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Archive for August, 2006

Destination: N/Huckleberry trail
Starting Location: Timberline Lodge Today’s Miles: 21.50
Trip Miles: 2066.30
Timberline Loge (2,107.3, 5940) to N/Huckleberry Trail (2,128.8, 4068) Ascent (3,599) Descent (5499)

Timberline Lodge turned out to be a special stop and provided a needed diversion from the realities of recent trail life. We enjoyed a great buffet breakfast and enjoyed pots of coffee served by a staff who were particularly friendly as we grazed for 90 minutes.

Yesterday’s drizzly weather gave way to an absolutely stunning day today. Mount Hood beamed with a dusting of early season snow. We could see as far south as the Three Sisters (likely 100 miles away) and looking north we saw spectacular volcanoes who shapes we have yet to recognize.

Talked to a respected friend today who pointed out that walking 2,650 miles in two seasons is still walking 2,650 miles. He also pointed out that “If I needed to be a hero, he understood that as well.” Given that I cringed at those words I know he hit a cord and realized herodom is a factor. I have often fantasized that by far the best way to go out would be as a hero – even if only in my own mind. I have also feared the idea of living a safe life safe while never really going for it. Sure I have had a lot of professional good fortune, but I can honestly say that I have never really swung for the fence. Rather, I worked really hard and always held some in reserve. This hike is different as I have given it everything I have. If I make it, I will be my own hero because I know I finally swung all the way. If I quit now – today I could not say that. Sure I have given it everything thus far, but unless I am absolutely incapable of continuing it will mean (to me) I checked my swing late in the game. I do not want to do this, I must not do this. There are only two options – make it, or go down swinging. Period. Some family and friends have expressed concerns that regarding “at what price.” I cannot answer that, but I can say we are not there yet.
Camped in a hole next to a spring and boy I am glad we are down low. The wind is blowing a gale in the tree tops a few hundred feet above and the noise is getting pretty intense. Pine needles are blowing into the tent and it sounds like heavy rain falling. Weather is wild and makes me feel alive.

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Destination: Timberline Lodge
Starting Location: Slope of Summit Butte
Today’s Miles: 31.20
Trip Miles: 2044.80
Slope of Summit Butte (2076.1, 4291) to Timberline Lodge (2107.3, 5940) ascent (4491) descent (2772)

I thought incorrectly, my shin is not cooperating and it was a tough afternoon both physically & emotionally. Every part of me feels good & I want to hike & yet my leg does not move . . . ugh!#!
Regardless, I made it to Timberline as the sun set over Mt Jefferson & the clouds lifted long enough to see Mt Hood whose beautiful slope I was walking on. The lodge is most impressive and has a timber frame construction that includes the largest timbers I have ever seen in use. The rock work is a masterpiece of masonry talent & the food was really good. We got a great little room with a bunk bed & a sink. The bath is down the hall. We just enjoyed a soak in the hot tub & are taking advantage of the complimentary laundry. I really like this place. Thunder, as usual in town, is on the internet down the hall.

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Destination: Slope of Summit Butte
Starting Location: Olallie Lake Resort
Today’s Miles: 23.00
Trip Miles: 2013.6
Olallie Lake Resort (2053.1, 4950) to Slope of Summit Butte (2076.1, 4291) ascent (2631) descent (3327)

