Train Hopping Texas
I fiddled in and out of sleep as she turned sharply, winding along the cold steel tracks, shrieking and howling through the desert. Her cries masked the bellowing hollers of the coyotes in an almost soothing lullaby. I lay there shivering from the whistling wind of the night, chugging along towards El Paso.
Shortly the scintillating starry sky shifted to a heavenly sunrise. Its orange rays tenderly kissed my eyes waking me as she stopped in El Paso train yard. I lay there curled in the corner of the well, hoping to ride her through, further east into Texas. My eyes wandered to the wooden masts spaced evenly throughout the yard. They picked up a camera projecting down on my train. I remained still. The loud rhythmic beats from my chest echoed before me as I feared the worst.
Minute-by-minute my anxiety became more tolerable and then the sound of air whistled in the hoses, Fffffffffffffffffff…With a sudden jerk she rolled gingerly through the yard as I peered up at camera after camera waiting to get pulled off. My scatterbrain shuffled through thoughts of the “woulda, coulda, shoulda” regret engulfing my poor decision to stay on the train. But, suddenly the masts vanished along with the cameras. Her steady roll switched to an upbeat charge and she screamed along the tracks, roaring through the desert.
I unzipped my bivy and stood up; the wind blasted its rapture along my thick curls, elating a smile amongst my face. Mounds of sand cast out for miles and in the distance I saw dirt roads meandering over mountainside beyond the border into Mexico. Trumps wall ceased to exist, but I wondered about the security?
Train Hopping Texas ridin’ the Sunset Line
For miles I witnessed nothing but granules of dusty sand, and scrub brush until reaching the outskirts of Sierra Blanca, where the mountaintops chiseled their own beauty into the desert. Plateaus of sedimentary rock eroded to rhyolite formations standing tall between the sandy loams and clay as I found myself staring at Roundtop Mountain. It’s said to have the largest deposit of heavy rare earth elements in the United States with a high concentration of beryllium in its northwest corner.
Train Hopping Texas – In the distance is Round Top Mountain home to the most rare elements in the USA
The train screeched meandering around the myriad bends of track sprawled out across the desert. I fumbled for my zipper trying to drain my snake for the first time in hours. I-10 cast off in the distance miles away so I felt safe from the naked eye. As I held my limp noodle directing his stream over the well I saw a beam of red infrared blaze by me. Without much thought I sighed after relieving myself, eager to lay back down through the next small town, but then something happened. The air brakes squelched slowing her motion to a steady coast a few miles outside of Sierra Blanca. My ears drowned out the sound of the train and a sixth sense encumbered my body. I felt strange as she continued to rustle along the steel, slower and slower, until a voice hollered from a light signal, “GOT EM…” The train halted abruptly as the man radioed over his walkie-talkie.
He towered above me decked out in Border Patrol attire, as I showed my hands like the criminal I was, leaning up against the train.
“Are you a US citizen?”
“Yes, sir,” I stuttered, my thoughts drifting closer towards jail and what type of cell they set aside for me.
“Well, what ya doin’ on this train kid…you know we coulda shot ya…ya got lucky did ya.”
“Just tryin’ to get to Alabama sir, to visit my wife and find temporary work.”
Border Patrol scored the lowest on their civil service exams. They weren’t real officers. His only authority was holding me until the police arrived to verify if I was a citizen, had drugs or warrants out. I knew this, but I kept my mouth shut and remained respectful.
“Shoulda just taken the bus…get ya a ticket for 60 all the way to Jacksonville, FL.”
I did not utter a word, standing there with a blank stare and bullshit clouding above his last statement.
“Well grab your bag now and be careful hoppin’ off…just stand over there and no funny business…I’m not in the mood to run.”
“Yes, sir,” I said.
The patrol officer reached in his pocket pulling out a tin of longcut dip. He pinched a fat lip down with his fingers, browning them over with tobacco as he stuffed the horseshoe in his mouth.
He mumbled and spit unintentionally…”What kinda work ya do kid?”
“Pack parachutes sir…job starts up in a few months…just lookin’ for something to tide me over til then…”
“I see…skydiving…how old ya?”
Two vehicles skid along the gravel access road and doors slammed shut as three police officers walked towards me. In total I counted three officers, four border patrol, and a German Sheppard.
“Well here’s the officers…we’ll see what they wanna do with ya.”
I sat there on my pack expressionless and humdrum, ready to answer the same series of questions again.
“What’s your name?”
“Can you hand over your ID please? I have to check the system to see if you have any outstanding warrants.”
I finagled for my wallet pulling out my Colorado drivers license. That’s the last real address I lived at back in 2013. He pulled out his iPhone and tried running it, but instead spent the next ten minutes calling it in.
Train Hopping Texas – Nothin’ but sand for miles…that desert feelin’
“Dispatch I have a Brian C. Donaldson here, with the following address and license number, trying to see if he has any outstanding warrants.”
As I already knew nothing came back. My record surprisingly stayed clean all these years with only one arrest for being drunk in public with no identification.
“Do you have any drugs or weapons on you?”
“No sir, just a 2-inch knife I use to eat food with.”
“Throw it over here please…you sure you don’t have any drugs on you…even small traces of marijuana. We’ll throw you in jail for it…speak now and we might let you slide.”
“No sir…no drugs.”
“Please stand, spread your legs with your hands over your head. What’s in your pockets?”
“Camera, phone, USB charger, plug, wallet, toilet paper, gloves and that’s it sir.”
“Please take them out for me with no sudden movements.”
I spread my belongings out across the sand and then he motioned towards my pack.
“You sure you don’t have any drugs on you?”
“No drugs sir.”
“Open it please…”
Train Hopping Texas – Entering the bend right after Santa Teresa, NM
I reached in placing each article of clothing and camping gear on the ground like a display at a yard sale. They searched my Motrin for pills, but surprisingly enough, no oxycontin lay mixed between them, awe shucks. A look of exasperation rattled their brows. No drugs, no warrants and no weapons, what would they charge me with other than criminal trespassing?
I did not know, they did not either. The officer squawked once more over the radio, “Eh uhhh…everything came back clean, what’s your boss want us to do with this kid? Union Pacific pressin’ charges?”
The engineer grunted over the speaker, “Nah uh, am I good to go already? You did your search of the whole train…we good to move along?”
“Yes…” a look of astonishment glistened on the officer’s face. “Damn kid you lucked out.”
But, really I didn’t. My ride to Houston slowly left, taunting me in her tracks, leaving me stranded near the border in a town I did not want to hitchhike.
“Well kid. Alabama you say…pack up your stuff and throw it in the bed…We can take you as far as county lines. Next town is Van Horn. That’s the best we can do for you. Got a 4 mile walk. Oh, but Texas law says if you ride in a police vehicle we need to cuff you…hope that’s alright. Have a story to tell your kids one day,” he chuckled.
“Yeah that’s not a problem sir.”
