know Girlscout…Bob Riess…the trail never comes down in Colorado…the griz was six feet away…the border patrol showed up…he was a section hiker…slack packing…at the bakery staring at the table…he threw it away because it weighed too much…the Andersons…Elizabeth City…went on the outside in New Jersey…right down to Tybee Island…northbound…southbound…the trail angel’s in…

It was hard to watch him disappear down the Ottawa, almost painful, the two of us off on different, lonely, twisting paths.

“See you on the trail somewhere,” I thought and paddled on.

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3 thoughts on “Angle to Key West: Trail Talk (7/28)

  1. Wow -synchronicity happens on rivers too — two amazing adventurerers connect — beautiful to imagine the bond between you.

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