This is it… the big one; the crown jewel of the North American Triple Crown of hiking. After more than four years since the hair brained idea of thru hiking the Appalachian Trail took hold of me, I find myself (two thru hikes and more than 5,000 long distance hiking miles later) standing on the precipice of one of the greatest hiking accomplishments this side of planet Earth. With the completions of the Appalachian Trail and Pacific Crest Trail behind me, I am left with the final piece of the trifecta puzzle to capture my triple crown… the Continental Divide Trail (CDT). The biggest and baddest has truly been saved for last. Everything I’ve learned on the other long trails (mostly the hard way) has been leading up to this adventure, and I must admit, I’m anxious as hell.
The CDT is anywhere from 2,600 to 3,100 miles long (depending on the routes you take), and being only 75% complete… it’s as close to unconventional as a hiking trail can get. Stretching from the Canadian border in Montana to the Mexican border in New Mexico; it’s one third standard trail, one third logging roads, and one third bushwhacking. Grizzly Bears, Mountain Lions, moose, elk, antelope, and goats galore! This trail will be the wildest of the Triple Crown trifecta. More animals, more elevation, more weather, and more “not knowing exactly where you are,” than any other trail before it. I’d be a liar if I didn’t say I had butterflies simply thinking about embarking on this new adventure. My navigation skills, my map reading skills, my judgement, and my natural instinct will all be called into play on this trail, more so than they were on the other two.
Am I excited? Like you wouldn’t believe! Am I scared? Not of anything specific, however I am uncertain, and the “uncertain” can certainly be scary. I have all the confidence in myself and my gear, but I cannot see the future, and I cannot know what I don’t know. This is the least hiked trail of all the major trails in North America, and at many times, there will be no trail, or no “one trail” to follow. The potential for misadventure is high, and to be honest… that excites me. Nevertheless, I do not approach this trail as a fearless adventurer. No, if I didn’t feel at least a little fear and apprehension, I probably wouldn’t be doing these adventures, because that would be boring. There cannot be courage without fear, and there cannot be triumph without struggle. One cannot exist without the others, and I anticipate experiencing plenty of all of them while out there.
I will not be going alone. Starting out, I will be with my dog Katana aka CatFox (her trail name), and my best friend and hiking buddy “Schweppes.” I first met Schweppes early on while hiking the Appalachian Trail in 2014, and have since shared thousands of trail miles together. There’s never a dull moment when the two of us get together. You can also follow his Instagram @schweppeshikes.
Katana is my fur child/daughter, and has been by my side (also in front, behind, and all over) on the long trails for nearly 4,000 miles. If anything, she accounts for 60% of my pre-hike jitters, and like any parent, I worry about her safety. However I do not let the worrying keep me or her from living our lives to the fullest. Taking care of her on trail is a 24/7 job that requires 110% of my focus; and I am glad to do it. It can be tedious at times, but immensely rewarding as well; I’m more than happy and willing to do whatever it takes to keep her safe, healthy, and happy. Unfortunately, during our last hike, Katana was diagnosed with hereditary Glaucoma (common in the Shiba breed), and ended up having to lose her left eye. The good news… she hasn’t missed a beat! Aside from taking a little longer to line up for her leaps, I have seen no noticeable difference in her behavior. The missing eye adds to her character, while contributing to her “bad-ass” image she’s already earned. Her Dr. says it’s only a matter of time before the dormant Glaucoma in her other eye eventually flares up, but until then, she’s on daily eye drops (which I will have with me) and getting to see as much of the world while she’s still healthy and able!
So that’s the skinny, as well as the starting cast of characters… but not the plan. So what is the plan? The plan is quite literally nothing more than getting to the Montana/Canada border in Glacier National Park by around June 22. From there we will begin hiking south towards Mexico with no concrete strategy other than to make it through the Colorado Rockies before the end of September. Aside from that, we’re simply going with the flow and seeing where the trail of life takes us…