10 Reasons to Not Hike the Continental Divide Trail

It feels impossible to write an introductory paragraph about a life event as monumental as this one. I’ve been planning my thru-hike of the Continental Divide Trail for the past 600 days, and any words that do this moment justice sound grandiose, stuffy, and absolutely nothing like myself. So, I won’t even try.

Who Am I?

My name is Katie — trail name, Double Dip — and you may have seen articles from me here on The Trek about my mishaps and misfortunes on the Colorado Trail and John Muir Trail (like here & here). And maybe you read the one where I very explicitly describe how I poop outside. (See — you know me pretty well already!)

The adventures continue, this time on the Continental Divide Trail!

Over the next six months, I’m thrilled to continue writing for The Trek — more frequently, informally, and with worse grammar— as I blog my NOBO thru-hike attempt on the Continental Divide Trail.

This will be my first thru-hike attempt on one of North America’s “Big Three” long distance trails. Once I realized I was willing to lose my job, my apartment, and any sense of stability for the next six months to hike, the CDT was the only logical choice to make.

Baby Katie on the CDT at Monarch Lake, circa sometime around 2002.

Growing up, I had family living right off from the trail, and we spent so much time — unbeknownst to me — on the CDT itself. I know the Colorado segments of this trail so deeply. It’s an odd juxtaposition with how unfamiliar I am with the rest of the trail.

Finding My “Why” for the Continental Divide Trail

People have asked me so many times why I’m doing this trail. I don’t really have a good answer for them, and usually reply with “why not?” But, in truth, there are countless reasons why not. I’m afraid of grizzly bears, lighting, rattlesnakes, heatstroke, and snowfields. I’m risking my career, my financial stability, my personal relationships, physical safety, and comfort to chase an accomplishment, realistically, no one but myself will ever care about.

At the end of the JMT with a broken foot, non-weight bearing knee, and a body that lost the war with food poisoning. I’m ready to risk it all again!

Recently, I read the book “Appalachian Trials” by Zach Davis. In it, he talks about how important it is to make a list of why you’re hiking, what you’ll gain from finishing, and what you’d lose if you give up. I took this advice to heart, and sat with my Notes app for too long, trying to push past the “why not” mentality.

I still will never be able to put into words why I thru-hike for someone who doesn’t already get it. Most of my favorite stories from the trail revolve around the mishaps, the gear failures, and the almost-scary situations, and that doesn’t exactly scream “fun and rewarding” to most people. But now I have my list of why I want to finish the Continental Divide Trail, and it is meaningful at least to me.

1. To Be Transformed

Doing hard things makes me a better person. Coming away from the Colorado Trail, I found myself more patient, less anxious, and better equipped to handle uncomfortable situations. Finding these traits within myself during my 20s is such a rare opportunity— one that I’m deliberately trying to embrace.

The challenge of a thru-hike makes the experience that much more rewarding. When I reach the northern terminus, I will be a new person. Full stop. I want to meet that person so badly.

I feel like such a different person than the one who stood at the terminus of the Colorado Trail. Same bad knee, though.

2. To Achieve Something Significant

I know nobody cares about the trails you’ve thru-hiked except yourself and maybe other long-distance hikers. Even still, I want the personal accomplishment that will come from knowing I hiked a continuous footpath from Mexico to Canada. No matter how you look at it, that’s impressive.

On the Colorado Trail, it was not uncommon to be stopped by hikers asking where I parked my car. Being able to respond with “Denver” always lifted both my mood and my ego. I can’t even imagine being asked that same question somewhere in Montana and responding with “Mexico”.

3. To Form Lifelong Friendships

I graduated from college in 2021 and immediately moved to a new city in which I knew almost no one. Everyone warns you about it, but it still shocked me just how hard it was to make friends when not under the roof of an institution. Thru-hiking provides that structure and forced comradery for me. You and your fellow hikers are bonded so tightly and so quickly by the shared suffering on the trail. Some of the people I met on the Colorado and John Muir Trails are my closest friends, and I want to come away from the CDT with even more of these connections.

A stranger I met on the Colorado Trail quickly became my best friend and will be joining me this year on the CDT! It’s crazy how dodging lightning and having close encounters with bears can bring people together so easily.

4. To See Beautiful Places

Thru-hiking brings you to places impossible to access by car or on an overnight weekend trip. And, even in very accessible places, something about knowing what it took to get there makes the moment so incredibly special. I want to stop at Old Faithful in Yellowstone, look around at all the tourists, and know that I walked from Mexico to stand in that spot.

It’s easier to justify spending this much time hiking when these are the types of views you get fairly regularly.

Even after counting up all the arguments for why I shouldn’t hike the CDT, these four reasons are enough to make me take the plunge. I know, statistically, there’s a good chance I won’t make it all the way to Canada. And I know that much of the journey will be uncomfortable, exhausting, and downright not fun. But I stand to lose too much by not giving it my best effort.

Follow Along on the Continental Divide Trail!

I’m very excited to take my first steps on the trail — which, as I write these words, will be in under two weeks— and am looking forward to bringing you all along with me! Throughout the trail, I plan to post regular updates to this blog — informally, candidly, and with plenty of humor — as well as pictures and videos to my Instagram account.

Nothing says “escape from reality into the wilderness” like bringing your phone and promising to post regular updates from the trail.

If you’re interested in hearing about my highs and lows on yet another National Scenic Trail, make sure to subscribe to my Author page to get alerts when I post! Join me as I navigate the beauty and challenges of the CDT, and let’s embark on this incredible journey together. Your support and encouragement mean the world to me, and I can’t wait to share this unforgettable experience with each and every one of you.

Here’s to six months of way too much information about my gnarly feet, gastrointestinal distress, and emotional meltdowns. Cheers!

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Comments 2

  • Wendy : Apr 18th

    O I’m looking forward to your trip! I’m 70 & just a neighborhood day hiker but I love reading adventures. I used to live in Bozeman Montana & it’s all beautiful & wild. Have fun!

  • Jeffrey Morris : Apr 21st

    The Rocky mountains are going to make way for nawapa overtime. Plus the Rocky mountain debris can be reuse as rock salt or in the Bering crossway


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