I got back up to the trail in the evening, just catching the last guy from Friends of South Pass City Historical Society, who was kind enough to let me into the old general store to get my resupply package. I hiked out through the old South Pass cemetery and along the threshold of the Basin as the sun exploded into the hues only deserts and tropical horizons seem to unleash. I had intended to hike through the night, to avoid the heat of the day. See, I had decided to hike 62.2 miles or 100 kilometers within 24 hours in this section – more on that in a moment – and while that meant I would be hiking through the hottest parts of the day no matter what that day, I figured I’d be better rested if I avoided the sun for the two days before my challenge.
Well, this plan didn’t last. Around ten miles in I was feeling exhausted so I just found a spot of soft earth to throw my pad and bag down on. I decided I’d just sleep as late as I felt like and do some night hiking the following evening.
The terrain through the Basin is horribly monotonous: flatland two-track jeep road that briefly follows both the Oregon and California trails and continues straight for long distances. There isn’t much water or shade, but to think the Basin is devoid of life couldn’t be more incorrect. My first full day in the section I saw herds of Pronghorn and wild horses, coyotes and billions of sagebrush, birds and rodents. The weather was actually pretty clement, with steady wind and temperatures around 70F, so I was feeling great. Around seven in the evening I had already logged over thirty miles and I saw what looked to be a vehicle off in the distance. I got closer and saw that the object was indeed a black SUV, and nearby were Smokey, Top Shelf, Anchor and another man: Hawkeye, who has hiked the CDT and was stocking a much appreciated water cache for hikers. The alternative water option would be a disgusting cow pond.
I hiked another mile or two to the point I had identified as being 62.2 miles out from my next town stop, Rawlins, WY, and cowboy camped again.
Okay, enough text. I’ll let the videos do the talking for a while.
Now, these videos are from September 7th-9th. Back then, things were really starting to heat up over in Standing Rock National land, and the government even stepped in with de-escalation techniques. I wish I could say I couldn’t believe that this struggle is still ongoing. I wish I could be writing about how our federal government recognized their constitutional obligation to halt this pipeline as demonstrated by treaty law. Or that our political leadership acknowledge and acted in accordance with the demands of the People. Of course, that would mean putting people before profits. It is clear that the state of North Dakota, the financial institutions bankrolling this project, and the energy corporations behind the project will stop at nothing to construct this pipeline. That is, unless the People resolutely refuse to allow its completion.
I’m not an authority on this struggle, nor am I an indigenous person, but I can say with certainty that this is a historical fight and we are morally behooved to be on the right side of it. Aside from the civil rights violations and treaty obligations, there’s the centuries long history of colonial, imperial injustice that the United States of America has inflicted upon the Nations who lived and thrived here before we arrived; while you and I aren’t responsible for the oppression our ancestors created, we are responsible for dismantling the systems that perpetuate it.
I drink from the earth. I rely upon mountain springs, creeks, ponds and lakes to keep me alive while I make my way to the southern terminus at the US-Mexico border. I witness daily how water enables and sustains the diverse manifestations of life from high alpine climes to badlands deserts. I understand that clean water is necessary for life. But I cannot even begin to comprehend the web of support that the Missouri River gives forth unconditionally, simply by existing. It’s mind-boggling to even try conceiving how much humans depend upon the watersheds, aquifers and ecosystems that are connected to the Missouri – the Missouri provides water for 10 states and 28 tribes.
Just remember: you can’t drink oil.
Here are some good resources for information and testimonials from the standoff: