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Brianle - Continental Divide Trail Journal - 2011

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Brian "Gadget" Lewis
City: Bellevue
State: WA
Country: USA
Begins: Jun 12, 2011
Direction: Southbound

Daily Summary
Date: Wed, Nov 16th, 2011
Daily Distance: 0
Trip Distance: 2,523.5

Journal Stats
Entry Visits: 1,034
Journal Visits: 113,949
Guestbook Views: 21,347
Guestbook Entrys: 112

Last PLB Location

Continental Divide Trail Map

Summary and Statistics


The trip took just exactly 5 months (152 days), no difficult math to do there (!).

From per-day best estimates, I count the total at 2523.5 miles, at an overall average then of 16.6 miles per day (MPD). 19 MPD if the 20 zero days (days off) are excluded. About 20.5 MPD if only ~full hiking days are counted. Perhaps most realistic, 17.4 mpd if only “forced onto the sidelines” days are excluded.

I hiked just over half the trail solo, 600+ miles hiked at the beginning with Milky, 500+ hiked at the end with Lucky Joe.

There are some indications that this was a tougher-than-average year (I’m hardly objective about that, however).

Statistics Expanded:

The below just fleshes out and discusses the above summary; if the summary is enough (or perhaps more than enough …) for you, skip the below.

Okay, don’t say you weren’t warned (!) ---

2523.5 miles over 152 days comes out to a total average of 16.6 miles per day --- this includes zero days, and ‘nero’ days (“Near Zero” --- partial day hiking, partial day off).

I took a whopping 20 Zero days (entire day off the trail) and I calculate about 18 Nero days (partial days off). Neros are a bit squishy; if I stay somewhat late in town but then go on to do 15 miles that day, does that count as a Nero or a full day of hiking? How about if I do 17 miles to hike in to a town, but I get there at 1:30 pm? So it’s “about 18” Nero days.

The Zero days included some just getting-started stuff in Glacier National Park, a combination of two zeros and two neros when my wife visited in mid-September near Denver, a couple of days off in Chama due to snow, all-too-soon thereafter three+ days off at Ghost Ranch to allow my right foot to heal, and a sort of forced day off Nov 5th at Hillsboro peak due to weather.

If counting just the days where I did at least a minimal amount of hiking (i.e., counting nero but not zero days), my average per day mileage rises to 19 miles per day. Take out the Nero days --- well, that’s complicated, as I haven’t gone through to count how many miles I did in those days total. But guesstimate about 10 miles on a typical nero --- I know that some were more and some were less than 10, at any rate. By that rough measure my average for really full hiking days was still only about 20.5 miles per day. I think that my longest hiking day was a 34 mile road walk with Milky in to Anaconda. A lot of on-average longer days later in the trip balance against some relatively short days in June in Montana, those in part because Milky and I were just getting in to shape (and as it turns out, he was injured), and in part because the snow and creek crossing conditions precluded big miles in general.

I should state that any metric involving massaging the data by removing zero and/or nero days has a certain bogosity to it. I couldn’t have hiked the trail without taking some time off along the way. The 16.6 mpd figure is the really meaningful number of the above.

On both the PCT and the AT there was some significant enforced time off the trail. On the CDT, there was much less of that; perhaps the most meaningful statistic would be miles per day excluding only those days when I was sidelined due to weather or injury or illness, and where I wasn’t also getting clearly needed rest as a result. For the CDT, I would say that comes out at about 7 days in total (Denver, Chama, Ghost Ranch, Hillsboro Peak), so call it 17.4 mpd for the trip as a whole excluding forced “sideline” days.
For the Appalachian Trail it was similar, just under 17 mpd including zero & nero days, but excluding forced sideline days. For the Pacific Crest Trail in 2008, a similar analysis comes up with about 18.4 mpd excluding just the forced sideline days.

That all seems about right; the PCT isn’t overall quite as hard to walk on a per day basis as the other two.

Alone or in company: I hiked a bit more than half the trail solo. Milky and I hiked 616 miles together from the start of the trip (June 12 to July 24) until he finally accepted that he was injured and had to get off the trail (talk about tough …), and at the end of the trip I hiked 569 miles with Lucky Joe (Oct 13 to Nov 11). In between those times I hiked almost always alone. There was the odd day or partial day when I hiked with someone else, but really quite little of that. So 1185 miles hiked in company and 1338 miles hiked solo.

Was this a particularly “bad year” ? Some indications at least suggest that it was. Jim Wolf in the October 2011 edition of his “Dividends” quarterly publication says as much, literally that “2011 was a tough year to hike the CDT”, and he goes on to talk about how many people altered routes and plans due to “this year’s snows”. My friend Cuddles has been watching CDT statistics for some time and he opined that 2011 was at least one of the worst ones. In that context, I feel pretty good about finishing at all (!).

Finally, a reminder that for anyone interested, you can look at where I was on the trail along the way by clicking the "Last Spot Location" link in the side bar of any CDT journal entry. I was quite consistent this trip in sending an "I'm here" signal via SPOT twice a day, most days once at lunch time and once when camped for the night. You can zoom in or out and change map views, scroll around to see the little 's' entries marking locations all along the way. Hover your mouse cursor over an 's' icon there to see the date and time that I was there. Note, however, that times given are in Pacific Standard Time for some reason; just add an hour to get the time as I perceived it (Mountain Standard Time along the CDT).

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Gadget's Trail Journal

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:


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