Location- side of highway 93
Distance Traveled Today- 36 or so
Distance Traveled Total- 560.7 miles
Weather/Temp- clear 90s 100s
Injuries- left knee is pulling
Pain level- low
Wildlife encounters- Deer
Human Beings encountered on trail- many
Thru hikers encountered on trail- zero
Days without shower- 1
Days without laundry- 11
Woke up to the sounds of an old man cussing the rest stop trash cans due “the idiots” throwing something or another in them that he was having a terrible time removing. I suspect he was the maintenance man for the rest area grounds. This same man saved my life when I tried to enter the men’s restroom and he came running at me while yelling “DON’T GO IN THERE! THERE’S DANGEROUS CHEMICALS ON THE FLOOR!” Phew! I dodged a bullet there. It was karma; I saved the chipmunk’s life, and the old man saved mine. I took a leak in the ladies room instead.
At 8am I was on the road and walking. This was the longest amount of time I’ve spent walking on a road in my entire life. The worst part is that it’s not brainless. You’re constantly having to stay aware of your position on curves, as well as the vehicles coming and going by. It’s mentally draining, like walking on rocky terrain.
The only real entertainment of the extended road walk is the oncoming drivers. You may not get to talk to anyone, but interactions are constantly taking place through sign language, body language, and facial expression. You get quite a mixed bag of reactions from the motorists you share the road with, especially in rural Idaho.
Throughout the day I got waves, thumbs up, points, finger wags, thrown up hands, fist pumps, smiles, head shakes, nods, blank expressions, honks, looks of disdain, as well as a plethora of other unreadable or missed reactions.
As many of you might have guessed, I am a people watcher. I love to watch people in their natural state, and even their unnatural state. One of my favorites is to observe and catalogue people’s reactions to similar situations. In this case, me walking down the road was the control variable, while people and their reactions to me were the independent variable.
There was a good deal of traffic on highway 93, but not so much that it was absurd for me to give a subtle and friendly wave to nearly everyone who went by. What I noticed was this…when I lifted a hand to wave, probably 90% of people responded with some sort of positive response; a wave, nod, smile, the lifting of a couple fingers off the steering wheel, etc. These people who returned my gesture in some form or capacity always moved over, giving me a wider and safer birth (when opposite traffic permitted). Conversely, the people who hugged the line closest to me, or even swerved closer to me, never returned a wave; not one, no matter the circumstance. Is there any kind of science to it? I don’t know. Do these people fall into separate categories in other departments of life? Who knows. This was just an interesting observation I made while sampling hundreds of vehicles over the course of 36 miles of road walking today.
I will say I did I have a definite “asshole” classification for one certain group. When not on a tight, left turning curve, I always walked on the left side of the road into oncoming traffic. There were people who would swerve from the right lane into the oncoming traffic side just to buzz by me from behind as close as they could. These people met the “asshole” criteria, and I classified them as such. Really, what is the point of that? Playing with manslaughter is what it is. Of course I’m not so naive to rule out the possibility that perhaps they were just the type of drivers who veer in the direction of whatever they’re looking at. I’m sure some of these were as innocent as that, however probably even more dangerous than the deliberates.
Most of the wildlife I saw today was dead. A lot of dead deer and dead skunks, but mostly dead song birds. I did find one rattlesnake however! The first one of the journey, but unfortunately a casualty of the road. I also found a pornographic magazine lying in the bike lane, which made for the most exotic sighting of the day.
I didn’t stop for break until I was 14 miles down the road at about 12:30pm. I’d just entered into Gibbonsville, and I was passing the only business in the community; a Mexican joint called “Broken Arrow.” I walked up to the log cabin looking building and noticed they didn’t open until 5pm; they were only a dinner joint. I turned to walk away, but after a couple paces, the door opened and an old woman beckoned me to come inside and cool off. Her name was Rose Marie, and she was the owner. We talked and I told her where I was from and what I was doing. She insisted I couldn’t go any further without some food and offered to make me some beef enchiladas and a bowl of beans. I could not turn the offer down. She explained that everything was made and prepared “in-house,” and that people came from a hundred miles in either direction just to eat there. I believe her, because the simple meal she prepared for me was better than any Mexican food I get back home, and better than most anything I’ve had on the west coast. It was the fresh shredded cheese and fresh shredded beef, sprinkled with fresh green onion that tipped it over the top! After paying and profusely thanking her, it was back to the hot grind.
By early afternoon the temperature was in the upper 90s and low 100s on the black asphalt. I hiked another 6 miles to get an even 20 by 3pm before taking a half hour break in the shade of a willow. Then 5 miles later I stopped for an hour to have dinner at a gas station cafe, the second business to be found in the 25 miles I’d hiked so far. Fish and chips it was, then I was off into the early evening, walking along the Salmon River and watching the deer grazing on its banks.
I didn’t really have a plan for how far I was going today, but I ended up going further than I intended. Thirty miles would have made me happy, but when I reached the thirty mile mark, I found myself on a tightly winding section of highway that had the Salmon River directly on my right, and sheer rock mountains on my left. When it did open up just a little bit, it was only on private residential or farmland. So I ended up being forced to walk about 5 or 6 extra miles through the river canyon until it opened back up.
I’m now cowboy camped in the high desert atop/amid a sage brush covered hill about 30 ft above highway 93 in rural Idaho. I feel good. My feet are a little tender, but not as bad as they would be if I hadn’t done that 40 miler. My left knee pulled a little bit, but I don’t think it’s getting worse. Among other things, I was able to devote a lot of time to my poetry today. I made a ton of good progress on my long poem, and I think it’ll be done after another dozen or so lines and perhaps some word changes. I’m happy with what I have, and usually I’m my own harshest critic. Sadly, when I think something is good, most people think it’s shit; so I won’t hold my breath.
I’m about 10 miles out from the trail town of “Salmon.” I’m looking forward to a late breakfast/early lunch tomorrow. I would take hiking the trail over the road any day of the week, but the road has its few perks.