Saturday, October 31, 2009

In the News...

As many of you know, I am writing a self-syndicated column for newspapers around the state of Texas. I'm always looking for a way to let people experience what I'm going through, and the columns serve this purpose.

Here are a couple of recent columns that came out. I don't enjoy having my work tampered with, and unfortunately, that's exactly what happened with one of the following columns. Technically, one of the following was edited, much to my dismay. Flow is very important to me, the idea that one sentence or paragraph rolls smoothly into the next, and if my work has to change, I prefer to make those changes with the flow in mind. Oh well.

I'll stop editorializing. Enjoy the articles.

For the article in the Corpus Christi Caller-Times, click here. It is about the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge.

For the article in the Victoria Advocate, click here. It's about my encounter in Seadrift, Texas.

Until next we cross paths...

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Dear Perimeter Hiker

. . . . .
. . . . .
Dear Perimeter Hiker,

Has the BOSS survival course training helped you on this trip?

-Was It Worth It?

Dear WIWI,

When I participated in my survival course, I had originally envisioned it helping me in the western part of the state where the topography and climate would be more similar to that of Utah’s. I didn’t know if any of the knowledge would apply in my day-to-day living.

There are two answers to this question:

As per direct knowledge, the answer would have to be an excruciatingly painful ‘no.’ Sure, I use a knot or two that I learned in my survival course when setting up my tarp, but I don’t make fire from scratch, haven’t caught a fish with my bare hands, don’t make my own rope, haven’t tried trapping wild animals with a figure four, don’t eat out of a wooden burn bowl, and haven’t killed and processed a large animal.

However, there is a certain quality to the course which falls under the realm of experience. In this regard, the course has done me a great deal of good. I’m confident in ways I don’t think I was before. I’m more analytical when it comes to making decisions about where to sleep and how to sleep. It’s impossible to quantify this aspect of the experience. For example, if I have no supply of food or water and am two full days from either and my feet hurt and the weather is against me, I’ll still remain upbeat. It’s hard to imagine having that kind of confidence prior to the survival course.
. . . . .
. . . . .
Dear Perimeter Hiker,

What are you eating out there?

-Get In My Belly

Dear GIMB,

I carry snacks and basically just skimp on my meals. I’m passing through so many communities that I’m not worried about having tons of food or a truly balanced diet. Put another way, I’m almost always a day or two away from a nice sit-down restaurant. So why carry food on my back?

When I happen to be on a multi-day stretch toward civilization, I eat peanut butter, raisins, and bread. Right now, I’ve switched out the peanut butter for some Nutella. It’s been decent, but I really think the chunky peanut butter is where it’s at.
. . . . .
. . . . .
Dear Perimeter Hiker,

What tech & navigation gear do you have with you? What kind of phone, GPS, maps, etc?

-Geeked Out On Technology

Dear GOOT,

I am not using much in the way of navigation gear. I have a standard road map and a standard phone. I do not use GPS or specialized maps. I originally carried a compass with me but cut it out of my pack due to non-use.

I have heard of people using the SPOT device to track their movements on various trips. I considered this, even so far as asking SPOT to sponsor me, but ultimately decided against it. Furthermore, walking alone doesn’t lend itself to bulking up on expensive equipment.

The one area that I might re-evaluate is my map carrying. I walked on the most beautiful side road a few days ago. Trees stood right by the road (instead of being cut back), parts of the road were flooded (which I enjoyed since it wasn’t raining), dogs ran up on me, people waved. I wouldn’t have known about the side road had my host not had a county map.
. . . . .
. . . . .
Until next time, hikers…

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Books on the Texas Perimeter

