I walked hastily through El Paso and into Las Cruces, New Mexico. It must have taken about a week and I really donít remember much, just a bustling urban landscape continuing until I had made it all the way through Las Cruces. I just walked, stopping only to search through the trash for food. After I passed through Las Cruces, I headed north on Interstate 25 about 40 miles to Hatch. As I approached the exit for Hatch, I saw a hitchhiker on the other side of the highway waving to me to join him. I guess he wanted to talk but I didnít so I picked up the pace and headed off the Interstate towards Hatch. I walked right through Hatch without stopping to eat. One thing I remember about Hatch was chili peppers. Walking through the town I saw bunches of chili peppers hung out to dry everywhere, as if they had just harvested them. They were hanging from cars and storefronts and on peopleís porches. I thought it was rather interesting to see and I also noticed that there were mostly Latinos or American Indians living in that town. Anyway, I was only there for a moment since I walked through it without stopping. I found myself walking west on Rt. 26.
On 26, which was the road to nowhere, I walked at a fast pace with the intentions again to fast in a remote place. As I was walking, a truck went by and slowed down as he approached me. He brandished a pistol at me, I donít know why, but it reinforced the delusion again that there were people hunting me. I moved on and I was out in the middle of nowhere. After about 20 miles on Rt. 26, I turned right on Rt.27. It was a long walk to Hillsboro on 152. I was in the Mimbres Mountains now. It was beautiful and Hillsboro was a neat little town with mom and pop country stores and little motel cottages. I searched for food but found very little because it was such a small tourist town and there was hardly anyone around it seemed. It kind of felt like a Ghost town because it was so quiet.
I continued west on 152 through the mountains. I had bad weather for a few days. It was foggy, rainy, and cold. It was late September, early October, and I was headed through the mountains and the Mimbres Valley back towards Silver City. I was almost back in Silver City, my favorite small town in the U.S. I couldnít believe I had walked from Maryland back to the place I had returned from before. It just felt like more than a coincidence that God had brought me back to this place. I had not planned my return to Silver City; it happened accidentally. Anyway, I was in no condition this time to enjoy it. I was haunted by paranoid delusions and I really didnít want to run into anybody I knew from before on the streets.
I walked through Mimbres Valley. It was a familiar stretch of road. I had walked through there before two years ago when I hitchhiked from Silver City to Truth or Consequences. It was still just as beautiful as before. I walked day and night to get to Silver City because I was so hungry. I arrived late at night and went on a search for food. I also decided to go to the Silver City Gospel Rescue Mission to look for clothes. I knew from before that a lot of clothing got thrown away in that dumpster. I was right. There were bags and bags of clothing. I got more than I needed Ė sweatshirts, long johns, socks, and a pair of bib overalls. I even decided to carry an extra set of clothing with me, which I usually never did, because it was extra weight that I didnít need. I ate again and then I put on the new warm clothing I had found. It was a clear, cool night and I slept well. I spent a couple of days there and I tried to avoid places like the mission so I wouldnít see anyone I knew from before.
While I was there I remembered that the Continental Divide ran through the Gila National Forest. I decided to try and hike it so that I could avoid civilization and enter into a long fast. I walked all the way to Pinos Altos and then into the Gila National Forest to the trail. I hiked the Continental Divide for two days; and I had a hard time following the markings. I went far enough though to get lost in the forest. It took another day to get back to Silver City. I gave up on the Continental Divide idea pretty easy. Iím not sure now exactly why.
I left Silver City after about a week and went north up 180 through some small towns. There were great distances between the towns and I had a hard time finding food in those places, but I managed to always find water when I needed it. I dealt with my hunger by walking as fast as I could hoping that something to eat lay just ahead. I walked through the San Francisco Mountains and I thought about going into the forest to fast but I never did.
Up near the New Mexico/Arizona border I went off Rt. 180 onto Rt.12 to a little town called Reserve. I went there because I was hungry and I had not had very much to eat the last few days. Reserve was a small town with a couple of restaurants and motels that catered mostly to hunters it seemed. Along the way I had seen a lot of hunters around and I saw a couple of guys driving into Reserve with a huge elk in the bed of their truck. Again, I walked all day and into the night to get to Reserve and when I got there I went on the hunt myself for sustenance, but I didnít find any supermarkets or large motels for food, just little restaurants and hunting lodges with very little food. I found a bridge just outside the city limits where I set up camp late at night still feeling very hungry. I was awakened early in the morning by a rough looking local woman who saw me under that bridge as she took her morning stroll. Apparently I had not been discreet enough about where I slept. She woke me up and told me that Reserve was a bad place to be for vagrants and she told me a story about how some local people had beaten another homeless man who had come through their town. I was a little bit alarmed by her story, but I was kind of used to such fears, so I mostly ignored her and put my trust in the Lord who was my refuge in times of trouble. I searched for food that morning before I left Reserve and headed back in the direction of Rt. 180 towards Arizona. The last town in New Mexico was Luna.
I am now in Arizona once again and it is probably October 2003. There is another 6-8 months of walking left in my story, most of which takes place in Arizona. Look at the map I sent you that highlights my path through and around this beautiful state. I dream of returning to this part of the country to revisit some of the places etched in my memory. It would be a dream come true to be able to retrace my path and photograph the places I remember. It is also a dream come true to be able to finish writing about these years I spent on the road. Thank you for listening and taking an interest in my story. It is a blessing to be able to share and to remember the struggles that God lead me through.
Luna and Alpine were real small towns. Luna had an antique store and an old gas station, but no place to eat so I kept walking into Alpine, Arizona. The town was only slightly bigger, but I found a little bit of food and kept on moving. These towns were too small to hang around. I didnít want to be noticed or messed with. I pretended to be invisible and hoped no one would see me or even talk to me. This was beautiful country though, mountains and valleys brightened by fall colors and sunny skies. The air was cool and crisp and there was a stretch of good weather as I walked through that part of the country.
Up 180 north and through the forest on long country roads and I approach Eager. I came through the mountains and forest and looked down on Eager in a valley. It was breathtaking, but there was no time for sightseeing. My driving force was hunger and there was still a long haul down the mountain into town. When I got there I ate at the first place I could find and then I searched the town for a grocery store.
