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Nancy - Continental Divide Trail Journal - 2012

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Nancy "Why Not" Huber
City: Gold River
State: CA
Country: USA
Begins: Apr 12, 2012
Direction: Northbound

Daily Summary
Date: Thu, Sep 27th, 2012
Trip Distance: 2,650.6

Journal Stats
Entry Visits: 1,750
Journal Visits: 118,862
Guestbook Views: 7,384
Guestbook Entrys: 114

Last PLB Location

Gear list

Continental Divide Trail Map

Wrap-up..... Gear, Food, and Final Comments

2012 was a great year to hike the CDT. I started relatively early which allowed me to hike through New Mexico before it got really hot. It also gave me time to go back to California for the ADZPCTKO which I love. The low snows in Colorado meant I was able to enter that state May 29th and could hike thru the stunning San Juans and Weminuche Wilderness instead of the Creede Cut-off. It was also before the monsoon season. I never had to run off a ridge to avoid lightning. I never even saw any scary lightning. I never had to pick a lower alternate due to weather. We had one 2 or 3 hour rainstorm in the San Juans but we were in the trees. It never rained again until northern Colorado. There was little rain the whole trail. The Great Divide Basin is known for having lots of ticks. Not this year. I found 2 crawling on my pants and one starting to embed into my thigh. Nothing like the 9 or 10 per day I’ve read about in previous years. The mosquitoes weren’t very bad. I never used deet. The worst mosquitoes were in the Winds. The biggest negative this year was the smoke in Montana. I know I missed out on some amazing views. Bummer.

The CDT was physically hard for me. More so than what I remember on the PCT. Maybe I just forgot. Maybe I’m just older. But my 59 year old body held up pretty well. By the end of many days, I was totally exhausted. But the next morning my body was ready, willing and able to do it all over again. I never took any ibuprofen or any other pain meds. I didn’t hurt I was just tired!

The PCT will always be my favorite trail but I liked my experience on the CDT even more. I wasn’t expecting that. I loved the trail towns. The Gila River, Mesa Country, San Juan Mountains, Weminuche Wilderness, Wind River Range, Yellowstone, Bob Marshall Wilderness and Glacier National Park were amazing. I want to go back to all these places. Navigation wasn’t as hard as I feared it might be. I saw way more wildlife than I did on the PCT. The CDT is known for being a lonely trail. It wasn’t for me. I had great hiking partners and met some wonderful people both on the trail and off the trail.

FOOD: I didn’t have a pot, stove or fuel. Not cooking worked out wonderfully. I prepared and dehydrated most of my food before the hike. Lots of recipes were from Linda Yaffe’s “Backpack Gourmet” which are one pot meals that I cooked ahead and then dehydrated. I did this on the PCT and it worked out well. I also made Chicken Curry Salad from “Lipsmakin’ Backpackin’” and then just made up some recipes. My friend Dave made over 30 dinners for me. I really liked anything with curry in it and the tomato based dishes. I dehydrated lots more meat this time and it worked out well. My dinners were about 6 oz each which was a LOT of food. I think 5oz would have been better. For lunches I divided my dinners in half. For breakfast I had a mix of cream of rice or instant rice, dehdrated sweet potato, coconut milk powder, dried mango from Trader Joes, cinnamon and sometimes other freeze dried fruit. Adding the mango really helped me enjoy this meal. Rehydrating with cold water worked great. I just added water 1 - 4 hours before I wanted to eat it. At first I just added water to the freezer bag I had used to pack the meal in. In Rawlins, WY, I started using a plastic jar with a screw on lid from gelato. I liked eating out of something besides a bag. And I didn’t have to worry about leaking. It’s the little things. I came into Rawlins more hungry and depleted than any other time on the trail. Probably not coincidentally that was the point I really felt like quitting. I added more cheese and also a big summer sausage at each resupply. Not light food but it made a huge difference in my energy levels. I needed the fat. I started eating cheese and sausage as my first breakfast as I hiked in the morning. Then I ate the cream of rice mix when we stopped for 2nd breakfast around 9:30 or 10am. I had a mix of different types of bars and nuts for snacking between meals. I never missed having hot food. But I did notice that flavors are more muted when the food is cold. I would add lots more spice while preparing the food next time. Food does taste better hot but for me it was a good trade off. It was so nice to just be able to eat at the end of the day instead of having to boil water and wait for rehydration. Before bear country I often ate in my tent where I was nice and warm in my sleeping bag. Not cooking in bear country meant we had much less food odors to attract bears. Not cooking where the fire danger was high meant not having to even worry about starting a forest fire. Not having a pot, stove and fuel meant less stuff in my pack.

GEAR: Check out my gear list for a complete list of what I brought and the weight for each item. The CDT wasn’t as cold or wet as I expected. I don’t know how to hike in the rain! Over 5000 miles on the PCT and CDT and I have very little experience setting up or taking down my tent in rain. I’ve never hiked in multiple days of rain when I couldn’t dry out my gear. If I hike the AT I’m sure that will change!!! I could have used most of my gear from the PCT but I wanted to get my pack weight as low as possible so I bought new gear. After having knee surgery I thought low pack weight was the key to me being able to complete this hike. It definitely made it more enjoyable.