I placed my hands behind my back and he cinched the cuffs around both my wrists. With the help of the other officer I propped my foot up inside the truck and he hoisted me up in the passenger’s seat, buckling me in for the ride.
The cuffs sunk deep into my skin ripping into my bones. They felt uncomfortable to say the least like bondage with no foreplay. I sat back silently while he weaved in and out of traffic on the I-10, his thumbs twiddling around on his phone as he texted. I wondered how many days thumbing it before getting a ride to Pecos, my next train out of here?
The Road to Hana
And there I was with tears drowning my cheeks, gushing out of my eyes uncontrollably, as Kelly drifted away up the stairwell behind TSA. Her flight left early that morning for Phoenix to see family before her job starts up at Space Camp in Alabama. Our 30 days of blissful camping under the stars made it an interesting honeymoon, hitchhiking the Hawaiian Islands. But, my flight did not leave from Oahu until January 12th giving me more than two more weeks to explore with my own two feet, only this time, solo.
The solitude never bothered me much. I spent a few years working seasonally and wandering between the gaps of my resume as a solo hitchhiker. This felt different though. The love hit me like a mist as I left the airport for yonder, the Road to Hana, which Kelly and I did not have the time to fully explore.
As I stomped down the road the splashes of puddles beneath my decrepit boots seeped between my toes, wrinkling them into knub-like prunes. My scowl followed as I marched towards the bus stop. The night prior I drifted off on an airport bench for a brief period of sleep, nothing adequately comfortable or refreshing. So I used all my energy to keep from falling asleep as to not miss the bus.
Normally, I preferred hitchhiking, but for 2 bucks I just wanted out of the constant drizzle of sorrow, weeping away from the dismal clouds. It was rainy season in Hawaii and somehow after leaving Kauai I found myself in an even wetter jungle fever, Maui’s Den, as I soon called it.
The bus chugged along as my eyelids drooped forming deep craggy creases. When I came to, I realized the bus made its last stop at the mall in Kahului. Far from anywhere I wanted to start my trek for the Road to Hana. What the hell I thought…I missed my stop.
I tried to scrounge enough change together to catch the next route explaining my dilemma to the bus driver, but she bashed her eyes at me and thrust out her hip with a condescending, monotone voice, “Driver doednt carry no change hun. Ask someone around. No stores are open…”
I looked to my left and asked an old black man if he could spare change for my $5. And golly, he muttered a whole spiel about Jesus shouting verses from the Bible before handing me a one dollar bill, leaving me one short. My attempts remained futile, but then as the bus opened its door and revved its engine an act of kindness acclimated as I entered up the steps. The bus driver waved me on for free saying, “ohhh huney, well least you tried…” I felt like a lost puppy without any sleep.
Not long after fading away she dropped me off at the Haiku Community Center leaving me 50 miles short of Hana. I took about ten steps, roughly reaching the shoulder of the Road to Hana before a vehicle pulled off from the community center.
A red sand beach on the road to Hana
Plumes of skunky smoke exited the vehicle as I set my eyes on an old Rastafarian with a Jamaican beanie, and a joint in hand. His glazed eyes tunneled past me as he said, “Hop in kid…where to?”
“Hana,” I said with a stern look on my face.
“Pfff…cough…cough…man why you headed there…with all this rain son?”
“I just wanna see it before I head out of Maui. Heard it’s some pretty country down there.”
“True. True. Well I can take ya a few miles son. Drop you off at mile marker 13.5…good spot to hitch from. Good luck to ya…”
I scampered off down the road waiting diligently with my thumb flick out in the most limp-like, depressing mood ever. 10 minutes went by. Then 20. Then the dreary swirls of gray above turned darker and darker and I decided to walk. I walked up the road and down the road, following a series of bends and bridges, with signs saying, “No pedestrians behind guardrails.”
I walked on cautious of the potential land slides and rock slides. The clouds always taunted me no matter where I tramped, laughing at me from above, bellowing between the soft whispers of the wind. Somehow I made it to a small pull off for Twin Falls. With a small pull off for parking I locked this in the back of my mind when continuing my journey further, down the Road to Hana.
For now I took a break, smoked any of the last remnants of tobacco that dwindled in my pouch, as I mustered up a filling peanut butter sandwich. I watched people flock to the snack stand spending the outrageous prices on coconuts and other fruits easily foraged on the island. Disgust likened their faces as their feet squished through the jungle mud. I laughed rhetorically. Their thick Nikon Cameras dangled from their necks as they bitched and moaned about the slippery dirt road to the overlook of the falls. After all, it was jungle. I understood their dismay and wondered why not stick to the pool or spa or confines of a luxury suite?
Blasphemy I tell you. The lack of a moving sidewalk put my mood in the toilet too, but really I just snickered. As I reached the overlook, the river water screamed, thick and rapid like a suffocating cascade of chocolate mud. It ripped up anything in its path taking much of the rocks, mud and debris of the canopy floor with it.
I scooted out of there, walking the wide shoulder in hopes of a straight-cut ride to Hana. But, it never ended up an easy task. Tourists halted traffic, stopping their cars in the road as they perused the perfect parking spot, angering drivers behind them, who in turn, did not pick me up either.
I sat and waited, standing, sitting, and eventually just smoking one last cigarette before a pickup truck flashed his beams at me. And just like that he revved up into 3rd gear headed straight for Hana. Despite only 40+ miles down the Road to Hana, it felt nauseating with all the bends, turns, one-way bridges, endless yield signs and slick, steep, curving roads.
A black sand beach on the road to Hana
The driver plowed through traffic, passing vehicles over the double line when legally possible, cutting corners, and straight-lining through both lanes. My stomach felt queasy as we rallied down the Road to Hana like derby racecar drivers, but the adrenaline subsided and I focused more on our intellectual conversation.
The old surfer hippie rubbed his chin as he talked to me about the Polynesian culture. He yanked on his gray, scruffy beard as he plunged into history about Hawaii. Apparently the Polynesians traveled thousands of miles by canoes bringing just 40 species of plants with them when they discovered the breathtaking Hawaiian Islands. They managed to transform these 40 species of plants into 200+ with their immense horticultural knowledge making Hawaii a thriving milieu for fruits, and vegetables with its perfect atmosphere. Each year about 160 new species are brought in by plane to the islands and sadly commercialism is slowly taking away the countryside that the locals and myself included love so much. But, that’s America for you…
The Hawaiians currently have a legal battle with the United States to reclaim their land.
We talked and talked some more. Before I even took the opportunity to gaze out the window at the beauty hanging over the cliffs on the mountainside, we reached Hana. The Road to Hana immersed a terrifying beauty of jungle flora and landscape, which I’d soon find out…
Hana felt like any old country town with a few local mom and pop shops and a lack of industry. It gave it that local vibe. The vibe where you walk down the street and everyone waves and says, “Hey Braddah.” The kind where people help the elderly with their groceries. A sense of anarchy within government. Signs plastered everywhere along the town saying, “More commercialism = No More Hana…”
It felt different out there in the thick of it all with mango plantations sprouting up all over and cattle grazing openly in the fields. Hana Ranch filled much of the land past the town and all that stood out yonder was only beach, country, small villages or hotel vistas by the coastline.
