Our life on the trail is different from life at home, that’s for sure! Since there aren’t any toilets out there, we dig “cat holes” to bury our waste. We don’t take baths either. We just wash up a little with a pot of water. That’s why it’s such a treat when we can play in a creek or swim in a lake.
The longer we’re out in the wild, the wilder we look. We get tanner, stronger, and dirtier. But it also seems as if our eyes get brighter from seeing so much beauty!
Every day we wear the same clothing. We dress in lots of layers of special fabrics that keep us warm and dry when the weather is cold and wet. And when it gets hot out, we can take off some of the layers.
What’s to eat? Most of our meals are made from dried food that we add water to. When we have something like fresh fruit–what a treat!
CHALLENGES CAN BE FUN
We often have to cross rivers, and some are waist-deep to my dad. Usually, I ride through the water on my llama. But if there are rapids, Dad takes us kids across (one at a time) in a kid-carrier pack.
Sometimes my brother and I get scared of the wind. One time, in Montana’s Bitterroot Mountains, the wind blew so hard that we had to stop hiking. The llamas’ saddles even blew off their backs. We couldn’t stand up, and I felt as if I couldn’t breathe. I had to scream to be heard. But after the wind died down, I thought, Hey, that was cool. I’ll always remember how really hard the wind can blow.
We never do anything too dangerous – it would be awful if one of us got hurt so far from help. That’s why we don’t cross steep snowfields, where snow could come crashing down on us in an avalanche. But we get to do a lot of exploring, and most of the time we have loads of fun. I especially like to climb boulders and swim.
It may seem odd, but we don’t see a lot of wild animals up close. I guess the animals hide when they hear us coming–we probably talk and laugh and sing too much. But we have seen eagles and black bears, deer and moose, and as many as 100 elk in one herd.
THE LONELIEST PLACE IN THE COUNTRY
Most of the time we travel in the mountains. But one summer we crossed the Great Divide Basin in Wyoming. It seemed like the loneliest place in the whole country. For more than 100 miles (160 km), there was nothing but sagebrush and sky. Not even a single tree! We had to crawl under large bushes and into ditches for shade. On our trip through the Basin, we followed the Oregon Trail–the same path that the pioneers walked on about 150 years ago.
The Basin is really dry. If we saw cattle, we knew there would be water nearby–cattle like to hang out around water. But the water we found was gross. It was full of floating green slime that we had to push away. At least it was wet, though, and we still managed to have fun. We dumped water on our heads and soaked our shirts to keep cool. When we were done, we smelled like cows. We had to purify the water before we could drink it. Through this stretch, my best friends became water and shade.
This year we’ll do the two last sections of the trail–and guess what? After we hike a section in Colorado, we’ll give up our llamas and ride our bicycles through New Mexico. I suppose we’ll be wishing for shade and water again.
When we get to the Mexican border, we will have done all 3100 (5000 km) miles of the trail! Of course, I’ll be glad to get back to our house in Pennsylvania. It’s nice to have a bed to sleep in and fresh food to eat. But it’s also great to grow up feeling that wild places are my home too.