Sore but it feels different. Limping but it feels different. Frustrating but it feels different. I think my shin may be showing some signs of healing.
Hiked with Andy, Token Civilian, & Thunder. Good lively conversation about a viable 3rd political party option as well as artificial intelligence – where it is and where it is going.
Well it is official I am no longer hiking a contiguous hike along the PCT between Mexico and Canada. Two forest fires have made that quest impossible for me and I had to postpone hiking 63.6 miles of trail between McKenzie Pass & Olallie Lake Resort. My option was a 90 mile road walk. I contemplated this option with the silly reasoning that my hike was less pure if I went around & then came back. Fortunately two friends pointed out two very important facts. Gottago: You wrote the rule; rewrite it to fit the circumstance. Crazy Horse: Are you crazy man? Roads are for cars. So dad drove us the 90 miles to get around the absolutely closed & likely dangerous fires. I now plan to continue on to Canada & hike the missed section on my way home. I was very disappointed in this approach until we started hiking today. Then it hit me – just another part of this year’s hike. For convenient logistical purposes, I am going to stay with the data book mileages as the miles we have traveled. If you don’t like that, you can do the math yourself each time by subtracting 63.6 miles from my total miles logged. I mentioned to Numskull that the Canadian Monument will likely be anticlimactic now that I would not be truly done. He also gave me that “are you crazy” look and I realized yes I am. I put these insane demands on myself & then I have to do it perfect or it does not count for anything. Regardless of the fact that the damn forest is closed & just a bit beyond my infinite control. I love being a type A personality. The A really is for anal. How ridiculous can you get – anticlimactic after hiking 2,650 miles less 63.6 of course.
Quote of the day: Andy – what do you do in your other life go-BIG? go-BIG: I am a bum. Andy: Cool, we are in the same line of work. A 43 year old retired consultant and a 33 year old retired software engineer. Write your own rules in life and change them whenever you want. If I go back to work am I still retired? Who cares, for now I am a bum and having the time of my life.
Dad said he did not understand my journal entry that had a bread recipe. There is nothing to understand dad. Some great people shared a family bread recipe with me & I in turn shared it with you. No hidden meaning but the answer to all of life’s questions is still trout.

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Destination: McKenzie Highway
Starting Location: Glacier Way Trail Today’s Miles: 10.50
Trip Miles: 1990.60
Glacier Way Trail (1979, 6370) to McKenzie Highway (1989.5, 5280) ascent (1729) descent (2806)

A friend in need is a friend indeed. I am a lucky man who is blessed with friends. First, I looked up & saw dad waving from the volcanic rock of McKenzie Pass. A 10 hour road trip from Sacramento designed to take me home or take me around the fires. Man it was good to see you pop. Second, I walked into the Sister’s library and there sat my buddy Rolling Thunder. He had delayed his trip back onto the trail after a trip to see a friend. He had waited for me & said he was willing to go slow for a bit until I healed. With a dad and a friend like that how could any part of this trip be a failure.
Walked to the pass with Twisted Sister. What a wonderful person. I continue to be so impressed with the quality of the people hiking the trail. And you don’t have to deal with all the society dos & don’ts in conversation. We just started right in talking about what was important to us as individuals, community & society.
One hiker hitched to Santiam and hiked back to McKenzie. BIG MISTAKE. Fire, smoke, fire, smoke and a cross country trek across a lava field to avoid the danger.
Speaking of the fire closure. I earlier complimented the Klamath National Forest on their excellent public communication and outreach regarding fires on their forest. I now want to criticize the Deschutes National Forest for a lack of effort regarding timely & specific information regarding fire closures. I can not express strongly enough the differences between the same agencies response to identical situations.
Lots of hikers in town trying to figure out options regarding the closures. Again the Deschutes NF was of no help. We saw: Dirty Bird, Numskull, Crazy Horse, Haiku, Tree Hugger, Token Civilian, Original Andy and others I do not know.
Unbelievable – when I saw Dirty Bird & Numskull the first thing they mentioned was that at 9 pm on Etna Summit a truck pulling a trailer pulled over and offered them a ride. You bet, it was Dick Shit and he told them how the first hiker he had ever picked up was go-BIG and now he picks them all up. I knew it – the honey dipper trail angel hauling shit and hikers to & from Etna.

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Destination: Glacier Way Trail
Starting Location: Sisters Mirror Lake
Today’s Miles: 14.70
Trip Miles: 1980.10
Sisters Mirror Lake (1664.3, 5980) to Glacier Way Trail (1979.0, 6370) ascent (2153) descent (1693)

