Day 15

Day- Day 15

Date- 7/6/17

Location- Great Falls, MT

Elevation- ?

Distance Traveled Today- 4.7 official CDT miles. More side trail

Distance Traveled Total- 213.9 miles

Weather/Temp- sunny 90s 

Injuries- scabs

Pain level- none

Spirits/Morale- depressed but relieved

Wildlife encounters- none

Days without shower- 0

Days without laundry- 0

Hunger/craving- none

Thoughts/Stories-

What. A. Day. 
Today was not a good day for me at all, but it ended on a good note. 

So we woke up early next to the river and were hiking by 7. We wanted to get in and out of the ranch as quick as possible due to the “sideways miles” (extra miles you walk that don’t count towards finishing the trail). 

Katana was not well. She slept all through the night, but this morning she was wobbly, off balance, and was walking with shaky legs. She looked sick or injured. I felt her paws and and all her joints and looked her over; nothing. I put pressure with my hands on all her paws and all her joints to see if I could illicit a pained reaction and pin point something; nothing. I put her drops in and checked her eye…normal. What the hell is wrong with her?! I felt panicked to see her like this. Either she was the queen of drama (which she already is), or there’s something I can’t see. She’s gotten worse every day that we’ve been out here, no matter how easy I take it with her, how much I let her sleep, or how much I carry her. I’m totally at a loss. She’s never been like this…unadaptive. 

I carried her the uneventful 8 total miles into the ranch. There was a campground with horse back riders that were hitting the trail, but the person in charge of the ranch was nowhere to be found. I sat in the shade of the ranch cabin with the flies for a couple hours with Katana and Schweppes. She wasn’t looking good, and seemed very stressed out. The heat was bad, but nowhere near what we faced on the PCT last year…or what we face in Florida year round. 

As I sat there, I knew I needed to make a decision. If we hiked out of there, it would be another 60 miles to the next road into a town. That was 60 miles of probably carrying katana non stop. Stressing her out more and making whatever was wrong with her worse. I couldn’t do that. There was no point in it. Neither me or katana had anything to gain by putting ourselves through another 60 miles of what had been getting worse over the last couple days. Giving it more time to “see what happens” was now off the table. 

As Schweppes began to prompt us to start hiking out, I let him know Katana was done. “I’m not putting her through anymore, I’m taking her home.” I told him. If she got any worse, she might inflame the glaucoma in her last eye. I wasn’t going to live with that. Seeing her so weak and out of it made the decision very plain and simple. No more. I would not keep her out here. It was a painful decision to make, but it felt like a no brainer. Katana is not going to triple crown this year, or possibly ever. 

So my mind was made up right then and there and the focus was to get Katana to the nearest town, then figure out how to safely get her home. Schweppes wanted no part in all those logistics, and I don’t blame him. It’s not his responsibility, it’s mine. So he hiked out and I went to the road in hopes of flagging down any passerby. 

The road to the ranch was made of gravel, and 30 miles down it to the east was the small town of Augusta. That would be the target destination. Almost right away, a forest service truck came down, heading east. I flagged it down with Katana in my arms and plead my case. The older gentleman behind the wheel DID NOT want to give me a ride. He had two other younger guys with him who seemed more than fine with it, but the old man was clearly in charge. It was like pulling teeth to get him to agree to take me down the road. I apologized for putting him on the spot, but I let him know it was urgent, that I’d been carrying a dog for two days, and that I’d have to carry her another 60 miles if I didn’t get a ride. He finally agreed to take me to where there was cell service, then drop me off to figure out my own way. Honestly, I was appalled he wouldn’t just take me all the way to Augusta, but to get in the truck, I agreed. 
He brought me 20 miles down the road and pulled over ten miles from Augusta. “Well, here’s where the service starts. You can call a ride from here.” We were literally still in the middle of nowhere. I asked him if I could pay him to take me into Augusta if it was out of his way. He replied that they were already on their way there as it was. This got me pretty angry on the inside, but I remained outwardly calm and polite. “How do you just not want to help a fellow human being in need when it’s not even out of your way?” I wondered.  “Well I appreciate the boost. I guess I’ll try and find something” I said. “Eh, just hang on. Let me call my boss” he replied. He then got on his radio and relayed my situation to his superior. Whoever they were, they were perfectly fine with him giving me a ride in. 

So he dropped me off in Augusta, a town that looked like nothing more than a simple trailer park. It resembled more of a refugee camp than a town. I’m sorry for that description, but that’s how it came across to me. Barren. 