I simmered in paradise exploring the town stumbling first upon Hana Bay. It looked ordinary, like any other beach with black sand and too much rock to enjoy. Tourists flocked the Barefoot Cafe and I found myself wandering away down another path, a path down a dead-end road which lead to the infamous Red Sand Beach. Of course, tourists crowded this beach as well but the beauty surpassed the disturbance of other beings. So naturally I stuck around and slowly, one by one, people faded away, back to their luxurious hotels, and bungalows, while I sat there in solitude looking for a place to camp. The trail meandered around the coastline with washouts in certain sections that trickled rock and other debris down the mountainside. This spiked my interest as I searched for a way to the top of the ridge, nestling myself between Red Sand Beach and another cove with the endless Pacific. I wrestled my way up the red rock with multiple points of attachment as my fingers clenched tree limbs and roots, steadily scaling the mountainside. Surely enough, a flat ridge worthy of camping lay 50 feet ahead. I set up camp securing my tarp to the pine trees around me and settled into my bivy sack as my eyes drifted away in unison with the sunshine.
Morning came and I managed to evade the rain yet again and the persistent, blood sucking vampires of the night, whose buzzing I heard through my mosquito netting. It pitter-pattered during the night with intermittent showers trickling off my shelter, but I felt dry and refreshed, ready for a new day of adventures. So I set off for a pavilion to eat the normal breakfast, the breakfast of any train kid or extreme hitchhiker, good ole spam.
I sliced into its block-like sausage lining with my spoon taking off small slivers nibbling on them like a caveman and from a distance I heard a loud, “Morning dudeeee!”
Two bike-packers pedaled up to my picnic table. The one looked like a Norwegian skeleton and the other a red-head Jesus. I saw their inner-hippie illuminating off the surface of the table. They pointed me in the direction towards Venus Pool. “It’s a must see dude…my three favorite places in Hana gotta be, Venus Pool, Red Sand Beach and Black Sand Beach…”
So I took him up on his suggestion and moseyed my two little feet on over there. 3.5 miles never phased me before, but the constant change in grade made my legs throb slightly right where the quad met the knee. I tramped along fearing the inevitable change in Mother Nature’s mood like a manic episode of lows, but she stayed calm and overcast.
My feet trudged along through the many pot holes of muddy sludge along the non-existent shoulder. The Road to Hana took me beyond to a blissful, refreshing teal pool of tranquility. A pool next to God’s Eye where a fire pit and shelter deemed for a night of comfortable sleep out of the Jungle’s whimpering and tears.
And that night indeed it rained. It rained hard as I stoked the fire with a plethora of logs and driftwood engulfed in a starburst of colors. I cooked up the rest of my beans and tortillas and indulged in a festive dinner over a campfire.
That morning I planned on walking or hitchhiking to Seven Sacred Pools, but instead I turned around back towards Hana. My gut told me otherwise as the rain echoed its tumultuous pelting from inside the cave. I waited it out, walked and hitched back to town to replenish my water supply and see where the day would take me.
Black Sand Beach maybe and then back to civilization, perhaps? I wasn’t sure or too worried to say the least. I managed to avoid the inclement weather this long. What stopped me now?
With a few thumbs and the thud of my two feet clanking against the rough pavement I found myself at the Black Sand Beach. But my mind wandered along with my body and I moseyed away from the tourist infested pit of open sewage and the aroma of foul smelling trash. The clouds sniffled and let out a sneeze, warning me of what was to come.
I pranced up the hill with my thumb firm and hope on my side and I managed to pull off a short lift a few miles down the road. Then chaos broke loose and she struck down from above the most torrential fury I ever before walked through, a jungle flash flood on one of the most dangerous highways. I was stuck walking in it. My boots slowly filled with brown, bacteria infested, water, chilling my feet, up my legs and to my spine. I plodded forward as if marching through a sea or trying to part the sea before me. I did not know which. I just walked and prayed for it to end. The foot deep water turned into knee deep water, gushing off the slippery mountainside, taking rocks, mud, trees and any other debris with it. Trucks, cars and tour vans cautiously drove by spraying me with showers of diarrhea-like mud. I shivered and lost all hope as I walked for the nearest town down the Road to Hana, retracing my footsteps back to Hell. Just 40 miles I thought. If I’m lucky the rain will stop and I’ll get a lift tomorrow. No one ever picked me up in the rain before. Their car interior was more important.
It felt like an endless surge of spray desecrating my body as each passing vehicle sped by faster than the last. I shuffled over countless one-way bridges, which now looked like rapids seen in the Colorado River, trying gracefully to maintain my balance.
I gave up. I wanted to stop and just lay by the side of the road with my tarp over my head, but instead I heard the engine of a pickup in the distant and threw out a limp, pruned thumb. To my surprise the vehicle stopped and down rolled a window of three locals headed all the way to Paia. With no room in the truck I needed to lay in the bed on a long, cold, hour drive back to civilization. The wind roared. The rain bellowed. Goosebumps filled my body and a fear covered me like the aura of a spectre as if the grim reaper tried to suck the life out of me. We cruised around bends, bumping and thudding over fallen rocks like an off-roading course. Water rushed over the mountainside like roaring rivers forming new tributaries and with it came trees and rocks. Fallen rock lay scattered making lanes impassable and then it happened. A rock fell off a cliff smashing against the backside tire just inches from my dome.
I chugged my beer and smoked the rest of the joint they gave me trying to forget the realization that my life almost ended if I shifted just a few inches outside the bed. If that wasn’t extreme hitchhiking…well fuck…I don’t know what is…
All I know is I’m safe and soaked in the Kahului Airport awaiting my departure for Oahu.
Stairway to Heaven Hawaii – Haiku Stairs
Back before Kelly and I became newly weds in Arcosanti, AZ we both expressed our strong passions of adventure by aspiring to travel to the Hawaiian Islands. Not just any island, but more specifically Oahu because of the deadly, yet spectacularly beautifying hike only seen in a tropical paradise, Haiku Stairs, more commonly known as the Stairway to Heaven Hawaii. Now I do not know the specifics as to why the state of Hawaii closed the hike back in the 80’s, but to make a long story short, people died, long costly lawsuits followed, and the hike became illegal. All maintenance ceased and a guard manned the front gates to the stairs giving out citations to those who trespassed on government property.
