CDT Redemption Hike 2019!
If you are reading this, then I am already somewhere in the Montana back-country, many days and many miles into a southbound thru hike of the Continental Divide Trail (CDT) from Canada to Mexico.
Those who have been following my hikes for a while will already know this is my second attempt at a CDT thru hike. The first one in 2017 ended prematurely in late September due to an early dumping of snow throughout Colorado making the trail virtually un-hikeable through the higher elevations (where it consistently stays) through that section of trail. Many hikers called off their hikes, skipped ahead or road walked hundreds of miles to bypass the snow. I made the tough decision to call off the adventure and re-hike the entire trail at a later date. The way I figured… I wouldn’t have felt like I’d actually completed the trail if I’d missed hundreds of miles of some of the best sections. It would have felt like a hollow victory, at least to me. I would have ended up coming back and re-hiking it anyway. So, this is me keeping good on my promise to myself to come back and finish what was started, but from the beginning, all over again. This is CDT Redemption Hike 2019!
For those unfamiliar, the CDT stretches 3,100 miles from Canada to Mexico (or visa versa) through Montana, Idaho, Wyoming, Colorado, and New Mexico. It is arguably the most wild and remote trail in the Continental United States, as well as one of the three major trails that make up the North American “Triple Crown” of hiking. The other two are the 2,200 mile Appalachian Trail and the 2,650 mile Pacific Crest Trail. The CDT is my last piece to complete that three piece puzzle and earn my Triple Crown.
I’ve thought about this trail nearly every day since the fall of 2017. Like some unscratchable itch, it’s been at the back of my mind taunting and calling on me to do something. Out of the three Triple Crown trails, the CDT is far and away my favorite. In my opinion it comprises the best as well as the very worst that the AT and PCT have to offer. The remoteness, the lack of people, and the abundance of wildlife are my favorite aspects of this trail – especially the wildlife, which it has in spades. Grizzlies, black bears, wolves, wolverines, coyotes, mountain lions, moose, elk, mountain goats, bighorn sheep, pronghorn antelope, peccary, wild horses, deer, marmots, and a plethora of other creatures large and small make up the cast of characters for this trail as it traverses the Rocky Mountain Range along the divide.
This trail is a beast, known for its brutality, and if one is to complete it, the brutality must be embraced. It is a scary and intimidating trail no doubt, but not as bad as it seems in conversations or in writings you read on the internet. Let me be the first to tell you that it is daunting, and it is scary at times, but nowhere near as much as you might think or build it up to be in your head. Once you’re out here, the fears fade away (mostly) and everything falls into place (mostly) as you find your pace and groove. All of these trails have moods and tendencies, as well as a life of their own which are unique only to them. It doesn’t take long to figure them out and incorporate them into your own style and routine.
Earlier this year I thru hiked the 1,100 mile Florida Trail with Katana (my fur child/dog) who is blind and has no eyes (they were removed due to a painful glaucoma disease). I carried her for around 800 of those miles while she hiked more than 200 on her own. I won’t lie, I strongly considered bringing her along for this hike – again. However, knowing what I already know of this trail, as well as already having experienced carrying her for hundreds of miles on a much milder trail (terrain/elevation wise), it would be a blunder (in my opinion) to attempt it on the CDT. On a perfect year with on-time seasonal transitions… maybe; but there is simply no way to know what the weather and the seasons will be doing ahead of time. I fear it would be miserable for both of us if I needed to carry her upwards of 2,000+ miles of this trail with no guarantee of how fast I’d be able to go with her on my back over uncertain terrain during uncertain weather and temperatures. Make no mistake, this hike is an elected vacation done for pleasure, enjoyment, and the challenge – but it’s also a race, as well as a major endeavor. If my goal of completion is to to be accomplished, I have to hike and I have to hike hard. Enjoy yourself, smell the roses, do what you want to do… but you can’t hike this trail at your own leisure and expect to complete it – it’s too big, and it’s too high. On this trail you hike at Mother Nature’s leisure… and she waits for no one. Katana had her adventure for this year and it set her up for life as a blind dog brimming with confidence. Sadly, I’ll be going this trail alone while she enjoys a life of luxury back home with a friend who’s known her her entire life, as well as another Shiba (her little brother, actually) whom she plays and wrestles with to no end on a daily basis. So she’s in good hands and will accompany me on another big hike at the end of this year or beginning of next year.
Now it is time for another adventure and I am ecstatic to bring you along for the ride once again – as we find what waits around each turn… what are we going to see… what will happen to us… and what knowledge are we going to discover or have bestowed upon us about ourselves and the world? It’s all hopelessly addicting and I thank you all very much for your continued interest and support, as you support this addiction.
I will be journaling daily out here and intend to have the blog also updating on a daily basis. In order for this to work out, it will be updating daily on a delayed schedule. That is to say, each day uploaded will be about 10 to 14 days behind where I’m actually at in real time on the trail. This buffer is necessary if I’m to keep up with all the work while also keeping the blog updating daily – since I will routinely go days at a time with no service or Wifi. For those interested, pictures uploaded to Instagram (@_roamad_) will be closer to real time than the blog.
So now, without further ado… let’s hike!
As an added bonus, I’m including my CDT gear list in this post as well as links to most of the gear!
CDT 2019 Gear List
* Custom 40L Pack (Packs by Tesla)
* Clark Tropical Ultra (discontinued model- Link is to larger model Nx-270 ;An awesome hammock I also own)
* Mini Groundhog Stakes x 6
*Enlightened Equipment 30* Quilt
* Altra Lonepeak 3.5 (*discontinued* 4.0 is latest model)
– Warm Weather Clothing
– Cold Weather Clothing
* Marmot Thermoflare Fleece Top Midlayer (*Discontinued*Limited)
* Marmot Harrier Hoodie Baselayer Top
* Smartwool Long Underwear Baselayer Bottom
– Wind/Rain Gear
* LightHeart Gear Rain Jacket
* Optimus Crux Lite Gas Stove
* SmartWater/Lifewater Bottle 1L x 2
* Sawyer Water Filter(normal size)
* Cell Phone – Android Galaxy S-10
* Wall Charger and USB-C Cord
* Extra USBC Cord
* USB Thumb Drive to store pictures
* USB-C Adapter for Thumb Drive
* RAVPower Charger 32,000 Mhz
* Firefly Headlamp (discontinued)
* LR Photon Light w/ Hat Clip
* Baby Powder 4oz
* Sawed Off Toothbrush
* Tooth Powder
* Toilet Paper (insert favorite brand)
* Cold Steel Canadian Belt Knife
* Fanny Pack (Custom Packs By Tesla)
* Sunglasses – Offbrand Polarized