I camped out there for a day or two and then I went to the other side of town where there was another supermarket. I spent a day or two there as well and then I left. I went west towards Show Low. It was west on 260 through the Northeast corner of the Fort Apache Indian Reservation. It was a long walk through the mountains and forest and I know it took a couple of days.
I walked through McNary, a little town on the reservation. No one bothered me there, but it looked like a poor little town and there was nowhere for me to eat, so I just kept trucking. Just a few miles down the road was a place called Hondah. I donít know if that is the town or the name of the Casino. Anyhow, it wasnít much but I did find something to eat there. I continued west on 260 into Pinetop. It was a much bigger town and I was able to eat well.
Between Pinetop and Show Low things were pretty well developed and there was no shortage of places to eat, from restaurants to hotels and supermarkets. I found most of my food at grocery stores while I was there. It was pretty cold in the forest around that time. Iím not sure when exactly I was in Show Low. I would guess it was around November. I had plenty of warm clothes and blankets and I believe I wasnít too bothered by the temperatures at night, but I knew I was up on a higher elevation and that it was going to get colder, so I know I was beginning to plan to head south towards Tucson.
When I left Show Low the first time I went south down Rt. 60 back onto the reservation, I decided to get off the highway and head into the mountains on another long fast. I went deep into the forest on the reservation. I was a bit concerned with getting caught by the tribe, but I did it anyway. I went down some dirt roads into the mountains and then left the road into the thick forest. I walked through the woods, up and down the mountainous terrain. I had no way of remembering how to get back as I had no plans to return. I found a hilltop I liked and I set up camp as far away from anything as I could be. I intended to stay there and fast, pray, and read the psalms, which is what I always did when I went on these fasts. I loved to read the prayers of David as he cried out to God in his distress and suffering. There were so many prayers in the book of Psalms that spoke directly to me like Psalm 18:5 ďThe sorrows of hell compassed me about: The snares of death prevented me. In my distress I called upon the Lord, and cried unto my God:ÖĒ or Psalm 69 ďSave me, O God for the waters are come into my soulÖ. I am weary of my crying: my throat is driedĒ. I would always turn to the psalms to find the prayers that spoke from my heart to Godís.
After a day or two I got restless and decided to walk further into the forest to find another spot to camp. I walked for a while until I came into an opening where there was nothing but charred remains of giant pine trees. I was in awe of the place. I had never seen the devastation of a forest fire like that. It was like being on the moon or another planet. Everything was gone. What was left of the trees was broken and burned, and a coat of black dust covered the ground. I walked through it until there was nothing left of the living forest behind me. It was sad to think of all the animals that must have died or been displaced. I found out later in a newspaper that a young man on the reservation had started the fire so that he could earn $8 or $12 an hour fighting it. He had confessed and been prosecuted; though some had thought his sentence had been too lenient. Anyway the fasting didnít last much longer and I began looking for a way out of the forest. Iím not sure how long it took, probably a day or two before I made it back to Show Low. No one had bothered me while I was on the reservation, though only a handful of people had seen me on those dirt roads in the wilderness.
I was back in Show Low for a couple of days and then back through Pinetop towards Hondah. From Hondah I went south through the reservation towards White River and Fort Apache. A lot of the Native Americans stopped to ask if I needed a ride; they were pretty friendly that way. I was impressed by their kindness, though I refused as nicely as I knew how and kept walking alone. I was a little nervous on the reservation Iíll admit. I felt like a trespasser or an illegal alien. Things just felt different and looking at the housing and the businesses it felt like people were really poor. Thatís not a criticism just an observation for if anyone was poor or of small means it was me. I made it to White River and found a little bit of food at the grocery store there, but it wasnít much so I kept on moving towards Fort Apache.
There was nothing in Fort Apache so I went a little bit further and found another bridge, where beneath it I tried to fast for a few days. There were many times when I would try to fast and I would only last for a couple of days. Boredom was as hard to deal with as hunger and a lot of the time I left because I needed to move. Anyway, after a couple of days I began walking again heading west on 73 through the reservation when the reservation police stopped me. He was a little angry towards me. He said I didnít have permission to camp on the reservation and that I was trespassing. He wasnít too happy with me and he called another cop and had him escort me about 30 or 40 miles to the Salt River Canyon and the border of the San Carlos Apache Indian reservation. This cop was part Apache and part white. He had blue eyes and light skin though you could also see the Indian in him. He didnít say much to me at all. He just drove me to the bottom of the canyon and dropped me off at the rest area on the border of the two reservations and that was it.
I rested and searched discreetly for food in the metal trash cans. There were motorists constantly coming and going. When I felt like I had found all the food I could I began the hike all the way back up the canyon heading south towards Globe. The road curved around all the way up and out of the Salt River Canyon. It was a long and steep climb for miles.
Up the mountain and 40 miles south to Globe it was raining and I walked a lot at night. It took 2 days to get to Globe. When I got there it started raining heavy and it was like that for 2 days. I spent most of my time there under a bridge trying to stay dry. Every time the rain let up I would venture out looking for food because it had been a few days since I had really eaten anything; but I got caught out in it a few times and got soaked, so I stayed pretty wet during my time in Globe.
Once the rain stopped and I had gotten enough food, I left Globe and went south towards Superior. The landscape changed again and now I was back in the desert with Saguaro and prickly pear cactuses. It was real rocky and mountainous as well. I tried for a day or two to fast up on a hill, but I didnít make it very long, so I made the forty mile hike to Superior in about 3 days. Superior wasnít a big town like Globe, so I was only there for a day or two and then instead of continuing on 60 toward Phoenix, I went south down 177 through some really rugged mountainous terrain. Up and down these really steep hills that left me exhausted from the climb. I would sit and rest at the top of each hill before I made the descent back down the other side. It was like that for a long stretch and there was pretty much nothing to eat for 75 miles in the little towns of Kelvin, Kearney, and Hayden. I do remember being in one of those towns behind a building searching for food and getting company from a hungry pack of javelinas. I felt kind of sad to be behaving in the same way as a bunch of filthy wild hogs. I guess that was what I had come to and it broke my heart and hurt my soul to think that I had sank so low; but God is good and I didnít know it then but God would restore my life in His time. God knows even being around dumpsters makes me ill now.