I typically hike with a book and catch a few pages both on the road and curled up in my bag at the end of the day. Below are a few of the books that I bothered to lug with me, books that broke my back but helped remind me of the wonder of it all. Enjoy.
. . .
Thalia, Texas is the fictional setting for The Last Picture Show by Larry McMurtry. It's a one-stop-light town where old habits die hard and time seems like it will stretch for an eternity. The focal point of the novel centers around the lives of its high school kids, for in their hands rests the power to break the cycle of small town existence. As the book unravels, you find out the sad and uneventful reality about its adults... that they have been trying to break the same cycle for their entire lives. A well-written and enjoyable book.
. . .
The cover doesn't say a whole heck of a lot, but within the pages of Tales of Old-Time Texas, J.Frank Dobie (of Dobie Center fame in Austin) spins dozens of yarns he heard over the years about the Lone Star state. The stories are mostly from the 19th century and highlight the people, the animals, the weather, and tales of lost Texas treasure. My favorite chapters cover the outlaw Sam Bass, honeybees in Texas, and the Woman of the Navidad. The tales are decidedly lighthearted, but they capture the essence of an era all but lost to the passing of time. A delightful and compelling read.
. . .
Author and sports fan H.G. Bissinger wanted in the late 80s to visit an American football stronghold, some place where the community came together and lived for the thrill of the sport. He found such a place in Odessa, TX, where each week would pull in 15,000 to 20,000 fans on Friday night. During th 1988 season, Bissinger lived in Odessa, conducted hundreds of interviews, went to every game, followed the players on the field, at school, and at home, and ultimately produced Friday Night Lights, a work of such profound journalistic depth that I had trouble not rereading the entire thing a second time. Many issues come into play, such as the intensity of the game, the sincerity of the major players and coaches, the fanaticism of the town. However, the story becomes much more compelling when issues of racism, grade tampering, and community harassment are woven into the story, glaring and as bright as those Friday night lights. A fantastic piece of non-fiction and a must-read.
. . .
Until we meet again...

Faces of Texas

(These photos are ordered from most recent to the past

and the formatting is off. Don't ask.

Fortunately, the stories haven't changed at all.)

. . . . .

"No matter where you go in this world,
you'll always find someone from Texas."
- Andy Hodkinson, with wife Ronda,
commenting on how small this world really is.
Henderson, TX
. . .
"What I fear is people not getting out
and living as good as they could."
- David Baugh playing the devil's advocate
to the view that we should live in fear
of all the crazy people in the world.
I met David on Hwy 31. He was going south on his bicycle
and I was going north on foot. We both pulled over
and talked for an hour in a random driveway.
De Berry, TX
. . .
"You be careful now. Don't take no wooden nickels."
- Businessman Robert Williams giving me some last minute advice.
Robert let me camp out at his business out of the rain.
Newton, TX
. . .

"I'm the youngest one here. And I'm 78!"

- Park caretaker Fred Andrews on his position on the veteran committee

in charge of the Golden Triangle Veterans Memorial Park. We talked for a long time about the park, his family history, and the region.

Orange County, TX

. . .

"People I didn't even know would show up with ten boxes of books and say 'I bet you can use these.' That kind of stuff happened all the time."

- Galveston Bookshop owner Sharon Zwick on reopening her store after Hurrican Ike. The water level had been up to seven feet inside the store, which trashed the entire ground level. The community, grateful that business owners hadn't abandoned the city, came out with lots of unsolicited support. Galveston Bookshop was one of the first businesses to reopen.

Galveston, TX
. . .

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Dear Perimeter Hiker

There are a lot of questions out there about this endeavor, so I figured that I could make a sporadic blog column about it, a sort of Dear Abby for the trek. I'll do my best to answer a handful of questions each time at I'm a computer. New questions can then be added to the end of this column which will make up the content of future ones. Sound easy? Then let's jump right in.
. . . . .
. . . . .
Dear Perimeter Hiker,

There are an awful lot of empty, long stretches around the state. Where do you sleep each night?

- Concerned about your Zs

Dear CAYZ,

I have thus far slept in a variety of places, many of which I could not have predicted. I have stayed in a hotel/motel room, been invited into people's homes, met up with other members of, stayed in a garage, camped in an RV park, and camped by the side of the road.

The most memorable of the above has got to be the Lee Family in Port Lavaca (picture in this post). I was at the library and asked about books for sale, but unfortunately they didn't have any. Shortly thereafter, a woman holding a baby approached me and offered to give me a book or two from her home which was two blocks away. I accepted and accompanied her home where she introduced me to her husband and children. We talked and talked, and they invited me to sleep on the couch or floor in one of their rooms. I ended up staying with the family for two nights.

Of course, CAYZ, you may be more interested in the grittier side of this endeavor, camping by the side of the road. I remember chatting with a man who biked across the USA and listening to him casually mention sleeping by the side of the road. It didn't seem like a big deal to him, maybe because he was covering so much ground.

Well, let me tell you something. Around mid to late afternoon everyday, I'm thinking about where I'm going to sleep. At this point, a group of trees is appraised not for their beauty but for their ability to shelter me. I try to judge where to sleep based upon the following criteria: 1) available cover (trees, hills, etc.), 2) proximity to a town or residence (who's nearby?), 3) number of cars on the road (who will see me?). For example, yesterday I walked about fifteen miles and was ready to stop. I hiked an additional two miles until I found a decent grove of trees (1), had just passed a residence and didn't see another one up the road (2), and saw no cars on the road (3).

