My experience being bullied by Clint “Lint Hikes” Bunting in the Long Distance Hiking Community

Plus statements from three other people who have either experienced or witnessed his abuse.

And an update at the end re: his apology, and the apologist/enabling actions of a few other people in the hiking community.

Trigger warning: descriptions of multiple kinds of abuse.

Clint “Lint Hikes” Bunting (currently “Curtis Banting” on facebook) is a long-distance hiker who has notoriety within the long-distance hiking community because he’s hiked the PCT, CDT and AT three times each, making him a triple-triple crowner. He’s incredibly visible within the community, and holds a great deal of social capital there. He’s also a violent bully with a long history of abuse. This is my story of being bullied by him. Below this statement you’ll find statements from three other people, who have known him for a long time and who have also either witnessed or experienced his abuse.

I first met Lint on the in 2013, when we crossed paths on the PCT. I was only around him for part of a day, but I thought he was funny and charming. I appreciated his direct nature, and the fact that he too had been hewn in the punk scene. Punks on the trail are rare. He said he was a feminist, which I thought was cool.

In the fall of 2014, I stayed at Lint and his partner’s house in Ashland, Oregon for a week, while waiting for a seasonal farm job to start. It was fun getting to know Lint and his partner. We made meals together, and went trail running. Lint owns a number of guns, and he took a friend and I shooting. He opened up to me about his alcoholism. He was in recovery at the time, and was sober. He also opened up to me about his anger management issues, which he said he was working on. I believed him.

My job started, and I moved out to the farm, although Lint and his partner let me leave my van parked in front of their house in Ashland. One day while I was working, Lint and I got into a discussion on facebook messenger about whether or not a person with a large platform has a responsibility to use that platform for good. I said yes, he said no. After talking for a while I had to get back to work, and I told him that we would have to agree to disagree. He told me that I was a coward. I said that I had to work, and that I wouldn’t discuss it with him any more. He started calling me a bunch of names. I blocked him on facebook messenger. He texted me, saying “Why is there a van parked in front of my house?” I didn’t have my own vehicle at the farm, and it would be a few days before I could borrow my boss’ truck and get a ride into town to pick up the van. The situation had escalated so quickly- he had become angry and abusive simply at my setting a boundary about needing to get back to work- that I was alarmed. Was he about to do something to my van? What would happen when I went to pick it up? What about all his guns?

I blocked Lint’s text messages and communicated with his partner instead. We arranged a day that I could come pick up the van when Lint would not be there. I told her that if Lint showed up while I was getting my van, I would call the police.

I picked up my van without incident, and moved on with my life. I kept Lint blocked on social media- he had shown himself to be an abusive person, and I wanted nothing to do with him. Over the next few years, every time I crossed paths with him (on the CDT, when he was hiking NOBO and I was heading SOBO, was one instance), he would insult me as well as whoever I was with, but I would say something joking back to him and go on my way. Every few months a bit of gossip would get back to me via the trail community grapevine, and I reached the general understanding that he was trashing me to whomever would listen. What his beef with me was, exactly, was never quite clear, and also seemed to change depending on the day/season/his mood/who he was talking with. People who had never actually hung out with me but were friends with him, began to ice me. I stopped going to all trail events, because I knew that he went to most of them, and I had no way of knowing which ones he would and would not attend. Also because it was emotionally exhausting being iced by his friends, many of whom are incredibly visible in the trail community as well, and who also hold a great deal of social capital there.

I also heard rumors, during this time, of Lint’s continued physical violence. Other hikers would repeat stories that he had told them- about getting into fist fights, about the time he pepper sprayed an AT hiker, about the way he called his most recent AT hike “rage hiking”.

In 2016, I was rescued in a helicopter while hiking the Hayduke trail. I legitimately needed rescue, but I chose not to write about the incident on my blog, instead saying that I had hitch-hiked to safety. I only shared the incident with a handful of hiker friends. The reason I did this was not because I was ashamed to have been rescued (there’s no shame is staying alive), but because the internet loves to tear down hikers who have been rescued, and it was no-ones place to judge me. I knew that once word got out to the larger trail community that I had been rescued, I would be bullied for it.

Eventually word did get out, and Lint and another hiker, Not a Chance (who I was not friends with, but who he was) started a thread on facebook letting everyone know I had been rescued and saying I needed to be called out for being a “fake hiker” because of it, even though I’d been able to complete the Hayduke after, and hadn’t skipped any miles. A friend of mine messaged the other hiker, calling them out for bullying, and they took the post down.

(I wrote about this on my blog here- https://carrotquinn.com/2017/09/11/i-need-to-get-something-off-my-chesti-was-rescued-off-the-hayduke-last-year/)

Even though I hadn’t actually spoken with or crossed paths with Lint in a few years, his preoccupation with me and determination to bully me seemed to be growing. I did my best to ignore it, further distancing myself from a certain circle of very visible hikers and focusing instead on the super rad hikers I had actually shared space/time with, and consequently developed my own relationships with, as well as all of the wonderful people in the other communities of which I am a part. Every so often, gossip would get back to me- new lies about me that Lint was circulating. I continued to ignore this gossip.

On November 11, 2017, I was in Portland for the weekend for a friend’s birthday, and I went for a run in Forest Park. Two miles into my run I saw Lint, jogging from the other direction. We stopped to talk.

“I got sober a little while ago,” he said, “and I can’t remember much that happened when I was drunk. I can’t remember if we’re supposed to have beef or not.”

“We got in a disagreement on facebook in 2014,” I said to him, “and you called me a bunch of names. We’ve had beef ever since.” I decided to leave out the fact that he had actually been sober during that period, as well. It seemed promising that Lint seemed so open to talking, though (in spite of the fact that he’d already lied when he said he didn’t remember our original disagreement because he was drunk), so I said-

“You could apologize, and we could start over.” He became visibly upset.

“Well, Jennifer,” he said, calling me by my old legal name. I’d never told him my old legal name, but he must’ve found out somehow, and he was using it now to show he had some sort of power over me? Or to be degrading? I wasn’t sure. I started going by Carrot when I was 19, as a way to distance myself from my abusive family, and to heal and develop as my own, autonomous person. For sixteen years, I’d been Carrot everywhere except the bank and the DMV. Whenever I had to use the name Jennifer in an official capacity, I cringed. It reminded me so much of my childhood, and what I had left behind.

“I can’t apologize, because the things I said might have been true,” continued Lint. Here we go again, I thought. He was becoming visibly more and more upset. He started yelling at me, there in the woods.

“If you were a man, we would fight,” he said. “If you were a man, we would fight right now.”

“So if I was a man, you would punch me right now?” I said.

“That’s how men talk,” he shouted.

I laughed like it was a big joke in an attempt to deescalate, and jogged away from him. But I felt super shaken- Lint brags all the time about all the physical fights he gets into. Running into him in the woods with no-one else around and having things escalate from a civil discussion to him threatening to attack me in less than a minute was terrifying.

When I got back to the trailhead, my van wouldn’t start. The battery was dead. This had never happened before, and at the time, I’d had the van for three years. I have no idea how someone would’ve disabled the battery, because to get to the battery you pop the hood from within the van (and the van was locked), but just in case, I’m documenting it here. I ended up calling AAA for a jump.

I messaged a well-known hiker who I respected later that day and told her about the interaction, in hopes that she might have some insight. She told me that I should ignore the bullying and “focus on the positive”.

On December 2nd, 2017, someone alerted me that Lint was trashing me in the comments of an instagram post of his. He was saying that I had skipped huge sections of the PCT and CDT, and because of it I was a fraud and a scam artist and a culture vulture. He said that I didn’t actually like hiking at all, that I just hiked so that I could write about it. (For the record, I skipped 50 miles of the PCT each of the two times I hiked it, and I skipped 100 miles of the CDT. I was honest about all these skips in my daily blog from the trail. I skipped no miles of the Hayduke, or other trails I’ve hiked.) People attempted to engage with Lint about his bullying in these comments as well as in direct messages, and he derided them and/or called them yellow blazers. Here are screenshots.

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In his response to this hiker’s message asking him why he hates me, Lint calls me Jennifer again, and jokes about sexual violence against me.

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I messaged a number of other hikers at this time, about the bullying. Those who were friends with Lint or those who wanted some of the social capital he controlled on account of his position within a certain circle of the thru-hiking community told me to ignore him, that he was trying to be better, and that I should “focus on the positive”. Almost all of these were men. Hikers who were not a part of his social circle/had no interest in becoming a part of it were super upset on my behalf, and gave me support and encouragement. Almost all of these were women, with a few notable exceptions, and their support at this time was the only thing that allowed me to keep it together. I could not believe how publicly Lint was being abusive towards me, and how little anyone cared. It seemed that Lint, since he was a triple triple crowner who hiked 40 mile days with a tiny pack and also because he was a man, could be abusive with impunity.

At this time, a very kind person reached out and put me in touch with Lint’s ex of six years, whom he had abused. I began emailing with her. She agreed to write a statement for this post, as did the person who put us in touch, as he had also known Lint for a long time, and witnessed his abuse. Those statements are below.

On December 15, I received the following message via instagram from Mountain Laurel Designs, a small cottage gear company-

 

I was floored. A gear company was writing me to say that no-one believed me, and that I was obviously the real bully. (For the record, “the way I behaved with Gossamer Gear” is that I was a trail ambassador for GG in 2014. At the time, they had comically bad customer service, and I was always having to apologize to people I met on the PCT with GG packs about their awful customer service experiences. Word about this got back to GG, and they dropped me from the trail ambassador program.)

I put the message from MLD in my instagram stories, and received this message-

Two other hikers also messaged me to confirm this. I also remembered seeing this on Lint’s twitter-

I emailed Ron Bell, the owner of MLD, and asked him if he had sent the message. He said he had not.

By this time, Lint had deleted all the comments aimed at me from his previous instagram post.

I believe that Lint has targeted me these last four years because I stood up to him very early on in our friendship. I believe that Lint systematically works to destroy the reputation of anyone who stands up to him, so that by the time they get around to calling him on his abusive behavior, no-one in the thru-hiking community will believe anything they say, and Lint can continue to play the part of the person who has changed.