Now all the way to Oracle, which wasnít much, and then south towards Oro Valley and into Tucson again. I was in Tucson for a couple of days. I knew my way around from being there before, but I didnít go to any shelters or soup kitchens like I did before because of my psychotic fears and anti-social thinking. I camped in the woods behind a strip mall and enjoyed the food from supermarkets and drug stores which were pretty much packaged foods in most cases. I was restless and I felt uneasy being in Tucson so after a short stay I found my way to Interstate 10 and went north. About half way between Tucson and Casa Grande on Thanksgiving Day, I was trying to cross the Interstate to get to a gas station, when a cop saw me and pulled over. He escorted me about 30 miles to Casa Grande, another town I had been in before.
I camped in Casa Grande for a couple of days; then I began to feel guilty for not trying to fast so I left town determined not to eat. I walked and prayed hard, focusing all my energy on resisting the urge to eat. Instead of going right down the Interstate, I decided to take Rt. 84 west because I thought there would be less occasion to look for food and more places to hide and fast. I walked and fasted for about 30 miles and then I ended up back on Interstate 8 anyway. When I got to the I-8, it had already been a couple of days since I had eaten and I was determined to continue. A few miles up the highway I found a wilderness area called Table Top and I proceeded off road into the mountains. I had filled up with several gallons of water at a campground. I hiked through the rocky valley through cactuses and desert plant life towards the mountains in the distance.
I decided to try something different this time to help me fast. I thought I would try sleep deprivation for a while. As it got dark I reached a little desert mountain which I decided to climb in the dark. I spent hours trying to climb the hill in the dark, negotiating through brush and over boulders under the light of a full moon, which made it all possible. I prayed as I climbed and when I got near the top there was a pretty steep rock face I had to climb to reach the summit, nothing too spectacular, but a little tricky in the dark. Anyhow, I made it to the top where I set up my camp and tried to stay awake until daylight. Itís hard to do. I ended up sleeping for a bit before the sun rose. I donít remember how long I stayed out there, but it wasnít one of my longest fasts. Restlessness set in and I decided to get back on the highway heading towards Gila Bend.
I got to Gila Bend in late November. It was a pretty small town but it had lots of businesses on the highway. On my walk there I had spent a night or two underneath bridges that crossed over these ravines. The washes were dry and sandy. I almost never encountered anyone in these places, but I began noticing that there had been people under some of them. Youíve got to take into consideration that I was in the middle of nowhere and there wasnít even a gas station for 20 miles. Well, I figured it out soon. As I was walking down the Interstate about 5 illegals came out of the bushes and jumped into a car. It kind of made me laugh even though they are illegal aliens, I couldnít help but cheer them on. Itís unfair really that they werenít born with the same opportunities we were born with here in the U.S. For those who come here illegally to pursue the same dream we do, with hard work and honesty, doing everything right in the sight of God, I am in support of. On the other hand, breaking the law to get here and then breaking other laws to stay here isnít right either. Anyway, Iím off topicÖ so Iím in Gila Bend.
In Gila Bend, I remember reading in yesterdayís paper about the capture of Saddam Hussein. I read the paper whenever I could; it gave me something to do to keep my mind off things and it helped me to have some sense of time and a connection to the world that I had become alienated from. I walked around town looking in dumpsters for anything I could find that would be of some use to me. I found a bright orange fleece jacket that was in good condition, so I snagged it because the clothes I had were really old and worn. I also found some used clothes near the railroad tracks in the woods across from a truck stop. It looked like border crossers had set up camp around there. There was trash and clothing and back packs and all kinds of stuff strewn everywhere. It didnít look like a homeless camp; it looked like an outdoor dressing room Ė as if people who had crossed our borders through the desert came here and changed their clothes, perhaps to look less conspicuous. I donít know? I just know I found a decent pair of pants that fit and I was in desperate need of pants I remember.
After 2 or 3 days in Gila Bend the urge to fast rose up in me again and off I went into the wilderness to the north. I didnít go due north into the Gila Bend Indian Reservation; I went northwest into the Gila Bend mountains. I walked all day as fast as I could like I always did when I fasted. I was carrying plenty of water at that point, probably 3 or 4 gallons. The second day out there I noticed that the brush was getting thicker and the ground had a layer of white crust on it, and it reminded me of Salt Lake. I donít know what it was and I still donít. So the brush is getting really thick and it was like massive tumbleweed all dead and dry. After a while it got so thick I could hardly maneuver in it. A little while later I was stuck in it and I kept thinking it must come to an end soon. Imagine being stuck in brush so thick you can hardly move your legs. I kept going forward getting deeper and deeper until it was too late to turn around. I used my body to barrel through it and I was scratched and cut and my clothes were torn. It was truly frightening. I was out there for 5 days in that brush and I was almost out of water. On the fifth day I made it out of the brush and I was back on a dirt road that would lead me back to Gila Bend. I had little or no water left to make it back to town, but I did make it back.
I donít know how much longer I stayed in Gila Bend, but eventually I decided to head down the Interstate a ways. I walked about 30 miles to a town called Sentinel. From there I headed up a dirt road going north past irrigated farmlands. I must have psyched myself up for another fast because when the road ran out I kept going through the desert toward the Painted Rock Mountains. There was a campground with a big rock that had Indian carvings all over it. I talked to a park ranger briefly who was working at the campground and then I discreetly checked the metal trash cans for food and found nothing. I kept walking north into the desert. I walked for 2 days and then crossed the Turtleback Mountains. On the other side was a desert valley with mountains in the distance. I must point out that I had a map of Arizona now that I had found in the garbage and I surmised by the map that the range ahead was the Eagletail Mountains. I camped in the valley and stayed put for the day fasting and praying; but I had a limited water supply and I knew I couldnít stay long because I knew it was at least another 2 day journey to the I-10. I moved northwest using the sunrise and sunset as a compass. I kept walking in the darkness by the light of a gibbous moon. The terrain was rough but I could see well enough to navigate through it. Hunger is a powerful motivator and I walked quickly through the desert to get back on the Interstate.
