Continental Divide Trail – Day 55

Day- 55

Date- 8/15/17

Location- trail junction

Elevation- 7,802 ft

Distance Traveled Today- 33.6 miles

Distance Traveled Total- 777.1 miles

Weather/Temp- 60s 50s, Rain, Lightning

Injuries- none

Pain level- low

Spirits/Morale- strong

Wildlife encounters- grouse

Human Beings encountered on trail- 5

Thru hikers encountered on trail- 5 nobo

Days without shower- 2

Days without laundry- 2

Hunger/craving- greasy food


Continental Drifter was an early riser, which inspired me to be an early riser today by default. I’m finding it much easier to wake up earlier when I’m not in the hammock. I’m seriously thinking about ditching it and just using a tarp. I’d need to get a different style tarp if I do.

The trail was overgrown and the overgrowth was soaked from all the rain. This meant I was soaked from about the waist down with squishy shoes to complete the ensemble. I think wet overgrowth might just be my least favorite trail condition, just behind blowdowns.

At one point, about 5 miles into the morning, I got lost. The trail signs and the GPS were at odds, not matching up. I found myself going in an inexplicable loop. I wasted thirty minutes trying to figure out where I’d gone wrong, or where my GPS/maps had gone wrong. While trying to work it out, CD came up the trail from the opposite direction that I was tentatively heading in, but was pretty sure was the wrong way. “Are you as lost as I am?” I called it to him. “Yes! I’ve been on this loop for an hour!” He exclaimed exasperated.

Luckily, he’d been on the loop longer than I had, and was able to figure out the mistake before me, which saved me quite a bit of extra time. Had I completed the full loop, I would have eventually figured it out. So what happened was the officially mapped trail on the topographical GPS map skirted way around a mountain before making a steep climb up the south side to the top of said mountain. I don’t check the GPS unless I’m unsure of where I’m at. So I continued to follow the “CDT” emblems that were tacked onto trees or fiberglass posts (some sections are actually very well marked with these). Well, the trail marked with the official signage cut out the loop around the mountain and simply went straight up. So the junction that separated these two different paths were actually both the CDT and taking you to the same spot; one was just shorter, more direct, and actually physically marked. So once at the top of the climb, the trail that was best marked at the top was actually the trail that  would lead you back down and around the mountain to the original junction that you’d already been to. The correct trail leading south (the one we should have been on) was obscured by overgrowth and unmarked/unsigned. The trail we were supposed to head down the mountain on was so tight to the trail that cut straight to the top, that the slight GPS mismatch showing your proximity to the trail seemed normal (it’s sometimes a little off from the actual trail). This just made the mixup even more confusing. When you finally picked up the trail at the top of the climb, the GPS showed you exactly where you needed to be, but heading in the wrong direction. Until we found the obscured “real” trail, it felt like the twilight zone. The maker of the GPS map needs to update the new route that the official signed trail is now taking. It’ll save people an hour of energy and scratching their heads; or not, the challenge is fun too I suppose.

And so the rest of the day was fairly mundane. There was a ridiculous amount of climbing, but the views made it worth while. CD stayed ahead of me for the remainder of the day until we met at the top of a nearly three thousand foot climb close to 5pm. The daily thunderstorms had held off, and we were making great time despite the tough terrain and huge elevation gains.

Our luck finally ran out at the bottom of the descent of our last big climb. CD was once again somewhere ahead when the sky fell. Rain, Lightning and high winds whipping across the mountains. I kept trucking with my umbrella out so long as I still had trees to cover me. However once I hit an exposed patch of ridge, I was forced to sit it out under some trees.

After about 20 minutes the rain slowed and the thunder distanced. I made another run for it across the ridge and got barely half a mile before the next storm hit me. Again I dashed into some trees just off the exposed trail and hunkered down yet again for another 15 minutes.

When the worst of it was passed, I was treated to a full double rainbow, one end of which was firmly planted in the middle of the trail. The sun was shining and the skies were blue, but the high winds were still blowing the rain all across the sunny patches; my favorite kind of rain. As a child, I always knew to look for the rainbow of the sun was shining and the rain was falling. It’s one of my oldest childhood memories, and I can’t recall if it was taught or learned through observation. Since I spent 99% of my childhood running rampant through the woods in every kind of weather, I’m inclined to believe it was observational learning.

The storms were completely gone by a little after 7pm, and I caught up to CD  a few tenths of a mile later in his own tree grove. We still had about 5 miles left to reach our goal, and completed our nearly 34 mile day in almost complete darkness a little after 9 pm.

The ground is soaked, so I hung my hammock. It’s about 17 miles to walk directly into the town of Island Park, Idaho tomorrow. However, there is an infamous 4 mile bushwacking section that I have to get through first thing tomorrow. I’ve been hearing horror stories from northbounders about getting lost for hours, slogging up creeks, sinking up to the waist in mud and marshland, etc. I’m anxious to see what all the noise and worry is about…

Go to Day 56.


  1. I can’t picture how you are using a tarp rather than the hammock. Would you include a photo please? Thanks!

  2. The pictures are amazing! I would never have had the opportunity to see such wonderful sights if it wasn’t for your experience. Thank you for that!

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