I do not know if Lint is capable of change. I do know, however, that he uses the narrative that he’s “trying to change” in order to manipulate people into thinking that he HAS changed, all while continuing to be abusive at the same time. Judging from the statement of his ex of 6 years (which is below), Lint has been trying to convince people that he has changed/is in the process of changing for over a decade, and yet he continues to be abusive.

There will always be people like Lint in the world. Lint has been able to be abusive with impunity in the long-distance hiking community not just because of how manipulative he is, but because of the nature of the community itself. The long-distance hiking community is rife with toxic masculinity, and for the last decade Lint has found a safe space there. In the long-distance hiking community men, as long as they walk fast and carry a small pack, are seen as heroes, and any abusive behavior they might have is ignored, apologized for, covered up, or enabled. Their intentions are assumed to be good, in spite of whether or not their behavior is in line with this and what they themselves might say (Lint constantly bragging about his physical violence, for example). Women, on the other hand, are torn down (with glee!) at the slightest perceived infraction. This is why people in the hiking community who didn’t know me personally/had never actually hung out with me were so quick to believe the lies that Lint spread about me for years.

Lint is the one who was abusive, but dozens of other men (and a handful of women) enabled him by staying silent, apologizing for him, and covering up his behavior. Until this culture of silence around abusive behavior in the long-distance hiking community changes, the abusers (esp white straight cis men abusers) of the world will always find a place there where they can accrue social capital and a large platform, thrive, and spread their toxic, misogynist hate with impunity- all they have to do is walk a lot. THIS dynamic is one of the reasons why the long-distance hiking community is such an alienating space for women, queer people, people of color, and other marginalized groups.

Publishing this statement online scares me. Lint is a clever, extremely manipulative abuser with lots of guns, anger management issues, and a long history of violence. I worry that he’ll find out my address. I worry that something will happen to my house, or my dogs, or my van.

Creating this document, though, is more important than the risk it might put me in. My intention with this document is that it will fuck with Lint’s ability, going forward, to be abusive with impunity in the long-distance hiking community, or anywhere else. Anyone he gaslights, manipulates, or abuses can google his name and find this blog post, and get the validation and support they need.

If you’ve experienced Lint’s abuse and you’d like support or to add your statement to this document, or if Lint has reached out to you with abusive messages about me or anyone else, or if he has reached out to you and asked for my address or other personal information, please contact me-

Carrot Quinn
carrotquinn4@gmail.com

———–Statement from Diana, Lint’s ex of six years————

Where do I begin? I was Clint Bunting’s (aka Lint’s) primary partner off and on for 4-5 years starting in 2006, and continued to be romantically/sexually involved with him for another 2+ years after our official breakup. I have had no contact with him for the past 5 or so years, and in fact removed myself from the thru hiking community because of his continued presence there. We originally met via the hiking community in Portland, introduced by a mutual friend. We had both thru hiked the AT in 2004, but had not met on the trail because I had stayed ahead of him; he knew of me through my register entries. Clint was charming and funny, and I was drawn to him especially because of his self-professed radical politics. It took me years to finally understand that he was radical in name only; his self-declarations provided a cover for abusive, misogynistic behavior that I struggled to reconcile with who I believed him to be.

I am writing this to warn other people, in the hiking community and elsewhere, of his abusive behavior. I also hope my writing this can offer some support and small comfort to other folks, especially women, who have experienced his behavior- you are not alone, you did not imagine it, it is not your fault, and I see you and am here for you in whatever capacity I can be. I would like to say I am writing in hopes that Clint might be held to some account for his actions, but for an accountability process to happen there must be two vital factors for which I have seen no evidence: a willingness on Clint’s part to be self-reflective, and an unwillingness on the part of his peers and community to tolerate abusive behavior. I say this because, in the rare instances during the time that I knew him that Clint would start to admit to a feeling of remorsefulness or just plain weakness, just the act of my acknowledging his words would send him into a fit of denying the existence of these feelings. As for the hiking community, I have little hope there as well. Over the years, plenty of hikers have witnessed his aggressive and abusive behavior, and yet he continues to be lionized. I have told my story to a number of people in and out of the hiking scene, and nearly all of those who had been friendly with him in the past continued to condone his behavior. People have shown discomfort in my acknowledgment of his abuse, but no willingness to question him or his actions.

The process of trying to write about my experiences with Clint has been incredibly stressful, despite the support of a number of wonderful people in my life. While I do try to stand up for the things I believe in, conflict is hard for me, and I have been taught through my relationship with Clint and other life experiences to avoid it at all costs. I have been having heart palpitations and other stress and anxiety symptoms for weeks. It has taken me over a month to write this brief description of just some of Clint’s actions while I knew him. I did not write this for fun or for spite. My list is incomplete and ineloquent, but I hope that in writing it I can help others avoid harm.

Animal cruelty: Clint shot and killed numerous cats because he claimed they were shitting in his raised bed gardens. Some cats he shot were likely feral; there may have also been pets killed. I was present one time that he was set up for shooting, and he had me leave the room when he thought he might take a shot. He also told me about beating a cat to death with a shovel around the same period of time. A person who took part in that killing also confirmed it, as did another friend of his who was not present. He shot a small hole in the ceiling of his house once when he inadvertently hit the trigger. The time that I was present during one of his “stake outs” he spent the whole evening trying to convince me that what he was doing was justified and even good. He kept pressing the issue for hours after I told him repeatedly that I wasn’t going to argue with him and didn’t want to talk about it any more.

Sexual assault: Clint took photographs of a woman who was naked and passed out without her knowledge or consent. I was DD’ing for him and had dropped him off at a house where he was supposed to meet someone while I ran home to pick something up. The person he was supposed to meet was not there, so he wandered around the house while waiting for me. He went into one room and saw a woman who he described as passed out from heroin or some other drug. She was lying crumpled on a bed, naked, with her genitals visible. Clint took several photographs of her, especially of her genitals. When I arrived with the car, he bragged about having taken these photos and tried to show them to me. I refused and told him he needed to delete them immediately and that it was sexual assault to have taken them. He argued that the woman’s face was not in the photos, and so there was no harm done, and refused to delete them. The conversation continued for a while, and at some point he claimed to have given in and deleted them. Later on that evening I was looking up something on his phone and found that he actually had not deleted them. He gaslighted me for hours until by the end of the evening I was crying and apologizing for having been too harsh.

Lies about sexual health: Clint regularly lied to partners about who else he was sleeping with and his sexual health. I had a toothbrush and other toiletries at his house, and he would hide them when he brought other women home, not letting them know that he had a regular sex partner. He told a woman who knew both of us and who he had a long-distance affair with that he and I were no longer sexually involved when we still were, and hid the fact that he was communicating with her from me.

He also lied about using condoms with other partners, and pressured them (at least several that I know of, and I assume many more) to have unprotected sex. I got STI screenings regularly and found out that I had gone from having no STIs to having contracted a cancer-causing strain of HPV. (At the time, I had not slept with anyone else for a year or two and was testing at least annually. We were mostly having unprotected sex, and so it was highly likely that he also had the virus.) I told him about my diagnosis, and told him he needed to inform any other current or future partners. About a year or so after that I asked a friend who had had sex with him in the interim if he had disclosed this to her. He hadn’t, even though they had had an explicit conversation about sexual health, and had also pressured her to have unprotected sex. She later tested positive for the same strain of HPV. When confronted about his lies, he said it was such a minor thing that it didn’t matter. He also told me that if I ended up with cervical cancer that it would just be “bonus cancer.” I do, in fact, still have abnormal cervical cells many years later.

Physical violence and intimidation: I have not personally witnessed any physical violence, but Clint would regularly tell me stories of beating up other people or physically intimidating them. One story I distinctly remember Clint bragging about was hitting another hiker with a metal flyswatter hard across the face or head. Another story he told often was of breaking the nose of a driver who cut him off while he was biking. He also told stories of destroying personal belongings of people who had angered him. I remember several stories of him having slashed or planning to slash people’s tires.

Clint had ongoing conflict with a number of roommates we had in the time that we lived together. One time I came home to find him posted outside the bedroom of a couple we lived with. He had been pounding on their door for a long time (I think he said hours, but I don’t remember clearly) yelling and demanding that they come out to have a “house meeting.” They had barricaded themselves in the room to keep him away. I also have a distinct memory of him plotting on how he was going to violently “get back” at a former roommate who had angered him, though I do not know whether he ever followed through.

Emotional and sexual abuse: Emotional abuse, especially around sex, was regular. Clint admitted to me to starting arguments with me just to get me to have sex with him. He sulked and acted out when I didn’t initiate sex with him, and tried to make me feel guilty for not having sex with him after the fact. I remember a specific time when we were newly dating that I had flown and then driven for many hours in the middle of the night to visit him, and was shaking with fatigue when I got there. He kept trying to pressure me to have sex right away, even though I told him I felt ill from exhaustion. We did not have sex that night, but waited until the morning. He brought the fact that we had waited until morning to have sex (along with a few other similar examples) regularly the entire time we were involved to illustrate his point that I just didn’t like sex enough.

It was not uncommon that Clint would do something during sex that would make me uncomfortable, and I would disassociate. He would notice this, but continue the sex, and then complain about my lack of enthusiasm. At least one time he said after he had finished that it felt like he was raping me, and that that just wasn’t fun for him, though he continued the sex anyway. When I would tell him about something I wished he would do differently, he would tell me that all his other girlfriends had liked the way he did whatever it was, and that I must just be defective if I wanted something else.

One time we had a friend over who we had both individually slept with, and who we had briefly talked about inviting to have sex with both of us. Clint then suddenly, and without my permission, exposed my body to this person as a way of extending the invitation for sex. This made me extremely uncomfortable. We did end up having sex together, after which Clint complained that he didn’t enjoy it enough.

While we were together, Clint would tolerate nothing less than unconditional support. He also made it clear that I was not to rely on him for anything and that he would only support me when it suited him. This support was subject to revocation at any time. There were a number of times during our relationship when I questioned his response in a particular situation, or even tried to intervene in conflict on his behalf, and was met with intense fury. One particular time I told him I thought his rude response to a bartender was out of line. He then stormed out and yelled at me for being a traitor the entire walk back to his house. He threw me out of the house where I had been planning to stay for the weekend (at the time I was working out of town at a residential program during the week, and was often crashing with him on my days off).