This sort of covert camping does not excite me. On the contrary, it is an exhausting way to spend my energy. I do pay attention to signs, especially ones that say "No Trespassing" and "My dog's a good shot, and so am I." I was found once but have yet to be confronted. I am absolutely not looking forward to such a confrontation and will try my hardest to avoid one.
. . . . .
. . . . .
Dear Perimeter Hiker,

Are you getting food drops or anything like that? Is there any way to mail you something?

- Mail on the Edge

Dear MOTE,

I am not getting food drops, but should you feel the urge to mail something to me, food or otherwise, the map below will show you more or less where I am and what post office is coming up:

Remember, I am traveling in a counterclockwise direction. I may have to hole up somewhere to avoid the brunt of winter, but I will do my best to adhere to this route.
. . . . .
. . . . .
Dear Perimeter Hiker,

"I did not expect it to be so crushing, a defeat to be lived over and over in the presence of those who could make it go away." Was it easier on the A.T.?

- Brandon

Dear Brandon,

The Appalachian Trail was a million times easier than this. That's because there was a group of peers with whom you could socialize. Furthermore, because people were going at so many different speeds, there was a constant shifting of the social group on any given day, making it easier to meet many new people. In hindsight, my hardest moments on the Appalachian Trail were those with the least amount of social contact.

I'm around people at least once a day on this trek, but it's much different. We are not peers. We're not even just strangers. Being seen as a stranger would be better than this because a stranger has a blank slate to start off. I show up with a backpack and a day's worth of sweat (possibly more), and I start off at a major social disadvantage. I am distrusted and feared.

On the Appalachian Trail, most "civilians" don't interact with hikers, but it is a known phenomenon that thousands of people attempt the trail every year. Hikers are expected, their goal understood.

My goal is far from globally known. I'm still just a hitchhiker bum to glance at and look away.

I am lucky to have run across individuals who have treated me with open minds and hearts, people who have given me a modicum of respect ("Respect" in this case might amount to asking me what I'm doing instead of assuming it.). I have much to learn from these individuals.

Just this past weekend, my parents and aunt visited me and treated me to some wonderful meals, a movie, and a couple of nights in a nice hotel. While driving around the first evening, we passed a homeless man outside a closed Dairy Queen. Everybody chimed in: "Don't stop." and "Keep going." It was so strange to be on the other side of the car window.

I don't really blame anyone for their gut reactions. I find in myself many of the same thoughts. One thing is for sure: while a good meal fills the belly, a nice conversation feeds the soul.
. . . . .
. . . . .
Until next we meet...

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Days Thirty-Three through Forty-Seven

Historical Marker, Galveston, Galveston County, Day 33
. . .
Once again, it's that time to crunch the numbers. As seems to be the pattern for this trek, I've taken a lot of breaks, but I've also covered a lot of ground, at least it seems to me. As always, I write the day and the end point for that day, followed by an estimate of how many miles I walked. Let's take a look:
. . .
Water Tower, Galveston, Galveston County, Day 33
. . .
Day 33: Port Bolivar, about 9 miles (plus 2.7 on a ferry)
Day 34: Crystal Beach, about 11 miles
Day 35: Somewhere along McFadden National Wildlife Refuge, let's say about 32 miles
Day 36: Sabine Pass, about 30 miles (I first went to the very edge of the coastline, then had to backtrack due to the lack of a road; I'm guessing I added 10 miles.)
Day 37: A zero day in Groves (near Port Arthur)
Day 38: Port Arthur, about 14 miles
Day 39: Groves, about 11 miles (I backtracked to the post office, adding 6 miles.)
Day 40: Orange, about 18 miles (an extra mile to get to my couchsurfing hosts' place.)
Days 41-43: A few zero days in Orange
Day 44: Just shy of Hartburg, about 12 miles
Day 45: Somewhere on Hwy 87, about 15 miles
Day 46: Bleakwood, about 15 miles
Day 47: Newton, about 15 miles
. . .
These two weeks seem much much longer. I can't believe I saw my cousin Cat and her aunt and uncle back in Houston, nor my parents in Sabine Pass, nor (and more recently) my couchsurfing hosts in Orange. Time bends in very peculiar ways, and my mind has a very hard time wrapping itself around its folds.
. . .
Here are a few journaling thoughts to give you an idea of what's going on in my head (And sorry for not putting days on earlier journal entries. I'm experimenting with what works and what doesn't. This is all a work in progress.) . Some thoughts will stand in direct conflict with others. Please keep in mind that these are all snippets from different days, different events, different moods, and different emotions.
. . .
Ferry Crossing Sunset, Galveston, Galveston County, Day 33
. . .
* Day 33: The sunset is perfect today. The clouds are smudged whites and grays. The birds at the ferry landing are silhouetted by the sun's light. It is a spectacular ending to an uneventful day of wandering. I am lucky, lucky, lucky.
. . .
Lighthouse, Port Bolivar, Galveston County, Day 34
. . .
* Day 34: There are so many elements to this night. The ocean waves, the moon mostly full, the fire ling, the hard wet sand, the strong winds. And me. I have to be in this scene to know it, to hear the waves and feel the sand, to build the fire and feed its flames. I am alone but not entirely lonely, my senses responding to my surroundings and filling me with moments of now.
. . .
I Buy Houses, Bolivar Peninsula, Galveston County, Day 35
. . .