He left me at the only motel in town; bunkhouse inn. It was more of a bar than a motel. I pleaded my case to the bartender who doubled as the receptionist. “No dogs, no exceptions” was her answer. This put me shit out of luck in this town. I told her I needed to get to the nearest town that I could rent a car in. She told me that would be “Great Falls,” over 50 miles away. 

There were no shuttle services, no taxis, and no uber who would come out that far to pick someone up. I offered everyone in the bar $60 (all the cash I had) to drop me off as close as they could; no takers. Instead I got directions to where I could hitchhike. So I decided to do that. 
This would be my first time hitchhiking in a capacity that wasn’t related to the trail. Nobody would know I was a hiker way out here, hiking a trail that hardly anyone hiked. I was nervous. 
I went out to the road and began walking in the direction they’d pointed me with Katana on my shoulders. I didn’t get a quarter mile before a van pulled over with a lone woman at the wheel. She looked to be in her forties, and she looked rough. Honestly, my first impression was that she was a junkie. Sorry again, but not sorry. When you first see someone, a first impression comes to your mind; that was the one that instantly came to me. I was sure that she was about to try and get something from me, or get something to me… 
“Where are you trying to go?” She asked. “Great Falls.” I said. “I can take you about ten miles closer to a spot where you can get a ride more easily. It’ll be a straight shot into Great Falls from there.”  This seemed better than nothing, so I agreed. 

We began driving and she told me her name, but I forgot it. She was actually incredibly kind, and I was sure my first impression was completely wrong. I told her my story, hoping she would decide to take me all or most of the way, but she didn’t offer. As we got closer to the end of the ride, I offered to give her sixty bucks to take me the rest of the way if it wasn’t too inconvenient. She said she had to be up at 4am, and wouldn’t be able too. “Definitely not a junkie” I thought to myself.  It wasnt even the the middle of the afternoon, so I knew it was just a convenient excuse because she didn’t want to drive that far. It wouldn’t have taken more than an hour and a half round trip on that 70 mph empty highway. I’m sure she was tired from a long day at work, so I understood. I was just having a really tough day too, so I guess I was relying on people to see that and want to help. Not to mention the limp dog I was carrying around. Not a lot of empathy or sympathy in small town Montana. I’m not surprised, nor upset by that. 

When the woman dropped me off, it was in the middle of nowhere on the side of the road. She said she was usually afraid to go any further because cell phone service disappeared and she would never want to break down out there. (Perhaps that’s why she really didn’t want to drive me the whole way). Great. So that’s the perfect place to leave someone else. 
I almost asked for a ride back into town where I could actually get food and water, but decided I’d just try this instead. Maybe I’d get a ride faster than I thought… Nope. 
There wasn’t a tree for miles and the temperature was in the mid 90s. It was scorching hot on the side of the road, and there was nothing in either direction. Hardly any vehicles came by in the direction I wanted, and the ones that did were “work trucks.” I sat on the ground and positioned katana in my shadow to keep her as cool as possible. She did not look well, and I only had maybe a cup of water left. Her fur was scorching hot. I began to feel desperate as an hour passed and no one stopped. I spent another hour calling every taxi service and car rental place in Great Falls; no one came out that far…for any reason. I was striking out and burning up. I started looking around to see where I could camp if worse came to worse; the options were slim to none. I’d be very exposed, and there was no water. No, I had to get somewhere today, not tomorrow. 

I finally decided on the last thing I could think of besides physically blocking a car to a stop, or just walking; I reached out on social media. I made a post on Facebook explaining my predicament and asking if anyone knew someone in Great Falls who would be willing to come rescue us. The response was overwhelming and heart warming. The outpour of support completely blew my mind, as people began networking with friends and through other online groups. Within half an hour, a woman named Angi managed to reach out to enough people in a “hiking with dogs” Facebook group and find a man named Jake who lived in Great Falls and was willing to come pick us up. When I spoke to Jake on the phone to describe where I was, I felt the weight of the world lift off my chest. After another 40 mins, Jake rolled up in his Toyota Tacoma and we were saved. 

