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Split & Two Step
Begins: May 1, 2017
Date: Tue, Aug 6th, 2019
Start: Pleasanton, California
End: Flagstaff, Arizona
Daily Distance: 0
Trip Distance: 1,895.8
Daily Ascent: 0
Daily Descent: 0
Max Elevation: 7200
Entry Visits: 14
Journal Visits: 61,922
Guestbook Views: 724
Guestbook Entrys: 57
Continental Divide Trail Map
Revisiting the CDT
Once again my wife, Two Step, and I (Split) are preparing for a wilderness backpacking adventure. If you would like to know more of our normal life story, you will find our background described in our other trail journals (for example, https://www.postholer.com/journal/Continental-Divide-Trail/2018/rlhdancer/2018-06-24/Split-and-Two-Steps-continuing-CDT-journal/62092 ).
We have thru-hiked the Appalachian Trail (2012), the Pacific Crest Trail (2013), and completed the CDT in two seasons (2017 and 2018), as well as other shorter trails since we started serious long distance backpacking in 2009. This year we are again backpacking a shorter, though still challenging trail.
In 2017 we had a May 1st start to the Continental Divide Trail. We set out from the Mexico/New Mexico border at what seemed like a reasonable, although somewhat late, start date due to near record in-season and then very late winter/spring snowfall in Colorado. Even with that late start, the reports of treacherous snow conditions from hikers only a week or two ahead of us resulted in us taking many extra zero days and moving slowly through New Mexico. Still, even our weeks-delayed entry into the Rockies resulted in us encountering days of traveling through trackless snow-covered mountainous terrain, experiencing a glissade-generated snow injury, and thus more delay for healing time in Pagosa Springs.
With Two Step planning to recover on the trail from a hand-sized abrasion which would prevent her from sitting normally for weeks, we considered our options as we recuperated in Pagosa Springs. The official CDT followed a high route, generally over 12,000 feet, through the San Juan range of the Colorado Rocky Mountains. Features with names like the Knife Edge sounded serious enough, but the real problem was the risk of falling on the nearly totally snow-covered trails. Traveling through snow had made the past weeks traveling slow and exhausting even though we were in excellent shape and health. However, another option was available. In high snow years a large fraction, maybe even a majority, of CDT hikers set out from Wolf Creek Pass near Pagosa Springs, hike half a day along the CDTs high route, and then take an alternative trail downward to Creede. We knew this lower route would be relatively snow free, and thus safer, so we opted for the safest route.
We later talked to trail friends who had hiked the San Juan range, and they confirmed the snow challenges found there, but also spoke of the stark beauty of these high mountains. Even then, in the middle of our first-time CDT attempt, we resolved to someday return and experience for ourselves this CDT high route.
This is the year!
It was another record setting snow year in the Colorado Rockies, but our busy travel schedule allowed a convenient multi-week backpacking trip to begin in early August, and it appears the snow has recently cleared from the San Juan range. We dont know what precisely to expect, but we imagine we will have a trail mostly free from snow, but still perhaps wet with snowmelt, and perhaps adorned with wildflowers making the best of a short season.
Two Step, as usual, has put together a couple weeks of light, but delicious, dehydrated and high-calorie foods. We have our town stops planned, weve reassembled our gear, and as we filled our packs yesterday, we realized we had gear very similar to last year. We were able to leave behind some of the bear necessities since we are out of grizzly country this year. Its a relief not to have to carry bear spray or bear canisters. We replaced our Zpacks cuban fiber Triplex (three person) tent after 3300 miles, mostly because the zippers were failing. However, we liked its generous roominess and light weight (1.75 pounds, including rugged tent stakes) so much that we bought the latest model to replace it. As a pure indulgence, we added a Trekology 3.8 ounce pillow. We are definitely not ultralight, but at 16.5 pounds base weight, we feel we are at least light weight.
We are traveling by car to Colorado, and will eventually reach Wolf Creek Pass near Pagosa Springs. We had a 6:00am departure from Pleasanton, California, this morning to start a three-day drive. Tonight we will stay in Flagstaff, Arizona. We still have a few more days of town-life before setting out once again on the CDT.
Setting ourselves up for another adventure,
Split and Two Step
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