Continental Divide Trail – Day 16 – 20

Day: 16-20

Date 7/7/17 – 7/11/17 

Katana seemed to do much better after she’d cooled off over night in the motel. Still, she was very sluggish and not herself. 

I reached out to my father that night to see if he could get me a deal through his company on a rental car out of the airport in Great Falls. He was able to reserve a vehicle for early the next morning; all I had to do was get there and pay for it. 

So first thing the next morning I called an Uber to the motel and was at the airport within minutes. The best rental deal had been through “Alamo,” so I made for their desk and gave them my name. They said everything was ready and that all they needed was a “credit card.” “I don’t own a credit card” I said. “Well we have to have one, and it has to be in the name of the person picking up the car.”  This meant I couldn’t have my dad use his and reimburse him later. “There must be a way I can just pay for the car? Cash? Debit? Extra deposit? Anything?” Nope, they would not let me rent a car without having a credit card in my name. “Real money” was simply not good enough. When I questioned the manager over this policy, she said (rather shortly) “Here’s the deal; you’re giving us $100, and we’re giving you a $20,000 vehicle; 90% of all stolen rental cars are paid for with phony debit cards; having a credit card on file protecs us and also verifies who you are.”   So I responded… “I have my drivers license, passport, social security card, proof of vehicle insurance, a dive card, and a debit card with my name and pictures on them to verify who I am. Do you really think the credit card company is going to pay for you car when someone doesn’t return it?” “Sir it’s our policy.” And that was that. I wouldn’t be renting a car from Alamo today. 

I understand the employees don’t make the policies, they only enforce them so as to continue being employed. I don’t blame them, nor harbor any ill will. Their silly policy (which I’m sure is in place for good reason) was just making my life harder/more stressful than it already was at the moment. I don’t shoot the messenger; I just look for a better one. 

So I hit up the Hertz, Avis, and Enterprise desks with no luck. They either needed a credit card, didn’t have any cars available, or I had to be local, or had to show that I was in the middle of a round trip flight in order to rent a vehicle with no credit card. I was up an overflowing shit creek after a torrential shit storm with no paddle. 

Avis said they would rent a vehicle to me with just a debit card, but they didn’t have any vehicles and weren’t expecting any until Monday. I went and sat down with Katana on some benches near the rental desks to mull over my options. I called all the other rental facilities in the city, but none of them had any vehicles available until Monday (this was Friday), or instituted the same credit card policy. I was beginning to get that “stuck” feeling again, and I didn’t like it. 

I sat for almost 3 hours, reluctant to call on Hannah and Tyler (who had my 4Runner), and who lived almost 4 hours away. I knew they would help me, but I wasn’t ready to put that kind of request on them or anyone else at that point. Not to mention, we’d have to do a few minor repairs on my truck before I could drive it another couple thousand miles. It would be at least 2 days before I could even get driving back to Florida. Even then it would be no guarantee that it would make that drive again without any hiccups. If I wanted to make this trip quickly and efficiently, I really needed a 100% reliable vehicle. I would utilize the 4Runner option only as a last resort. 

It was almost noon, and no other options or opportunities were presenting themselves. I couldn’t sit there any longer; it was time to get proactive and start making some moves. I walked out into the parking lot and began casing all the vehicles. When I was 12 I fell in with a bad gang of car thieves. By the time I was 13 I was stealing cars and driving them across country to out of state chop shops for a quick buck. When I was 14, I was practically running my own chop shop, clearing tens of thousands of dollars per month flipping and piecing out stolen vehicles. I found the vehicle I wanted in the airport parking lot and quickly let myself in. I threw all my stuff in the back and set Katana down in the passenger seat. Thirty seconds later I had her hot wired and I was on my way to Florida. So now I’m driving a stolen Hyundai Elantra across country with a down and out sassy Shiba Inu as my co pilot. This journey sure has turned into one wild ride right off the bat, but you gotta do what you gotta do, right? 

I’m kidding. I made up the entire paragraph above; however it doesn’t mean I didn’t fantasize about doing it while I was sitting in the airport terminal watching people get on with their lives. What really happened was this… after sitting there for several hours and winning the hearts and minds of several of the clerks behind the desks, they began to work towards helping me and the adorable Fox Cat. It was almost 1pm when one of the Avis employees notified me that they did in fact have a vehicle available, but that it hadn’t been cleaned. “I can’t convey to you how much it does not matter to me that you rent me a dirty vehicle” was my response. And so they gave me a discount on a ten day rental of an “uncleaned” Hyundai Elantra for $600, paid for with nothing but real money which had been withdrawn from nothing but thin air and a promise by my plastic debit card; magic… I mean science. The world was working with me instead of against me once again.