It felt weird, and I almost felt silly now that life was back in my control. Almost like a form of Stockholm syndrome. During the height of the ordeal I’d felt desperate and incredibly anxious to get Katana somewhere cool and quiet where she could rest and recover. Every minute that passed felt like a crisis. Now that everything was going to be ok, I just felt silly and embarrassed. I couldn’t believe I’d let myself feel so helpless. At the time I felt like I was doing everything I could do to make the things that needed to happen, happen. Now that they had happened, I felt dumb. I don’t know why, and I can’t explain it, but I just wished everything had happened differently. In the end, I had to rely on others instead of myself, and that gave me a pretty useless feeling. I suppose I used what was available to me to set everything in motion, but I still felt as though I’d failed katana in some way. Failed myself. I don’t know. 
Jake was an incredibly kind guy. We had an awesome drive into Great Falls and he was a wealth of information on the surrounding area. He’d even come out to get me with his arm in a sling. He’d broken his collarbone only a week earlier, and was still waiting to possibly have surgery. He should have been home resting, but instead he was out rescuing barbarian looking hikers and their tiny fox dogs. Whatta guy! 

After refusing any kind of compensation, he dropped me off at a motel 6 that I’d called and made a reservation to. The plan is simple now; rent a car and get Katana home. Period. Then get back to the trail and finish it. Period. 
My parents have agreed to watch her for the remainder of the hike, so that’s another weight off my chest. They love Katana like a grandchild, and treat her like an extension of my kid self. That means lots of spankings, huge bowls of broccoli for dinner, and being sent to bed early without dessert. I grew up just fine!   Kidding about all of that. However, Katana will be loved and spoiled as if she were my real kid. 
She’s doing better, but she’s definitely out of it. I don’t know what’s got her like this, but I hope it’s nothing serious. As long as she continues to improve, I’ll hold off on the vet until I get her home. Getting a rental car tomorrow should hopefully be headache free…

31 Comments

  1. Actually instead feeling foolish you should feel accomplished. You used the tools at your disposal and saved yourself and Katana from who knows what fate. What’s the difference between networking with fellow hikers to solve a trail problem and networking with your socia media following to solve a real problem of grab and safety? My hats off to you for using the resources available to you!

    Puppy prayers for Katana and a wishes for a speedy return to the trail for you!

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  2. Glad you all are ok. Prayers are going up for you and sweet Katana. Don’t beat yourself up! You have overcome many obstacles and are still inspiring myself and many others! You are a strong person Mayor! Safe travels and thank you for taking so many of us on this journey with you!

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  3. Heart breaking and warming all at the same time! Prayers for Catfox ūüíē Blessings to Jake and other hikers that assisted them!! Get well Katana!!

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  4. I really hope Katana is ok! I will miss seeing her on the trail but you are definitely doing the right thing and bringing her home. Safe travels home and back! Keep us updated! ūüôā

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  5. You have no reason to feel silly or embarrassed! When a situation is out of your control and it involves someone you love you feel helpless. But at every point you made the right decision!

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  6. I’m so happy you & Katana found safety & refuge. Big thanks to FB and social media for rallying around to help. The magnitude of human kindness is limitless when we can come together.
    My family is from Navarre & when my brother found out I got a Shiba he told me to follow you & I have ever since. I’ve recently just traveled from FL to WA (by car) & went through Montana. I had some issues with the high/change in altitude & noticed my Shiba Yumi also experiencing some of the effects. Hopefully, once back at sea level in FL Katana will recover & be back to her old self. Good luck & Safe Travels on the rest of your journey.

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  7. I have been hiking parts of the CDT around my home in PIpestone, MT. I have been following your posts, and avidly waiting to hear of your adventures when you came out tonservice again.
    How wrenching for you and Katana!
    I am helping my middle son move to Oregon Sunday thru Wednesday night. If you need anything and I can do it, I will. Rides, food, place to stay, etc. I can also bring things to you on trail. Bug dope?!!!
    People are wired to give and receive help. Both. Sometimes it’s hard to receive for me. I am being more compassionate to my homesteader girl!
    May you and Katana be safe, happy and healthy!
    Cell 406-533-5646
    139 Bluebird Lane, Whitehall, MT. 59759
    Exit 241 Pipestone I-90, 8 miles east of Homestake Pass.
    You are not alone.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I have followed your blog for awhile now. I read and watch your videos and often wonder if I would have what it takes to over come the mental and physical obstacles you have encountered…I admire your determination and fortitude and hope that I can learn something from your experiences.
    As a member of Hiking with Dogs Facebook page, I saw your call for help the other day as soon as it was posted. As a dog owner, my heart immediately wept for the controlled panic I could feel in your request but I was not surprised at the overwhelming response and I did learn something from you.
    Social media allows us these really cool connections that otherwise we would never have…..for example, me watching a blog by some guy in funky shorts from Florida, hiking In Montana, stuck in the middle of nowhere with an ailing one eyed dog, needing a ride to civilization and I’m actually at work in Alabama praying that someone can answer the call because I can’t …. Amazing.
    Lessons?
    1) There are plenty of good people in this small world that will step up with a helping hand….you just have to be willing to ask. We can’t feel embarrassed or helpless with situations that occur in life….it takes a strong character to ask for help instead of floundering because of whatever.
    2) Knowing that it’s ok to be self reliant until the time comes when it’s not ok and being self aware enough to know the difference, makes you stronger, less vulnerable and more emotionally balanced/stable. Good lessons for all of us! Keeping moving forward and trust your gut.
    Wishing you and Katana a safe trip home, hoping she will recover just fine in grandparents care.
    In the meantime, your internet friends will be patiently waiting for you to get back to the trailhead and we will cheer you on to finish the triple crown when you are ready .
    Godspeed.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. I appauld you for doing the best thing for your pup. maybe the parents can meet you somewhere in colorado for a day hike with you and your baby dog? Trust we are dog friendly here!

