Farewell Present

We have just flown in from Australia. The weather report was telling us that a blizzard was coming for the next 3 days. There goes our plans to see our daughters, haul horses and get the final things sorted before leaving for the trail on Tuesday.

We arrive in Denver at midday with the sky covered with darkening clouds and the weather report calling for several feet of snow. We ring our eldest daughter and tell her that we need to head up the mountain to our home before the storm starts and dont think we have time to stay down to see her that afternoon. We get a very forceful reply that we must come to her place even if only for a few minutes. She has bought us something and had it express posted so we could get it for the trail. We are both sitting there thinking that we have shaved every ounce from our packs, selected our gear precisely and we could not think what Maddie could have gotten us that we would want to add to that.

We should not have under estimated Maddie. She selected us the perfect addition to our gear, customised hats!! We love them.


We are sitting on the plane 30,000ft in the air. We are 4 hours into a 14 hour flight with another flight to go before we get home. I have been holding her hand for most of those hours. We do that a lot, hold hands. Many people think it’s strange, our desire to always touch. It is one of the ways we communicate but mostly it just feels really really good. The warmth and softness of her skin on mine is like nothing I have ever experienced. 

I have always been someone that liked to touch but it has taken on a completely new depth of feeling and meaning with Uyetsga. We hug a lot, we kiss a lot, we lay together each night and she teaches me to snuggle. She calls me claustrophobic because I have never been able to sleep entwined with another.
When we first tried to sleep like this I would never be able to sleep. I thought my every movement would wake Uyetsga.  I would lay awake for as long as I could and then turn over. She has slowly trained me to accept that she likes to wake when I move in my sleep. She rises to the surface of her slumber and feels my warm arms around her body, my skin touching hers and she sinks back into sleep feeling more content for the interruption. 
We wake during the night and search  for each other if we have drifted apart. We touch, snuggle and then fall back asleep to awake hours later together and warm. 
Uyetsga is now trying to get some sleep. We have snagged a spare seat between us so she is stretched over them with her feet resting on my lap. I can feel the warmth of her body drive the cold plane air from my legs. She does not know what I am writing but every now and then she reaches up and touches my hand with hers. She squeezes to tell me she wants me, she loves me and I squeeze back knowing how happy this woman makes me. 
We have had many people challenge us, We have many people who can not understand our relationship and the depth of our love and commitment. We have had people try and separate us, to attack us and try and stop us doing what we love doing. We have a few people that accept our eccentricities, a few who can see the joy we bring each other. These people are the ones we like to be with and who like to be with us. 
Even our up coming trip is something we don’t share with everyone. Some call us wasteful and lazy because we choose to do these things rather than earn money. Uyetsga and I worked very hard in life. We worked hard to provide for our children and give them an education and a start in life and we have done that. Uyetsga has raised two beautiful warm hearted girls that have welcomed me into their family and their hearts.  I have two wonderful boys that I love very much and am very proud of. We are at a point, where if we sacarifice some comforts, live simply, we can do some of the things we want to do. I am sure any other long distance hiker knows what I mean. We choose to take on an enormous task because we can. We will happily give up things for the privilege of being dirty, smelly, tired, hungry and sore. 
So that brings me back to the trail. We will be landing in Colorado in about 16 hours. We are going home to finish our packing and head out for the trail. The time has come and our excitement at an imminent start is palpable. 
We left Australia with 75F days, we will land in a blizzard with a forecast for up to 3 feet of snow. 4 days later we will be in the middle of a scorching desert. Through it all I can guarantee you one thing, I will still be holding her hand. 

Dingos, Turkeys and Eagles

Uyetsga and I have a small property in the hills behind Port Macquarie and this is our home in Australia. The hills here are not like the hills in Colorado. The tallest mountain near our Australian home is 4,127 ft and is located about 30 miles away. Our property is at about 300ft and sits in a beautiful quiet valley.

Just because the hills are not high does not mean that you don’t climb when you hike. Today I went on a 15 mile loop and had 3,500 ft of climbing. After living in Colorado at 9000ft breathing seems a lot easier here but your legs still feel the climbing.