What makes this hike so sought out and miraculous though? Even after closing the Stairway to Heaven, why do so many people break the law to hike it literally everyday? The same reason we did. It is fucking awesome. In the past few years of my travels I hiked quite a bit of epic trails from the Rims of the Grand Canyon, and Havasu Falls to the snowy peaks of Mt. Quandary, Mt. Humphrey, and the White Mountains, to name a few. Each trail maintains its own beauty, but the Stairway to Heaven is a different category of hiking. With close to 4,000 steps to the top of the military satellite we marched up the old metal staircase traversing the ridgeline of the mountains along Highway 3.
Haiku Stairs – Stairway to Heaven Hawaii
But it was not that simple. It took us a while to even find the hike. Originally we planned to take a cheap bus getting off at a stop near Haiku Village. But, instead we hitched a ride with a tandem instructor from the drop zone, putting us at the entrance of the neighborhood drainage culvert. The heavy foot-traffic led straight to the road leading to the Haiku Stairs, with an easy access hole in the chain-linked fence, but we made the wrong turn, turning left instead of right. This put us on the wrong ridgeline from the very beginning. We followed footprints up an adjacent ridge, until we hit a dead-end. The mushy soil squished under our boots as we scaled a steep pitch of ridgeline, hanging onto tropical roots, tree-limbs, rocks, stumps and anything we gripped our hands on without crumbling through our fingers. I suspected this did not lead to the Stairway to Heaven, but the night sky twinkled before us and finding the stairs at night made for an even harder task than the hike itself…
With every inch of elevation the ridge became insanely steeper, to a point where hiking became impossible without clinging onto trees and free-climbing up the side of the mountain, which we did. But, fear hit me, I dabbled in dangerous climbs prior to this one, but my wife only ever hiked easy trails and I did not want to put her in a precarious situation or possibly life-threatening. My blood pumped giving me the queasy feeling of adrenaline knotted in the middle of my stomach. By this point I grabbed both packs, my 35 liter strapped to my back and her 50 liter flung over the front of me, while our backs braced against trees. The top of the ridge felt within reach, but did the stairs lay beyond this peak? With each foot the hike became steeper and more challenging. Erosion took control of the ridge, and every chunk of rock I grabbed, slipped through my fingers in heaps of crumbled earth. I looked down with a ghostly expression, sweat exhausting my brow, my fingers shaking with each fallen rock as I inched closer to the top. I crawled and wiggled on a narrow cliff-face until setting foot on top of the ridge. The wind hit my face with gnarly gusts making me lose my footing. I looked around at a panoramic view of the island from the small peak, but no stairs followed in the distance, none in any direction I could see. What the fuck? In that moment of accomplishment, everything looked unfavorably bad. With a half hour of daylight left, a down-climb from hell to follow and successfully finding the entrance in the dark, our likelihood of hiking the Stairway to Heaven looked dismal. We almost capitulated, but we needed to find shelter, anything off of a slope, to rest. Clouds encroached the dark sky slowly dimming our visibility making it hard to find footholds and handholds on our descent. So we did what we could. We slid on our asses, safely breaking our falls by grabbing onto anything and everything with a stable root structure.
Hiking the illegal Stairway to Heaven Hawaii
Stairway to Heaven Hawaii at night
Stairway to Heaven Hawaii. The view at night in the clouds…
By the time we reached the bottom the sky yawned and complete darkness followed. We resorted to our shitty WalMart flashlight, which did not help much for directional use. It helped a little though. We moseyed along back down the road in the opposite direction until reaching the same hole in the fence. The same hole we crawled through hours prior to sunset. Where the hell were the stairs? It was my fault I did not prepare much prior to the hike, but it made it more adventurous. We needed to make a right past the hole in the fence, not a left. So those hours spent exerting energy, nearly dying, falling to our deaths did not get us any closer to the hike.
We sluggishly walked down the road towards the entrance, fiending for sleep. My wife did not want to walk straight past security at the gate so we needed to get creative and find an alternate path to the stairs. The only advantage of nighttime gave us a clear view of the guard from his bright headlights near the entrance.
Stairway to Heaven Hawaii with the Kelly
I did not know another way in though, so I got creative and looked for a path through the jungle. Sure enough small cut-outs, on our left, in the bamboo looked like an alternate foot-trail to the Haiku Stairs. I took a chance and went on instinct, but still we came up short. The bits of trash, heavy foot-traffic, washed-out slopes covered in footprints and sloppy mud felt like false promises and shattered hopes. We felt so close, yet so far as cliche as that sounds…it was true. I literally smelled the stairs, thought I heard whispers and footsteps clanking against the old metal of other hikers scaling the ridge, but maybe I was hallucinating from lack of sleep.
Stairway to Heaven Hawaii.
We trekked onward, in the dark, using a small light to find our way up the slippery slope of mud, and then it happened upon us, our first real clue to the stairs, a set of green ropes tied off to the trees. So of course we followed them hoping to come upon the stairs. We used our last bits of energy and strength traversing the narrow slopes with our hands fiercely gripping the climbing rope. We tried our best to maintain our footing as to not tumble into the unknown.
Upon reaching the end we found debris from the landslide years prior, pieces of wooden ladders, metal, and wooden steps along with two guide ropes trailing to the top of the peak. Their rusted metal texture screamed tetanus, and I thought for sure following them would lead us to the stairs, so we climbed onward through the valley.
Stairway to Heaven Hawaii.
The valley left us in a pit of debris with nothing to progress forward to as I approached a dead-end of pitch black, unclimbable terrain. FUCK…FUCK…FUCK…I turned around, flopping my limbs carelessly with each depressing step. We were never gonna find these stairs. I gave up all hope. My wife looked tired and scared. I felt tired and angry with no comfortable place to sleep. So we crouched down with our heads against our packs hoping to get some rest. Security guarded the road, patrolling with a flashlight and he definitely saw us, but we sat perched too far up the slope for his lazy ass to climb up there. They did not pay him enough to care.
However, in the distance we saw another flashlight, its beams patrolled the area like that of a police officer. We looked at each other with paranoid eyes as still as stone. Kelly looked at me with a numbing stare of hopelessness. We got caught…or did we?
A light shined directly on both of us followed by the words, “Is that a dead body?”
Kelly proceeded with, “Are you the guards?”
Both parties felt obscurely mystified and confused, until we all realized we stumbled upon other adventurists hoping to climb the Stairway to Heaven too. So instead of sleep, instead of calling it quits, instead of heading home, Kelly and I followed the other group towards the alternate route to the stairs. Literally after five minutes we found it. Just five minutes. All that time wasted and we stood five minutes from the immaculately engineered stairs revered throughout the world as one of the best hikes ever.