During a drawn out conflict with housemates during a move-out I agreed help to one of the housemates in an attempt to ease the tension between them. When he learned that I agreed to help her on his behalf, he started a screaming match with me, telling me how untrustworthy and disloyal I was. The yelling continued from his car out onto the street, and I remember passers by looking our way as he screamed. I spent the following several months having to prove my trustworthiness, and Clint told me he would leave me if I ever had contact with the former roommates from that house again.

There were many times when Clint would attack me for asking for or accepting his help. I remember a particular instance when I had asked him to set his alarm so that I could make it to an unusually early work day. He accidentally set the alarm for pm rather than am and we overslept. I woke up with not enough time to bike, and asked him if he could drive me, as I was TA-ing a field trip, and could not be late. He spent the entire drive yelling at me to never ask him for anything ever again, and barely gave me enough time to pull my bike from the truck before speeding away. In another instance I accepted his unsolicited offer to drive me to and from minor surgery and take care of me during my recovery. On the day of, he became angry at having to follow through on his offer, and proceeded to harass me the whole day, storming through pharmacies and berating me for not being able to keep up with him while I was still recovering from heavy anesthesia.

I had a chronic illness for a lot of the time I knew Clint. He was less than sympathetic, often telling me to suck it up and stop being weak. He would alternate between telling me that my illness was just in my head to telling me that I just wasn’t trying hard enough to get better, even though I was going to the doctor monthly and sometimes weekly for treatment. My health has greatly improved since I broke ties with Clint, and while I attribute most of that to specific medical interventions, I have no doubt that the stress of my abusive relationship with him contributed to the length and severity of my illness.

I want to end by reiterating that this is just some of what I experienced throughout my relationship with Clint. I hope that by putting this out there that I may be able to reclaim some of my own agency and power in the process. At this point, I am not seeking anything other than the possibility that my sharing these experiences might keep someone else from experiencing harm.

In Solidarity,
Diana aka chigger
LT ’03 AT ’04 PCT ’07

——-Statement from Bryan———

I first met Lint on my thruhike of the Appalachian Trail. He was the first person I met who identified as an anarchist, and was pretty open to sharing his ideas about it. Like most anarcho-bros go, he easily spoke the language of equality and anti-oppressive rhetoric. We didn’t hike together long, but I saw him at various parts of my hike. We easily became friends, a friendship that extended beyond the trail.

I didn’t see Lint again until a few years later on my first visit to Portland. I met up with him and his then partner. The three of us were friends, and I also knew that they were in an open relationship. I knew this because Lint mentioned it often. I was attracted to his partner, but having never been involved in an open relationship before,I was hesitant to pursue anything with her. But ultimately a connection was made. I would ultimately become closer with both of them, which at first seemed open, honest, and supportive.

Afterwards, I started to receive a series of emails from Lint in regards to my relationship with his partner. At first it was supportive, but he would later admit that he encouraged the relationship to bring some balance to theirs. It seemed in their relationship, he was having multiple partners while his partner was not. In essence, he was attempting to assuage his personal guilt.

During the course of this relationship, the equality between the three of us began to feel unbalanced. Where maybe neither I nor his partner were interested in engaging sexually, Lint would persistently try to entice me. On one occasion, he attempted to do this by exposing his nude partner to me. At first I thought that was a playful act between the two of them, but I later learned it was unconsentual for her.

I would later leave Portland, but pass through on occasion. Always looking for friends to visit and stay with, I would message Lint and his partner first who lived separately. Lint would consistently say he was either too busy or tired to meet up or host. His partner would respond separately saying she was around and able to host a friendly dinner. And almost every time I would be at her house, Lint would always seem to be able to bike across town in the winter to be there, a surprise to his partner and I.

It seemed a strange coincidence that he quickly was available when he knew I was alone with his partner, even if it was for a platonic hangout. It seemed to me that he wasn’t comfortable if I was alone with her, even if there was no intention of us sleeping together. Over time this became uncomfortable to me and I stopped visiting either of them, sadly.

On the few occasions I saw Lint, I would cringe at how he described his personal relationships with women. More so when he described his sexual relationships with women I personally knew. He would objectify them and reduce them as transactions, instead of earnest connections. I would also hear from other women his abusive tendencies including manipulation, deceit, and gas lighting.

After understanding the ideals of anti-oppressive in anarchism, I saw Lint’s behavior as contradictory. His manipulative and coercive behavior went against the principles of consent. Lint knows how to talk anarchism, and use the language of anti-oppression to build trust. But ultimately his personal agenda was more important than the desires and needs of those around him.

With all this I must be transparent that I’ve perpetrated similar harm. I have a long history of abusive behavior, one that ultimately has led to me being held accountable by my community. Because of this I am able to understand the impact of my abuse to community, those I love and care for. My hope is that Lint, and other men, can better understand our actions and hold each other accountable. I learned I can do better, and I hope Lint can too.

In solidarity,
Bryan
warmburrito@gmail.com

_____Statement from Valerie_____

Today I read the statements written by the three courageous individuals who have chosen to share their Lint story. At first, when I was asked if I would be willing to write about my experiences as a sexual partner of Lint’s, I was not interested. It was something I had put behind me many years ago. Something I thought I was to blame for. Something I felt I deserved because I was ugly, stupid, and unlovable. That last part is my shit, but Clint preyed on and exacerbated it. This is the stuff I still need to work through; it is my life’s work. I have a long history of sexual assault and domestic violence. I have been repeatedly abused by men starting when I was six years old. But this is not the story I am writing to tell. The story I want you to know is that I too am a victim of Clint “Lint” Bunting. He is a perpetrator of sexual, emotional, and physical violence.

I am currently an advocate for survivors of domestic and sexual violence. I am a social worker with a master’s degree who is an expert in domestic and sexual violence. I am sure Lint will tear this up and discredit my education, knowledge, and experience, but know this: the list grows of his victims ready to come forward, hold him accountable for his actions, and ask YOU to also hold him accountable. Lint is a misogynist pig who manipulates people to his own advantage.

I met Lint some years ago during a friemily (friend-family) Thanksgiving he was invited to by another friemily member. I thought he was funny. Lint was hilarious. I enjoyed him. I didn’t really think I was attracted to him but nonetheless, I was interested, especially when he began to text me and express his interest in me. We engaged in a multiple month long-distance relationship. We texted every day, exchanged pictures, even engaged in phone sex; the last two activities I had never done before and felt pressured by Lint into doing.

After some time, Lint began to subtly make it clear that I needed to come to Portland to visit him, even though he knew that I was not in a financial position to complete such a trip. Eventually, I made the trip to PDX for a visit. The entire time we were texting (prior to my PDX visit) Lint claimed that he and his partner were no longer together and their relationship was definitely over. Upon arriving in PDX, she was at his house with him. He explained it away as they are still friends and she’s leaving town. I believed him, though I later found out that they were actually still involved, and he was hiding us from each other. I even found her toothbrush and other toiletries at his house while I was staying there. I can’t remember what I said to him or what his response was about those items. Really, I was only there to have him measure me up to see if I am good enough for more than a weekend fuck; at least that his how he made me feel.

That week was bad. Sex was horrible in the respects that I felt like a piece of meat, a slab to fuck. I felt he had no respect for me. He only wanted to fuck me and that was it. This was not the impression he gave me when we were texting, writing letters, and talking on the phone. He made me believe that he wanted to pursue a relationship with me. Before leaving Portland, Lint gave me the explicit impression that he wanted to continue our relationship, however, once I made it home his behavior changed. Within 24 hours of my return, he no longer wanted to pursue a relationship or even a friendship with me. I was duped. It felt like one of those things guys did in high school; lie, say they want more than they actually do just so they could sleep with you. I experienced this kind of behavior consistently throughout high school. It’s so degrading to think about. This adult male in his thirties was treating me, an adult female in her thirties, like I was a child in my teens. As a victim of sexual violence, these are the kind of relationships that are all too common. I thought I left that behind me when I became radical, when I chose to disassociate with the kinds of people who did this to me. Lint reminded me that it still happens in these so-called Radical Punk communities.

Shortly after that visit I moved to Portland. Vulnerable and alone, I wanted Lint’s attention. His charm is so intoxicating. I craved his presence and gave into the weakness of my low self-esteem. I vomit in my mouth just thinking about it. He is such a jerk to treat women as sex objects instead of humans with thoughts, feelings, ideas, and concerns. I fell quickly into the trap of Lint, I slept with him again. He never told me about the genital herpes he had. Actually, he blew it off as no big deal saying “Everyone has it, don’t be so sex negative.” He made me feel like a child- minimizing my feelings, discrediting my concerns- he really did not give a shit about me. It’s so obvious now.

I finally freed myself of this leech after he left for his is second CDT trip. I finally acknowledged to myself that Lint did not care about me or my feelings. Upon his return to Portland, I explained to my roommates that as a paying household member I did not want him in my home when I was there. At this point, one of my roomies was also a victim of his. Their story is what prompted me to write this. Yes, Clint gave me the cancerous strain of HPV. I am the female partner Diana mentioned in her story. I had one biopsy in 2013 and numerous annual physicals as a result. In 2016, my body passed the cancerous HPV virus and I was finally cleared to resume regular checks up as recommend for my age group. Not everyone is as lucky as me. I have been screened numerous times since having sex with Lint and luckily, I did not contract genital herpes from him.

I too have witnessed Lint murder cats in his back yard, laughing, explaining it away as feral cats that do not deserve to live. Lint hates cats. If you look at a Danger Assessment animal abuse is a common behavior exhibited by abusive partners (Campbell, 2003). I have also heard Lint claim on numerous occasions to be getting sober. He claimed to be getting help for his drinking and relationship issues but those are all lies. It is sad to hear he has not changed in the years it has been since I knew him.

Yes, I am an angry feminist. I’m pissed that there are still people supporting this guy. Lint needs to be held accountable for his actions and behaviors. I am surprised and shocked that there are gear companies who support someone with such a violent past accompanied with a violent online presence. Your support of Lint Hikes is a slap in the face of all the women who are victims of Lint’s and all the other hikers who have experienced his abuse. This is a call to all of you reading this: do not support the companies supporting this abusive, sexist, rapist! How could you? Ask yourself – is this the world you want your daughters to grow up in? If you have sons, ask yourself – is this the way you want your sons treating women?