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  10. Prayers and good health to you & Katrina. I was also on social media and felt so helpless I couldn’t come rescue you two. I couldn’t stop checking the post until you were resting in the hotel and I was blown away by all of the support you received. It was awesome to see this goodness, well deserved as you would do the same & more if the roles were reversed.

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  11. Kyle I know that was both the easiest and hardest decision for you to make . No question you did the right thing and please do not beat yourself up! I cannot imagine noone wanting to help you ūüėēAnd sweet Katana. I know many ppl down social media but this is a perfect example of how good it can be. So thankful to everyone that reached out and helped you . Praying save travels and that Katana health continues to improve. You’ll be back out there bud .

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  12. Sorry to hear that Katana will miss this through hike but you definitely did the right thing. Be safe and keep us post on you and Katana.

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  13. I am so sorry for all this lack of consideration of some people. I have spent much time in Montana and am very disappointed in such action. I have a friend who lives in Great Falls and I am so surprise. I will keep your little sweet dog in my prayers.

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    1. 1947=—There are difficult people everywhere, don’t beat yourself or your town up for the few that turned their noses up…It was also someone from Great Falls that came to the rescue…Good People Jake, thanks from Katana’s grand dad….

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  14. Never feel dumb for feeling vulnerable. You did what you had to do in your situation. Your sense of urgency helped you problem solve the issues you faced. You knew in your gut that you needed to get Katana home asap. I’m sorry she isn’t feeling herself. Sending prayers that she will be fine with her grandparents. ‚ô°

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  15. I’m so glad you did what you did to get out and get help. Don’t feel bad in any way, please. I pray that Katana gets better and that you can get back and finish the trail. Keep us followers updated on Katana and your plans!

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  16. I will just echo everyone else who saw your Facebook post: I was sad and even upset that I live much too far away to be of any help,and I don’t know a soul that lives in Montana. I am so glad that someone knew someone etc and was able to get you the help that you and Katana needed. Please keep us updated on her condition. Safe travels to you and to Schweppes as well.

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  17. It is not weakness to ask others for help when you need it. Your little girl was suffering and you made the right decision reaching out. Hope your trip home goes smoothly. Please let us know if we can help when you get to Navarre, would love to do what we can. Grilled pizza is ready!

    Liked by 1 person

  18. You are awesome! Praying Katana does well with Grandpa and Grandma. Take care and praying you get back on the trail safely and soon!

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  19. This is still so sad to me and I struggle to get passed it. I know it was the right decision and Katana’s well being is most important. With all the high grass you hiked through, could it be that Katana got a tick? They can make you very sick and her symptoms kind of made me think of that. Hugs to both of you

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    1. This is exactly what my first thought was. Ticks can carry a number of diseases and lethargy and fatigue may be a sign. No sense in me guessing because I am not a vet.

      Liked by 1 person

  20. Hope Katana is doing better. I just wanted to say, thank god for people like Jake. I am so proud to be a part of the “hiking with dogs” group. They are all so positive. Wishing you the best out there

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  21. What on earth are you beating yourself up for! You did everything that you could do in this situation and kept your baby safe. Hope she feels better soon!!

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  22. So sorry you had to go through all that….if you need help in anyway getting back on the trail or anything while your in Montana …email me and I will help or find someone who will….I live in Missoula…but anywhere in Montana I will sure try to help….people in Montana in general are not what you have experienced!

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