As tired as our bodies felt, we pushed on, using the last bits of adrenaline and nicotine needed to make it to the first resting foundation along the stairs. My legs spasmed from soreness, lack of food, dehydration and the need for sleep. Just when I thought we reached the top, we didn’t. The stairs felt endless and it just kept going up and up and up. Stairs followed by short flat sections of stairs, followed by more stairs, all going up. I thought if I dug deep and kept pushing I would make it within a few hours, with time to sleep at the top, but Kelly, I did not know. I looked back and she looked aggravated and sleep deprived. Each step she took thudded loudly against the metal stairs like dead-weight. Her eyes fluttered in exhaustion as she broke out into a feeble, fake, smile. We needed a miracle to complete the stairs in this condition and somehow under the grand, luminous, supermoon, perpetuating its violent beauty upon us, we made it to the first foundation.
It did not take much convincing from Kelly to persuade me to rest. I succumbed to hours of relentless hiking, searching and climbing to find the stairs and finally we stood on them, with nothing but time on our side.
That cloudless night wrenched my eyes with brightness. The kind of brightness and beauty that put a smile on my face despite complete exhaustion and wanting to sleep. After time, we both fell into a peaceful slumber under the twinkling stars overlooking the island of Oahu.
Three hours felt like a lifetime, getting back at it in the early morning for more. We pushed up the stairs, clanking our boots against the steps, our hands rubbing against the iron handrails covered in calcified residue from the ocean. Mist clobbered us from every direction as the clouds drowned the mountains in a damp fog.
Each step brought us closer to the view and that’s what pushed us, despite the pain, the fear, the sore muscles and bones, we kept going. Never in my life did I feel so scared from traversing a ridgeline. The steep angle of the stairs, their rust, their aging and lack-of-maintenance made me fearful, fearful of falling to my death. I held onto the railing with my tightest grip, the moisture tickling my palms as my heart pounded. I thought about what food I would eat afterwards. I realized buffalo wings were not in my near future as a disheartened look crossed my face.
Shortly the 2nd, then the 3rd and 4th rung came with more steep climbing on the stairs and as I looked down I knew all too well why it got its name, Stairway to Heaven. I felt like I stood at the gates of Heaven, breathing in the clouds with nothing but endless beauty beneath my two feet.
The wind walloped, gusting ferociously at the peak as we waited for the clouds to wander out of view. Bright green ridges of tropical plants cascaded down to a populated city immersed in coastal beauty. Tide pools speckled the ocean with light blue hues as waves crashed in the distance. In the screeches of the wind we lost ourselves to perpetual beauty, flowing endlessly in every direction, while we stood on the peak of Haiku Stairs, in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.
Our Hike on Hawaii’s illegal Stairway to Heaven
March 17th 2016 marked the happiest day of my life as I stood there nervously awaiting the moments to say my vows and the words, “I do!” My wife looked absolutely stunning like an Egyptian Goddess. Her eyelids tinted gold with bright red lipstick and luscious lashes made me break out into a smile while Juan did her hair and makeup. I knew my life in that moment would forever change and shortly we would travel the world together by any means. Experiencing the Earth’s most beautiful masterpieces with my soulmate made me look forward to the rest of our adventurous lives together.
I got hitched in Arcosanti, AZ in a small community of sustainable minimalists trying to live in a society embracing arcology. The hippie, friendly-go-easy vibe reflected both our personalities and the touch of remote desert, bright stars and sunshine made me feel at home in nature.
She looks so cute and cuddly in her Wedding dress 🙂
We took the leap early in the afternoon. Kelly freaked out since her mom drove around most of Arizona for four hours of the morning trying to purchase appetizers. Meanwhile, the lot of us sat there in our room wondering when the flowers, dress and suit would arrive. Kelly yelled in an anxious but grumpy state, irate about her mom’s tardiness to the most important day of her life. I stood there giggling and smiling since I knew it would all work out.
Eventually her mom arrived and we all rushed into our clothing. Graeme stopped by in the afternoon to play guitar as Kelly and I stood there in front of the Pastor and his wife waiting to say, “I do.” My palms started to perspire as I stood there nervously wobbling back-and-forth trying not to forget my vows.
But once I looked into Kelly’s luminous hazel eyes I immediately felt butterflies and forgot all my lines. It felt like the first time I lay eyes upon her and I fell in love all over again. She stole my heart again and took it forever this time making me the happiest man and for that I’m very grateful.
We spent our nights in Arcosanti enjoying the radiant sky full of the brightest stars twinkling above us, hand-in-hand, smiling, laughing and kissing. I felt like a kid again with no worries in my mind and someone to share the rest of my life with, falling in love again each time I look at her.
I am so happy we reunited over the summer in New York and look forward to growing old with you. You’ll always tower over me in your heels hehe. Love you honey.
Hitchhiking to California
We stood near the on-ramp of I-70 West flying a sign that said, “West.” The vehicles whizzed by the roundabout right before rush hour traffic around 2:30 PM. Most people laughed, threw peace signs, thumbs up or ignored us. After plodding back and forth for about an hour we decided to get closer to the on-ramp and throw a sign. A V8 pickup truck flashed his turn signal and pulled off onto the shoulder, rocks and dust popping up as we ran to open the door.
Throwin’ a Sign
The man, a carpenter from Buena Vista, headed to Copper Mountain, gave us a hitch. Being our first time hitchhiking we didn’t think to ask how far west he was headed. Here to find out just six miles into an area nearly impossible to hitch hike out of we learned at that moment to only accept long distance rides to high traffic volume areas. Luckily, we walked to the on-ramp outside of Copper Mountain and after shaking there in the cold, windy weather, sign flapping in the wind, we ended up hitching a ride from a woman headed to Vantage Condos in Vail. She boarded, worked in finance with a major in international business and just moved out to Colorado from Jackson Hole, Wyoming. Backcountry skiing out there kicks ass and she highly recommended me heading out there for next winter. The ride only lasted a half hour, but we made progress, mile by mile.
We tramped down the road walking parallel to I-70 West. I visited Vail a few years back and remembered my way around town. Every five minutes I glanced around looking over my shoulder for spots to sleep in town. The cold weather, wind and potential rain made it hard to find any suitable areas. However, I noticed out of the corner of my eye a man on the opposite side of the road who turned around and pulled off into the parking lot next to us. He rolled down his rickety window and asked where we planned on going. California bound, but far from our destination. He gave us two options. Wait for him to finish an errand and he’d hitch us to Edwards or wait and he’d give us a place to sleep for the night. I found that rather creepy and declined the offer, but took him up on the hitch to the next town.
Marien and I sat down on the curb of a small mall complex, scarfing down on some snacks while we waited for the scruffy, brown bearded man to pick us up.
After a half hour he pulled out of the parking lot and told us to hop in and throw our packs in the back. His old, beat up truck, creaky and full of trash, seemed like the only viable option at the time. So we jumped in and the truck rattled while he drove to Edwards. Another short distance hitch, but worth it since we decreased in elevation. He stopped at a local gas station to fill up letting us go on our journey. He planned on rubber tramping around America next year and writing a series of stories called, “The Bum Chronicles.” Based on the stories of bums, tramps, crusties, punks, etc. and how they separated from society to live a free lifestyle outside the norm. “Maybe we’d meet again,” I thought, as we lingered around the gas station, looking for a spot to fly a sign.