. . .
Washed Away, Bolivar Peninsula, Galveston County, Day 35
. . .

. . .
Pelicans, Bolivar Peninsula, Galveston County, Day 35
. . .

. . .
Pelicans in Flight, Bolivar Peninsula, Galveston County, Day 35
. . .

. . .
Beach Buggy, Bolivar Peninsula, Galveston County, Day 35
. . .

. . .
Private Property, Jefferson County, Day 36
. . .
* Day 38: The rain doesn't bother me as much as you'd think, but it cripples whatever dignity I have as a traveler. You should have seen the motel manager/owner [in Port Arthur]. You'd have thought he was having both a heart attack and seizure by renting to me. I don't know how to diffuse the situation either. I tell the truth, but often the truth is too much for people to believe. The RV park assistant manager I spoke with earlier laughed when I said she might read about me in the local paper. I don't see this situation going away any time soon.
. . .
Golden Triangle Veterans Memorial Park, Port Neches, Jefferson County, Day 40
. . .
* Day 40: Once again, I am hesitant to leave a safe space. I'm enjoying having people to talk to, ways to entertain myself, distract myself. I'm also a little nervous again about the road and being alone. Will this ever become normal?
. . .
* Day 43: I meant to take off but got bummed by the rain. It was really coming down. I asked my hosts if I could stay again, and (yes!) they accepted. I bought groceries and made homemade pizza (crust, too) for us. I definitely pushed the boundaries of hospitality, but I think it was ok in the end.
. . .
[Side Note on Couchsurfing: Allison and Jayne were amazing hosts (pictures in previous post). They really helped me out, treated me well, and of course, gave me a space to crash. If everyone were like them, I think Couchsurfing would be much more popular.]
. . .
Walk with God, Pine Grove, Newton County, Day 47
. . .

. . .
Evacuation Route, Newton, Newton County, Day 47
. . .
* Day 47: Why does hiking have to be so ? When I'm able to chat with people a bit, they open up to my project and ultimately me. It feels good to connect. I just don't know how full-time homeless people do it. It's the solitude that's worse than any panther scream or beach flashing. Yes, I can deal with it - I have to. But I did not expect it to be so crushing, a defeat to be lived over and over in the presence of those who could make it go away.
. . .
[Note on Above Entry: This was the end of a good day. I had some nice conversations with people in a cafe, and all went over well. It stands in direct contrast to a interaction I had at a convenience store which still s in my mind. This entry is a reflection not on the people of Newton that I met but on my earlier encounter.]
. . .
Crawfish, Newton, Newton County, Day 47
. . .
And that's all from the edge! I really appreciate all the comments on this blog, Facebook, Twitter, etc. They really cheer me up and keep me motivated to keep going. I laughed especially hard at the kinetic flashlight comment (see comments under The Scary Incident at the Beach). Be strong, be good, and do something you've always wanted to do.

Until next we meet...

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

The Panther's Scream

I'm a city person. I like to think of myself as a small city person, but the years in my life in a big city like Austin or Corpus far outnumber my years in Montana towns and Guinea villages combined. This all amounts to a certain kind of conditioning, of which I am generally not made aware of, until there is a disturbance of such magnitude that I am forced to re-evaluate exactly where I am from and what I am made of.

I recently heard a panther scream. It did not cry or whine or growl or sniff or any of a variety of things that critters are known to do. It screamed loud and long. Though my hearing is not the best, I approximate that it was no further than twenty yards away.