I saw on the map that there was a rest area at exit 53 on I-10. I knew from the map that the rest area was on the highway to the left of the Eagletail Mountain range. So I was guessing that if I kept the mountains to my right in front of me that I would eventually hit the highway somewhere around mile 53. I knew it would be the closest place for me to find food because the next towns were 30 miles in either direction. I was right, when I hit the highway I only had another 2 or 3 miles to go to the west. It was a very large rest area with a lot of pavilions and picnic tables. There was a constant flow of traffic hence an ample supply of food. I stayed there for a couple of days. It was Christmas and I felt the pain of being alone in my condition. I usually didnít focus much on my loneliness or the predicament I was in, but Christmas is a time for being with family and I remember missing my loved ones. I dreamt of home, but I honestly thought I would never see my family again. I had God, though, and ultimately that was enough. Most days I was alone but not lonely because I believed and I felt that He was constantly with me. I know He was. To cap off my Christmas I got inside the large dumpster where the attendant threw all the bags from the individual cans so that I could go through the bags quicker and hopefully not be seen. That didnít work. I was spotted and the cops were called, but at least the officer wasnít too mean-spirited even though he had to tell me to leave. So I did and I went west about thirty miles on the interstate to a town called Quartzite.
Quartzite was a real interesting place. It was a small town but a real busy place with lots of travelers passing through on the I-10. The town had a big outdoor market with all sorts of vendors from food to arts and crafts; but the big commodity was gems and minerals. Every kind of rock you can think of from small to large was being peddled. I remember thinking that those rocks were used for magic and new age crystal healing. Witchcraft is what I thought it was and I wanted nothing to do with that stuff, especially since having that very negative experience in Silver City with a crystal of my own.
So I spent a couple of days in Quartzite and there were some other transients hanging around there as well, which was the first time in a while that I had seen other tramps or ďfamilyĒ as hobos liked to call themselves. I kept to myself, though, as usual. In a way I wanted to be around others but I couldnít at the time. I trusted no one but God and I needed to be alone.
After a few days I traveled west again down the Interstate through Ehrenberg and across the Colorado River into California. I had made it all the way across the United States without ever intending to. I feel good about it now but at the time I donít even think I thought about it. I stayed in Blythe, California for about a week doing the usual stuff.
As I passed the time in Blythe, I began to plot my next fast. I must note that each time I went on a fast I wanted it to be permanent. I just wanted to be near God and thatís what I thought He wanted me to do. That was my purpose to lie down without food and either wither away or until, as the delusion went, someone killed me. I left Blythe 2 times going north towards the Big Maria Mountains. Twice I returned to Blythe.
Along the way I had stashed some water behind some bushes about 20 miles north on Bureau of Land Management property. I figured if I wasnít able to fast permanently that particular time I would stock up on water for my next fast. Again, I needed enough water to last for 4 or 5 weeks and without a clear running river or stream, I would have to carry my water with me. So I stashed 2 gallons of water behind some bushes on a desert road. No one had seen me. I went back to Blythe for a day or two then tried again carrying 4 gallons of water with me. When I got back to the place where I had hidden the water, the jugs were destroyed. Someone had shot holes in them. I thought that was really strange. I mean, here I am on a gravel road in the desert 20 or 30 miles from anything and someone manages to find my water behind a bush and decides to shoot holes in the jugs. My mind was full of suspicion and I was sure that someone was following me.
Undeterred, I kept on through the desert and mountains fasting for 3 days until I got to Hwy. 62. Hwy. 62 was a road I was on 4 years ago at the beginning of my first journey. I had come full circle. The place was just as desolate as before with only abandoned gas stations for 100 miles. There was one thing different that I didnít remember seeing before. There was a gnarly old tree that someone had torched and it had at least a hundred pairs of shoes hanging from it. It would have made a wonderful photograph and it stood as a symbol to me of my walk and the number of shoes that I had been through. At last count I had been through 10 pairs of shoes on my walk across country. I had found and then worn out each and every pair. Most recently I had found a new pair in Blythe. So, since I knew the way and because I didnít want to head west anymore into Southern California, I headed east about 40 miles to Vidal Junction. There I found food at a gas station, rested for a night, and then hiked back across the Colorado River into Parker, Arizona again.
I was in Parker for a day or two eating and passing the time. I left and headed up 95 towards Lake Havasu and passed the Bill Williams Wildlife Refuge. At some point I left the highway and went down some dirt roads into the wilderness. I walked for several days through some really rough mountains off road. I was headed towards Alamo Lake. I thought I could fast in a remote area where the Bill Williams River runs into Alamo Lake. As I said, it was really rough country on those trails and although I had a map of Arizona and knew the general direction, I only had the sun to tell which way I was headed. After a couple of days I ran right into a ranch. I had been off road for a while and I guess I felt like returning to someplace, so I walked down the dirt road that led to the farmhouse. I just hoped that it would lead to a paved road. I wasnít looking for directions or help, in fact I was hoping to go unnoticed. That didnít happen; the rancher saw me coming and came out to greet me. I told him I had gotten lost. He wasnít angry that I had trespassed on his property. I asked him how far it was to Alamo Lake and he pointed in that direction over the mountains and said that it was really dangerous rough traveling and cautioned me against making the trip. He drove me to the edge of his property and told me how to get back to Parker.
So I began the two day journey back to Parker. A couple of people stopped to ask if I needed a ride, one guy asked if I was on a mission. I wondered what he meant by that because I indeed felt like I was on a mission, a suicide mission. I got back to Parker two days later. I hadnít eaten in 5 days.
I was in Parker again for 2 more days and then I left and hiked north towards Lake Havasu again. This time I went directly into town and spent a couple of days there eating and exploring the town. I camped in the woods beside the Colorado River. I found a Good Will in town with tons of clean clothes in the dumpster. I picked out some clean shirts, shorts, sweatpants, a hat Ė I had a whole new wardrobe. Next I went to the hotel dumpster to get a bar of soap and some shampoo. I went back to my camp in the woods next to the river. I found a shallow cove nearby and proceeded to take my first bath in over a year. I had cleaned myself up in gas station bathrooms, but I hadnít actually bathed since I was in jail in Florida on Christmas 2002. It was a good feeling. I washed my long hair and my beard and put on fresh clothes. I enjoyed it as much as I could, considering my state of mind and I gave thanks to God for such a blessing.