Our property is surround by state forestry and I planned on hiking on the logging roads. I was a bit apprehensive about the hike because last time I was on these roads they were so overgrown by trees and Lantana it was almost impossible to get through but I went anyway. Always the optimist. To my great surprise the roads were clear.  They had been freshly graded and rebuilt, Yeh!.

The forest here is sub-tropical with small patches of rainforest. There are soaring white trunked Gum trees with massive girths that seem to reach up into the sky forever. There are ferns that have thick sharp edged leaves and stand about as tall as a man, reaching their fingers out to grab you as you walk past. The forest floor is covered with a deep decaying layer of leaf matter that is home to lots of small ferns, vines and creepers. Some of these creepers have small thorns that will snag you as you try to push through. Others are thin but tough and can easily trip you if you catch one with your foot.

Anywhere the sunlight gets through the Lantana takes over. Lantana was brought to Australia by the English because of its pretty flower.  If only the English knew how easily it would dominate here I wonder if they would have reconsidered. It is hated by most Australia Bush Walkers because of its woody stems that are covered in small thorns. It grows in thick bushes and if you attempt to go through, sneak around, or otherwise get anywhere in its vicinity,  the thorns grab at your clothes, rake small scratches on any bare skin and you usually emerge from the other side with hundreds of small cuts stinging and trickling blood.

Without a defined trail to follow getting through this bush is almost impossible so you can imagine why I was happy to have a trail.

My plan was to hike up the ridge from behind our property, join onto Hastings Forest Way at the top of the hill, hike along it for a few miles and then take another side trail back down the ridge, joining back onto the dirt road that leads to the front of our property. It was to be about a 12 mile loop.

With the road being cleared it meant my hiking was a lot quieter than it would have normally been and so I got to get close to a lot more wildlife. The first inhabitant I encountered was a Bush Turkey. It was in the middle of the road scratching around for food and I got to within about 15 feet of it before it noticed me. Even then it just stopped and looked. I walked towards it and it turned and walked up the road matching my speed. Every now and then it would stop and look at me then scuttle off up the road again. This went on for about 3 minutes before it finally got sick of the game.

The next wildlife I came across were two Dingos. Dingos are a lot more wary of people so these guys noticed me about 25 feet away, took one look and sprinted off into the bush. Their visit was way to quick for me to even consider getting my camera out.

The most spectacular animal encounter was with a Wedge-Tailed Eagle. It was down on the road when I walked around a corner and surprised it. It took off quickly, spreading its massive wings, with a wing span of over 9 feet, only about 15ft from me. Because of the thickness of the trees it was not a fast getaway so I got to get a good look at it flying away. They are majestic birds that you mostly see from a distance, either gliding high in the sky or perched at the top of tall trees. I have seen them in zoos but this is the closest I have ever seen one in the wild.

After my good luck at having a newly cleared and graded road up the ridge I got to the turn off I was planning on taking down the ridge only to find that it did not exist. The sign was there, the first 20ft of the road was there but then it just ended in thick vines, ferns and young trees. It does not take long for the bush to reclaim any open space  and my trail was now gone. I looked at it for a while considering the possibilities but in the end decided it was just not an option.

I hiked on hoping the next road leading down the side of the mountain would be clear. There are some amazing views down the valley from the road I was walking on and the extra miles did not seem like a burden.

The next road was indeed clear and I headed down it thinking that the hardest part was over. These forest trails get made when the Forestry log an area. Sometimes they will be cleared again for fire trails but most will be left to the bush to reclaim until the Forestry want to go back into an area to log again. I walked down my trail for a couple of miles and then came to a dead end with log off cuts scattered on the ground and thick bush in front of me. It was still several miles down the hill before I hit the main road and I could see it was either going to be bush bashing or a long walk back the way I had came.

Using my GPS I could see where the road was supposed to go and I could see signs of there once being a road here but the road itself was just bush. Every now and then you would see where the road had been cut deeper into the ground and had left a scar but most of the way down it was a battle with the undergrowth and following the line on the map. I emerged at the bottom into the bright, hot sunshine.  My legs were stinging and bleeding from the hundreds of small scratches but I was out and only had a road walk to get home.

