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Continentaldrifter - Continental Divide Trail Journal - 2017

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Continental Drifter
City: San Luis Obispo
State: CA
Country: USA
Begins: Jul 15, 2017
Direction: Southbound

Daily Summary
Date: Sat, Jun 17th, 2017
Start: East Sierras, California
Daily Distance: 0

Journal Stats
Entry Visits: 993
Journal Visits: 993
Guestbook Views: 22
Guestbook Entrys: 0

Continental Divide Trail Map

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Jonathan Lay-CDT Maps


In early March, 2017, I decided it was time to either commit to hiking the CDT, or plan it for the following year. At one point in my life I was a procrastinator, but that attribute has long since vanished, along with my lucrative state job with the Department of Transportation two years ago. I use to procrastinate at my job, so early departure was the best way to return to good old fashion hard, honest labor. Do I regret giving up a great pension, health care, and benefits for through hiking? Not one bit! I sacraficed it all, like so many other hikers before me, who discovered that the time to live your dream is NOW, not after your retire! 2016 was one of my most epic years yet. I hiked the entire Te Araroa, some 3000 km (across both islands of New Zealand), took a wild road trip across 2/3 of the Australian outback to Uluru and back north to the Great Barrier Reef , stopped by Hawaii on my return flight to visit my brother for 9 days in late April, then decided to hike the PCT southbound shortly after returning to LAX on May 1. The funds were sucked dry, particularly from the cost of travel and resupply in New Zealand, and zero income. When I returned to my old home town at the end of 2016, A long time friend housed me and provide work for the next 3 months. I worked 10 hours per day, 7 days per week, resting seldomly. His parents also had odds and ends projects, then his brother in the Eastern Sierras, just south of Mammoth. In February, I renewed my professional licenses in geology despite the fact that I could not commit to establishing a consulting business If I was to hike the CDT, but the thought of releaving myself from the physical demands that the trades had on my 50 year-old body in exchange for mental excerise in fluvial geomorphology was appealling. Despite the temptations of opening either of the two texts on fluvial geomorphology I had purchased before leaving to New Zealand, I placed Yogi's Continental Divide Trail Guide ontop of them, its loftier position symbolizing my present priority to prepare for what is likely to be my most epic hike yet. When you read other blogs of hiker experiences on the CDT, the challenges of daily navigation across obscure trail, avoidance of becoming the main course at a Grizzly's den, and braving the elements to name a few, seem daunting. The commonality between most who have successfully hiked the CDT seems to share the sentiments of the unoficial moto of the CDT; "Embrace the Brutality". In my opinion, this is another phrase that wasn't well thought out, next to the cliche and meaningless "hike your own hike". Allow me to briefly explain my perceptions of both expressions. The word brutality means cruel, harsh, violent, etc., which are all negative conotations. Regardless of what Yogi or anyone else says about the CDT, I do not percieve route finding, scarce or contaminated water sources, hot dry stretches, snow and freezing conditions, wind, rain, or any element of nature as "harsh" or "violent", or "cruel". These perceptions are flaws in the human ego. The word "embrace" however, is sufficient in itself to describe any trail experience. To embrace, is to hold closely as if to have affection for, to accept or support with enthusiasm. As hikers, we enter into a contract with the trail, to accept it and all its characters as is. Those who've done their homework, know that the desert is scorching hot in the spring. They know that Colorado, like the Sierras will predictably have endless miles of hiking in snow at the higher elevations on steep terrain, and like any wilderness trail, they know that weather can change instantaneously from sunny and warm to freezing. Regardless of what the author of "embrace the brutality" intended, it is an oxymoron, that tarnishes a hiker's mindset before they even start. Every trail has its challenges, some a bit more unique than others. Finally, HYOH is meaningless for the simple reason that we can not possible improve our experience without learning from those before us. Regardless of unique hiking styles, we have all gained wisdom from other's hiking experiences in one form or another. Admittedly, some are tenacious in their ways and refuse to give up their 50-lb packs for something lighter as one example, but inevitably, severe damage to the body over many hikes will pursuade them otherwise. The