Total Miles: 1624.4
Pancakes, coffee, sausage, eggs, pancakes, hashed browns, and more pancakes. That’s the way you kickstart a day of hiking, and our breakfast at Wild Bill’s certainly delivered. I can already picture my own look of ambivalence when faced with tomorrow morning’s breakfast protein bar.
Shoving off from Atlantic City just after that early breakfast marked the beginning of our walk into the heart of the Great Divide Basin, its lack of water and overall expansive desolation. Just as we said a final goodbye to Carmella, the other half of the husband and wife team at Wild Bill’s, she looked at us with a smile and said: “There’s beauty out there. You just have to look for it.” The kind of simple wisdom that too often goes unsaid.
And she was right. For a land so patently devoid of trees, water, and the usual signs of life and vibrance there was a quiet sort of richness to it. Herds of cattle appearing in the distance over each wave of hills; antelope gliding through the sage brush with incredible speed; great packs of wild horses, their coats a kaleidoscope of different colors.
Water sources separated by far longer distances than usual added punctuation, both excitement at reaching them and the pause of resting our legs and feet from the near constant forward motion—a far cry from the days of negotiating blowdown. Stone posts came early and often, announcing that we were following the Oregon Trail, launching memories of playing the game of the same name as a kid.
Our constant companion was an unseen one, the relentless west-northwest wind propelling us along from behind as the trail continued along the same southeastern tack it has taken throughout Wyoming. The irony of our direction was that in many ways, the soundtrack of this hike has been an album of the same name—Southeastern—by singer-songwriter Jason Isbell. (Thanks to Greg and Mija for introducing it to me!)
It’s an album of deeply personal songwriting and I’ve found myself coming back to it again and again to appreciate the stories it tells, many of tragedy and sorrow, and the often winding and painful path to growth. But what is inescapable is the understanding that, short of the loss of my Dad far too soon, I have no frame through which to relate to Isbell’s storytelling and, in this case, that’s a very fortunate thing.
Mine has been a life not of turmoil, tragedy, and struggle. It’s been made of far less dramatic, poetic stuff and hearing songs of a life made of those things makes me feel both fortunate and embarrassed by that same good fortune. Maybe that’s why I’ve come back to it so often, a reminder of what I have and what I haven’t had to suffer through.
Thinking of what it must take for a musician to lay themselves bare in such a way and to share it with the world, makes me think of what I could possibly share that would be of note to anyone. I don’t have Isbell’s gift for music or poetry but I have this adventure, this story to share. To know it is to know me. And if you’re reading this, you’re a part of that story, one that is still yet to be fully written.