Soon I’ll be heading out to grab the brass ring, the PhD, the big one, the Triple Crown, by hiking the Continental Divide Trail. Since the hiking Pacific Crest Trail in 2018 I’ve done smaller hikes – the Long Trail, and the Wonderland Trail. This one is the big one, over 3000 miles. I’ll find out how much I have left in the tank. To misquote Dr. Seuss, “The time had come, so Smokebeard went.”
What IS the Continental Divide Trail?
The Continental Divide is the point where to the west, rivers flow to the Pacific, and to the east, they flow to the Atlantic. The “spine” of the US so to speak. Bob Seger mentioned it in “Roll Me Away”. It traverses New Mexico, Colorado, Wyoming, Montana, and parts of Idaho (if you stay on the trail). There’s a big section in CO where you’re above 10000 for weeks, and it passes through Rocky Mountain National Park and Glacier National Park. Unlike other trails, there’s no single way to do it – some of the trail is unmarked, and there are many alternates that go through or around hard/boring stuff.
Why? Why now?
Because I can. Because I have to.
What’s different this time? What’s the same?
I’m different. Nobody gets younger, or faster, but I feel like I might make up in wisdom what I lack in youth. This time its a lot harder to leave my job; last time I was more than ready. There’s an easy familiarity with loading up the pack, though, like stepping into and old comfortable pair of shoes, thinking, “oh, I remember these. why did I stop wearing them?”
Main Gear List:
- Big Agnes Fly Creek UL2 (the dog ate my tarp, long story)
- Enlightened Equipment Revelation 20F
- Thermarest NeoAir XLite
- Altra Lonepeaks
- Sawyer Squeeze
- MSR Pocket Rocket (but starting stoveless to save weight)
- Cascade Mountain Tech carbon poles (with Leki tips)
- And of course my luxury list
- Ice axe and spikes will be at the CO border, and bear spray at the WY border
I have a new pack, a nice, light Superior Wilderness Designs 50L Long Haul. I used it on the Wonderland Trail, and it held up well, I don’t think I’d load more than 40lbs in it, but low 30s was very doable. This time I’m also bringing a Garmin InReach Mini2, because the CDT is legit.
When do I start?
April 26. There’s no right or wrong date. The two time constraints are – how early can you enter the big stuff in CO, and when do you get to Canada. You can’t enter CO too early or you’ll be bogged down in endless snowfields since it hasn’t melted yet. You can’t get to Canada too late or Glacier National Park has shut down, and/or there are blizzards. I’m planning to cover the ~800 miles of New Mexico in about 6 weeks, getting me to Colorado in early June. This is a little late to start, but it was supposed to be a snowy year – now it’s looking like it might finish up as a dry year.
When will I finish?
October 1 is pretty much the last day you want to be out there. This means 158 days to do (technically) 3028 miles – just over 19 miles a day. For comparison, I averaged 18 on the PCT. The CDT also suffers from fires, so there a lot of relocated trail, and sometimes you just need to take a bus to the next non-burning section.
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