I am an advocate for the end of domestic and sexual violence. I am not a member of the hiking community; this is perhaps the reason you do not know my story or my name. I felt it was important that you know my story; that Diana, Carrot, and Bryan are truth tellers. Their stories have witnesses. In a court of law, Lint Hikes would be held accountable for his actions. It is time for the hiker community to hold him accountable. How many more victims must there be before you do something?

I would like to end with a suggestion for the future. Lint may have destroyed his relationships with the folk who have shared their stories. I cannot speak for them, but for myself the possibility of reconciliation is highly unlikely. However, I do believe that Lint has an opportunity to create a future for himself where he can learn from his mistakes while being held accountable for his actions. A future where Lint enters an intensive rehabilitation program and emerge a healthy person who is ready for a healthy future. I believe that if Lint is truly a feminist then rehabilitation and reconciliation is the only course of action he could take. I believe that Lint can create a future free of violence and abuse for himself and those around him.

–In solidarity with those who have been abused and silenced.

Valerie

Campbell, J., (2003). Danger Assessmentwww.dangerassessment.com

—–Regarding Lint’s Apology—–

On January 25th, 2018, Lint posted an apology on his website. I am not going to link to it here. He apologizes for being “mean” to me, which I find incredibly condescending- the word you’re looking for, Lint, is abuse. Lint’s apology means nothing, because words mean nothing unless they represent tangible actions. And his failure to name his behavior as abuse even once is telling as to his whether or not he actually sees himself as having done anything wrong.

Lint has a long history of claiming to be working on his shit while simultaneously continuing to be abusive. Two days before Lint posted his apology, I was doxxed on reddit. The day before he posted his apology, someone tried to hack into my email. Either Lint, or someone empowered by Lint, is continuing to attempt to cause real harm in my life. Maybe, on the day he posted the apology, Lint suddenly developed the capacity to change. Only time will tell if this is the case. And by time I mean many years.

Lint also “apologized” to Diana. Her response speaks for itself.

—Diana’s response to Lint’s “apology”—

I just read Clint’s “apology” the other afternoon and I am flabbergasted at its mealy mouthed manipulativeness. It feels like he is yet again taking every bit of voice I have away so that he can continue controlling the narrative. He says he’s sorry for “failing” me? He didn’t just fail me; he emotionally abused me. He wasn’t just a “bad partner,” he ABUSED me. I lost enormous parts of myself in the years that I knew him that I will never get back. It didn’t just hurt me then; the damage he caused is with me every day of my life. He manipulated my weaknesses to his will, over and over and over again. I lost almost my entire social circle, beginning when I was with him, and completing once I finally got away. I was afraid, when I met my next partner, to tell him when I got sick for fear of his reaction. I have been to years of therapy, and expect to go for many years to come. How dare he use my name in an attempt at redemption? He needs to actually own up to what he has done. Where are his apologies to Valerie and all my other sisters and kin he abused? He needs to take my name out of his mouth. Clint does not get to use me in his public image campaign. He doesn’t have my forgiveness. For that he still needs to actually work on acknowledging the specific harm that he has done, not just to me, but to all those he has abused and threatened. He needs to work for years to fix himself, and actually become the better person he claims to want to be. I hope he takes up the challenge, but it will be a long difficult haul, even if he does. And I hope I never have to see him again, change or not.

I also want to address the folks saying that Carrot pushed me into writing my statement, or purposely “dug up dirt” about Clint to get back at him. I have been open about Clint abusing me for years. We were put in touch because we have mutual friends who know my story. I’m not a jilted, bitter ex who wants to get back at their former partner. There is no vindictiveness in my telling my story, only a wish to spare others from harm.

To those who think this negatively affects you as his friends, I say that is entirely up to you. You have the power to decide your actions going forward: will you continue to condone and enable abusive, violent behavior, or will you hold Clint and others accountable for their actions, and ask them to rise to your expectations of good and humane treatment of themselves and others?

And to those who make excuses for his actions: “He was an alcoholic then, but he’s sober now…” or “It’s crossing a line to talk about STIs…” and “Maybe the cat he beat to death was injured…” Plenty of the abuse I suffered was while he wasn’t drinking, and even occurred during extended periods of sobriety. He has continued to threaten people and act malevolently and manipulatively, towards Carrot and others, long past when he has claimed to be sober. Alcoholism doesn’t turn people into abusers, and drying out doesn’t automatically cure abusers of their behavior. The point in sharing my STI status is not to shame Clint for being promiscuous or say that he’s “icky;” it is to show the malice, forethought, and disrespect he has shown to women by knowingly lying to them about information that affects their health. HPV isn’t the end of the world, and yes, lots of people are exposed to it, but actively lying to people about it is an example of the disregard Clint has routinely showed for others’ safety and personal agency. And the cat- it was fine when he met it. It had just gotten into his garage, and he preferred beating it to death over simply letting it out. These are just a few of the behaviors I’m calling on this community to hold Clint accountable for. Accountability means ensuring there isn’t just an apology but an effort to change harmful, violent and destructive behavior. We all need to do better.

—————-More updates——————-

Various things have happened since I first published this post. The good news is that I have gotten many, many messages of gratitude and support. Unfortunately, Lint’s behavior does not exist in a vacuum, and as I said in the original post, he was able to thrive in the hiking community because of the general culture of enabling/apologizing for the abusive behavior (of men, in particular) that exists there. Don’t believe me? Well have I got an example for you. Donna Saufley is possibly the most active and well known trail angel on the entire PCT. Yesterday she posted the rant below on my facebook page. She’s posting it all over the internet, actually. I’ll let the rant speak for itself. I’ve posted screenshots of my and Diana’s responses after. 

—Donna Saufley’s screed—

Respect.

I respect and feel for victims. I respect their right to be heard and believed. I believe the law should be on their side.

It is because I have been a victim of sexual and physical abuse in my life, like so many others that I feel vindicated in a movement that exposes the ugliness and crime of predators.

It is because of my truth that I find Carrot Quinn’s accusations against Clint “Lint” Bunting extremely disturbing, but the reason I am disturbed by those accusations may come as a surprise.

You see, I think we need to be very, very careful about who we consider a victim, and what the degree of “victimhood” really is. “Victim” is a word easily tossed around, and can be used in our vocabulary to describe a broad range of scenarios. One can be the victim of anything from pesky insects or an email scam to rape, assault, or murder. You can be the victim of anything unpleasant that happens to you.

So the examination of this information becomes to be a matter of degree. From what I read in Carrot’s account, the only thing she was a victim of was of not being spoken to or regarded the way she wanted to be regarded. Words were said to her that she did not like. There was an energy present she did not like. She claims to have felt afraid. Feelings are neither right or wrong, they simply are. Plainly, Carrot didn’t like Lint’s words or vibe and she felt afraid.

Fears are a complicated mix of subconscious instincts and the inputs we receive going through life. We become deeply hard-wired with our fears; they guide our choices and the course of our lives. I have a palm-sweating knee-shaking fear of heights, while others I know skip along with nary a concern for the same exposed sketchy ledge. The fact I feel afraid often has little to do with the actual level of danger I am in. If it’s truly a dangerous situation that I can’t handle, it serves me best to stay away from it. What I’ve learned doesn’t serve me best is trying to make everyone else afraid too, because that fear is a personal perception.

So, from what I can tell, Carrot thinks Lint is a bully that she was afraid of. And because of this she has tried to make everyone else feel the same way. And I would say she is desperate to spread that concern and fear – desperate enough to seek out a man’s ex(es) to get them to side with her. And this is where I get most deeply disturbed. That is a step into ugliness, a step too far. It’s taking someone’s personal, intimate experiences – that have nothing to do with you – and using them as a weapon.

I truly wonder how many of us would tolerate our ex boyfriends/girlfriends, husbands/wives – anyone we were once intimately involved with who for whatever reason it ended badly – being questioned or given a public audience to our shortfalls. This is airing someone else’s dirty laundry, a nuclear weapon that goes straight to the heart. This is dredging up the past, that someone may have moved beyond, and making it public record. And to me, in so many ways, this is wrong.

Try as I might, I do not find anything in Carrot’s account that constitutes any REAL wrongdoing. There was no crime committed, and the threat merely perceived but not necessarily a real threat. But the character assassination and smear campaign has done REAL harm to someone who has already admitted to former substance abuse in the past but has been walking a path of sobriety. Where is the humanity and caring in that? Since when does one’s fears entitle us to publicly tear someone apart? Does this mean there’s an open call for Carrot’s exes to come forward and spill the beans on her behavior in a souring relationship? And since when does someone put a jerk into the same class and treatment as a rapist in the court of public opinion?

And that’s what I’ve seen occur. People I have respected have taken this cause on and acted like judge, jury, and executioner when the defendant has not had a fair trial. Evidence that is inadmissible has been submitted, and the jury has been tainted. All without the right to a lawful accusation, or due process of law. It’s happening in the news every day. People are ruined by accusations, and while many have merit, not all are deserved. But tell that to the court of public opinion.

Carrot seems to me to be one of the thin-skinned new generation of young people, who are intolerant of anything that makes them feel uncomfortable. It’s an epidemic on college and university campuses – the students want “safe spaces” and anything that makes them uncomfortable has to be eradicated. They don’t want their views challenged, they don’t want to be confronted with something disagreeable.

Carrot has chosen to be a public figure. And pretty much any public figure you ask will tell you that the territory comes with people not liking you, what you do, or what you’re selling. There may be detractors or those who put your accomplishments (or lack thereof) under a public microscope to call it into question. You may find you have enemies you never anticipated.

Not everyone is nice. Not everyone who is nice is nice all the time. Sometimes people have bad chemistry, or rub each other the wrong way. People can (famously or infamously) not get along. But launching a smear campaign, which I perceive this has been, is an offense in itself. It makes a victim out of the accused. It drags their name through the mud, turns their so-called friends against them. It causes doubt where there was none. It’s as insidious as it is ugly.