Before long, I decided to try fasting again. I knew there were motorcycle trails that led back to Alamo Lake and the Bill Williams River through the Wilderness. There were off road trails all over the place just east of Lake Havasu. I got to know those trails well over the next month or so as I repeatedly tried to leave town and go through the mountains to Lake Alamo. I had come to believe that the water source there was the answer to my fasting dilemma. Several times I went back there for days and several times I returned to town unsuccessful. I told myself that if I could go one week without food then I could go 2 or 3.
One time, I hiked for 2 days back to the Bill Williams River about half-way to Lake Alamo. I had found a pot to boil water in and I tied it to my backpack and carried it with me. I also had found several packs of matches in different dumpsters. I intended to boil the water from the river to purify it a bit, but I also carried three gallons of clean water with me. I found a secluded overgrown area along the river about a 2 day journey from Lake Havasu where there was also a lot of dried out driftwood which would be perfect for my campfire.
I set up camp. I was praying hard and I laid down and read my Bible. I had a fire almost everyday and I boiled river water when my supply of freshwater dwindled. Every day I slept, had a fire, and prayed the psalms of David. I stayed there for 13 days and I was sure that I had finally done it. I thought I would never go back. I cried out to God and drew as near to Him as I could, but on day 13 I decided to get up. I was extremely weak, but I managed to make it to a dirt road. I sat down by the road and decided that if someone came by I would ask for a ride, but if not, I would go back to my campsite. I donít know how long I waited but there was no way I could make it back on foot this time. Looking back I can see that dying wasnít Godís will for me because at that point I was too weak to take care of myself anymore. I wouldnít have made it back on my own. Eventually, along came a Toyota pick up and the driver stopped.
It was a man and his 18 year old son. They were out 4-wheeling in their new truck. I asked for a ride and they obliged. I jumped in the back and asked if they were going to Lake Havasu and they said they were eventually. We rode around all day through the mountains. Eventually I got up front in the back seat because it started raining. The two men were pretty friendly and even though they asked me a few questions about myself, Iím sure that I kept most of my business as private as I could. I didnít tell them that I had been out there fasting or offer any insight into my mental state. I simply answered their questions as honestly as I could without revealing too much. The father talked a lot and asked me questions and I had to talk more than I wanted to.
I felt a little guilty for taking that ride because I had made it my purpose to not accept help from anyone, but I had no choice this time if I was going to survive. It seems I kept changing my mind when it came to the choice between life and death. I guess deep down I was afraid to die or perhaps I still really wanted to live. All I know was that every time I tried to fast I really went into it hoping to succeed. About an hour after dark, we got to Lake Havasu. When I got out of the car the man tried to give me twenty dollars and I refused to take it, but I told him I appreciated the ride. He got mad at me for not taking the money and said ďNo you didnít.Ē
The two men left and I went straight to the supermarket. I found some expired pastries in boxes. I gathered them up and went to find a place to rest and eat. I ate an entire banana crŤme pie and afterwards I felt so guilty for having eaten after going so long without food that I decided to go into the woods to force myself to throw it up. Iíd never done that before, but it wasnít as hard as I had thought. I used a toothbrush to gag myself. I donít know where I had found the toothbrush. I was encouraged by my ability to purge my food and I thought that now whenever I couldnít maintain a fast I could always purge it. I thought this would be how I could starve myself. In between fasts I could eat and then purge, it seemed like a good idea.
It rained that night and I slept on the porch of an abandoned building. The next day I went on the hunt for shoes because the ones I was wearing were falling apart. The soles were peeling off of the shoe and were flapping when I walked; so I went on the hunt around town. I found a pair of size 8 shoes. I wear size 10, but I thought I could make them work. I had to really because the ones I was wearing didnít have any more miles left in them.
I was only in town for a day and I didnít want those 2 weeks of fasting to be for nothing; so after throwing up the food I had eaten and finding new shoes, I headed back through the mountains towards the river. As I was walking down the highway towards the trail I talked to God. A storm passed overhead and there was intense thunder and lightning. It felt to me like God was talking back with a loud booming voice and I just shuddered. The storm passed over and ahead of me and there appeared a magnificent rainbow arching over the highway ahead of me; and I believed it was from God and I chased after Him and the bow He placed in the sky. It seems to me that chasing rainbows pretty much summarizes the whole pursuit. ďAnd there was a rainbow round about the throne, in sight like unto an emeraldĒ (Rev 4:3). To be with God before His throne was the Hope that I clung to and God only knows what was real and what was imagined.
As it got dark I began to feel the pain in my feet from the shoes. What could I do? I was a half day away from town without an alternate pair; so I decided to take out my steak knife, which I donít know where I got, and cut off the tops of my shoes. My toes stuck out of my mutilated shoes, but at least they werenít all bunched up inside a pair of shoes which were way too small. I walked for 2 days like that and it wasnít easy. My toes were a bloodied, blistered mess. I wasnít out there very long before I decided to head back into town.
I left the Lake Havasu area and went north. I was thinking of going to the Grand Canyon, but I never made it there. I headed north on I-40 and then west to Needles. I had gotten rid of those toeless shoes and found a replacement pair on the side of the road. Itís possible that someone had seen my shoes at the truck stop on the I-40 and left a pair of running shoes on the road where I would find them. I know that people did that for me. In fact at that very same truck stop someone had put a $50 bill in the trash can, which I didnít take because I wasnít well enough yet to start using money again and because I felt like it was too obviously a gift.
From Needles I went back east on I-40 until I reached Yucca. I ate along the way at the rest stops on the Interstate. When I got to Yucca I decided to leave the highway again and head south. I remembered that the dirt road went back down into the mountains east of Lake Havasu towards Lake Alamo. I knew that from the map, but also because itís the way we left when I got that ride out of there with those guys in the Toyota. I filled up my water jugs and headed south on those dirt roads. It was a long walk to Lake Alamo, probably 50 or 60 miles, and that took at least 3 days. I walked hard and prayed. A truck passed me with a couple of Mormons. They tried to give me some literature on their faith, but I didnít trust their doctrine so I quickly refused.