And so we were off into the wild, desolate Montana yonder at 87mph instead of 1.5mph; Florida bound. Katana curled up and slept for the entire afternoon. When I got food, she paid me almost no attention (very out of character) and continued to sleep. 

Montana wasn’t done dealing me wild cards yet though. Early the first evening, down in the southeast corner of the state in a town that had no name (not really); I got stuck behind a semi while on a road that was being completely torn up and redone; so we were  literally driving on torn up dirt and gravel.

The good Murphy has a plan for all of us, and as we all know, Muphy’s plan is law. That big semi kicked up half a dozen huge F@%king rocks; two of which smashed a couple beautiful cracks in the passenger side windshield, and the rest of which bounced off the hood of my nice Elantra that doesn’t belong to me, but which I am still completely responsible for. Did I get the extra coverage? No, of course not; I’ve never had anything bad happen to a rental car EVER, until this one time when I desperately needed one and didn’t get the extra coverage because I thought my personal insurance would be more than sufficient. I could feel the money hemorrhaging from my bank account. 

So long story short, I drove about 7 hours that first day and ended up in Belle Fourche, South Dakota. The second day I drove about 11-12 hours and ended up in Kansas City, Missouri. The third day I drove for 15 hours and made it to my parent’s house in Florida a little before midnight. 

Katana slept for nearly the entire two and a half day drive. Each day she seemed better, but still out if it. By the last day, she was at least trying to get on my lap to obtain the food I was eating, which was more in character for her. Even when we pulled over for bathroom breaks, she would walk around slowly and tentatively before taking care of business. Very subdued compared to her high speed, “in charge” way of doing nearly everything. 

When we walked through the front door of my parent’s familiar home, Katana did a 180.  She was running in circles, diving and sliding across the floor, rolling around, snorting, dodging and running up to my parents and otherwise raising hell on earth as she usually does. I had to pick my jaw up off the floor as my dad sarcastically asked, “So what did you say was wrong with her?” 

I’m still thrown for a loop. Katana has acted almost totally normal since getting back to a familiar environment. I don’t know if her excitement may be masking a more subtle underlying issue at the moment, but I can say I’m fairly relieved right now. She has an appt with her vet this afternoon (Tuesday), and I’m going to have them run some tests. In the meantime, I’ve racked my brain and beat myself up over trying to figure out what was wrong on trail. Was it any “one” thing, or a combination of multiple things? Altitude, pollen, climate, overgrowth brushing against her eye, bugs, the physical exertion, simply not wanting to be out there, something else altogether? If the vet doesn’t find something specifically wrong, then all I’ll be left with are my speculations. 

With the way Katana has been acting since getting home, I would almost be inclined to take her back on the trail. I can’t take that gamble however. I’ve already spent too much time and money on this emergency side trip home. If the vet doesn’t pinpoint something, then I have to assume it was something environmental specific that was affecting her; or I just have to accept that she may not want to hike anymore due to getting older, or the fact that I had her fixed earlier this year. Even if the vet finds her perfectly healthy, I can’t risk taking her all the way back up there to possibly have a repeat of the situation and have to bring her back home a second time. Plus…The elevation will only get consistently higher for pretty much the entire trail. I know that could certainly have an effect on her eye if it has become extra sensitive. I’m about 90% certain that she won’t be finishing this trail with me. 

There is some potential good news though… My girlfriend Jessica (Dixie) is hiking the Pacific Crest Trail this year, and intends to hike the CDT next year to complete her triple crown. If I’m feeling froggy next year, I may just hike it again with her and give Katana one more shot. We’d be starting in the south and going north, so it would be a totally new and fresh environment for her to start in. We’ll see…

As for me, I begin the drive back up to Montana tomorrow morning. I’m going to try and do the 2,150 miles in two and a half days again (if my energy will let me). I’ll be starting from Benchmark Ranch where I left off. I’m hoping that finding a ride there will be less stressful than finding the rides out. The dynamic of my hike has completely changed once again. I’ll be solo and dog-less on a trail with hardly anyone on it. Part of me is incredibly excited for the new challenge, and the other part is nervous and slightly depressed over the circumstances that led to this new dynamic. It’ll be an adventure either way. 

I’ll update the details of Katana’s appt in my next blog post (probably when I reach Montana again). Most likely I will put out an update on Facebook this evening after her appt, granted we figure something out. 

