I’ll be the first to admit that I tend to dive head first into things. Here are some examples: In 2003 I up and joined arguably the most grueling and arduous branch of the military, the U.S. Marine Corps. In 2012 I decided that I was going to attempt a career in astrophysics (this one has yet to pan out haha). And in 2016 I decided I wanted to run a marathon, so my friend and I booked a flight to New Zealand and ran an intense trail marathon across two small volcanic islands! So, in attempting to hike the Continental Divide Trail (CDT) as my first thru hike, I am continuing my own tradition of ignoring the naysayers and jumping in head first.
The CDT is one of many National Scenic and Historic Trails under the National park Service. This National Scenic Trail is one of the three big trails that make up the Triple Crown of long distance hiking here in the U.S. (For a more complete trail list check out my trails list page). Traditionally hikers hike the Appalachian Trail (AT), on the east coast, followed by the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT), on the west coast, and finish with the much harder and longer CDT. From what I’ve seen and read, most folks don’t recommend starting with the CDT, but… I say bring it on!
So, this year I will be attempting to hike from Mexico to Canada along the continental divide. The divide basically follows the Rocky Mountains from northern New Mexico all the way up into Canada. It is the North American geographic feature that dictates the direction of water runoff. On one side water drains toward the west and the Pacific, on the other it drains east and toward the Atlantic and Gulf. My plan is to head northbound along this geographic divide starting at the Mexico/New Mexico border. I will start this hiking journey at the Crazy Cook Monument and finish in Canada at Waterton Lakes National Park.
But before I find myself at Crazy Cook, I’ll be attending CDT Trail Days 2017 in Silver City, NM. This is the annual CDT kickoff celebration and start of the CDT hiking season for north-bounders. This event is put on and organized by the Continental Divide Trail Coalition (CDTC), and runs April 28th-30th. Silver City is the first CDT gateway community, and a great supporter of the trail. The CDTC is the go to organization for all things CDT related, check out their website via the link above and donate to their cause if you can.
Around the 1st of May (give or take a day), I’ll catch a ride to the border! From there it’s all about putting in the miles! Thru hiking is all about endurance and longevity. It’s about determination, a love for hiking and the outdoors, as well as the comradery amongst hikers. Granted, these are descriptors I’ve concluded on based from the research I’ve done thus far. I’ll remind you, this is my first major thru hike. I’m sure I’ll learn so much and more about what it means to be a thru hiker once on the trail. One thing I know is, I’m guaranteed to be in for probably one of the biggest physical and mental challenges I’ve ever faced.
Hiking the CDT will take me through: New Mexico, Colorado, Wyoming, Idaho, and Montana. The trail is roughly 3,100 miles long, and I estimate it to take me roughly 5-6 months to complete. Due to the weather, snow-pack, and early season snows along the trail, you definitely have a certain window to complete this long trail. Hiking this trail exposes you to a variety of ecosystems, and is high in general altitude. The trail varies from 4,000 ft. to over 14,000 ft. in elevation. The CDT has been around since 1978 and is the youngest of the three triple crown trails. It is also more remote and has far less traffic than the AT or PCT.
I am excited to say I will be able to blog and share my experiences along the way! I want to thank my sponsors over at Big Outdoors. Visit their website for great gear, and to check in on my hiking progress. There will be updates, stories from the trail, and most certainly plenty of laughter and tears. I hope you all are able to enjoy this journey with me. My initial plan is to post weekly updates on my progress, as well as stories from the trail. So stay tuned for future updates!