I got to the lake on the west side and I was out of water and it was warm even though it was sometime during the winter. I began to walk along the shoreline of the lake. It was a big lake and there was nothing on the west side of it, but I could see the campgrounds on the other side where I knew I could get water. I walked all day around the lake until I came to the north side. The lake seemed to be low and dried up, so I decided to cut through the lakebed. Big mistake, for out in the middle it started to get really muddy. I kept going though eager to get to the other side. Well, I started to sink in the mud deeper and deeper until I was up to my waist in mud. I began crawling on my knees. I started to think I was going to get stuck out there with no water. I was so thirsty, I just kept at it and just about sunset I made it across. I was covered in mud as I walked through the campground searching for a building with a water source. I found a rangers station with bathrooms and a water hose that they used to clean fish. I got water and then I waited a bit until it was late and then I went back to wash myself off and dig for some food. It was late when I finally went into the bushes and went to sleep.
The next day I searched the campground for food. I found very little and the park ranger saw me and escorted me out of his park. So I went south for a couple of days on Rt. 60 to Wenden. I ate what I could find and then went east about 50 miles towards Wickenburg. I stayed in Wickenburg for almost a week. I found a supermarket that threw away a lot of expired foods and I ate well. There was a dried up riverbed below the supermarket next to a park where I set up camp. I also remember finding a ball cap with ďAngelsĒ written on it which I thought was cool; and I was glad to have a hat to hold back my long hair and to keep the sun from scorching my skin anymore.
Moving on, I headed north up 93, ďThe Joshua Tree ParkwayĒ. I walked for days and Iím not sure when exactly it was, but I would guess late February or early March 2004. I walked north about 60 miles until I got to the Burro River. There was a huge bridge over the canyon that the river ran through and there was a campground nearby. I searched in the campground for food and found very little. I decided to head off road again into the Burro River Wilderness. I crossed under the bridge and as I did I got yelled at by some men who were working above. They were using explosives on the rock beside the bridge and they were screaming at me to get out from under it. I just kept moving. I knew I would be out of their way shortly. I traveled up the canyon and there was very little room inside the canyon to walk on dry land. Most of it was just large rocks I had to move over and around. In some places there was no shore line at all and I had to walk right in the river for long distances. I walked through the canyon for days. Along the way there was an old abandoned mine that I explored and free range cattle roaming about. The hike was slow going, but I kept walking until I reached a place where the water was clear close to a dirt road. I could have stayed there Ė it was more like what I was looking for than anything I had seen up to that point, but I didnít. I kept moving and eventually the dirt road turned to gravel and I was on the property of some large quarry or mining operation. I passed an empty outpost and kept on the road until a few guys in a golf cart came along. They asked me how I got there and I told them how I had gotten lost, which was mostly true. They escorted me through the rest of their property and took me to the main road that led me into Baghdad. I went into town, found food and spent the night.
The very next day I went south to Hillside down 96 and on to Kirkland and Kirkland Jct. It was a long walk and there was nowhere to get food until Kirkland where I found food at an elementary school on a weekend. I had already decided to head up into the mountains in Prescott and Flagstaff because it was beginning to warm up in the south and I wanted to be in the cooler parts of Northern Arizona. So, from Kirkland I headed north towards Prescott, another town I had been in before. As I approached Prescott from the south, I had to climb uphill several thousand feet into the city. It was a tough climb.
In Prescott, I spent several days in town roaming about, searching for food and what not. I tried to leave once heading towards Iron Springs, but I got caught in a thunderstorm and got soaked. I couldnít find anywhere to escape the rain, so I just walked in it. It was cold and wet, quite miserable really. Anyway, I turned around and went back to Prescott.
A couple of days later I headed north up 89 towards Chino Valley. I had never seen that part of Arizona before, but I liked it. It was beautiful. When I got to Paulden, I decided to fast again and I headed west on some dirt roads towards Big Chino Wash. It was beautiful country with grassy fields and wide open spaces and then in other parts it became hilly with lots of Juniper trees. I was walking through these wide open fields and I would see this lonely hill up ahead with one tree on top. I took mental notes of that landscape. Today I wish to go back with my camera to capture the view forever. There were some farms and ranches that I passed along the way, mostly way in the distance; but I had to climb a few fences in order to keep going north towards I-40. It took 4 days to get there and I made it to the Interstate just west of Seligman.
In Seligman I hung out at a gas station looking for food. There really wasnít anything else around that exit. I wasnít there long enough to eat very much before the attendant asked me to leave. Fearing that he might call the cops, I went east this time towards Williams. In Williams I found plenty to eat at the supermarket and the many hotels there. I was comfortable in Williams. The weather and the temperature were just right; there was plenty to eat, and I found some great places to camp in the forest. I was there for probably a week until I started thinking again about where to fast. I knew that there was a wilderness area nearby called Sycamore Canyon, so I went to the rangerís station in town to look at a map of some of the forest roads. I canít remember if I went inside and got a map or if I just memorized the names of the roads. I filled up three milk jugs and began the trek through the forest to Sycamore Canyon. Sycamore Canyon would be my last attempt at fasting.
Without knowing it would be my last attempt, I had set my sites by the map on Sycamore Canyon, a wilderness area south of Williams and Flagstaff, northwest of Sedona and due north of Cottonwood and Jerome. My first trip into the forest was late in the day. As always I filled up 2 or 3 gallon milk jugs with water. One tied to my makeshift backpack and the others one in each hand. Leaving a town was always an internal conflict. I had to struggle with my will to eat and be comfortable. I walked fast down those unpaved forest roads and I could see the snowcapped peaks of the San Francisco Mountains to the west. They were beautiful and I felt drawn to them. As I walked I imagined climbing them and meeting the God who had sent me on this quest. I imagined Him riding in on a thundercloud enveloping the peak of the mountain surrounded by flashes of lightning and loud cracks of thunder. I saw Him descending from heaven above to rescue me from my nightmare; but I shrugged off the fantasy and focused on the insane task ahead. The way into Sycamore Canyon, which would be my final exploration.