But before I ever saw Clint “Lint” Bunting as a victim, I saw him as a dear friend. Someone I’ve known to have a colorful (!) and unconventional past. I know that he is a character of epic proportions, not blameless in life, but trying to live a better one. He reveres truth and honesty, and those who don’t are not in his circle for long. Lint is someone who has been nothing but good and kind to me, my neighbors, and to other hikers. He has been our guest on numerous occasions, not just as a hiker but as a personal guest. We have met dozens of times in various geographic locations, and in our home we have nothing but love and respect for this man. Which is where these thoughts began.

Respect. And in my book, it’s Lint: 1, Carrot: 0. Unfortunately, this made me lose the respect I had for her skill as a writer. Not if that’s the crap she feels compelled to write. To me it just sounded like whining, that the big bad man was mean to her. Well, suck it up, Buttercup. Let the people who are really victims tell their stories.

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I’m really glad that Donna Saufley is posting her rant all over the internet. As a huge trail angel who hosts hundreds (maybe thousands?) of PCT hikers each year and is responsible for their safety while they stay with her, it’s good that people become aware of where she stands on the subject of abusive hiker bros on the trail.

Aside from people who think that women calling out men on their abusive behavior is just inherently wrong, and that these women are the ultimate evil, and that abusive men are precious treasure angels who should be forgiven and loved and always assumed the best of *cough, Donna Saufley, cough*, there is another kind of person I’ve gotten some pushback from. Not a lot, to be honest, but a bit. I’ve seen a number of posts/gotten a few angry messages from hiker bros who can’t conceptualize basic systems of oppression and are REALLY hurt and upset that I mentioned male privilege, like at all, and they’re SO MAD about it that they write me messages yelling about how I’m just TOO SENSITIVE. The irony of which is not lost on me. One email I received is a particularly good example of this. It’s from the hiker d=rt, who you may know. I’ve posted it below.

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I hope y’all got a good LOL out of that. I certainly did. Especially him telling me he felt “bullied” by my mention of male privilege and then going on to call me an oversensitive snowflake. I take pride in the fact that my post made d=rt uncomfortable. I hope he continues to experience discomfort until he acknowledges that male privilege is a real fucking thing, dude, not just something women made up to “bully” him.

This awesome hiker Red Riding Hood was completely put out with the way the hiker bros she spoke to about Lint were tripping all over themselves apologizing for his behavior, and she wrote a blog post that absolutely fucking OWNED them. It is here- https://ellaraff.wordpress.com/2018/01/22/hiking-bros-do-better/

But in general, the vast majority of the responses I’ve seen to this post have been fucking awesome, and give me real hope that the culture of enabling abusive dudes within the long-distance hiking community can change. So that’s fucking rad.

Reddit AMA on r/ultralight

Dear readers, things have been… intense in my life lately. Good and hard. I’m working on my second book in an airstream in the Sonoran desert and there are kind, wonderful people to hang out with here, and that is good. My dog Pinto Bean passed away a few days ago, and that is very hard. I’ve been posting about recent events some on my instagram- instagram.com/carrotquinn , and I’m going to write more about it here, soon. In the meantime, I’m doing an AMA (ask me anything) tomorrow (Tuesday January 9) at 12 noon EST/9 a.m. PST/10 a.m. AZ time on reddit r/ultralight, and you should come ask me q’s!

Here is the link- https://www.reddit.com/r/Ultralight/comments/7nwhz9/special_announcement_ama_with_hiker_author_carrot/

My 3-season base weight right now is 11lbs, so I’m not technically ultralight (ultralight means your baseweight is 10lbs or less) but I still love answering q’s about gear, preparing for a thru-hike, hiking as a woman/queer person, dealing with fragile male ego and toxic masculinity in the hiking community (both on trail and online), blogging/creating media/writing about hiking, eating on trail with dietary restrictions, etc etc. So come hang out! 

KCHBR Day 16: sprint to the finish

9/9/17
30 miles
184.6 miles hiked

Getting up to Dumbbell Pass in the morning is chill- just some frosty grass and slabs- but once on top we find a long snowfield headed down, and since it’s early in the morning the snow hasn’t yet softened. The snow is too icy for our One Microspike Each trick so I take the set of microspikes while Kodak goes around the snowfield on some massive talus. It’s fun to clomp down the steep, icy snow on my magic spike feet- what would’ve been a skating rink becomes a casual walk and soon both Kodak and I are at the ethereal blue of Dumbbell Lakes, cooking late breakfast next to the stream. As I eat my mush with its generous helping of olive oil I will it to turn into fuel that lasts for hours and hours. I feel like a car whose gas guage is on E but the gas station is still thirty miles away and maybe I’ll make it there?

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Another nice grassy ramp leads us up to Amphitheater pass, where we find… a snow cornice. Another impassible overhanging cliff of snow. Of course. To the left of the cornice is some very steep dirt and talus, and we ease ourselves down this, and it feels like we’re moving about two inches per hour. We continue at about this pace over truck-sized talus far above the lake, whose shore we’re avoiding in order to steer clear of… talus. A boulder rumbles as I pull myself up onto it, and I accept that my leg is about to get broken, but then the boulder goes silent again. This happens multiple times per day out here. What are routes but a large collection of such moments. And yet I make my way. Despacito.

cornice

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That inverted white triangle on the ridge is Amphitheater pass and the cornice we just came over

The boulder-chunks turn to slab-chunks and we’re walking on shapes some more crushing flowers beneath our feet hopping over wild rivulets of water butt scooting and jumping and making our way down, down.

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Down alongside Cataract creek, where there is supposed to be a use trail. Kodak finds it but I do not and we make our own ways around a cliff and once our lines rejoin we regale each other for half an hour with tales of those forty minutes spent apart. The use trail leaves its corporeal body and we are deposited in a burn snarling with undergrowth through which we push until we reach Palisade creek, on whose opposite bank is the motherfucken John Muir Trail.

We sit in a trampled spot of dirt next to the JMT and eat peanuts and take off our shoes. A man comes walking up the trail towards us. He’s got a beard and looks to be about twenty-five.

“Is this the start of the golden staircase?” he asks.

“I’m not sure,” I say. “What’s that? We came from over there.” I wave vaguely at the forest.

“The golden staircase climbs 1,500 feet in two miles,” says the man. “It’s the hardest part of the whole JMT!” He takes off his hat, wipes his face with it, and then he is gone.

I look at Kodak and start to giggle. Soon we are both laughing, and then we cannot stop.

We realize then that we’re twenty miles from my van, and all of these twenty miles are on trail, including a four thousand foot climb up and over Bishop pass. We’ve already done ten miles over two passes cross country, Dumbell and Amphitheater, with who knows how much elevation gain and loss. It is four p.m. We have three hours of daylight left.

I think of the small handfuls of food still in my food bag. If we make it back to the van tonight instead of tomorrow, I can gorge myself on my two remaining dinners. If we hike all the way back to the van tonight, I won’t be as hungry.

A thirty mile day on this route, though. It that even possible?

I put in my headphones and crush the seven miles on the JMT to the ranger station, where I find the junction to the Bishop Pass trail. At the junction I sit on a rock in the rain and eat my very last bar. I feel fucking incredible.

We mash the switchbacks up towards Bishop pass as the sun sets in a glory of pink clouds, remembering walking these same switchbacks our first day on this route.

When we get to where we camped that first night we make a hurried dinner in the last of the light. Mine is really two dinners, and I dump the remainder of my olive oil into it.

The dinner warms my insides and keeps morale high as the sky turns to a million stars and the air, as we gain in elevation, turns to ice. It feels like fall is here and the weather in the High Sierra is turning at last. I think of that song that was always on the radio when I was in high school. Closing time, you don’t have to go home but you can’t stay here. At one point Kodak has us stop and take a long-exposure star photo together which requires me to stand still for a few moments and afterwards I’m so cold I can’t seem to get warm again. We hustle up the icy trail as fast as we can in the dark, the batteries in both our headlamps near dead, and soon we reach the snow patches that are Bishop Pass. Now that we’ve reached the top, and we only have to go down, exhaustion hits us, and time slows nearly to a standstill. The path is rocky but clear and the air warms as we descend but I’m so tired I’m delirious. I haven’t had any water in a while because I haven’t wanted to stop and treat any and my tongue feels heavy in my mouth. We’re so hungry, but neither of us has any food. We stumble down the trail, occasionally shouting encouragement at each other. The black silhouettes of the mountains echo our encouragement back.

we’re gonna make it!

We only have a handful of miles left but these miles stretch out until they are everything, the entire world, and I feel empty inside, a shell of a human being propelling itself forward. And then we’re at a tiny footbridge and then the parkinglot, and still we have a mile and a half on pavement to get to the van, which is parked in the overflow parking down near Parchers resort. This 1.5 mile roadwalk is unbelievably long, the longest stretch of earth we’ve covered all day. We reach the van at midnight and climb inside. I’m too sick with hunger and dehydration to eat, too cold to ever be warm again. I force myself to eat some chips and put on extra layers and burrow into my sleeping bag until I stop shaking, relieved and elated and exhausted, grateful for this adventure to be over, and so grateful for it to have happened at all.

This photo of Kodak’s really sums up our final day, and the glory of the whole route, really

Post trail thoughts:

I loved the KCHBR. It was enchanted, magical, and otherworldly, and felt incredibly remote, especially for how accessible it is. It was also the most consistently difficult trail I’ve done, as far as how many miles one is able to cover each day and how many obstacles one must problem solve around, and I learned a lot from it. I also gained a great deal of confidence from the route- I feel like now that I’ve hiked cross-country in the high sierra, there isn’t anything I can’t walk on. If I did the route again, I would bring a complete set of microspikes, I would send myself a box in Lodgepole, and I would definitely attempt King Col. I would probably still hike it as a loop, because that was really fun and made the hike longer that it would’ve been normally, and leaving a car at Bishop Pass was logistically simple.

11/10, would walk over all that talus again. Thanks Skurks!

KCHBR Day 15: hunger

9/8/17
10.6 miles
154.6 miles hiked

In the morning we hike out of the towering lodgepole forest to a bowl, the source of White Fork, and above us is a narrow ridgeline made entirely from scree. Skurka’s notes say to “look for the bronze band,” as that will lead one to White Fork Pass. We locate this band, a vertical stain on the scree just below the ridge, and begin to climb the escalator of loose, dusty rock- one step up, one half step back.