We walked to the roundabout near I-70 West and within a half hour an older woman from Alaska picked us up. An activist, who in March of 2013 set out to walk across America to support a cause for The Wild Foundation, gave us a ride to Eagle. She couldn’t take us any further, but gave me her card in case I make it out to Homer, Alaska.
Hitch Hiking through Eagle, CO. We spent the night on a hill in the woods.
She pulled off on the side of the roundabout near a Burger King and we parted ways. At this point, only an hour of daylight remained, we threw a sign with no luck of a ride. We ventured on down a back-country road. A river rapidly flowing to the right of us, and yellow-brown blended sandstone mountains soaring to the horizon. To our left, a mountain covered in brush and trees with rocks tumbling down a steep slope.
I glanced around for no trespassing signs and could not find any in sight so we decided to climb up the slope to find a spot to camp. Slipping and sliding around while rocks clunked and rolled down the hill we finally reached the top where flat ground lay. Immediately we found a great camping spot beneath a tree. Minor problem being the dog who reluctantly and viciously barked at us from the neighboring lawn. We couldn’t sleep here. We trekked across until he stopped yelping and howling only to encounter another mangy mut.
I paced myself and slid down the hill grabbing onto trees to brace my falls. We reached flat, rocky ground with rabbit droppings and pebbles. The dogs stopped barking at this point. A small section of land appeared to be camp worthy, but we needed to position our bodies appropriately for it to work out. I laid feet sloped upwards nearly sliding down the mountain while Marien lay in the opposite direction feet sloped downwards with his pack on a rock. The rocks beneath us, uncomfortable, braced us from rolling down the steep grade. They became a nuisance as the night sky loomed over us and the cold dragged in through the trees.
We barely slept at all that night due to our bodies being weirdly positioned. I remember fading in and out until finally drifting off into a peaceful sleep. Only to wake up hours later to nearly sliding headfirst down the slope.
I re-positioned my body the same direction as Marien’s and drifted back off to sleep right before sunrise.
With maybe two to three hours of sleep we both looked like zombies. The sun rose shining vibrant, bright rays of light into our bloodshot, craggy eyes. We drug our feet down the road with our heavy packs on and yearned for the Burger King to open to grab some breakfast.
First, we decided to throw a sign to get out of Eagle. A trucker passed and motioned that he would pull off on the shoulder, but never did. Five minutes later a punk chick pulled up and rolled down the window. Her lip rings, nose ring, and jet black hair presented a hardcore aura, but her nice gesture offering us a ride to Grand Junction was enough for us to hop in and stash our packs in the trunk.
We talked for maybe five minutes and the rest of the ride consisted of a lot of dead silence. A fluent conversation with this girl seemed to be impossible, but nonetheless we learned she moved four times over the past year and had two kids. When she stepped out of the vehicle to grab a coffee at Starbucks I realized how beastly this woman was, standing at 6’4″ and at least a good 225+ lbs. my jaw dropped in amazement. She offered to buy us something, but we declined.
The ride to Grand Junction took us through Glenwood Canyon, which I traveled through before a few years back when I visited the hot springs. The canyon really portrays a variety of colors throughout the different rock formations, which is how the state got its name, “Colorful Colorado.”
We started hitch hiking to California yesterday and made it to Grand Junction, CO.
She dropped us off near the on-ramp in Clifton, which made an unsuccessful attempt for hitchhiking. Vehicles whizzed by at speeds of 70 MPH and the lack of a shoulder made it impossible to stop. We stood outside in the chilly, misty weather, raindrops casually landing on our heads every few minutes. The intermittent showers made us seek shelter until the sun popped its head out a few hours later.
We munched on some food at Subway and trekked down the road for about six miles until we entered Grand Junction. This town sucked for hitchhiking. No one acknowledged us or even thought about giving us a hitch. After four hours in the scorching heat, my arms singed a dark reddish brown, nose peeling, I gave up and plopped my ass at the nearest stoplight hoping a kind soul would give us a lift to the next town. I threw rocks at the ground while Marien flew a sign.
Hearing a voice off in the distance I heard a woman yell out, “What direction are ya headed?”
“West,” I said.
She asked if we wanted a ride to the next town over, Fruita. We nodded our heads, with only one condition, we needed to sit in the bed of her truck.
We hopped over the tailgate and unstrapped our packs. As soon as this woman tapped the gas of her V8 pickup truck I could tell we were in for a bumpy, speeding frenzy. She sped through town burning yellow lights, passing cars over double lines all through the back roads of Route 340.
We sat in the back our asses thumping against the bed of the truck as we hit the rigid cracks in the roadway. Then a light shower sprayed down on us, my hair soaked and parted across my head from the wind flying over the front of the truck. The winding roads filled with mountainous ridges and radiant cliffs off in the distance. Huge mansions filled the land. Our faces spread smiles of joy and amazement from the beautiful views bestowed upon us.
Within minutes we arrived in Fruita hopping out at the Loco truck stop and gas station. She offered to buy us food or beer, but we declined.
Hitch Hiking through Fruita, CO. Don’t stop here guys…it took us forever to get out!
We could not find a proper spot to fly a sign so we tested out the sidewalk near the on-ramp. After several hours of standing and soaking in the burning sun we managed to make $20 without panhandling, but merely holding a sign that said, “West.”
A long four hours of standing made this seem like an endless pit going nowhere. We walked over to the truck stop to see if any truckers could give us a lift and found out that only independent contractors had that capability due to insurance restrictions with other company vehicles.
After much lost hope and mental anguish we saw a fellow traveler hop out of a truck with a dog. So not all hope vanished.
The scruffy man with noticeable teeth damage walked over in our direction. His name, Whitewolf, and partner in crime, Jack, gave us some pointers on road life.
The best times to hitch are early in the morning during work traffic or between 3 to 4 PM when people are coming off from work. You might also get lucky with the occasional truck driver. He also mentioned a place to sleep off in the distance by the Colorado River.
We decided to take his advice and call it a night. He sketched me out a bit so we found another spot to sleep off Route 6 West next to the True Value in a bushy area. I actually fell asleep for a few more hours than the night before. The snoring, and gargling sounds expelling from Marien’s mouth woke me up ever so often, but I just smacked him so I could nod off.
The stars lit up the sky that night and the cold, frigid air, dropped the temperature into the low 40’s making my bones chill.
I awoke super early at 4:30 AM and hustled to pack my gear to see if any truckers headed westbound on I-70 would pick us up.
Another hot day in Fruita flying a sign 🙁
We stood outside the Loco truck stop flying our sign as each trucker passed with zero acknowledgement. Distraught, we lost faith in them and decided to hang by the on-ramp. Only this time we sat in front of the no pedestrians on the highway sign. We walked back and forth down the sidewalk between the gas station and city market multiple times. Not a soul would pick us up. Most of these rich, pricks just laughed or ignored us.
