Thick-Headed Lizard

As I prepared to walk across Oregon in 1996, my training consisted of stuffing my Lowe Contour IV pack with cobblestones wrapped in towels then walking, 20+ miles round-trip, from my folks’ house in Huntington Beach, CA to Laguna Beach (and beyond).  I maybe did this four or five times, certainly not enough to ready my body for the beating of daily miles.  Proof is the fact that after less than a week on the trail I threw in the towel and caught a Greyhound home.  Seems a ridiculous 60-pound pack was too much for a fledgling hiker.  The fact that I was also love-struck by a new relationship didn’t help either.  “Young and dumb” sums it up nicely.  

I am pretty sure I’ve come a long way in eighteen years.  I’d argue that I am the fittest, both physically and emotionally, that I’ve ever been.  And still, for some reason I cracked up yesterday as I threw on my pack to embark on a training hike.  I was transported back to when I hoofed down the Pacific Coast Highway, dodging rocks hurled at me from Newport Beach backyards.  I remembered being denied entrance to a cafe because they didn’t allow transients.  A backpack is a powerful symbol.  To some it means freedom, an unhinging from the day-to-day grind.  To others it must represent subversion, a rebellious tool for non-conformists.  I felt the weight of it all.  And it felt good.

Fact is, unless I am wearing my pack every single day and lugging it for a few hours, I’m really not doing much training.  Sure, my body is getting used to the nuances of everything, but the actual conditioning will come during the hike’s first week.  I’ll show up fit, but I expect each day to be a minor suffer-fest for a while.

My first full-pack training day is now in the books.  15-miles with a 35-pound pack took me 3.5 hours.  Yesterday I might have said it was pretty easy-going.  Today…well, let’s just say that today I am happy to have an excuse to do a lot of sitting.

On Jomac Road en route to the new Honeysuckle Tea House in Chapel Hill.



Usually I find money when I hike on roads, yesterday I found this Pachycephalosaurus, the “thick-headed lizard.”








  1. It never occurred to me that part of this process would be societal push-back. I assumed you or any challenge-hiker would be visibly distinguishable from “the homeless.” Great insight and now I’m hooked! Love that the metaphors (dino) are already manifesting themselves and that you can laugh at yourself. I think that is the great human link: honesty and humor. I look forward to reading this blog! Looking forward to seeing you at the “REZ”!

  2. … Good Luck to you as your journey begins … you can be sure we’ll be following you … you will do well, especially since you have your ‘mascot ‘ with you … looking forward to your up-dates … <3 <3 …

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