As is often the case sometimes things have to get worse before they get better. I am hopeful that last evening was one of those times. When I woke up I had very little leg pain and for the first time in 8 days it is clear that this is an inflammation (of what who knows) injury. The anti-inflammatory had reduced the swelling significantly overnight and by taking it slow and stopping early I was able to keep the pain to a manageable level. At one point I was admiring middle Sister (mountain) and I said “okay it’s up to you, help me through your wilderness”. I laughed at myself for talking to a mountain, but I felt better almost immediately & I had an overwhelming sense that everything would work out.
The rules of the road in hiking are pretty simple. Uphill hikers have the right of way, warn someone if coming from behind as to not startle them . . so as I was working my way up a pretty good climb I figured I would keep moving even though there were hikers coming down. Then on second thought I figured I could use a rest and so I pulled over. The woman gave me a half smile and the guy just looked at his feet and kept walking. This struck me as odd & unfortunate. We are so into our own worlds that we do not even take the time to thank someone who has offered a simple courtesy. I have been noticing this a lot lately and have also noticed that the trail is having an opposite effect on me. I am so grateful for the help I have received that I find myself saying thank you every time I get a refill on coffee or water. I like this. Recognizing each other with courtesies is a way to connect with people at a very basic level. And the argument that it is a server’s job to refill coffee and thus you do not need to say thanks is a bunch of crap. You should be more civil to each other; it makes the world a much friendlier place. I said “you’re welcome” to myself after they passed & I am 100% sure I felt better about the non-encounter than they did.
The Three Sisters Wilderness is a remarkably beautiful place and it has that wilderness or wild feel to it. Before stopping for the evening I walked along a ridge covered in obsidian (volcanic glass). This had to have been an early tool makers dream location. I picked up many pieces & examined them for potential uses. A projectile point, a scraping tool, a knife. Some was imbedded in outcroppings the size of cars and some was pea size but reflected much light regardless.
Forget what I said about the trees being smaller. I am camped amongst a group of giants – 4 feet in diameter and 200+ feet tall. I look up their long bodies and try to detect where they first bend in the steady breeze. The tops move, the bottoms do not and somewhere in between is a transition but you can not see it.
I have taken to setting up my shelter every night even though the weather is perfect. I have found that I sleep better inside my tent. I think this is largely a function of keeping the bugs away. Between mosquitoes, flies, ants, spiders, bees, moths, caterpillars & amphibians there are a lot of things that crawl & fly around at night. Like now for example. I am enjoying a lovely late afternoon/evening in my tent & I just counted 22 creatures of different makes & models trying to access my world – sorry we are closed.

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Destination: Sisters Mirror Lake
Starting Location: Before Tadpole Lake
Today’s Miles: 20.20
Trip Miles: 1965.40
Before Tadpole Lake (1944.1, 5604) to Sisters Mirror Lake (1964.3, 5955) ascent (2694) descent (2310)

The last 1.5 miles had a 500 descent and it did not go well. I actually tried hopping on one foot for a bit – does not work. Walking in a semi squat stance worked the best on the really steep spots and I would love to have a video of that. When I got to Sisters Mirror Lake I walked to the waters edge, removed my shoes & walked out to a rock. I sat down, looked at the beauty around me, rested my chin in my hand and asked myself “what am I dong here”? No answer came but oddly I knew I was supposed to be here; by myself and hurt. I know the answer will come – but not on my schedule.
Met a nice group of people at Elk Lake Resort. They asked me what had been the toughest part. I thought back to the heat, the blisters, the waterless stretches, the ants, the snow, the rivers and I instantly knew the answer: right now.
Hoped to call home from Elk Lake but contrary to the guide books I was unable to secure a cell phone for hire. I am sure Lucky Liz is worried but she knows that hikers miss check ins frequently.
Met Thor, Knees, Red & ? just before Elk Lake and saw them again at Sisters Mirror Lake. Really nice folks. It was odd being the guest in their conversation rather than being a part of the group. At first I got a bit of quizzing to ensure I was indeed a northbound thru-hiker. I think I passed. Leaving, I ran into Restless Wind and Twisted Sister who I last saw in Independence during a Sierra Nevada Resupply. We got caught up and they were super supportive. Twister commented that I was skinny and was surprised when I told her I had been gaining weight since Old Station.
The forest is changing as we move north. The trees are smaller and are covered in drooping lichens that is often called Spanish Moss. The under story is very green and while dry now clearly indicates an abundance of yearly moisture. Walking slow allows me to hear the trees creak in the wind. Often it is perfectly still at the ground level but I hear the trees talking and when I look skyward I see their uppermost trunk and branches moving. Occasionally a dead tree will be propped against another tree and the old wood makes an eerie sound as if the bow of a violin was being pulled ever so slowly.