Most of the walk I would have loved to have Uyetsga along with me and show her the spectacular bush scenery but maybe not for the last part. I once took Uyetsga into the bush at the back of our property and we ended up doing about 300 yards of bush bashing through thick Lantana undergrowth. I think that experience left her scarred in more ways than one :). She is a good sport about these things though and I know she would have enjoyed the day as much as I did.

UYETSGA here.  Just a comment about the above paragraph……

It was more like a half mile, sliding down ravines, battling Lantana so thick you couldn’t see through it and fending off leaches.  Walkabout has a little habit of minimizing challenges.  We emerged, as he claims, scratched and bloody.  He isn’t exaggerating however about the beauty of the Australian bush.  It is spectacular in ways found no where else in the world.  Well worth the extra effort it takes to sometimes navigate it.

Back to Walkabout….

One thing I know I am going to miss on the CDT is being able to take a nice shower at the end of a hot hike. Washing the sweat off at the end of the day, relaxing with a cool beer and good food certainly make a hard days hike easier.



Opposite Sides Of The World!

Uyetsga and I are currently at opposites. I don’t mean we have a different style of how we want to get ready for this walk. I mean we are literally on opposite sides of the world. She is in Colorado and I am in Australia, she is in snow and I am in 80F heat. She is at 9000ft and I am at sea level. However, we both get out to do some hiking each day. It does seems strange not to be doing it together but we still talk for hours.

The current timezone difference has the sun rising in Australia 7 hours behind Colorado. So when I am getting up to start walking Uyetsga is already half way through her day. If everything lines up we talk while I walk and if everything lines up really well Uyetsga is also out walking in the warmest part of her day. We can easily pass several hours in this fashion, chatting away as if we were together and still getting our training in. Lucky we now have cheap internet phone calls otherwise our phone bill would be huge.

Doing this is not like being together. We see things and we don’t have the other person seeing them with us, allowing us to talk about and share the excitement of what we see together. We sometimes send each other photos or switch to FaceTime but it is just not the same as being together.

It is a beautiful time of the year in Australia, Autumn, and I am in a beautiful spot on the East coast. My morning walks for the first few days have been along the ocean. Port Macquarie is the town I grew up in and even though I might be bias for my old home, I think it has some of the most beautiful ocean scenery you could hope to find.

When I was walking along Lighthouse Beach one of the other people stopped me and pointed out the pod of Dolphins that were playing in the waves near the shore. Growing up I spent a lot of time in the ocean and there is nothing more uplifting than surfing with a pod of Dolphins. These creatures just love to play.  You see them sliding through the water and then breaking the surface just at the top of the waves. They surf down the front of the wave picking up speed and then launch themselves into the air. This is what they were doing this morning and it was wonderful to stop and watch them.

Uyetsga and I are very lucky to visit some beautiful places and even more so when we get to do them together. I miss my best friend tonight but I know we will be back together again soon.



Food, Glorious Food 

Do you remember that song from Oliver the musical? I always want to sing this song when thinking of food, which I do often. Unfortunately all I know is “Food, glorious food”. So it gets a little bit repetitive, I compensate by singing it very loudly and with feeling. 

The last few days have been all about food, so those three words are never far from bursting from my mouth. We are preparing our meals and packing our boxes for New Mexico.

We decided this trip we would use dehydrated vegetables and make our own gourmet delights. We want the sort of meal that weighs nothing, tastes like it came from a five star restaurant and is good for you. Too much to ask from trail food?  Maybe but it’s worth trying. 

We have tried for a lot of variety in our meals and snacks. We learnt that lesson the hard way. For the Colorado trail we bought boxes of freeze dried meals from Costco. Really cheap but only four different meals. After the first couple of weeks on horse back eating the same thing every night it gets to the point you just don’t want to eat! Can’t believe I would ever say that, I love food, good food that is.  Again the boys in Oliver got it right:

Is it worth the waiting for?
If we live for eighty four
All we ever get is gruel!
Every day we say our prayer —
Will they change the bill of fare?
Still we get the same old gruel!
There’s not a crust, not a crumb can we find,
Can we beg, can we borrow, or cadge,
But there’s nothing to stop us from getting a thrill
When we all close our eyes and imagine
Food, glorious food.