We decided to move towards the roundabout inside of the city limits and still came out unsuccessful. Lunch whirled around and we hit the gas station for food where we saw Whitewolf again.
He advised us not to fly a sign inside city limits since we could get arrested for soliciting. He also pointed out we could panhandle outside of Loco without getting in trouble since the workers did not care.
He kept mentioning his brother Blue being right outside of town. They wanted to meet up in Fruita and head to Moab. His brother, an ex gang banger, made hitchhiking a profession much like Whitewolf. He perfected the skills of scoring rides and money in a time efficient manor.
Noon hit and we decided to give the on-ramp another whirl only this time we ventured onto the highway for a bit. When that proved futile we moved to the on-ramp only this time we sat closer to the city limits so more people could see us from the light.
A pickup truck pulled over acting like he wanted to pick us up. By the time we ran down the on-ramp the man scurried off the shoulder and onto the road. We got shafted once again. At this point I lost my composure and gave up all hope. We might be stuck here for a while.
Then a yellow Subaru made a wide turn and pulled off on the shoulder picking us up. The woman, a young 29 year old, brunette with a short black mini skirt and small body frame just finished mountain biking with her dog, Paige, in Fruita. On her way to Zion National Park she asked where we were headed. “As far west as you’re going,” we said.
We held a long conversation with this girl. Her outgoing personality and thirst for adventure made it a very cool ride. She boarded, mountain biked, and rock climbed among many other activities. She worked for Zion National Park and we talked about the most random things that I can’t recall what topics we covered, but it made the three to four hour trip seem like a half hour.
Between the conversations that took place and the breathtaking, diverse scenery, Utah by far exceeded my expectations. Never in my life did I set my eyes on such intricate, colorful mountainsides, with huge bright canyons, and smaller slopes covered in green trees and pastures.
We made it to Cedar City, Utah today baby despite hitch hiking being illegal in Utah!
I scrunched myself in the back seat and most of the trip my feet lost feeling and toes numb. I moved my ass ever so often to keep it from getting sore. So much backpacking gear and equipment filled her backseat and her dog kept snuggling up next to me so I felt squished between her stuff and the window. She apologized, but I didn’t mind since I appreciated the hitch through most of Utah.
It being Easter and about to rain we decided to use some of the money we made towards a Hotel for the night. We stayed at the Days Inn in Cedar City where the young, pretty girl dropped us off before heading to Toquersville. After camping outside for a few days a good night’s rest definitely suited us.
We showered, ate food and passed out into a deep sleep while watching television. I don’t recall falling asleep. I remember waking up around 10 AM to check out and put in a day of work on the roadway trying to hitch out to the next town.
We flew multiple signs hoping to skip St. George and land in Vegas or California, but all we got out of it was $10 measly dollars and no ride. Hours passed and I felt like we sat back in Fruita, with no hope of leaving.
The main issue we encountered being the illegality of hitchhiking in this state. Most officers don’t enforce the law, but people displayed paranoia as they drove by us. We saw many gestures, one of which, a forefinger pinched close towards the thumb. At first I thought everyone was making fun of our dicks with a deprecating comment about the length, but then realized they meant we were close. We both chuckled over that one for a while.
Flyin’ a sign to get the hell out of Cedar City, UT.
After flying a sign for hours that day in Cedar City we almost gave up hope. An Indian woman flagging for construction going on near the on-ramp waved us over. She noticed us standing outside holding our sign and offered to give us a ride to the nearest homeless shelter after her shift. They would pay for our bus ticket to Vegas. It didn’t take much thinking on our part. Within a few seconds we looked at each other, nodded and declined the offer. We’d test our luck on the road since the cops didn’t pester us yet.
Another hour passed and an older woman with two dogs, headed to St. George, stopped to give us a hitch. She worked on designing many of the homes in the area and gave us her card. An excellent tour guide pointing out the canyons of Zion National Park and the other ridges in the area, Black Ridge and Red Ridge. She gave us a brief overview of her hometown, Old Harmony, which consisted of Mormons who came from Harmony, Pennsylvania. Many believed in abstaining from addiction substances like tobacco, alcohol and caffeine, and took their religion very seriously despite having a polygamous lifestyle.
Dana needed to make a stop home first to grab eggs for St. George before dropping us off there to get us one step closer to Vegas.
We pulled into her driveway and helped her unload the soil and fertilizer from her trunk. Her yard looked almost self-sustainable for a vegetarian. Vegetables, flowers, and chickens occupied the yard with a clean, blissful view of the mountains in the distance. She propped up frames of trampolines to make greenhouses in her front yard and just finished an addition to her back yard making her home a bit more spacious.
A nice woman invited me into her home in New Harmony, UT while hitch hiking to California!
She cruised along pointing out every little attraction and historic area between Cedar City and St. George. The incredible view of diverse scenery amazed both of us. Mountains of red, brown, orange and green illuminated the sky of clear blue. She pulled into the Sinclair gas station and dropped us off in the middle of town. The massive traffic volume in the area complemented all the industries, stores and university.
We walked around, grabbed some grub and hit the on-ramp for a few hours flying our “Vegas” sign. A few drove by and giggled, laughed, threw their hands up like they didn’t know where they were headed and in the end we stood there ride-less. I waved at all the hot women looking our direction and they acknowledged me and reciprocated, but 7 PM came and we needed to find a place to sleep.
We walked into town looking for desolate buildings or bushy areas to camp. Trudging along up the hill a beige vehicle stopped near the sidewalk next to where we walked. A younger man, in his thirties, with gauges and a bull ring in his nose, told us he lived in Vegas and departed tomorrow around 5 PM if we wanted to hitch a ride. We told him to meet us near the on-ramp.
We looked down over town and to our right sighted a bouldering park: Pioneer Park. Many people climbed and walked around following the path before darkness hit. We moseyed around climbing to the very top of the park waiting for people to leave. I noticed an uninhabited area by a billboard across from where we sat.
Pioneer Park – We did some bouldering and ended up sleeping on the highest cliff there.
The perfect place to camp for the night. The sun slowly faded off into the sky as darkness staggered in upon us. All of the artificial lighting made it near impossible to sleep. The sky lingered in a light phase until about midnight. We pulled our mummy bags over our heads and dozed off into a deep slumber atop the highest point in the park overlooking every bright yellow speck of light in the city.
Marien free climbing some cliffs in Pioneer Park.
Pioneer Park – St. George, UT
We awoke to the sounds of cars putter pattering across the blacktop from down below and the screeching noise of tires sliding against the roadway. The sun peeked its head out over the mountains and the wind roared like we were in Kansas.
Certain our ride would pull through we decided to walk to the nearest grocery store, 3 miles away. Halfway into the walk we saw Zack in his beige car. He yelled down the street at us, “HOP IN.”
