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Steve "Stilts" Fitzgerald
Begins: Jun 14, 2009
Date: Wed, Dec 30th, 2009
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Final CDT 2009 entry - lessons learned, pics, & thanks
First off, I need to apologize for the long delay between my final day of hiking and this summary entry. Honestly, it is a daunting task to summarize all the footsteps, bug bites, raindrops, snowflakes, and cereal bars into a coherent and concise post.
One reason it took me so long to put this entry together is because I returned home with very mixed feelings about the CDT. For me, the CDT was like a roller coaster. The highs were incredibly high - like Glacier, the Bob Mashall Wilderness, the Wind River Range, Yellowstone, and Rocky Mountain National Park - but the lows were incredibly low. I don’t even want to estimate how many miles I walked on dirt roads. There were periods of consecutive days where logging roads and jeep roads made up the majority, if not all, of my miles. At first, these areas seemed like bridges between islands of amazing scenery. By the end of my hike, these bridges felt longer and longer and took a serious toll on my attitude.
But like I said, the highs were incredibly high. I know for certain that moments from this hike will be in my mind forever, like my first grizzly encounter, snow falling at the Chinese Wall, the deep blue of Yellowstone’s Sapphire Pool, my first peek into the Cirque of the Towers, and being woken up by wild horses.
The CDT was a tremendous learning experience. After completing a NOLS course in my teens, completing the Appalachian Trail as a section hiker over almost 10 years, and thru-hiking the Pacific Crest Trail in 2008, I thought I had a pretty good system. I did, but it still needed refinement, and the CDT helped me accomplish that. From pack contents to diet to general hiking strategies, somewhere in southern Montana/Idaho I felt like I finally “got it.” Not only that, but the CDT provides an excellent atmosphere for solitude, which comes with its own benefits and consequences. I found the solitude calming and empowering, although I did enjoy the company of the occasional characters I met along the way, and found myself talking way too much to total strangers in towns.
I hope you have a chance to take a look at my photos of my hike. They are located with my PCT photos at:
The photos, along with this journal, do a better job of summarizing my experience than I can hope to do in a retrospective post.
I owe the success of my adventure to a group of people. Thanks foremost to my wife, Toby, for not only putting up with my hikes, but encouraging me to go after my unconventional goals. Also to my Dad, Ed, and my brother, Paul, for keeping the journal going while I was hiking (it is a pretty big chore to find a computer and spend hours journaling during town time), and for helping me with supply boxes and other support. A huge thanks to Voyageur for meeting me on the trail three times, offering rides, company, and laughs (and orchestrating a meet-up with San Gabriel). To my friends Brandon, Connor, and Dennis, thanks for the help getting me to the trail and back home. Thanks as well to those of you who followed along with my adventures here on Postholer. This site is an excellent resource for hikers and the hiking community. I will definitely continue to use Postholer for any future hiking journals.
Not to be forgotten in all of this is the generosity of the strangers along the way who gave me rides, fed me, shared campsites and stories, and looked on my adventure with an open mind.
For those of you wondering: yes, I plan on finishing the CDT. The current plan is to hike New Mexico in May, then return to finish Colorado in the future, possibly as soon as this summer, but most likely further down the road. I also have loose plans to hike the Tahoe Rim Trail with my wife this summer, although we haven’t gotten serious with the planning yet. The Long Trail is calling me as well, especially after a botched southbound attempt this fall (stupid knee!).
Thank you again for reading, and I hope our paths cross soon!
-Steve / Stilts
The Continental Divide Trail is a national scenic trail that runs from Mexico to Canada via New Mexico, Colorado, Wyoming, Idaho and Montana. This unfinished trail can potentially span up to 3,100 miles. Learn more: www.continentaldividetrail.org
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