It kinda looks like the brooks range up here

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The sun is bright and cold and the scree is steep and infinite and I’m feeling the exhaustion of this route in my legs, today, so I play Miley Cyrus’ The Climb from my phone and sing out loud, which never fails to cheer me up. I’m also dizzy from hunger, as I’m attempting to ration the last of my food. Basically, I am nearly out of snacks, and most of what I have left is meals that need to be cooked, but I’m also running low on stove fuel. I know exactly how many boils I have left in my little plastic fuel bottle, and if I play my cards just right I know I’ll make it, although I will probably be fairly hungry in between meals. Which is what is happening right now.

woo

At last we attain the ridge and go plunging, running, wooping and hollering down the scree on the other side, towards a fantastic dreamscape of lakes and bright granite and green clusters of forest. When we reach some grass we stop to eat lunch and I cook up a mush of sweet potato powder, instant refried beans and olive oil, which fills the cavern that is my stomach, at least for now.

another of the goddess’ perfect tarns

Massive talus interrupted with bits of steep lodgepole forest, doing the work it takes to move across this earth, feeling grateful for my two magic legs. We’re contouring around some massive shit above a river with some more massive shit in the far distance. Myriad drainages create folds in the fabric of reality- our planet is mysterious and labyrinthine. It’s so fun, every day on this route, to look ahead and at the maps as one walks and make guesses on which drainage one is heading to. Sometimes I’m right, sometimes I’m wrong, often I reevaluate as I round a corner and a new hunk of topography is revealed. I zig and I zag slow like an ant, but I always get there, eventually.

what u know abt talus

By and by we descend all the way down to the South Fork of the Kings River, which we’ve been hearing for a while. I was worried that the river would be too strong to cross but I find a spot where the river is braided and cross easily. On the other side of the river there’s supposed to be an abandoned trail, the Cartridge Pass Trail, with Real Switchbacks, but we don’t find it, and the fastest way from point A to point B, anyway, is straight up, so up the slabs we go, like climbing a staircase. Stormclouds gather as we ascend, and on several of the slabby landings are nooks where animals make their homes. Coyotes? Mountain lions? Squirrels?

We take a break at the lake just below Cartridge pass and sit in the lee of a boulder sheltered from the cold wind as the sky rumbles and it starts to sprinkle. Kodak has a big bag of peanuts from Winco left and he gives me some of them. Usually peanuts are the last thing in the world I want to eat (when you’re a hiker and you burn out on trailmix, you burn out HARD) but right now I am fucking hungry and the peanuts are literal gold, like you couldn’t buy these peanuts anywhere for a million dollars, especially sitting next to this lake in these lean mountains far from everything.

We do find a faint trail at the top of Cartridge pass and said trail leads us in fits and starts down the talus and patches of bare scrambly ground where everything that could’ve slid off has already slid off, towards Lakes Basin.

We reach Lakes Basin as the sky blackens and the wind picks up and suddenly a real brusier of a storm is rolling in. It’s only 5:30pm but our next task is going up and over Dumbell Pass, which is another exposed climb on slabs, so when we find a flat spot sheltered by a few gnarled pines we throw up the tarp in storm mode and call it a night.

KCHBR Day 14: JMT and White Fork

9/7/17
15.5 miles
144 miles hiked

I sleep so hard and when my alarm wakes me it’s so cold I can’t get up. I forgot how meadows are freezing deathtraps. They seem so innocent in the daytime…

Yesterday we made the tough decision not to attempt King Col. King Col has a very difficult snow cornice on it in normal years, and has a reputation as being the iffiest pass of the KCHBR. This being a high snow year, King Col will be even iffier, the snow cornice larger and likely impassible. We have just one microspike each and no ice axes, and we’ve already heard of one group, this year, that was unable to get over King Col and was forced to turn around. If we attempt King Col and fail, it will add another day to this section, and I am already running very low on food, as well as stove fuel. If we had two sets of microspikes, axes, and plenty of food, I would definitely give King Col a shot. But we don’t have any of those things. I wish that Katherine was in front of us, and that she could relay information to us somehow- it’s always hard to know how seriously to take information about other groups turning around when you don’t know how prepared they are, or what what their experience level is. But Katherine got off at Kearsarge Pass to resupply, and will now be a day behind us. I’ll have to wait and read her blog to see whether or not she makes it over King Col. (spoiler: Katherine makes it bc she’s incredible. Read abt her King Col experience here. And then read the rest of her posts bc they are amaze.)

Luckily, there’s an alternate to bypass King Col wherein we replace fourteen miles of the route with fourteen miles of the JMT. So that’s cool.

We escape the freezing meadow and I’m euphoric on the climb up to Glen pass on the JMT- it feels so good to stretch out my legs and I feel like I’m ten feet tall. I got my period in the night and it’s no longer my birthday nor the full moon and the storm in my heart has broken, what joy. The JMT is bumpin- there are nineteen people on the top of Glen pass and a young man named Justin is making instant coffee for everyone so we sit down and stay awhile. What joy, eating chips and salami on Glen pass. What joy, passing Kodak’s titanium cup of bitter instant coffee back and forth. What joy, talking to sunburnt strangers. What joy!

We descend the other side of the pass and I derive even more joy from seeing the beauty of Rae Lakes absolutely blow Kodak’s mind. We take another break next to the lake, because yeah we’re on the cruiser JMT but how are we supposed to hike when everything is this beautiful? The gentle sun and the clear water and that cute island out in the middle of the lake. We jump in the water but it’s ice-cold, even this late in the season, so we shiver our way out and lay on the rocks and in this way midday becomes afternoon.

Kodak and Rae Lakes

Kodak is thrilled by the Woods Creek suspension bridge as well. A narrow one-person bridge with rickety planks that shakes when you walk across it, while Woods Creek rushes below. What joy! Not long after the bridge we reach the drainage where we’ll leave the JMT to rejoin the route, traveling cross-country up White Fork. At first I feel apprehensive but soon the methodical work of ascending jagged talus wipes everything from my brain, and I am soothed.

Ascending White Fork

The White Fork of the Kings River contains some sort of mineral salt, and all the rocks along its banks are coated in white. This reminds me of the Hayduke, where many of the water sources contained alkaline salts that would give you diarrhea. I’m worried that we won’t find another water source until tomorrow, when we cross over into another drainage, but then we reach a still lodgepole forest and find a small, clear stream winding through the grass in a meadow. I squat on my haunches on the damp ground and dip my bottles into this cold black water, feeling gratitude so strong it makes my whole body sing.

Kodak pitches his tarp in “flying diamond” formation among the pines as the last of the warmth slips away and we eat our dinners wrapped in our sleeping bags, watching the forest grow dim around us.

KCHBR Day 13: Birthday blues

9/6/17
10.5 miles
128.5 miles hiked

The full moon is like daylight and it wakes me again and again, in this magical meadow far removed from anything, and at 5:50 we pull down the tarp and watch the perfect silver moon sink into the pink and turquoise dawn, awed.

Today is my birthday. I have a complicated relationship with my birthday. Birthdays make me think of my completely fucked relationship with my family, and I usually end up feeling really sad. Although I’ve also had awesome birthdays- it just depends on where I am and who I’m around. There are so many people in my life who love me and care about me, and if I’m around those people or able to reach out to those people on my birthday, I can usually keep the awful feelings at bay. For the last few years, though, I’ve been in the wilderness on my birthday- and today I’m in the middle of a nine-day stretch without reception. I just met Kodak a few months ago, I’m not about to ask him to hold space for all my Heavy Birthday Feelings. That being said, if I asked him he’d probably be really nice about it. But I don’t say anything. I let my self sink into a deep, exquisite melancholy, until my heart feels like a thunderstorm that’s about to break.

What a beautiful world to be walking around in, though, melancholy or not. The climb up Longley pass is kind gradual scree and at the top we are greeted with one of the best views of the entire hike- spiny mountains on every horizon, with the clean morning light stretching its way across them.

can u spot tiny Kodak

Kodak is feeling better today, after our day of rest, and that’s awesome. On Longley pass I take out the two helium balloons I found in the wilderness and have been carrying, crumpled, in my pack, and unfurl them. One is in the shape of an “S”, and the other says HAPPY GRAD. My birthday balloons! This cheers me a bit.

I’m 35 now- what is time

There’s a cornice on Longley pass, blocking our descent. We knew this might be a thing, as sometimes there is a cornice here, and since this is a high snow year in the Sierras there was almost certainly going to be a cornice here. The cornice is essentially a slightly overhanging cliff made of snow. On either side of the impassable snow-cliff are impassable rock-cliffs, and seeing this sends a flood of adrenaline through my body. I know it’s just another KCHBR puzzle, and that there is most definitely a way to get down without dying, one only has to find it, but just seeing how sketchy it LOOKS sends my heart racing, and I have a hard time calming my thoughts.

We walk to one side of the cornice and then the other. We look over the cliffs at the yawning abyss beyond. Sheer rock followed by acres of scree, glittering lakes far below. We weigh our options. Is that a way down over there, possibly? Or what about over this rise? No, the slope becomes even steeper over there. Beyond the rise are still more cliffs.

left side of the cornice

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right side of the cornice

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Then we see a set of footprints in the dirt on one side of the pass. Katherine? We follow the footprints- they go to the top of the rise, return, and head straight for some boulders. On closer inspection, there is an opening between the boulders where one can lower oneself down- to more boulders. A tiny landing made of dirt, worn and trampled by many feet- animals, most likely, and Katherine. And then another drop through another couple of boulders, to another tiny dirt landing. And so on.

I crabwalk and downclimb my way from landing to landing, handing my pack to Kodak as I go. We found the way down! I can’t believe it. Everything is always fine in the end, isn’t it? Thanks invisible Katherine!

Kodak descending

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It me. Photo by Kodak

We attain the steeply angled screeslope of infinity and scree our way down, hooting and hollering, our shoes filling with pebbles as the ground falls out from under us and the glittering lakes rise up to meet us. I stop to take in the view, the dramatic spires of the granite mountains against the clean blue sky, and soon Kodak is just a tiny dot way below.

