Third time is a charm? Either way, here goes round 3 of this whole strutting across the country nonsense. If you’re knee jerk reaction to that statement was something like “get a job ya’ damn hippy!” you might be better off switching to the ramblings of a non-crazy person. If you are thinking that this will be an educational blog about backpacking and/or survival, I’m afraid you have come to the wrong place. This is simply my record of ridiculous travel shenanigans, terrifying situations, and a public record of my hardships (that I have forced myself into for some reason) in order to provide you a laugh.
But before we delve into the juicy stuff, I’ll first give some info on this current “galavanting in the woods” adventure that they call the Continental Divide Trail:
Q: What is the Continental Divide?
A: The Continental Divide is a geographic land formation through the Rocky Mountains that separates all water of the country. So in other words, if a drop of rain falls on the right side of the divide, it is fortunately destined for the Atlantic Ocean. If it falls on the left side, it’s doomed for the Pacific.
Q: What is the Continental Divide Trail?
A: The CDT has been designed (by insane backpackers) to stay close to the geographic Continental Divide and often follows the exact line of the divide high on mountain tops and ridges. I consistently ask myself on a daily basis looking at the next mountain to conquer, “All the way UP THERE?!”
⁃ The trail is approximately 3,000 miles long. That’s a little over the equivalent of driving from Jacksonville, Florida to Seattle, Washington… EXCEPT you are walking. Not to mention adding snow, river crossings, and climbing over fallen trees to that equation. Who needs engines and four wheels anyway…
⁃ The trail extends from the Canadian border to the Mexican border (aka maple syrup heaven to tequila paradise) and traverses across 5 big ol’ states: Montana, Idaho, Wyoming, Colorado, and New Mexico.
⁃ The lowest point of the CDT is Columbus, New Mexico at 3,900 feet in elevation. The highest point is is Grays Peak in Colorado at 14,278 feet. For reference, my hometown in Alabama is around 500 feet (so pretty much the same).
⁃ Our maximum time frame to complete the trail is 4.5 months. Mid June to the end of October. Mother Nature prevents us from setting sail any earlier because it is still winter conditions in Montana and rushes us (RUDE) to finish due to winter beginning in the high desert of New Mexico.
⁃ Completing the CDT in that time frame requires averaging a mere 23 miles per day. We aim for around 25 miles per day depending on that day’s terrain. The longest day as of yet has been 31 miles. (Are we there yet?!?) The shortest has been 0 miles. (best. day. ever.)
⁃ Currently, 76% of the CDT is complete and located on non-motorized hiking trail. The rest is a combination of dirt roads and wilderness travel with no trail and requiring map use. (Ummm, EXCUSE ME, what is this whole compass thing? Lame.)
⁃ According to Wikipedia (the leading source of anything involving the wilderness, obviously) lists the “hazards” of the CDT as the following: “avalanches, black bears, dehydration, grizzly bears, hypothermia, landslides, lightning, and mountain lions.” (So you’re telling me there’s a chance… nice).
Now for that good stuff I teased you with earlier: Trail Tales!
⁃ I meet up with a total of 9 people in Great Falls, Montana to begin the death march, I mean CDT. It is the closest airport and a 2.5 hour from the Canadian border. We find a ride in a 15 passenger van off of Craigslist. We decide there is NO WAY that we are getting murdered since we have a total of 9 ice axes in the van. During the ride at some point (in the middle of nowhere), Boo Boo proclaims that he needs to use the restroom. The driver says “I can pull over here so you can go on the side of the road?” Boo Boo responds “Oh no, I have to poop.” 20 minutes later, descending down a mountain, the van begins to shake violently in a death-wobble type motion. Shortly before we decide that we are all going to die (we didn’t even get to use our ice axes to prevent our death!) the driver is able to regain control of the van and pull over. The first response comes from Boo Boo. “This will have to do.” as he jumps out of the van with his toilet paper and ventures into the woods.
⁃ We have a long standing tradition amongst this crew of attending/crashing any and all Forrest Ranger Presentations in national parks that these trails go through. After sufficiently “pregaming” for said presentations, this can involve “assisting” by recreating the sounds of the animals in the lecture. In Glacier National Park, Michigan is the first to raise his hand to volunteer to show the audience “how the frog hops.” His exceptional performance can be accredited to the fact that he is an “official junior ranger” (with the badge to prove) due to “helping” with so many ranger talks.
⁃ On a night off the trail, we find ourselves in the lovely little town of East Glacier, Montana on the reservation for the local Blackfeet Tribe. There is one bar in the town: Trailhead Saloon. We arrive around 5pm, are the only people there other than the bartenders, and begin shooting pool. The evening escalates quickly… It begins with us volunteering to decorate the entire bar for their luau party that night. Next, they hear what DJ T-Funk (me. duh.) is capable of on the jukebox and give me enough money to keep the party smooth for the rest of the night. By the end of the party, we are “regulars” with $2.50 tabs and taking shots with the chief of the Blackfeet tribe.
That should do it for now. On this round of blogs for the CDT, I’m not going to bore y’all with info that I’ve already talked about before. Therefore I’ll mention some pre-requisite reading in the event that you feel lost. For now, I’ll recommend the beginning of PCT Blog #2 for descriptions of Boo Boo, Michigan, and Snapper. They are my “ride or dies” and you can put 100% of the blame on them for making me do this whole walking across the country shindig again. Also, AT Blog #3 (halfway down) to understand how these ridiculous “trail names” work.
We are currently in Helena (Montana’s capital city) for the 4th of July. We have 360 miles complete under our feet and a mere 2,640 to go. As always, THANK YOU to you beautiful people reading this on the interwebs. You’re comments, questions, judgements, and support are a massive part of what gives me the motivation to keep trucking. So bring those on! I’ll do my bestest to answer inquiries in future blogs (if I don’t get eaten by a grizzly bear first).
Do what you love!