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  • Ken Ilgunas

The journey begins

Last night, while watching the Bears-Packers game with Josh and his wife Amelia, we were all startled by what sounded like someone frantically banging on the front door. The sound was actually about a half-dozen gun shots from our street, just in front of the house.

While I’ve come to enjoy some of the domestic comforts of our little place in Denver, there is a good deal of crime in the area, and our house is situated in gang territory. From what we’ve gathered, it was a drive-by shooting (probably gang-related) and for whatever reason someone fired six bullets into a neighbor’s car.

We locked the doors, Josh called the police, and I retrieved my canister of bear spray. It didn’t occur to me until hours later that my poor van could have been collateral damage, parked as it was in front of the house.

You can see in the picture below just how close my van was to the car. If there is any meaning to draw from this story, it’s that recently, it seems, I’ve been able to escape bad luck, which is a theme I hope will continue for the rest of my journey.

The bad luck began last week when I broke my pinkie toe when stumbling down the basement steps. I’ve given the toe a solid week to heal, and it has recuperated admirably. As you can see, there’s only a small bruise below the nail. Before, it was sore to walk on, but now I’m able to go on short walks in my hiking shoes without much discomfort. It’ll still be a week before my actual hike starts, so I’m hoping it’ll be ready for action by then.

To heal it, I drank a gallon a milk and farted around in bed for a week, rarely leaving my room except to play a little Madden with Josh and do a little housekeeping (which isn’t too different from my normal routine, but I did make sure to cut out my daily jog).

I had another almost-disaster when I was walking around in the backyard this afternoon. For some reason Josh and Amelia have tiny, half-inch screws projecting out of their backyard patio. I accidently kicked my left foot (the same as the broken pinkie) against one, and I instantly worried that I might have cut the sole of my foot open, perhaps worsening the condition of my feet, which are body parts as necessary as any other for a successful hike. Fortunately, there was no cut, only a nasty welt, which is sore, but will, I assume, heal very quickly.

I’ve made a few last-minute gear decisions. For one, I’m taking my small point and shoot camera (12 oz with accessories) instead of my massive, but really nice, single lens reflex camera (3 pounds 10 oz). This will save me lots of pack space, as well as three pounds.

While I’m not bringing much for hygiene purposes–in fact I’m bringing nothing for hygiene purposes–I have decide to pack some floss, toothpaste, and a toothbrush (which I’ve cut in half).

I also bought a new pair of rain pants. I’d originally decided to go without, but because I’ve postponed this trip over and over again, I’m leaving much later than I’d first hoped. The consequence of this is that I might have to hike through some cold, inhospitable weather. About the worst sort of weather I could hike through is rain/sleet when it’s in the 30s or 40s, so a pair of rain pants will help me avoid hypothermia.

While everything seemed to be falling apart a week ago, everything, now, appears to be coming together. I have all my gear, my toe has healed nicely, my van didn’t get drive-by-ed, and I just learned that the food drops I’d mailed to Canada have passed through customs and are en route to the post offices where I’ll pick them up.

Tomorrow, I’ll take a bus up to Fort Collins, Colorado, and travel the rest of the way to Northern Alberta by any means necessary.

Here’s my goodbye feast, made by my two dear friends, Amelia and Josh, who’ve been so good to me these past few months. Chicken, sweet potatoes fries, salad, imported beer, and peach pie for desert.

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