By the moonlight I walked for hours at night to create a significant distance between myself and the town of Williams behind me. I walked through the forest and into a prairie. The grassland was well lit by the moon above and the silhouettes of pine trees in the distance were like a dream and the cool crisp air was refreshing. That night I walked until I was satisfied with my progress. I had probably made about 15 miles when I disappeared into the woods to rest for the night.
At first light I awoke and packed up my bedroll. I began my day with a prayer and fought off the urge to return to town where I could eat and pass the time. I focused my mind on the task ahead and began to walk towards Sycamore Canyon. I spent several hours on the forest road alone with only the occasional truck passing by slowly to inspect me. Late in the morning I arrived at the trail that led into the canyon. It was still another 3 or 4 miles to the beginning of the canyon. The trail meandered through the pines and the scenery was terrific, but I spent no time taking it in. The trail ended at a cliff overlooking the canyon below. I stood at the edge of the cliff and marveled at the scene. The huge boulders at the bottom left there from rockslides and the soaring Ponderosa pines and fir trees.
I started down the slippery slope on the side of the canyon grasping my water jugs carefully as if they were an infant, for only the water was necessary for my comfort and I carried no food as my purpose was to fast. I had no idea how long the canyon was or if I would make it out. Part of me hoped I wouldnít make it out at all, but my other mind knew that Cottonwood was on the other end of that Wilderness Canyon.
Relieved to be at the bottom and to have more stability than I had on the canyons steep wall, I began to follow the path of the canyon stream, which ran only in some areas. It was mostly pools of water in the rocky surface. It was not an easy terrain to travel. The surface was mostly solid rock with boulders blocking my path. In a lot of places the ground was completely covered with medium sized rocks and I had to negotiate each footstep, hopping and leaping from one rock to another. I mostly walked all day, stopping only to rest or read my Bible and pray.
That first night in the canyon I was probably 5 miles from itís beginning when I found a place along the side of the canyon on top of a hill to settle down and begin my fast. I was probably twenty miles from Williams. I laid down beneath the fir trees on a bed of pine needles and spread out my blankets. Here I would sleep and pray alone with God and my thoughts. I thought about my past life and all the people who had once been a part of it. I thought about my family, friends and even past lovers. I thought about all the sin that had been a part of my whole life and I was truly repentant; and I asked God for His mercy and forgiveness. Still, I couldnít help but wonder about the meaning and significance of old relationships? Was there any redeeming value in these past experiences during my life without God? Memories, even the ungodly ones, with all their emotional baggage made up the whole story of my life up until my revelation of Godís existence. I meditated on how, since God had come into my life, I had lost everything in my world and that all that was left was Him. I had no concept of the fact that that was His whole purpose in the matter. I couldnít see past my delusion to the big picture of what God was doing in my life. I believe His whole purpose in my walk was to create new memories of our time together and to build a relationship with Him through Jesus Christ.
The next morning on the second day of my fast, I decided not to stay in the canyon permanently. I would head south through the canyon as long as it took to get to Cottonwood on the other end. I had no idea how long it would take. I reassured myself by rationalizing that I would explore the whole length of the canyon and that I would continue walking back and forth between the two towns until I was successful in my attempt at starvation. I was convinced it was the right place for me to continue; there was a town on each end and they were about 40 miles apart with 21 of those miles being inside Sycamore Canyon.
On the third day I walked with a sense of urgency and hunger into the yet explored canyon south towards what I hoped would lead to Cottonwood. There was no easy path to travel, I had to use caution with every step. Moving around fallen trees, rock formations, and sudden drops in elevation, I came to a place where there was about a twenty foot drop. I couldnít climb down it because it was straight down. The water trickled down to the rocks below. I looked around to see how I could get to the bottom. The only way was to climb up the side of the canyon and move downstream along the edge of the cliffs. Then I could find a better place to descend back into the bottom of the canyon. This was more difficult than I thought because I still had two gallon jugs of water with me and I had only one free hand to climb with. I scaled the rocks above the steep drop. It was a more dangerous endeavor than I expected and at times I was really in a precarious position, but I had no choice, I had to make it back down into the canyon.
I moved on through the canyon, the terrain stayed the same most of that day, a rocky surface with large and small boulders to move around and walk on. The pools of water were stagnant mostly and you could hear only a trickle of water flowing, but the water looked clear, resting in pools on the solid rock surface; and I was satisfied that it was drinkable. A butterfly flew by, flapped its wings, and then floated through the air. It always made me wonder if an angel was nearby.
I moved silently or perhaps I was praying or singing a song from my memory. It had been so long since I had heard music and I often sang to myself and to God to pass the time, hanging on the lyrics of songs I knew, wondering what deeper meaning the artist had in mind when they wrote them.
At the end of the day I found a little cave and scoped it out to see if there were any creatures in it. It was almost springtime and I was leery of snakes. The coast was clear, so I made my bed in the crags of the rock and went to sleep for the night.
At first light I resumed my walk continuing south. It was day three and I was hungry. I thought about food and I imagined all sorts of goodies I would find in Cottonwood. I pressed on and the landscape began to change. The firs and pines turned into Junipers and Mesquite trees. The canyon walls were turning into red rock sandstone and spectacular painted cliffs. I moved in a hurry eager to get to Cottonwood. The whole scene had changed and the landscape was becoming more desert like, although there was still a lot of plant life. The prickly pear cactus had begun to bloom and the thorny bushes and agaves were thick on the sides of the canyon. There were still a lot of rocks in the canyon but there was also a lot of red clay and sand to walk on. I came to a fork in the canyon and I was unsure which path to take, so I prayed and asked for a sign. My sign was a hermit thrush that flew above my head and down the canyon to the left. He stayed just ahead of me flying from rock to rock, singing his song along the way. I had grown used to trusting the birds. They never steered me wrong. I followed him until he disappeared.
I spent the entire day from sun up until sun down walking with urgency until I came to a place where tall sycamores and cottonwoods were abundant. Just beyond that, the canyon grew narrow and the pools of water grew deeper. I came to a place where the canyon walls closed in on me and there was no way through except to wade through the almost waist deep water.