We did a lot of imagining on that trip. The thing about doing a trail on horse back is that you never get off the trail.  You can’t just pop into a trail town and woof down a burger and fries and a couple of beers with your horses tied up out the front of the salon. Those old west days are long gone. Now days if you are traveling on horses the food you bring with you is the food you have for the whole trip. 

So back to this trip, variety that’s the key we tell ourselves as we put the same basic ingredients in every meal. But it’s not the ingredients we say, it’s how you combine them and that extra spice that make a meal more than just gruel. We have even cooked some at home to see how they will taste. The other night we made potatoes au gratin and it was excellent. Although it was probable helped somewhat by the delicious piece of grilled steak hot off the BBQ that unfortunately we have not figured out how to get on the trail. 

So all was going well, we had our meals made, boxes packed just waiting to be addressed and sealed.

After a hectic few days we headed out for a family gathering leaving our trusty dog at home to guard our food. The only problems was we forgot to tell him the food was not for him so he systematically went through several boxes selecting the instant breakfast out of each and eating them. We came home to a very happy greeting until we got to the dinning room and saw the remains of the ziplock bags carefully splayed over the floor. Baxter took one look at the bags, one look at us and hightailed outside. For the rest of the night if we went to the boxes he would turn tail and run. 

 Even with our dog giving his approval of our choices and devouring several days worth of breakfasts we have now finished. It is hard not to be heading out on the trail this week but we still have some things to finish before we leave. 

Colorado Rockies Winter Ruck 2016

A day to learn all the things we did not know that we did not know.

Uyetsga and I were lucky enough to attend the ALDHA-West Colorado Rockies Winter Ruck last weekend. It was great to hear from all these experienced long distance hikers and get tips on fine tuning our gear and food before we head off.

I think the main thing Uyetsga and I got from the day was planning for our food. We really got sick of the dehydrated meals that we had on the Colorado Trail and so had planned to make some of our own invention. We purchased dehydrated vegetables from Harmony House and had started putting together various meals. For some of our resupply we need to send a box with all our meals for the next segment but for others we had the choice of sending nothing and buying in the town or sending some and supplementing with things from the town. We decided we would send some meals but also buy fresh things where we could. On the shorter sections between towns we will load up with as much real food as we think we can carry and that will not spoil before we eat it. On the longer stretches we will use more dehydrated foods to keep the weight down.

This is a strategy that we have used on our hikes in New Zealand and Tasmania and seemed to work well for us. Only time will tell.

The ALDHA-West did a fantastic job of organising the day and it was a lot of fun being immersed in the hiking community. I would strongly recommend attending one of these events if you can.




Christmas comes early

Our Zpacks package is waiting at the post office this morning. We ordered a new tent and packs and I have been waiting anxiously for there arrival. These two components could make our trip enjoyable or miserable.

The tent is the triplex and the packs are the arc haul. On the web they look like great items but now for the real test. Stay tuned…..

This box contains two backpacks, a tent, several stuff sacks and a cooking pot. My old backpack would not fit in there.

In Australia it is summer time for Christmas. Each Christmas morning the neighbourhood is filled with the sounds of excited kids riding their new bike, skateboards roaring down the road. Others, in small gangs, are laughing as they set up their new tents in the front yards just itching to get out and use them. This is how I was with our tent and, true to Christmas form, we went out the front of our house and set the tent up and climbed in.

We sat inside our tent looking out at the world just getting a feel of what our home for the next five months is like. I must say that on our first superficial test the tent feels good. It was easy and reasonably fast to setup and has plenty of room for us and our gear. Even our dog, Baxter, came down to check it out.

With the tent put up and taken down it was time to get back to the pack. We started gathering our gear and stuffed it into our packs. We have been working on resupply boxes for the last few days so had the food for our first leg from Crazy Cook back to Lordsburg ready. We packed the food into our packs as well our clothes etc to get a true feel of the pack under weight. So far I am very impressed, the packs are light!

 We plan to  start with low mileage every day to allow our bodies time to adjust. Our age may give us the means and time to do these things but it does mean we have to be a little more carefull.

As a consequence of walking less each day we will be caring a lot of food i.e. a lot of weight. However, even with 7 days worth of food and all our gear our packs are comfortable and a lot lighter than we were on the Colorado trail.  Of course we have not loaded the 6 litres of water we expect to carry each day but we can delude ourselves a bit longer that our packs won’t be supper heavy.