By and by the scree gives way to steeply angled slabs and I feel like I’m in a video game again, sidling along the mountain testing the exact angle at which the tread on my brooks cascadias lose their grip on lichen-spotted granite. There are openings between the slabs and each slab is at a slightly different angle, so as I make my way along their faces I hop from slab to slab, attempting to find the exact combination of slabs that will take me where I want to go without cliffing me out. It turns out that my confidence is higher going up that it is coming down, because suddenly I’ve dead ended at a too-steep slab but when I turn around to go back the way I’ve come the path has been erased, and there’s only a cliff.

My brain decides that this is a good time for a panic attack. My birthday, the full moon, PMS, and now I’m stuck on a cliff and I can’t find the way back down. Why not a nice panic attack as well? I sit on my little landing and sob and hyperventilate. I don’t have panic attacks often, but when I do, I always have them when I feel like I’m about to fall off a cliff. Way down below me, Kodak is eating snacks at the edge of the lake. Fuck my birthday, I think, as I struggle to gain control of my breathing. Seriously, fuck it.

Eventually I cry it all out, as one does, and can think clearly again. I am able to problem-solve my way down a slab or two. I get cliffed out again, and have to backtrack, but I find another way and eventually reach the lake, and Kodak. We make our way down a drainage towards another lake via the slabs, talus and brush above its edge- there’s supposed to be a “use trail” but there’s not, at least not that we can find.

We just have to make it down to and around that lake…

We chose our own lines, and Kodak weaves in and out of my field of vision. It’s raining- it’s been raining all day- although I haven’t really noticed. We are always either going steeply up or steeply down, and it thunders and rains almost every afternoon, but I have stopped really noticing these things. There is only the problem in front of me, that blessed distraction; that boulder or slab or bush or stream that sharpens my focus to a laserbeam and blocks out the rest of the known universe.

We keep seeing these cairns that aren’t really cairns- just one small stone placed on top of a much larger rock, as though accidentally. Like, look at that small rock that fell just so on top of that larger rock from, like, the wind- how about that. I wouldn’t think they were cairns at all except there are so many of them, placed all along where the use trail is supposed to be. We start to call them “Skurka cairns”- because Skurka hates cairns and maybe this is his way of having cairns without really, like, having cairns. You know?

There is a little green plant that smells incredibly good when we crush it beneath our feet. All day we are smelling it, and I am starting to think of its scent as the official scent of the KCHBR. I pick a handful, and look at it. What are you, little plant? I put it in my hipbelt pocket to find out later.

We reach the other end of the lake, where we are meant to cross its wide outlet on submerged logs. There are dozens of these logs, floating just below the surface of the clear green water. When you step out onto one of these logs it sinks, or rolls, or maybe it does nothing, but either way it’s a surprise and you have no way of knowing what it will do until you step onto it. Kodak begins to make his way delicately across on this logs, hopping too and fro, but I opt to cross in the water. Except, the floor of the waist deep outlet is several feet of muck. So if I attempt to walk across I’ll just sink up to my neck and have to swim. Why is everything so hard today.

I follow the outlet downstream, where it becomes wider and even deeper. At last there is a shallow spot and I wade across to the glorious trail on the other side. Kodak meets me, having successfully navigated the logs. We’ll follow this Real Trail all the way down to Bubbs creek. Now that we’re on a real trail and I’m not worried about becoming irreparably separated from Kodak, I tell him I need a moment by myself, and I’ll catch up to him at the junction. He hikes on and I duck into the woods and sit on the soft duff in the rain and cry and cry as thunder claps overhead and then I take a shit and afterwards I feel a thousand percent better, as one does.

When I catch up to Kodak again I tell him it’s my birthday. He tells me Happy Birthday and gives me a ziploc of gummy worms, which is basically the most incredible birthday present anyone could possibly give me, on this day, and suddenly everything feels light again. Bubbs creek is a chill ford where it branches a stone’s throw upstream from where the trail crosses the water, and then we’re mashing uphill towards Vidette meadows. Dang I feel strong going uphill on trail. I’m hungry though, as I started rationing my food today, and emotionally exhausted, sort of empty inside.

Vidette Meadows has a Real Campsite complete with flat spots for tents, bear lockers and logs around a fire ring. Kodak makes a huge fire against the dusky chill and cooks both our dinners over the coals, his second incredible birthday present to me. Which is awesome, because aside from food, I’m also running low on fuel. And toilet paper. And power in my battery pack…

bless

My dinner is gluten-free dairy-free mac n cheese from the winco in Visalia- the daiya kind with the liquid cheese in a packet. I put these in our cache boxes on the Hayduke, too. They are incredible, and they make me feel full to the point of stupefaction. Thus stupefied, I know that I will sleep well.

And I do.

KCHBR Day 12: More or less an on-trail zero

9/5/17
3 miles
118 miles hiked

The night is perfectly still with a bright silver dollar moon, almost full, whose glory I witness when I wake in the dark to string up my mosquito net. I lie awake for a while, watching the moonshadows move on the tarp and experiencing deep wonderment at the magic that is, like, planet earth, man.

Chill granite slabs with just the right amount of grip for our shoes and tufts of grass here and there take us up like an escalator to Thunder Ridge Pass, where we find a cliff that ends in some very steep and unstable talus. We need to make it down this talus. This is what we expected, though, this is what we came here for. I want to feel like an insect tiptoeing on the back of a dragon, trying not to wake it. Light as a feather, light as a feather, I think, as I make my way from large precarious boulder balanced just-so to large precarious boulder balanced just-so. Beneath each boulder is a black void, a dim nothingness waiting to swallow my ankle. Time disappears, as do my thoughts. Occasionally the deep rumble of a boulder as it shifts, but does not quite fall. These boulders have felt the weight of winter snowpack, I am nothing to these boulders. Right? Light as a feather, light as a feather.

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At the bottom we reach a string of lakes set in a bowl built from talus and we stay up near the rim of this bowl, contouring around it until we reach a beautiful high forest of foxtail pines. Kodak woke up this morning feeling as though he’s coming down with something, maybe from being around a thousand people in Lodgepole and then our sleepless night in the storm and the taxing next day in the wind. We discuss our options as we drop out of the foxtail pines to Cunningham creek, which is an absolute paradise of clear water wending through a long, grassy meadow in the warm gentle sunshine. We stop to take a break and Kodak immediately begins to fall asleep in the grass. He proposes that we stay here for the rest of the day, basically take an on-trail zero. If we do that, he thinks, the thing he’s fighting might not make itself all the way present and tomorrow he’ll feel 100%. Rest. He just needs to rest.

I have never taken an on-trail zero before, although I have always thought about how nice it would be. Normally, zeros are actually pretty stressful- laundry, emails, resupply, stuffing oneself, the overstimulation of town, etc. Here, though, there is none of that. The rest of our day would consist of lounging on the grass in the warm sunshine, napping and eating snacks. That’s pretty much it.


The amount of food I have is starting to worry me a little- I already felt that I barely had enough to cut it for this section, what if we take a day off? But I decide not to worry about it. Which is pretty easy to do, because this particular moment in this particular meadow is one of the most beautiful natural landscapes I have ever had the privilege to experience. I mean, yolo, right?

KCHBR Day 11: Katherine Motherf*ckin Cook

9/4/17
11 miles
115 miles hiked total

We’re a ship. We’re a ship that’s lost on the black, stormy sea, and we’re being tossed around by the waves. I’m sitting up in my sleeping bag in the pitch black gripping one side of the tarp with all my might and Kodak is gripping the other while the most insane winds pound us and buckets of water run down the sides. The noise of the storm overwhelms my senses in the heavy darkness and then zip! Three of the tent stakes are ripped from the ground and the tarp flies out of my hands and the sky cracks in half with lightning and we are plunged directly into the cold black sea. Kodak leaps up and races into the storm while I gather the loose tarp edge and wrestle it back to the ground, leaving our sleeping bags only partly soaked. It’s so good that it’s not colder, I think, as I hear the tap tap tap of Kodak pounding tiny titaniums stakes back into the ground. Kodak crawls back inside, his rainjacket drenched, and I dig my tarp from my pack and tie it haphazardly over the opening at the end of our tarp to stop the sideways rain that’s pouring inside. We scooch back down into our sleeping bags and lay on our sides, each of us gripping one side of the tarp, as the wind continues to beat us in staccato gusts.

I don’t think I sleep at all. Time collapses into the repetitive percussion of the wind and the irregular startles of rain. The night shakes our tarp as though to shake us out of it. The storm wants to swallow us. The rain stops before dawn but the angry wind continues, and I pass the sleepless hours by reading Katherine Cook’s blog posts (http://katherinerosecook.com), which I have downloaded to my phone. Katherine Cook is currently solo-hiking the Sierra High Route, the South Sierra High Route, and the Kings Canyon High Basin High Route, all in one season, one after the other. In case you’re not familiar with those routes, Katherine Cook is a fucking badass. She’s also an incredible writer- introspective and clever and great at finding unique ways to talk about nature. As far as I can tell from her most recent batch of blog uploads, she’s finished with the SHR and the SSHR, and should be starting the KCHBR from Lodgepole soon. I wonder if our paths will cross?

The wind finally gentles a little at first light, and we’re hiking by 7:15.

lonely lake

We circle Lonely lake beneath the tower of “The Horn” and climb easy slabs to Horn Col, a narrow ridge of stone where the wind reappears out of nowhere in 40 mph gusts; Kodak stands too close to the edge with his arms out, wind tearing at his jacket, and I shout at him but my shouts are swallowed by the wind.

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In my imagination he is blown right off the mountain- I blink but he is still there. I scoot on my butt to the edge of the precipice, fighting with the wind. We drop down ramps on the other side of the col like super mario brothers to a seemingly random line in the talus where we hang a right- boulder, boulder, boulder, here is where I will contour. We choose different lines and then although I can see Kodak above me I am lost in my own world, consumed by the problem that each differently-shaped hunk of tilted rock or patch of wet snow presents. The next time I look up Kodak is so far above me on the slope that he’s just a dark spot on the white snow, and he’s talking to… another spot. Katherine?! My heart begins to race. I struggle over the talus, trying to get up to them as fast as I can.