He dropped us off at the grocery store before work and mentioned he’d be around the exit at 5 PM to hitch us to Vegas. We didn’t think to exchange numbers, but figured we’d meet him later in the day by the on-ramp.
After hitting the store, and scarfing down a huge piece of bread along with fruit slices, we made our way back up to the Vegas on-ramp. Holding our sign in the windy, drizzling weather made it rough to get a ride. No one acknowledged us, and we banked on Zack pulling through. After an hour a police officer rolled up to the shoulder and asked the usual bullshit questions cops do. He demonstrated politeness, as did we, but some of his questions came off as irrelevant. He requested to see our IDs to see if any warrants existed for either of us. I scurried around in my wallet and could not find my Breckenridge ID. He ended up searching on my voided DE license. After questioning us, he let us go with a warning and told us not to solicit on the corner anymore or he’d have to charge us.
Hitchhiking is illegal in Utah and Nevada, which we knew, but we ended up here so we took our chances.
We decided to hit up Pioneer Park and boulder for a few hours before our ride to Vegas. We plopped our bags down in the sandy valleys of rocks and began free climbing. I did not have my climbing shoes, but bouldered anyway.
Dangling between the crevices of rocks physically exhausted us making our forearms sore and tingling. We sat down and rested for a bit before grabbing food and waiting for Zack to arrive.
We loitered around Sinclair gas station after speaking with the manager and patiently waited in lounge chairs until 4:30 PM.
A hippie from Breckenridge with long black hair and a stoned look on his face pulled up asking us for drugs. I laughed and didn’t take him seriously. He proceeded to list the drugs he wanted. I laughed again saying sorry man. We get hassled by cops, you really think I want to get searched with drugs on me?
He threw a peace sign as they left for Colorado. We walked back and forth down the road next to the on-ramp waiting for Zack. Ten minutes went by, then twenty, then thirty and an hour. We gave up hope. He shafted us, and remained to be our last hope.
Since we did not want trouble with the police and hitchhiking appeared to be useless we tramped to the nearest shuttle, 5 miles away.
Ended up paying 30 bucks to take a shuttle to Vegas. I felt ashamed and didn’t look out the window since our hitch failed. Ended up fading in and out of sleep from the bumpy motion until we ended up on the Vegas strip.
We trudged along the strip looking for a cheap motel. The Hard Rock, our cheapest route, located 3 miles away seemed like our best choice.
The heels of my feet started to feel like every step I took landed barefoot across sharp, pointy rocks. The pain worsened the further we traveled, but I wanted to gamble, drink and see some titties. After a long drawn out trek away from the strip we ended up at the casino hotel, which claimed $29 rooms for the night.
When we arrived the front desk personnel told us the cheapest room available, $95. So we decided to check in our bags and walk around the casino.
I tried gambling until approached by security asking for my license. Then I realized I left it in Cedar City. I tried explaining it to them and showing my voided license from DE, but these people have the brains of peas.
I verbally abused them since they did not follow my explanation or do anything to help my situation. Between the black man and Native American neither one offered a resolution. They nearly forcefully removed me from the casino.
At this point, gambling, titties and drinking became impossible. We pondered hitchhiking, but after seeing another traveler get arrested and harassed by cops we decided to look up the Greyhound station schedule and head to Salt Lake City.
We walked about 10 miles through the hood of Vegas in the wee hours of the morning. It took us about two to two and a half hours until we finally reached the station. The street covered in filth. Abandoned buildings decayed on every street we walked down. Bums slept behind dumpsters, on the sidewalks and even upright on benches just covering their bodies in tarps. The station filled with all different kinds of odd people from pimps, home bums, broken down snow bunnies, crack heads, strippers, and a few normal looking individuals. We booked a ticket for SLC that left early in the morning. We used this time to sleep since we stayed up most of the day and walked about 15 miles in total.
Marien texted me and eventually nudged my shoulder. I awoke from what felt like a drunken stupor. My eyes in a clouded daze from lack of sleep. I looked over towards my right to see a scruffy, gray-bearded home bum trying to steal my ticket from Vegas to SLC. After confronting him about it he exclaimed he was holding it for me. The man, embarrassed, walked away and left the building. Luck, on his side, because if he tried reaching into my other pocket I may have accidentally stabbed him with my knife.
The next few hours our heads bobbed up and down like we were bobbing for apples. We sat in our chairs slumped over, tired, waiting for the bus to pick us up. When that moment finally came it felt like heaven. Never in my life, would I enjoy the simple pleasure of just sitting on a bus, squished next to some random person, until that night due to lack of sleep.
We arrived in SLC and spent much of the day walking around checking out the town. This city, covered in bums, homeless people, and gangs, caught me off guard. I expected to see a bunch of Mormons and religious people trying to bless me and keep my spirits from going to the depths of hell. We roamed around the city for miles and eventually took a city bus, UTA, to Ogden where we grabbed some food and noticed a considerable amount of skin heads in the area. I really regret not taking the plunge and walking 8 miles in-land to see the Great Salt Lake, but after trekking considerable distances the other days we took better judgment against it.
We ate a few meals at some small diners and grabbed gas station food for the rest of our time in SLC. We explored the outskirts of the city limits to find a place to sleep. Once we stumbled upon a park with a considerably steep hill we scoped it out for potential spots to sleep and relaxed until dark watching the sun set before our eyes and peep its way under the hill. We set up camp on a small flat section in the middle of the hill. This way we could get to the above highway if we needed to, but also, any footsteps approaching us from below would awaken us from falling rock. I nestled into my sleeping bag as I watched the trains pass by below and eventually dozed off into the night.
The next day we awoke relatively early to the epic rays of the sun rise beating down our bags. My bones no longer chilled, but immersed in sweat from wearing too many layers the night before. I quickly began to remove clothing and proceeded to wake up Marien whom I thought got the best sleep of his life because he didn’t budge from his bag at all until I nudged him.
We packed up our gear and headed back down the road taking a hiking path towards the gas station. A guy popped out of the bushes and approached me, holding out his hands, like I was his savior. As he got closer to me, I realized an 8-inch dagger lay across all ten of his fingers. I nearly ran, but refrained from freaking out and yelling at him. I clasped my pocket knife in my right hand and out of no where he murmurs, “Nice pack, do you want to buy this dagger off me for your travels?”
I then realized this harmless guy just wanted some money for food. He probably stole that off someone and wanted to get rid of it. I shook my head and politely said, “No, but thanked him for the offer.” He scurried back behind the bushes and it appeared to me he spent the night there as all his belongings appeared to be scattered on the ground. We continued on and tried to find something to occupy our minds. The abandoned building next to us, locked tight, and boarded up at every entrance and window, did not seem like a plausible exploration spot. I tried gaining access through the second story window, with no luck and decided to tramp on down the road towards the mall.
Sunset on a hill in SLC