Screeching and clacking noises coming from the railyard accompanied my exit from North Platte. The eerie sounds reminded me of the score to a John Carpenter movie. I was on edge. Suddenly, I glimpsed a flash of white in the corner of my eye. I yelped a quick, "No!" as a blur flew behind me and rolled into the ditch like a professional stuntman. So much for docile dogs. Unfazed, the thing hopped up and jogged back to his home across the street.
Further on, shortly after passing Hershey (which I was sad to see was not made out of milk chocolate - now I know how Coronado felt), I saw a unique sight. Bent over his pack, fiddling with his straps, was another hiker. Not since parting from Swagman in Maryland have I met a like-minded soul.
Charles was headed east from Fort Collins to Wisconsin so he could help an Indian tribe there install solar and wind generators. He was utilizing a device which carried his sack on two wheels and was willing to hitch but wasn't soliciting. Charles also seemed to be stuck in an acid trip from circa 1968. His speech was repetitive as he rambled along about a series of projects he was involved in to end dependence on fossil fuels. His motives were pure - I pray mind and body were still enough in touch with planet Earth for him to pull off his plans.
I appeared in Sutherland an hour after our talk. The hills here were one of the major obstructions on the Oregon Trail. The wagon wheels slipped and slid in the shifting sands, unable to gain purchase.
Upon viewing the city park where I had hoped to stay, I worried I might be left spinning my own wheels. With the heart of downtown on one side and train tracks on the other it was hardly the ideal spot. The Oregon Trail Campground, which Google placed there, was nowhere in sight. My back had been killing me all day; I could not go much further than the twenty miles I had already traveled.
I marched into the library unsure of my next step. As has happened on a few occasions, the librarian was my heroine. Nichole greeted me warmly and took only moments to get to the heart of my predicament. She made some calls and weighed all the possibilities. When all was said and done she took me down to the Oregon trail Campground - which was located three miles south at the Sutherland reservoir.