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Hubris

Destination: Below Woody Pass
Starting Location: Below Alpine Garden Pass
Today’s Miles: 24.40
Trip Miles: 2580.30
Alpine Garden (2618.6, 6600) to Below Woody Pass (2643.0, 6135) ascent (4080) descent (4475)

I am struggling to capture the thoughts of the last night on the trail. I have been focused on this goal for so long that to realize tomorrow is the end point is, well, unbelievable. And the goal has been rapidly fading in importance over these last days & nights. “Making it” does not seem particularly important now. Sure I am excited but it truly was about the journey. And while I am goal driven and pleased with my achievement the achievement is simply a culmination of 5 months (today) of hiking north.
At the register at Harts Pass I wrote: “Hubris is dangerous, you are not there yet”, as a reminder and to avoid ticking off the hiking gods again. But not apparently good enough as another friendly wasp stung me on my achilles tendon. I used every word of profanity I could think of and then I made a few more up. Why the hell does the guy who is allergic keep getting stung? Dr Jones 0 times, Andy 1 time, Rolling Thunder 3 times and yours truly 11 times – damn it.
One of the most scenic days of the entire trip. The miles melted away behind panoramic views as we stayed high on the crest. The colors are changing quickly now and the reds & golds lit up the landscape far into the distance.
Some best of the trails – best buffet: Timberline Lodge. I limped in and my leg began to improve after their buffet. Related? Who knows but the food was great and my hike turned back towards the positive. Best & only (but it wouldn’t matter anyway) hitch hike: Dick shit into Etna, California. It was a first for both of us & it was a great ride. Best cookies: Ryan’s (my nephew) chocolate chip with walnuts that were sent to Stehikin. Best wildlife sighting: elk in the wild during the early days of the rut. Weary animals & totally awesome in the wild. Best trail magic: Gottago & Ray who saved us from the desert heat and provided outstanding hospitality, Steve & Peggy who opened their home to me & 10 of my hiker friends, Barney & Sandy who exhibited amazing generosity & provided much needed moral support when I was injured. Best day on the trail: the traverse across the top of the world before Sonora Pass. 12 fellow hikers, views to live for, perfect weather & a sense of great achievement after the Sierra crossing.
Best restaurant: Jen’s Garden in Sisters, Oregon. 5 course meal of incredible quality. Also most expensive. Best town: Etna, California. Wonderful friendly people, more trucks than cars, and great milk shakes at the drug store. Best BBQ: Sierra City with Chris (my nephew) doing the grilling along with my whole family in attendance. Best support: my dad who drove all over 3 states to lend support to me and any other hiker in need. Best private nurses: Sheri & Cathy who cared for me in Old Station as I threw up outside their motor home, and then followed us for 5 days with food, drink, & good humor. Best inspiration: my mom who was diagnosed with breast cancer & yet still visited frequently & told me I could not quit regardless of her well being. Best wife: Lucky Liz – I am truly blessed & I know that more now than at any other point in our relationship. Best poet: the Old Goat who sent numerous pieces of supportive poetry as well as teaching me about expectation management. Best sport: Sugar Daddy who suffered through my barrage of criticism regarding the hypocrisies of Christianity or more specifically the churches & its members.
Best hiking pals: Pang, Swiss Miss, Sugar Daddy, Sunny the Puppy Grabber, Tadpole the Hippo, Rolling Thunder, 3 Gallon, Mike Unger, Andy, Dr Jones, Cadence, Weed, & Lucky Liz. Best stop: The Ranch at Stehikin. Perfect place to reflect & regroup after the snow. Best Bakery in the world: Stehikin Bakery. Best in the world describes it well enough. Best section of the trail: the Sierra Nevada & all those snow covered miles,followed by the North Cascades and the feel of true Wilderness. Best home cooked meal: Jim & Jackie Manning from Running Springs. Great vegetable soup. Best doctors: Keri & Delphine – can’t say more but their help was paramount to success. Best medicine: benadryl for obvious by now reasons. Best lake: Crater Lake, Oregon – just mind blowing beautiful. Best pizza: Happy Camp & Home of Big Foot. Best trail drama: Rolling Thunder’s personal life. Best guy on the trail: tie between Sunny & Mike Unger. Truly the nicest guys I am privileged to know.
Best attitude: Swiss Miss with a constant smile and a glass always completely full. Best vocabulary: tie between Rolling Thunder & Andy – words I truly have never heard in my life let alone know their meanings. Best fruit: trail huckleberries wet with morning dew. Best guidebook: there isn’t one. Best information regarding fires: the Klamath National Forest rocks & the Okanogan is a very close second. The Deschutes still sucks. Best motel: Sisters Motor Lodge in Sisters, Oregon. Small, clean, & hiker friendly.