This had an incalculable effect on my city boy upbringing. It didn't matter any more that I've read hundreds of books, gone to college, or know how to make homemade chocolate croissants. What mattered was that I was in the moment, calm and collected, and could react to whatever happened next.

Yeah, right. That attitude lasted for fifteen seconds tops.

I happened to be hiking with a book with a chapter on panthers. Tales of Old-Time Texas by J. Frank Dobie is a really fun book under normal circumstances. I opened it to a chapter called "The Panther's Scream." The chapter starts like this:

"A hundred years ago and more, a settler on the Trinity River cut down a bee tree. Its crash to the ground broke the silence of the forest. Immediately a high scream from a panther in the distance responded, and out of mockery the man screamed back. The panther replied, nearer now. The man quit mocking to listen, but a panther's movements, even on the forest's leafy floor, make no sound. The man had no idea that the panther was so near until he saw it spring upon the stump of the felled tree."

I had to put the book down.

Fortunately, I was surrounded by plants and trees. I was able to take an inventory of them, as I kept shining my headlamp outside of my netting every few moments. I had to consciously relax. They can smell fear, I thought to myself.

I did relax, but it wasn't until some time passed that I heard a scream far in the distance that I was able to get any rest at all. And even then, it was a pitiful excuse for repose.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Faces of Texas: Shangri La Botanical Gardens and Nature Center

. . .
Shangri La Botanical Gardens and Nature Center is located in Orange, TX. I was lucky enough to meet two of its employees (both below) who introduced me to its grounds. It is such a huge beautiful garden that a person could get lost in what it has to offer. For more information, click here.
. . .
"I come early [to work] and walk around.
You just can't believe you're in the center of town."
- Marlene Cox, Admissions Administrator of Shangri La,
on how she prefers to enjoy the gardens.
She was enthusiastic about every detail of the park,
from the colorful flowers to the migratory birds.
. . .
"There's an old Cajun legend that blue bottles
collect bad dreams.
It's like a dream-catcher."
- Allison Palser, Environmental Education Intern at Shangri La,
on why several trees were adorned with blue bottles.
Aside from hosting me, Allison gave me a tour of the grounds
and showed me everything from bees to a sculpture garden to a reflecting pool.
. . .

"You get to tell people about nature.
That's why I got a degree in biology."

- Jayne Carlisle, Environmental Education Intern at Shangri La,
on giving bayou boat tours.
On a busy Saturday, Jayne said,
she'll do four one-and-a-half hour tours in a day.
. . .
"After so many years, I just couldn't believe
this photo was up.
It gave me shivers."
- Billie Burns, Member and Volunteer at Shangri La,
on discovering a picture taken of herself and her husband in the visitors' center.
She tapped the picture and said that her husband,
now deceased, was "so handsome."

The photo had been taken at Shangri La
some fifty years ago before the couple had married.

. . .
"See no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil."
- Three pumpkins, special guests at the Scarecrow Festival
and Autumn Fair,
on how to live in this world.
. . .

Monday, October 5, 2009

The Scary Incident at the Beach

I'll do a general update later, but for now, a couple of my tweets demand a more thorough examination of the details, specifically the ones about the naked guy on the beach.

While nothing ended up happening, I would like to add a disclaimer of sorts. This is the blog post you might not want your child or student reading. I for one am thinking of my nieces and nephew. I was vague on Twitter because I wanted the adults out there to be able to decide for themselves what was appropriate before adults and children stumbled upon the following together.

* * *

The day was normal enough. I woke up on the beach in Crystal Beach, took a quick dip, and then hiked northeast along the ocean to High Island, 18 miles according to Google maps. I took several breaks and was taking it easy, so this distance wasn't bad on my feet at all.

The plan was to restock in High Island, packing about six quarts of water and a little food, and hike the next 30 to 40 miles in two days. There used to be a maintained road directly between High Island and Sabine Pass along the beach, but it had long since been abandoned. What was left was a stretch of beach about 100 feet wide with the ocean on one side and the McFadden Wildlife Refuge on the other (no fences). Since the majority of this trip was going to be road walking, I was excited about this "last" stretch of beach for 2000 miles.

After visiting the High Island convenience store and chatting up a friendly clerk, I made my way back to the beach. It was around 6pm. I found a guy who seemed to be living out of his car, and I stopped to swap a few words with him. I asked him two things: 1) if there were many people who fished out there, and 2) if the police bothered him much where he was (he was literally a hundred yards or so from the main road). He told me that he hadn't seen any fishermen nor policemen all day long. I thanked him and kept going.