SLEEPING BAG: I bought a ZPacks sleeping bag with a lower temperature rating than what I used on the PCT. It was lighter also. ZPacks used to customize the amount of down in the quilts. I ordered a 20 degree one with 4 extra ounces of down. It’s like a quilt but has a zipper on the bottom that can be zipped up if it’s cold. I like to sleep on my side with my knees curled up. A quilt works perfectly for that. I don’t think I ever slept all night with it zipped up. Many nights seemed like they would be cold but even the nights the water bottles or shoes froze I wasn’t that cold. I had a fleece balaclava to wear because the quilt doesn’t have a hood. After southern Colorado I never wore it to sleep in. But I have lots of hair! The bag worked great but I would probably have been fine with just a 20 degree one.

TENT: I started with a ZPacks Solo Hexamid. I bought this in early 2010 when they first came out. After a few hours of heavy rain and wind in the Great Divide Basin I had water in my tent. Another hiker, Furniture, also had a solo hexamid that he bought this year. He stayed dry. Later we compared the two tents. Joe from ZPacks has changed the design for the better. My friend Tahoe Mike offered to loan me his Double Hexamid. It was an offer I couldn’t refuse and I got it in Yellowstone. It’s a couple of ounces more but the space inside is like a palace for one. My confidence in my gear was restored. It only rained hard one night after that and it wasn’t windy that night. Mike’s tent didn’t have the optional beak. If/when I order one I’ll get the beak for wet and windy conditions.

UMBRELLA: The most useless piece of gear I had! For a few hours at a time on a couple of days it was nice to have. Walking under an umbrella is drier and warmer than just walking in the rain. It was nice to have a couple of times in the desert for sun protection. But all the other days I just carried an extra half a pound for nothing. I was superstitious enough that after carrying it for so long I was worried that if I got rid of it the rains would start. So I kept it. Maybe that worked because it didn’t rain much.

PACK: On ZPacks’ website Joe says that one of his cuben fiber packs should last one full thru-hike but it will have duct tape on it by the end. He was right. In areas with more abrasion the fabric got fuzzy. This was mostly on the hip belt and shoulder straps. Duct tape worked well. I had the version with the 2 vertical stays. I think they helped with the load but the webbing holding it in place wore out on one side. Very few times did I have to carry lots of water and lots of days of food. The heavier the pack the more uncomfortable it was. No surprise there. Later on in the hike I had some hip flexor pain that got worse when I tightened the hip belt. That made me carry more weight on my shoulders which made it more uncomfortable. Not the pack’s fault.

SLEEPING PAD: I started with a torso length Gossamer Gear ? inch pad. I can sleep on anything and the thin pad is plenty comfortable. I thought the ground would be colder in Colorado and NeoAir came out with a new women’s version. I got it in Chama. What a difference! I’m a total convert. It’s warmer and way more comfortable. I don’t think I can go back.

SAWYER SQUEEZE FILTER: I like the idea of not adding chemicals to my water. I used Aquamira on the PCT. I liked this system better. I liked that I could fill it and filter later if I wanted. I only got a hole in one bladder. Shroomer and Lina went thru at least 3 bags each. I’ve since read that Evernew bladders and some Platypus bladders have the same screw thread pattern and will also work. Shroomer tried his Platypus bladder and it didn’t work.

DOWN JACKET: I’m so proud of it because I made it! I wore it in towns more than I did on trail. It just wasn’t that cold.

SHOES and FEET: I started with Altra Lone Peaks. They are flat shoes with no drop between toe and heel but they do have cushioning and a rock plate. They also have a very wide toe box. The first book I read after the PCT was “Born To Run.” I had foot pain the entire PCT and one month after I finished I had knee pain and couldn’t completely bend my knees. I ended up having surgery for torn menisci on both knees in March 2011. I was intrigued by the idea of walking differently to put less stress on my knees. This time I did lots more hiking in preparation of the hike and I walked barefoot more around my house and out to the mailbox. I know the bottoms of my feet were tougher when I started. I tried to pay more attention to “placing” my feet on the ground instead of letting them “flop” where ever. Something worked because I didn’t have much foot pain and I didn’t have much knee pain or swelling. I went thru 3 pairs of Lone Peaks and ordered a fourth pair to be delivered to Anaconda. They weren’t there when I arrived. I called Altra and got horrible customer service. They had mailed my shoes to my billing address (my home) and not to the shipping address (Anaconda). They had no way to send another pair with expedited shipping. My only stops left were in Helena (3 days away), Benchmark Ranch ($ 25 fee plus they need time to drive the boxes up there) and East Glacier (100 miles from the end.) I had 600 miles on my shoes and I needed new ones now. Altra was no help. So I called Zappos and ordered a pair of Brooks Cascadia 7’s. They were in Helena when I got there. They have a more “normal” heel rise and I felt like I was walking in high heels at first. They aren’t as wide either and I had to put tape on my feet for the first time. After a few days my feet were used to them and I stopped thinking about them. So they were a good 2nd choice.

If anyone has any further questions about the CDT, gear or whatever leave a post on my guestbook or email me at

That’s it until the next hike.......


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Nancy Hikes The Continental Divide Trail

"I wish I knew where I was going. Doomed to be carried of the spirit into the wilderness, I suppose. I wish I could be more moderate in my desires, but I cannot, and so there is no rest." John Muir


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