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Destination: Before Tadpole Lake
Starting Location: Saddle north of Bobby Lake
Today’s Miles: 19.90
Trip Miles: 1945.20
North of Bobby Lake (1924.2, 6106) to Before Tadpole Lake (1944.1, 5604) ascent (1962) descent (2454)

I was cruising real slow but steady and was even doing some calculations in my head regarding . . . at this speed I would reach Manning Park on . . . when I turned around and saw a familiar face. Actually familiar dread locks – yes, a friend from the early days of the hike – Crazy Horse. We got all caught up on the trail news and walked together for a bit. I found myself pushing too fast and called out that I was stopping for breakfast. This was also a polite way to let Crazy Horse move on at a more comfortable pace. Seeing an old friend broke the all alone feeling and boosted my confidence. Apparently, a lot of hikers passed me while I was in Sisters and it seems like I am probably in the middle of the pack now. I anticipate being passed a lot in the coming week or so.
Terrain was easy & leg held up. It feels about like last night & did not deteriorate significantly over the miles. Maybe!
Picked up all my cold weather gear in Sisters. The nights are showing signs that fall is approaching and I was happy to be back in my 15 degree sleeping bag. I also picked up rain pants, rain hat, rain mittens, a fleece top, beanie hat, and tights. That added about 2 lbs to my pack but because water is plentiful for now I have not noticed as I am not carrying any water.
Regarding Giardia. It is funny but it seems Giardia is some sort of badge of honor on the trail. And I am quite certain that many, if not most people, who claim to have had it actually had a simple case of Diarrhea. Giardia is nasty and the symptoms are quite specific with strong sulfur gas and belching. Along with well – you know, but it is described as explosive. And you do not have Giardia one day and get over it the next. Regardless, it does sound better and the badge is cooler than simply having the trots.
I ordered one of Ultralight Adventure’s (ULA) new packs & I am now carrying the Circuit model. I did not think I would find a pack better than the ULA P-2 but the Circuit is. I love this pack. Given that it does not have a frame sheet means you have to pack it a little more carefully to ensure a comfortable ride but it is well worth the extra 30 seconds. At 2 lbs, it carries 25 – 30 lbs very well & most of the weight is easily transferred to the hips via a comfortable & functional hip belt.
After 1900 miles my Railriders shirt deteriorated under the constant UV rays. It got a small hole that opened up into a shredded mess. It was well used before the trip & thus I am happy with the performance. I am now wearing a Royal Robbins Go Anywhere. I really like that the sleeves are long enough for my lanky arms. It does not breathe like the eco mesh from Railriders, but the days are cooler now so it should be fine.
I also replaced my Sea to Summit dry bags. The first bags are still fine but they are showing a lot of wear, & are likely not fully waterproof any longer. Going into Washington in September is no time to test the waterproofness. When I get home, I can likely reseal the old bags & have a good pair of dry bags for my motorcycle where it is less critical because they are in weather resistant boxes.
I am in a pretty good place mentally & I am focused on doing what I need to in an attempt to go the distance.
Have seen some elk tracks on the trail. They do not seem to use the trail like deer that will walk down the trail for miles. Rather the elk seem to cross the trail & maybe follow it for a few meters or so. I am glad Crater Lake had a print display in the concrete as it really helped in the identification. Crazy Horse said he saw a big bull elk for a few seconds before it disappeared into the thick forest – cool.