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Katherine?!

 

“Katherine!” I shout, but the wind carries my words away. Katherine, the only other person who we know of on this route! Katherine, who shares this world with us! Katherine, our only friend!

Katherine is wearing brightly patterned pants and all of her layers. She hiked from Cottonwood Lakes Trailhead to Lodgepole on trails, and at Lodgepole she discovered her food box hadn’t arrived at the post office, so she had to resupply at the tiny expensive store. Her maps were in her box that didn’t arrive, so she doesn’t have any, and has been navigating via the section descriptions and a large overview map (which is insane). We have two sets of paper maps between us, so I give her mine, since we also have the route on gaia. While we talk we are standing on a steeply angled snow slope being beaten by the wind, but Katherine seems relaxed and unhurried. She has also been hiking much faster than us.

I know from her blog that Katherine relishes hiking solo so, I don’t want to crowd her but, I am very excited at the prospect of leapfrogging with her for a time.

The views on the slopes of Copper Peak are insane- great upliftings crumbling with bright granite, gunmetal stormclouds on one side and on the other side a bright rainbow, arcing over everything.

We choose different lines up the talus to the summit of Copper Peak and mine ends up being a terrible route- hand over hand on too-steep scree that slides out from under me and it feels like I could die but who knows what would happen if I actually fell and the uncertainty of it has me sweating and saying oh fuck oh fuck and then Kodak (who has very generously followed me on my line after just one half-hearted “I don’t think this is a very good idea”) and I are at the narrow ridge on top, panting in the sun and the wind, and Katherine is disappearing around the corner like the rabbit in Alice and Wonderland.

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Descending off Copper Peak into the next drainage over is some steep-ass shit, shoes sliding on dirt-coated rock and here and there an embedded bit of talus to grip but not all the way or it’ll come loose from the mountain and tumble down onto your hiking partner.

Slow and steady gets me onto gentler grassier slabs, knees creaking like rusty door hinges from the sheer volume of talus and also from lack of sleep. The adrenaline of the morning starts to cool and exhaustion takes its place. Kodak and I stop at a stream to get water and eat second breakfast behind a boulder where we’re hidden from the wind and Katherine disappears around another divot in the mountain.

Some old mining switchbacks lead us downward in an organic, indirect way to cloud canyon where the walking is easy on wet grassy tufts and bushes alongside the stream. We catch up to Katherine and I try not to fangirl too hard as we leap over braids in the creek and crash through the brush like blackbears.

“Where did you camp last night?” I ask her. “Which do you like better, this trail or the Sierra High Route? What’s your favorite trail?”

“The Hayduke is my favorite trail,” says Katherine, as she leaps effortlessly from boulder to boulder in a short stretch of talus.

“Oh my god,” I almost screech, attempting, and failing, to leap effortlessly as well- “That’s my favorite trail too!”

Eventually we break out of the brush and talus into legit forest, where the understory is open and clear and a Real Trail appears, the Colby Creek Trail. Kodak and I stop to rest again and Katherine waves goodbye. Kodak gives me gummy worms- he has a huge sack of them from our Winco trip and he has begun doling them out at random intervals, which greatly increases my morale.

“Motherfucking gummy worms!” I say, as I eat them. Why are gummies so fucking good while hiking, and other questions that have no answers.

The Colby Creek trail takes us up in the warm still sun to cross-country on gentle slabs along Pleasant creek. I listen to music and hop over the water as the route wends back and forth. The sun is doing wild things with the light and I am really starting to feel the delirium. We arrive at aptly named talus lake and stay above it on talus lest the lower talus dragons consume us and descend some more talus, talus talus talus, towards a patch of forest below talus pass.

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Walking on Shapes. That, I decide, is what I would call a book about this route. Imagine a huge pile of shapes. Now, imagine yourself walking on that pile of shapes. Congratulations- you’re on the Kings Canyon High Basin Route.

We reach the trees but we’re too tired to settle on a campsite and instead we just walk in circles, eyeballing various clear spots in the grass and rejecting each one in turn. I find a helium balloon crumpled in the stream. I squeeze the water out of it. It’s in the shape of a large silver “S”. I ball it up and put it in my pack. I found another helium balloon a few days ago, and am carrying that one as well. They’ll come in handy in a few days, when it’s my birthday.

None of the spots seem good enough and finally we just throw the tarp up wherever and of course the spot is perfect. Katherine is camped nearby and I walk over to tell her goodnight. Tomorrow we might end up in the same spot to camp as well, or maybe we won’t. It’s been fun having a friend for a bit.

Down here in the trees the wind is heard, but not felt. Woo woo woo it rushes over Talus pass above us but we are safe, it can’t touch us. I make my hot noodle refried bean dinner from my winco resupply, and it is incredible. We’ve set up the tarp in storm mode, just in case.

KCHBR Day 10: Kings Kaweah tablelands

9/3/17
10 miles
104 miles hiked total

I sleep late- I guess I needed it? And we don’t start hiking until 8:15. I am deeply superstitious about starting hiking after 8, as in my experience this means that one is totally fucked, as far as miles goes. Oh well, I guess I’ll see how today pans out. I did need the sleep.

There are some cliff bands between us and our pass, an unnamed pass near Silliman peak, and we take on the puzzle with great enthusiasm, happy to be problem solving again. A little class four, a little handing up of packs, some huffing and puffing up slabs and and ramps and chunks of earth and then we are at the top.

going up silliman pass- photo by kodak

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photo by Kodak

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The cold rain comes again, clearing the smoke from the air. We’re on the tablelands of the Kings Kaweah Divide, which Skurka describes as “shockingly easy”. I would describe them more as “regular hard”- tilted chunks of stone, slippery from the rain, that one must make one’s way across/over/around, spreading in all directions on a broad plateau. The tablelands may not be easy, but they are beautiful in a soothing, otherworldly way.

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lol

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Thunder claps as it likes to do each afternoon, and we are on the most high and exposed place we can possibly be but oh well, there’s nothing to be done, and eventually the thunder moves on. We both get lazy with navigation and suddenly we’re way off route in that way that happens more quickly than it seems like it should, and getting back on route somehow takes a lot of time/frustration/getting genuinely cliffed out and having to backtrack. I start to feel like a fuckup, why can’t I go more miles each day on this route? Why did I start hiking after 8 this morning? Ah, PMS.

At last we’re back on the route and I feel kind of irritable and burnt from the effort but there’s plenty of opportunity to zone out in my head alone until I’m calm again as we choose our own lines and I’m up high traversing grassy cracks in granite slabs while Kodak is below, in a squishy basin. I like how we do this, sort of weave in and out, always (mostly) keeping within sight or shouting distance. It works for my introvert nature, as well as Kodak’s- it gives us time to rest and be alone with our thoughts as well as do whatever introspection we need to do. Our lines converge again at Lonely lake, which sits in a bowl beneath Horn col, and I’m feeling much better at this point.

Lonely lake is ringed in talus but there’s a good campsite up the bank a bit, next to a wee tarn that reflects the pink clouds of sunset. Kodak pitches the tarp in chill flat mode but as we’re cooking dinner some of the most brutal stormclouds I have ever seen begin to roll in, darkening the entire sky. Kodak re-pitches the tarp in storm mode and we crawl inside just as the last of the light is sucked from the earth and a heavy blackness envelops us. Then the wind rises up like a ghost, and rain begins to fall. I curl in my sleeping bag, listening to the storm arrive. Maybe it will wear itself out quickly, and we’ll be able to sleep?

KCHBR Day 9: Out of the valley, back to the cool mtns

9/2/17
4 miles
94 miles hiked total

I wake at six and make gf df mac n’ cheese on the tile floor of the motel shower, because it’s the only place in the room where I can use my alcohol stove without setting anything on fire. I eat the entire pot and, thus stuffed with 900 calories of goodness, I walk down the street to the Hampton Inn with Kodak because not only is there a seven dollar shuttle from Vasalia back up into Sequoia Kings Canyon Park (!!!) but it stops just down the street from our motel. The shuttle, which also has free wifi, scoops us up at ten a.m. and is supposed to reach Lodgepole at 12:30. There’s construction on the winding narrow highway up into the mountains, however, as well as a few spots where emergency vehicles are blocking the road, so we keep stopping and idling in the bright sunshine. The high today in the valley is 107 degrees, and the shuttle driver turns off the AC in an attempt to keep the bus from overheating, and we open the tiny rectangular windows above the seats and suck in air and sweat runs down our faces. The shuttle overheats anyway, and we pull off the road for a long time and I sit hugging my pack in my lap and watching the construction-slowed traffic creep past. When we finally reach Lodgepole at 3pm I’m so carsick I feel like I could vomit.

Today is Saturday, the first day of labor day weekend, and there are thousands, thousands of people at Lodgepole. The feeling is of being at a very, very crowded amusement park that is also sometimes a mall. I buy a bowl of chili and a can of diet pepsi and we sit at one of the dirty snackbar tables for a bit, spacing out and charging our phones in the outlet next to the trashcan. Then, it’s time to hike.

Kodak’s pack, with eight days of food and six pounds of camera gear, is very heavy. My pack, suspiciously, is only a little bit heavy. We switchback up out of the hot smoky crowded paved lodgepole and within a mile we’re in the cool cool forest and there is nobody, absolutely no-one. We see a bear, clawing up grubs on a slope below the trail and watch it for a bit, but it ignores us. Shortly after, we leave the good trail to hike on use trail up Silliman creek- we’re back on the route!! Wooo!! The use trail is steep, crumbled and rocky but straightforward to follow and it feels good to be climbing again, climbing until the trees start to thin and there are good granite slabs to scramble up and above us are some austere, jagged ridgelines. As we climb the hot busride fades away, the sprawl of Vasalia. It feels like home up here. Like the land that we know.

when yr waiting for yr hikin partner to put down his camera so you can use him as the subject in the photo, but he’s waitin for the same thing

A few hours later thunder claps and rain begins to fall, but it’s not too cold. It’s still gentle summmertime in the Sierras; the weather hasn’t turned yet. We find a sheltered campsite in the trees below Silliman peak and Kodak pitches the tarp in storm mode. We drift off to the patter of rain on cuben fiber, the dark night holding us.