We went for a short 5 mile hike today with our packs loaded with everything except water and the packs felt very good. I am very impressed with the Zpacks equipment so far.

We plan to keep testing the packs on our daily hikes both to get us in shape and workout any kinks.

We are still waiting for our new sleeping quilt but just about everything else is in place.

It is getting very exciting now and I just want to hit the trail!  Only 35 more sleeps till we start.

Colorado Trail Segment 2

After a couple of weeks working on documents with only short hikes we decided it was time to get out for some special time on the trail.

We live in the mountains near Denver and the Colorado trail (CT) passes within a short drive of our home. Last year we horse packed and hiked the CT doing a couple of the first sections from our home with the horses as training. We decided it would be good to go back and hike these sections.

Today we decided to do the 11 mile CT segment 2, using 2 cars, so that we could hike it in one direction. The forecast was for a nice day but with a maximum temperature in the 40s, it is still winter after all.

We hit the trail about 10 after dropping the cars and started walking in beautiful warm sunshine. Colorado winters are just great on days like this. Our 11 year old Australian Shepherd, Baxter was with us and very excited to be out on the trail.

 We were using this hike as a map reading exercise as we had good topo maps of the CT. Uyetsga is worried about her map reading skills for the CDT so getting some practice in our own backyard seemed like a good idea.

We pulled out the map book and I opened it on the correct page and handed it to Jelly Bean. Her first task was to find us.  After she spun the book several times, looked at the wrong side, checked her compass and still could not find where we were standing I thought to myself we need a lot of practice if we wanted to stay found. I started pointing out the landmarks around us that would help her find us on the map, still no closer. I then pointed out the same landmarks on the map and we were found!

We stopped several times in the next hour and did some map reading and generally stayed found. We hit the trees and followed the trail and got to a point where the trail crossed the road. I said that I didn’t think we are on the right trail but Jelly Bean was adamant that we were. I asked her to look at the map and she said she was sure this was the trail and the map must be wrong. I did not convince her that the trail was below the road but I said I was going this way and she grudgingly followed mumbling under her breath. After this the map reading lessons were quietly forgotten till the next hike.

There was a small amount of snow still on the trail but most of it was clear. We donned our microspikes a couple of times on the shaded downhill trails but none of it was a problem. Lunch was spent in the sun with a great lookout over the Platte river. Most of the afternoon was spent winding our way down to the Platte on snow covered and some times ice covered trails.

We made it back to the car at about 3pm with a sore old dog but with all of us feeling good from a very nice days’ hiking.

The Great Name Debate

Last night we booked our plane, bus, hotel and shuttle to get to the start of the trail in New Mexico. It now seems like it is really happening. Never mind the tent, packs and quilt I ordered almost 6 weeks ago, once transport is booked there is no going back.

We sat in bed this morning and it finally sunk in with Kathy that we are going to do this, it is real and not just some vague  thought. Now the real work begins, we have to decide on trail names.

The suggestions were flying thick and fast. My first was that I should go as Kyle because that is what most Americans hear when I say my name with an Australian accent. Kathy just laughed as she has a want to do.

We were looking for two names that would go together, this is love on the trail after all. One couple we came across in a blog had taken the names M and NM, a great piece of trail humor and this is what I was looking for.

As I bounced out of bed I said we could just use our initials and go as K C and the sunshine band. The reply I got was a stern look and a definite no!

Next came wizard for Kathy and ofoz for me. Again a stern no, albeit with a laugh. Then Kathy said I should be wizard and she will be witch. Has a ring to it, The Wizard and the Witch. Unfortunately Witch has too many negative conitations for me to ever use that as a term for my adorable wife. For most of the time I have know Kathy I have always called her lover, witch would not do!

So the search goes on…

Current suggestions

U-yets-ga => she is laughing


The Wizard of Oz or just Wizard.

New suggestion

Jelly Bean

Wiz. Australians are very lazy talkers. Why use two syllables when one will do?

Ok. That has changed.

How about:

Walkabout and jelly bean?



Uyetsga, I found one web site that had the translation of this as my heart is laughing and I think this is very appropriate so that is what we are going with.