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Destination: Below Alpine Garden Pass
Starting Location: Porcupine Creek
Today’s Miles: 23.30
Trip Miles: 2555.90
Porcupine Creek (2595.3, 5080) to Below Alpine Garden Pass (2618.6, 6600) ascent (4908) descent (3711)

Sunglasses all day long & a forecast indicating more of the same – most excellent. And yet more good news: the PCT has been officially reopened north of Harts Pass and into Canada. It’s funny, the awful weather we had during our last leg into Stehikin put out the fires thus allowing the reopening. No way do I think this is a coincidence.
My mom had her fourth chemotherapy treatment the day before yesterday and she is likely on her way to Manning Park as we speak. During her first two treatments she ended up in the hospital with severe dehydration due to the nausea. And she is coming anyway. My dad suggested she was not up for it. My sister said she was in a mode of doing what ever she is capable of as she does not want to miss any of life’s opportunities. I am mixed – I want her to come to Canada but I do not want her to overdo it. Bottom line – it is her call, & like me she decided to go for it 100% and let the results be what the results are. I think we just might both make it to Canada.
I was day dreaming about being finished and was thinking nothing could stop me. And in that instance a wasp stung me and reminded me that while I am close I am not there yet. About 10 minutes later I was dreaming yet again and had forgotten the reminder. I stopped to check the status of the sting, surmised the benadryl was working and thought again. nothing could possibly stop me. In that instance – smack – another wasp stings me right on my ass. Okay, okay “hubris” I hear you.
The walking today was magical. Fall colors – replacing the greens with gold & crimson. Every chipmunk in the North Cascades got the memo winter is approaching fast and they were all scurrying around making last minute preparations.
I slowed my pace today and I let this warm fall sun warm my body & my heart. It was very peaceful and the hours drifted into miles.

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Lonely

Destination: Saddle north of Bobby Lake
Starting Location: Shelter Cove
Today’s Miles: 12.00
Trip Miles: 1925.30
Shelter Cove (1912.2, 5003) to Saddle north of Bobby Lake (1924.2, 6106) ascent (2438) descent (1168)

When Liz dropped me off at the railroad tracks where I had gotten off the trail one week ago today I was as lonely as I can ever recall. And when I hoisted my pack onto my back and my leg felt the full weight I began to cry. Not from pain, not from loneliness, but from gratitude for an opportunity to try & from fear of the unknown.
Decision time – 1.6 miles and I am limping. Turn back to Shelter Cove & call it a season or keep the needle pointed north. I stood on Willamette Pass at Highway 58 and thought long and hard. Short goals – 44 miles to Elk Lake Resort – you have 5 days of food, you are still on your feet boy, cross the f@#$%&g road.
Made it to Bobby Lake, mile 10, in about 6 hours. For a thru-hiker that pace was excruciatingly slow and the first hours were both mental & physical torture. Then a mantra: it is not go-BIG or go-home; it is go-slow or go-home. The forest at 1.5 miles an hour vs. 3.5 miles per hour is a very different place. You hear more, you see more, and you feel more.
My grandfather was Robert and they called him Pete, my father is Robert and they call him Bob, I am Robert and, like a boy named Sue, they called me Bobby or worse, little Bobby. Bobby Lake reminded me how I hated that name. Not even sure why exactly now but being a geeky kid was bad enough, I did not need a name to match. When I returned from the First Battalion 5th Marines, my name had been restored to its proper place – Robert. I like Robert.
I promised myself I would stop early regardless of how I felt. Liz wanted me to take more time off, but at 20 miles per day I will arrive in Canada near October 1st. I could not wait any longer – fish or cut bait. At mile 12 my leg was sore but I was managing okay but keeping the pace of a slug. Tomorrow I will try to go farther but not faster. Go-slow or go-home!
Saw a southbound hiker today. As I stepped aside I said hello. The hiker looked up like he heard something; he looked right through me and kept walking without any kind of acknowledgement. It was weird and matched exactly how I am feeling. I am here but not really. I am grateful I hiked alone for a few days earlier. It was good practice for actually being alone now. My friends are now approximately 200 miles to the north. I do not know who if anybody is behind me – it’s weird but okay.

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