Canals and Convicts

Writing this has given me great pause, which in turn was compounded as the CDT has been generally tougher than I expected, or maybe I just got soft in UT.

I spent a few unexpected zeroes in New Rockford, ND. Only slightly jeopardizing my plans to meet my father at the end of the NCT to slackpack the gap to Glacier. It started after having hitched into town for water, I camped in the RV section of the town park, with plans to hitch back out to where I left off, and maybe camp there once more. It’d be a short day, but I did have a package to pick up in town. After dark someone stumbled over my tent on the way back to their camper, after a brief realization of what they’d  tripped over; in particular that I had no car. They told me that they “Really appreciated what [I] was up to, and that we should hang out in the morning.” I could feel the edge of the vortex pulling me in, but just wanted to get to sleep. So half-awake and halfheartedly I agreed. When morning came, I was surprised to find that my new friend; Chad, had barbed wire tattoos instead of eyebrows, my interest had been piqued. After some introductions I ended up staying with an old lady from town, Julie, whom they hang out with and generally seemed to be helping. We moved a bunch of her furniture, went searching for replacements on curbsides. Picked up a compact dishwasher for Chad’s RV, and a new-to-her refrigerator for Julie, swapped the old one to the curb where the new one was found.

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This account is of course abbreviated, many other things happened and people met, including Tarot readings, ritual use of energy crystals, Julie’s daughter and grand-children. I’ve had a tough time turning it into something coherent as is. My longest home-stay since Aunt Kim’s in Michigan, ended rather quietly, during my last morning I hitched out and slack-packed myself back to town from where I had previously hitched to town from, collected my pack and water and headed for the final stretch of the NCT: The McClusky Canal, an unfinished and abandoned canal, which makes up the better part of the remaining 170 or so miles to the NCT’s western terminus. Walking the canal is rough, it is long, it is flat, and the first couple dozen miles were basically dry too. The section of canal line near New Rockford doesn’t actually connect all the way to Lake Sakakawea; there’s about a 15 mile gap where you’re back on roads, or cutting across farmland. After this gap the canal is mostly full of slow or stagnant water, but it is available.

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The Canal drops into Lake Audubon, which is only really separate from Lake Sakakawea due to US 83 cutting across via land bridge. I am late in making it here, but its nothing a 24 hour challenge can’t solve, and its easy terrain for night hiking; the canal is lined with a pair of dirt roads. Once you hit the lake its back onto regular roads, tracking alongside the lake with a couple miles of trail leading into Lake Sakakawea State Park for the end of the North Country Trail. The Terminus Sign was absent, having been blown down during a semi recent storm, not with a whimper, or a bang, but a more of a sigh as I meet my Father, and ready myself for the long road walk to Glacier and my next long trail.

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