I truly appreciate all the support and concern that has been shown the last few days. It means more than you all know. I had no idea how invested people were in mine and Katana’s well being/safety until that well being became compromised. I can’t thank you all enough for the positive energy, love, and offers of help sent our way. All of it helps and all of it is uplifting. I’m not very good at asking or accepting help, even when I really need it; but I’ve been getting a lot of practice on this journey so far. Sometimes you just have to let good people do good things… 

Go to Day 21.


  1. Kyle, your posts inspire me so…I look forward to every one, especially as a hiker with BIG ideas. However, your added Katana adds to the experience and makes your hikes absolutely magical! I was so sorry to read of Katana’s daily stress and how that affected you, your devotion and endless love for her, and no matter how devoted you are to your thru hike, katanas heath and safety is top priority! So thankful that you have answers now and she is safely recouperating in the arms of loving grandparents! Don’t beat yourself up…we are quick to blame ourselves when it comes to our children, but those nasty ticks are everywhere! I make great efforts to protect myself and my dog from them, but as I read your story, I am thinking I need to take my lethargic dog for a blood test! Here in the NE, you can’t walk outside without a tick attached on our return…
    Stay safe in your travels and remember that katana is safe and sound! Enjoy your hike! You are amazing!!! The Triple Crown is at your fingertips!!! Kathy

  2. So so sad about Katana, Kyle, but so relieved to hear she is doing better now! You and she are in my thoughts and heart. Hang in there … and give Katana a hug for me!

  3. You and Katana are well cared for and you have support around the country. Best wishes for Katana and safe travels to you. Keeping my fingers crossed for the little catfox to join you and Dixie next year. What a great adventure that is going to be.

  4. So glad you both made it home safely. Anxiously awaiting a diagnosis on Katana. Glad she seems to be better. Keep us all posted. Safe travels

  5. I am so relieved that you and Katana made it safely back to Florida! Like everyone else,I have been thinking about the two of you since your last update. Your adventures are always incredible,for better or worse. I hope Katana is healthy and that you get back to the trail soon. And I hope your girlfriend is having good luck on the PCT.. I have read that it’s a very tough trail this year.

  6. Glad you two made it back safely. It was a tough choice but I believe it was the right one. Safe travels and best wishes for Katana.

  7. So glad to hear your girl is doing well. What a scare. Hats off to the blog readers who were able to get connections to get you two picked up and back to civilization….lol. What an awesome story. Best of luck on the trail!

  8. I have to say I admire you and the decision you made to take Katana home. Not everyone would have went through what you did to get her home safe. I do hope Katana’s vet check is positive and that you have a safe trip back to the trail. BTW, I was watching your girlfriends first you tube video of her PCT trek and she came across a friend of mine on horseback also attempting the PCT.

  9. Such good news! You are a great writer because I started buying into your car theft life for only a moment but then my brain started thinking that life didn’t add up to the person you’ve shown us in your travels! I hope it was all altitude for Kat dog! So glad she was nut once home. Thanks for keeping us updated.

  10. So glad you and Katana made it home . This is one of those times we really wish they could speak to us . I’ll check FB later to see if you put a report up after the vet visit.
    I know your ready to get her set up with your parents and get back on the trail.
    As always we will all be looking forward to your stories on the rest of your adventure.

  11. As you probably already know, all things happen for a reason and what happened to you is exactly as it should be. A Divine plan. 🙂 I admire your patience to wait it out for the rental car; your patience was rewarded. This trip has put some road blocks in your way but you found your way around them. You will be stronger and better for it. Many would have probably left the trail and maybe tried it again another time, or maybe not. Congratulations on keeping your head. “Most folks are as happy as they make up their mind to be.” Wishing you all the best.

  12. Glad to hear she is doing better. Wishing you all the best as you continue your journey. We all look forward to your updates and pray that you are safe in the wilderness … I’m nervous for you!

  13. Asking for Help is Humbling, Accepting Help is Maturity. There is a time to be tough and there are times to be strong and then there are the times that you just have to lean on other. You are amazing and empowering to so many people…

  14. Poor lil darling. I hope she is okay. Even though you don’t know me, I’ve been thinking about y’all lately. You are an inspiration to us all!!!

  15. Even though it was probably a tough decision, you are an amazing shiba dad. I hope that all is ok with the queen and she has been in my thoughts. I have actually been anxious for an update hoping that she was ok. Good luck with your travels back to Montana and continuing on the trail.

  16. Oh Kyle, after all you have gone thru I sincerely hope you have a a fascinating, memorable ending on the CDT. AND A LONG HAPPY, HEALTHY LIFE WITH KATANA AGAIN.

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