Begins: Apr 23, 2009
Date: Tue, Oct 6th, 2009
Trip Distance: 1,447.0
Entry Visits: 1,709
Journal Visits: 87,675
The entry above is the link to 160 of my favorite CDT pictures. The captions are on my facebook page, so if you would like to view those just let me know. I will be putting captions on the ones above in due time. Home is a little hectic right now, so it is a little delayed.
The thoughts below are just my opinions and impressions of the CDT. After all hiking, I can say it was my favorite trail.
First, and most importantly, if any of the people that offered me assistance along the way are reading this, THANK YOU VERY MUCH for everything you did. In addition to making my hike a little easier at times, you greatly enriched the expercience for me, and I am forever grateful to all of you.
I found the CDT in general, the most challenging and rewarding of all the trails. People along the trail were not that familiar with the trail, and this made for a lot more fortuitous meetings and interesting conversations, concerning non-trail related topics. The scenery was spectacular, and the animal encounters unparalleled. The wildlife is a huge plus for me, and the CDT far surpassed the other trails in this category. I believe predominantly hiking solo also increased the animal sightings. This trail did not become a "slog" for me, nor did I have to "zone out" when doing the miles. It was always interesting, and due to naigational challenges and variety, I was always pretty alert to my surroundings.
Physically, I found the CDT challenging. Both physically, emotionally, and mentally, the CDT offered a "wildness" and remote experience that I did not really find on the other two trails. Life did not revolve around this trail and it's thru-hikers. The trail meandered it's way through the west, often suprising the hikers and the people and environments it passed in the process. There was a lot of climbing after NM, and switchbacks are not as commonplace as the CDT, but the climbs (other than leaving Lima) were no worse than some on the other trails...just a little more frequent.
Weather was quite varied. Snow was tedious, and I am not a big snow fan, finding it a little boring and montonous. Rain and thunderstorms occured almost daily in northern NM and CO. Mostly they were in the afternoons, and that is why we carry raingear, so these really were not a big issue unless there was lightning above treeline, and then you just hiked faster! Water was an issue at times in NM, a little in WY, and some in southern MT, but if you could hike decent miles, used good maps and guides, and carried a good filter, it was not a show stopper.
Logistics, as far as food resupply, was as easy as the other trails. I used a gps, and Ley's maps, TI maps, BLM maps, and a few wilderness maps. I found the Wolf Guide unnecessary. One heads up on the Ley maps though. The primary route is not always the CDT trail. At times it appears to be the "easier or simpler route." This often holds true with the "alternate" purple routes. The CDT has a lot of what some call "PUDS," but then that is the Contiental Divide Trail, so some might argue these are just part of the trail and journey. The best supplements I used were the TI maps for CO and the national parks. BLM maps in NM were also very helpful, and the Bob Marshal Wilderness map was a great resource instead of the Ley maps, or in conjunction with it. I also used the maps in Yogi's town guide, so I did not have to walk all over town. Much of the information was dated though, so instead of using any of the other information, I just asked when I got to town to get the best information. This also resulted in meeting a lot of cool people, and getting rides back to trailheads and passes.
The gps unit was also very helpful. It was a 2-3 year old garmin. You don't need the best and greatest. You just need to be able to load all of the 2008 (or more recent) TOPO maps, and I did this by just adding a 2G memory card. You can plot out the route ahead of time, or just do it as you go. I did both, just using topographic features on the maps in the gps, compared to the Ley maps, to create the route itself. It was really fairly easy. I used the maps more than the gps, but the gps certainly made it a much more pleasurable experience. There were some that did not use a gps, and frustration over finding the route often resulted in a lot of road walking. You will still get lost, often...even with a gps, but you at least will have an idea of where you are "misplaced."
New Mexico was a beautiful state. A lot of other hikers disliked the desert, but I found it full of life and contrasts. If hiking from south to north, I would suggest being in shape. Being in decent condition allowed me to use less water, adjust more quickly to the heat, and make more miles between water sources. There were some hikers that really struggled with the heat in NM.
Colorado was a beautiful state, but I found hitching took a little longer sometimes, even for females. This was not the case in the southern part of the state...more towards the middle sections. Water was not an issue, and there was still snow into late June. Hostels were much more plentiful in Colorado, if you like to stay at hostels. There were also many more human encounters.
Wyoming was my favorite state. I loved the remote, isolated beauty of this state. The stark contrasts between environment and life were also a draw for me. The people were very friendly, and the scenery amazing. The Red Desert, Great Divide Basin, Wild Horses, sage going on forever...I liked it all.
Montana was my also a great place to hike. It was very well marked, and I found it easy to follow the trail or "trail corridor" through this state. Glacier was amazing!
The highlights for me were the NM desert, WY Basin, San Juans, Wind River Range, and Glacier Park. People met along the way also stood out for me. There were times I never talked about the hike, but simply about them and their lives. In many cases they did not even know the trail existed. They simpley wanted to help a person on the side of the road.
My gear held up well. Osprey makes an awesome pack, and with 5,000 miles on it, my Osprey is still plugging along. I was glad I took a 10 degree bag. This trail, for me, was a little colder than the others. There were a few times I missed my tent, but at a savings of 2 pounds, I would definitely take my Wild Oasis again.
I switched back to my Pocket Rocket in Pinedale, WY. A stove allows for a lot more variety in my foods, and by Pinedale I was food focused.
My Asic Trabucos held up well, and I was glad I used goretex after NM. There was a lot of rain and snow, and my trail runners were light enough to dry quickly, even with a goretex liner.
Finally, use a filter or chemicals. There are bovine everywhere sharing your water sources. If you need references, my stomach will gladly give you some feedback.
The CDT was a great experience. Take our journals with a grain of salt if planning your own hike though, b/c everyone is different. Hikers are often tired at the end of the day when journaling, and in many instances journals are very much exagerated. Weather is not as bad as it seems, terrain not as rugged, animals not as vicious, people not as crazy, and suprisingly....miles hiked not as long...:-). I think many long distance hikers missed their footpath found on the AT and PCT. They wanted the ease of dropping their heads and just dropping their steps, and there is nothing wrong with that type of hike. This is not the CDT though. This trail requires you to pay attention and know how to route find.
If contemplating the CDT though, do it! Just get some experience on another trail first. For me, it was certainly the toughest of the three long distance trails, but absolutely the most rewarding. I still have a couple hundred miles to do in CO since I snow dodged, but I can't wait.
I always get asked, "Which one would you do first?" I would have to say the PCT. I found it beautiful, and the easiest for me. I would then do the CDT, and maybe the AT last. I've been spoiled by the beauty of the western trails though, and I might not do the AT before doing more western trails, if at all anymore. I also have no real desire to repeat a trail. There are too many new things to see, people to meet, and places to hike. I guess if I did another, it would be the PNT, and then the AZT, followed by New Zealand, Spain, and then the Alps. I don't think there will be anymore trails in the near future though. For now, it is back to my "other world," and I am looking forward to "normal" vacations with those people that are important.
Over time, it really does become more about the journey and not the destination.
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