Continental Divide Trail (pre-hike info/thoughts)

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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…

 

8 Comments

  1. Looking forward to your adventure too! My husband and I are the crazy people in our neighborhood who are camping \hiking fools! Over the last few years we have spent all of our vacations traveling to the Rocky mountains to hike and live out of the back of our truck ( we call it the covered wagon). Since we have 2 dogs -Boomer and Scallywag we upgraded to a 86 Toyota rv we took to the southern cacades for 3 weeks. Which is not enough time!! So we have sold our house and I’m going to work on call starting in September. We are leaving the plastic world behind. We will be in Colorado for most of September and hopefully be able to keep up with your progress. We will be out hiking too and maybe will catch a glimpse of you as you breeze by us. Anyway best of luck! I just have to say that the only reason we know of you is your book. My hubby and I took our backpacking gear and flew into Vegas for a quick 8 day adventure and were desperate for some evening entertainment and I saw your book on my kindle (my daughter purchased it around Christmas) so I started reading it ( I read to him as we drive long trips, it’s way better than the radio) . Wow we loved it and appreciated your reflections on life itself. We are like minded people.

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  2. Looking forward to reading about this new adventure. Catfox is looking well and up to the new challenge. Haven’t seen anything about the PCT book, is that still in the works? Hope so, good luck and keep posting for us couch bound old folks

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    1. Thank you! I’m about halfway through the PCT book. I’m trying to keep it everything in it fresh and unique from the AT book, so it’s taking me longer!

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  3. Kyle, Best of the best to you on your next adventure. Be safe, have fun, live large! What’s your plan for the fur kid in the National Parks? Just curious!

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  4. My husband and I were in MT and WY last Sept. and saw bits of the CDT. It’s a stunningly gorgeous area. Looking forward to following your adventures!

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  5. I am looking forward to following you and Katana on the third leg of the triple crown. We wanted to come and see you at Grassy Hollow during your PCT journey, but we were out of town during the time you were passing through. We too have a shiba inu, but so far no eye problems. Take care of her and yourself. Pete and Mitsuko Gordon

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  6. I was wondering about her eye. How awesome that she has already seen more than most of us, and is able to live her calling! Oh yeah, you too Kyle… 😉 I hope the trip goes well, you will be hiking through my state! Watch out for those rocky mountains, not uncommon for lightening storms and even snow throughout the late summer….

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