7 words, that’s where it started. 7 seemingly innocuous words.
“You should hike the Continental Divide Trail”
Hike the what? I hardly slept for a couple of weeks. I sat glued to my laptop reading blogs until the early hours of the morning. I devoured Hiking the Continental Divide Trail- One Women’s Journey by Jennifer Hanson. I lay in bed unable to sleep, dreaming of wilderness adventures.
The Continental Divide is the backbone of the continent; stand on the divide and pour water from your bottle and it will land up in the Pacific or Atlantic ocean depending on which side you pour it. In 1978 Congress designated the Continental Divide National Scenic Trail as a 50 mile corridor on public lands straddling this divide, with the dual purpose of ensuring its conservation and providing recreation to the public.
The Continental Divide Trail or CDT is a long distance hike that starts at the Mexican border and finishes about 5 months later at the Canadian border. The ‘trail’ passes through 5 states: New Mexico, Colorado, Wyoming, Idaho and Montana. Some of the highlights will be Glacier National Park, Bob Marshall Wilderness, Great Bear Wilderness, Lewis & Clark National Forest, Yellowstone, Tetons, Wind River Range, Rocky Mountain National Park, San Juans and Gila Wilderness. It’s 3000 miles (4800 kms), give or take a couple hundred miles depending on your exact route, and is about 70% finished with trails.
The CDT has earned the slogan “Embrace the Brutality” because it is a rugged backcountry trail complete with lightening storms, snow storms, rain storms, wildfires, mosquitoes, hot flat desert, some long stretches without water, cow pie infested water, can be difficult and frustrating to navigate, will beat you up mentally and physically (sometimes many times in one day), and if all that’s not enough, it’s home to the Grizzly Bear.
So why do it? Well, as George Mallory so eloquently explained of his desire to climb Mount Everest, “because it’s there.” The CDT has spectacular summit views, alpine streams, mountains, valleys, wildflowers, wilderness, big star filled skies, crisp morning air, soft morning light, epic sunsets, solitude, simplicity, nature, humbling beauty, kindred spirits, trail towns, trail magic, wild animals and mile after mile of meandering trail just waiting to be explored. To explain resigning from my world as I have known it for the last 10 years to embark solo on the most difficult of the long distance trails in the USA, all I can say is “it just feels right.”
As it turns out, those 7 words weren’t innocuous at all. I leave next Spring! This adventure is for you Trover!