News and Tribune


October 5, 2013

DODD: Desert life is bittersweet



“Slept well; all thunder, no rain. Trail very rutted by horses and cows, some holes six inches deep, slow going. Saw an antelope; saw three more. Trail very confusing at Horse Lake, kept taking me in a circle. Hole in top of shoe ...”

Steve had originally intended this to be a journey of a little over 800 miles. He had to call it off somewhere between 260 and 270 miles in 21 days due to severe pains in his thighs. He is still dealing with the residual pain. He has plans of going back and hiking other parts of the trail in the future.

His solitude in the evenings was spent with David Halberstam’s book “The Fifties,” which he enjoyed on his Kindle and highly recommends.

“That was good for 200 miles.”

It was also am spiritual journey.

“When I walked, I prayed. I did my third step.”

Steve is a recovering alcoholic who still regularly attends AA meetings. He attended them when he could find one just off the trail.

 He told me that after his Vietnam days — during which he was highly decorated and twice seriously wounded — he had kind of made a promise to never travel and sleep in such conditions again. Steve learned many years after the war that he suffers from post traumatic stress disorder. It was all therapeutic for him on the trail.

On Sept. 7 at the end of his journal notes, he wrote down some random thoughts and reflections calling them “Things I have learned.”

“I love Carolyn and live my life differently when she is around. I have physical limits. Weather is unpredictable. I am okay with just being by myself but I enjoy talking to people. My God is always with me.”

His body is still recovering from the wear and tear and routine bodily functions are slowly returning to a normal schedule. There is only one lingering psychological effect.

“I didn’t want to come back. That’s been the problem.”

It is determined that each of us shall die. It’s up to each one of each of us to determine for ourselves how we shall live. Steve Voelker completely left civilization to enjoy the beauty of the wild and challenge all the elements of Mother Nature. He is one of the few that actually will ever know whether the romanticism outweighs the harsh reality.

He went the way of John Muir and Henry David Thoreau. I wonder what books they had on their Kindles.

— Lindon Dodd is a freelance writer who can be reached at

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