Up another quarter mile, I saw another vehicle, a gray Bronco-like car. When I was quite far away, the driver was repositioning the vehicle with its back to the refuge and the front facing the ocean. In a few minutes, I was passing the guy, and I gave a little wave of the book I was holding. He nodded back.

It was weird though. Something wasn't right. After about one minute, I looked back, and what I saw is still shocking. He was completely out of the bronco, standing buck naked to its side, and even though he was far away, it seemed to me he was masturbating.

At this point, I couldn't believe it. I hiked on, not knowing what else to do and kept looking back. After another minute, something else happened that was equally as shocking. The guy had gotten back into the bronco and was driving up the beach in my direction.

Now, I was freaking out. I cut across the little beach and directly into the wildlife refuge. The refuge had a lot of low bushes and shrubs and weeds and was easy for me to enter and maneuver in. We were easily visible to one another. The guy drove past the point I entered the refuge and parked about 50 yards down the beach.

I whipped out my cell phone and called my mom for a quick update. The guy was in the bronco watching me. I wasn't moving, but I was kneeling down in a flat area between some shrubs. Then I called 9-1-1, and the dispatcher informed me that police don't actually patrol the beach at all because of the road's poor condition. Still, she listened and wrote down everything. During this time, the guy must have figured something was up. He started driving the bronco back down the beach, but he stopped momentarily. It looked to me like he had a pair of binoculars. He sped off back to High Island, and I never saw him again.

I called my brother Charlie and gave him a quick update (my mom's phone had died). Then I decided upon a somewhat rash course of action: hike through the night to Sabine Pass. I informed my family of my plans, and then I set off.

By this time, the sun had set and the light was quickly fading. I hiked northeast in the refuge for a little bit, parallel to the beach, then I got out of the refuge and back on the beach which made for easier hiking. I looked over my shoulder every few seconds. Not long after getting back on the beach, I saw what looked like white vehicle lights down the beach. I plunged back into the refuge for another quarter mile, walking through small streams and getting my shoes and socks wet.

Again, I came out onto the beach. I was so distressed. I could have easily made it back to High Island earlier, but I was in this thing now. In the distance, I saw red lights which in my state I thought were massive bonfires. This evidence of humanity did not comfort my nerves. I started wondering how I was going to outpace the pervert AND outwit the satanic flesh-eaters ahead of me.

There was a mostly full moon out, so I didn't have to use my head lamp (not that I wanted to). I hiked hard and quietly. I walked along the water's edge, so the waves would erase my footprints. On a few occasions, I disturbed some gulls who broke the silence with their caws.

I called Annie and related the tale to her. She read what many of you read, the abbreviated Twitter tweets, and had read nothing further into the events of the day. When I elaborated on the story above, she couldn't believe it. We talked briefly and then I let her go to conserve my phone battery.

I took two breaks along the way. My feet were killing me. The wet shoes and socks provided just enough cushion to prevent my feet from breaking. I cut my breaks short both times, though, because something would stir me into believing I was being tracked. One time, I saw those white lights flare up again. The second, a heard a bird making noise and figured that someone or something had walked past a sleeping bird just down the beach just as I had earlier in the night. In both cases, I threw on my bag and hiked on.

The red lights in the distance turned out to be city lights and off shore rig lights. This eased my stress a little bit. I concentrated on putting a lot of distance between me and High Island.

I didn't stop until 12:15am. I found a crappy spot off the beach and on the edge of the refuge to camp. At some point in the middle of the night, I got rained on. While the rain was a terrible addition to an already terrible situation, it comforted me that the road was becoming impassable (I hoped) and that all my tracks would shortly disappear. I must have slept for a little bit, but whatever it was, it wasn't much. Somewhere in the there, I ate a little bit and drank a ton of water.

I got up at 6am, packed up, and took off. I found four-wheel drive vehicle prints in the sand. I couldn't tell if they were old or fresh, but when I saw a car in the distance in the direction I was hiking, I started getting nervous all over again. I hiked toward it, already planning my next moves.

It turned out to be a couple of groups of fishermen. This eased my mind tremendously. I finally felt like it was all over. I hiked to the easternmost part of the coastline, doubled back, and made my way to Sabine Pass. My parents picked me up at around 8pm, having just finished more hospital business in Houston.

* * *

That's my tale. I'm looking forward to your reactions.

Until next time, flasher-wannabes...