single most, greatest challenge of preparing for another long hike, this time across the Great Divide, spanning 4 states and some 3000 miles, has been saving money to afford it. Many that I've either followed or met, seem to take the easy route of capitalizing on there hike by advertising their super-human daily mileages or milestones such as the first 100 miles, or thousand miles and fealing a sense of entitlement or award for their achievement. Those who exploit sites like "Go Fund Me" or sell things on their blog pages, have cheated themselves on the greatest single preparation for any thru hike, the earning of funds to support yourself through the entire journey! As simple as this may seem, it takes experience, determination, discipline, and often sacrafice, to earn and budget your cash through an entire through hike. Although I've worked very hard over the last 6 months, I am forever grateful to my friends for providing these work opportunities, and making this next dream possible. My days of earning cash are dwindling, as is the timing for work opportunities. The new house I've been working on is somewhat in standby mode, as various subs complete their work first. In early March, I purchased both the Bear Creek and Lay Maps of the CDT through Yogi's Books. I was uncertain which maps would be best, so I purchased both sets. I was excited to receive them, but so busy, that they sat on a dusty desk, collecting more dust. Later in the Month, I made the final commitment and purchased a train ticket at a very reasonable fare, from Santa Barbara, CA, to East Glacier, Montana. I sat down one evening at the computer, and typed out a detailed list of gear, the PCT and Te Araroa still very fresh in my mind. I checked off what I had, querried items that I was uncertain about bringing, and noted important items that needed purchasing. One big ticket item was another Inreach Explorer GPS, now owned by Garmin. I had used the Inreach over the years and found the ability to easily set way points, navigate, and two-way communication from anywhere some of the best features of any GPS. The Inreach saved me from many miles of unecessary hiking off route and navigating across treacherous ridge lines in storms with poor visibility. It turns out that the Lay Maps are cleverly designed for accurate possitioning on the map by back siting with a GPS bearing and distance to a known coordinate with centered compass rose. For this reason, in addition to his inclusion of the alternate routes and comically entertaining side notes, I've chosen to leave the Bear Creek Maps at home, and partition the Lay Maps into 400 mile sections. Half Mile's small scaled PCT maps might be half way more useable with this feature, since triangulation with a compass requires that you first know you are on the correct map sheet, and have clear sitings of at least two prominant topographic features to triangulate from. Triangulation in short is best done on 7.5' quads or larger sheets. I purchased 500 dollars worth of Lone Peak Ultras, a shoe I used almost exclusively on the PCT last year. I was skeptical about its durability, particulary the soles, but noted that on average a pair generally exceeded 600 miles of wear and the pair sent to me at Timberline Lodge at the top of Oregon, lasted until Sierra City, CA...barely. A big part of the preparation for me is not worring about the food and gear but thinking about strategy to complete the trail. While no hiker has the ability to predict the outcome of their hike, they can improve the odds of successfull completion by estimating trail conditions, deciding on the optimum direction to hike, and setting a pace that allows you to make it through regions where seasons change early, similar to the PCT, the greatest apparent hurdle will be the Rocky Mountains of Colorado, boasting the highest elevations, great exposure, and weather that can change instantaneously. Although this is true anywhere, the south bounder often arrives too late in Colorado and is hit be early snows. The other day, while visiting Wisons Sports in downtown Bishop, CA, I asked if they carried any of the light weight snow shoes. Their lightest in stock was a pair of MSR's that weighed about 3-lbs or about a third of my base weight. The necessity of heavier gear for snow travel is one of the biggest reasons I chose to start late, and hike southbound. The amount of snow in the San Juans and through out Colorado is higher than average this year, similar to conditions on the PCT. Many PCT northbounders this year escaped the deep snow in the back country via Kearsarge Pass, or are hanging out at places like Kennedy Meadows, waiting for peak flow from melt to increase more than it is.

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Journal Photo

A Southbound Trek Across The Great Divide

Continental plate at a time


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