I had fairly clean, comfortable clothes on. Grey sweatpants on top of hiking shorts, a clean t-shirt and several sweatshirts. I was also carrying several pairs of dry clean socks in my pack, all of which I had found in Lake Havasu. I didnít want to get my new running shoes or my clothes wet, so I took my shoes and sweatpants off and waded into the pool of water. The walls of the canyon looked like they were carefully sculpted and the crimson walls were quite a sight to see. I walked for about a quarter mile through the twisting, turning, narrow canyon and if I stretched out my arms I could touch both sides. The canyon opened back up and the sun was no longer shining in the gorge. Before long I began to look for a comfortable place to sleep and to have a fire. I still had matches and there was plenty of dried up driftwood lying around. I made a fire and warmed myself. The fire was a tremendous comfort to my weary soul. I just laid there as close as I could get without getting burned and stared up at the stars in the sky until I drifted off to sleep.
Morning came on the fifth day and I arose at first light. I erased any trace of my fire and began to walk, unsure of how far it was to Cottonwood. The sun was bright and there were signs of spring all around, desert flowers blooming and birds singing. I saw species of exotic birds I had never seen before. The canyon was much wider now and I could see the mesas and buttes along the mountainous terrain in the distance.
The fourth day was pretty much just a sprint to Cottonwood, although I wouldnít arrive there until the fifth day. The surroundings were like something out of an old Western, the desert landscape was hot and dry, but there was so much life. I never saw any of the bears or mountain lions indigenous to the area but I did see a large mule deer and a diamondback rattlesnake. Fortunately, I missed stepping on the rock where the snake was hiding. I saw him about 5 yards in front of me coiled up beneath a rock with his large head sticking out poised to strike if I dared to approach his space. I stopped in my tracks relieved that I had spotted him in advance. We just sat there staring at each other for a moment. He opened his mouth to reveal his fangs and hissed a warning. After the brief pause I moved around him at a safe distance.
I began to notice signs of other hikers on day 4. There were some footpaths and someone had piled up stones to mark the trail. I came upon an old shack built a long time ago, probably for cowboys, but it had been restored and though primitive, it was well maintained and I could tell that people and horses had camped there recently.
I followed the trail as the trees and brush grew thicker. Eventually the trail grew more pronounced and you could tell it was frequently traveled. Now I was in a densely wooded area still deep inside the canyon and I could hear water flowing. I passed a hiker with three dogs and we exchanged hellos but I kept to myself embarrassed by my appearance and ripe smell. I was now in the midst of a place which can only be described as the Garden of Eden. The place was called Parsonís Trail, a desert, riparian wilderness trail as rare as it is beautiful.
The last 5 miles of the canyon were breathtaking with lush Cottonwood, Sycamore, and Walnut trees flanked by colorful crimson cliffs. The trail is well made and at times you are right up against the red sandstone walls on your left and flowing water courses on your right with tall green grass and spring flowers everywhere. Canyon wrens and hermit thrushes are ubiquitous and I was in awe of my surroundings. This was a precious jewel of Godís making, so rare and tranquil. I had spent years exploring the country and never had I seen a place so magnificent. I took photographs of it in my mind, but at the time I was more concerned with the prospect of food that lay ahead in Cottonwood; and I was through with the canyon for now.
I came to the entrance of Parsonís Trail and it was late on the fourth day. Climbing the trail out of the canyon was strenuous. I opened the gate to exit the trail and I was in a parking lot. A single Subaru Outback station wagon parked there. I headed up the hill on the road leading out of the canyon without knowing how much longer I had until Cottonwood. Nighttime was approaching and I pressed on with only one purpose - to eat. I had a half a jug of water left, the other 2 empty jugs tied to my pack. From the top of the hill I could see far to the south. Junipers sparsely dotted the landscape with desert shrubs and cactuses. Night fell and I could see the lights from Jerome nestled on the side of a mountain in the distance. I walked off the road a bit and laid out my blankets. It would be easy to fall asleep tonight. I could wait one more day to fill my belly.
Early in the morning on the fifth day I headed down the dirt road that led to 89A towards Cottonwood. It was easily another ten miles into town crossing the Verde River, which was a really large body of water. It took about 4 hours to get to town. It was a long walk and occasionally someone would slow down as they drove by and stare, but I kept my head down and ignored everyone, pretending to be invisible.
Cottonwood is not a very large town, with one main road that goes through it. Everything was on that main drag. I was so hungry when I came into town that I checked every dumpster I saw searching for any halfway edible morsel. I couldnít wait to see if there were supermarkets or hotels. I kept walking though and on the other side of town there were plenty of good places to get food, both supermarkets and hotels. I settled into my routine of scavenging and resting behind buildings, in alleyways and wooded areas. I found the last few days newspapers in the hotel trash and proceeded to catch up on yesterdayís news.
I must mention, too, that my illness really kicked in when I read the newspaper and I believed that there was a message being sent to me within the articles themselves. I know this sounds really weird, right? - but remember, Iím delusional and I think that the Government is after me and that they are sending threatening messages to me encoded in various articles in the newspaper. I find it hard to admit or describe, but this is the mind of a paranoid schizophrenic Ė even one who is desperately seeking and following after God and being led by Him as well. I still believe that, even after the delusions have ceased and Iím back to reality. I didnít walk for almost 4 years seeking God for nothing, His hand and providence were very real in my life; this is truth.
I hung out in Cottonwood for 2 days. I found an unopened box of frosted flakes in the dumpster outside of a drug store and I ate well behind the supermarkets. I even found some clean t-shirts and socks behind a thrift store. I passed the time walking around town searching for food and reading old newspapers and magazines. I read my Bible and spent time in prayer, pleading with God to forgive me for wasting the time and not heeding His call to fast. This was an inaccurate perception of Godís will for me; but I still believe that He was calling me to fast. This was part of my journey with Him.
As guilt set in and I grew tired of eating, my desire to fast grew and I mustered the strength to leave town again. I went back towards Sycamore Canyon, hyper focused and with renewed determination to fulfill Godís task He had laid upon me. For 3 or 4 weeks I repeated this pattern between Williams and Cottonwood. I traveled back and forth through the canyon eating and fasting. I went through the canyon 4 or 6 times, I donít remember, until finally God called me to Flagstaff. This was where my walk would finally endÖ for good.
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