I am a Graceful Athlete, or Why I am Hiking the Continental Divide Trail

Mount Katahdin Summit

Mount Katahdin Summit

Hello humans of the hiking and non-hiking world!
I am the humanoid known as Katie, Wilderness, KB, or whatever else you want to call me. “Hey you!” always works. This will be a introduction to my life, who I am, and why I have decided to hike the Continental Divide Trail.

Genealogically Speaking…

Walking long-distances is in my DNA–well, at least east to west trekking is. My parent’s genealogy (and consequently MY genealogy) is full of hearty humans walking long-distances with hope for a better life.

Jerry and Janie: the younger years.

Janie i.e. Mother or Mom

Throughout my mother’s side (from here on out she shall be known as JANIE) I have pioneer ancestors who walked across the US from Illinois to Utah, then on down to Arizona, with their covered wagons and handcarts. They did it out of necessity rather then recreation, but they did it well. I am impressed reading their records of the 30 and 40 mile days they did on a consistent basis. My mother was (is) an avid backpacker, explorer, and survival skill extraordinaire. A lot of my inspiration comes from her.

Jerry i.e. Father or Pops

My father (from here on out he shall be known as JERRY) is the eternal Boy Scout and Shake-down Master. He learned a lot from his first backpacking trip as a young teenage thing. Mainly, he learned that canned beans and Campbell’s soups, although delicious, are a terribly weighty choice when you are backpacking. I blame feeling like I can do anything and walk anywhere on him and his treating my sister (from here on she shall be known as SISTER) and I no differently then my six male siblings in his expectation that we were capable of doing whatever chore or task our brothers did.

Moi i.e. Katie Wilderness

I’ll admit, I wasn’t exactly the outdoor enthusiast that I am now… I did grow up playing outside and getting very dirty. Camping and backpacking for family vacations was very much a norm for my family, but as much as I could help it, I always tried to be the girly girl. That lasted till about 17 or 18 years old, when I discovered that being outside was cool. I visited Sister at her seasonal job at Philmont Scout Ranch where she ran the rock climbing camp within the ranch. We cowboy camped under the stars with her dirty hippy coworkers, and I was IN.

I Have a Problem

The giddy hiker.

The giddy hiker.

In the summer of 2011, I was working as a chef/cook human in the middle of the forest in northeastern Connecticut, making meals for future graduates of the Yale School of Forestry. It sounds fiercely romantic, but it wasn’t at all. It was, however where I picked up a copy of “A Walk in The Woods,” by Bill Bryson. I had always known about the Appalachian Trail. I lived close to sections of the trail growing up, and in 2007, Sister, Janie, and I attempted the 100 Mile Wilderness (another story for another day). When I read Bryson’s book, between making semi-gourmet meals, in middle of the woods, in the summer heat, I couldn’t help but feel as though I was missing out on something; and I was inspired. I knew I had to hike the AT. The next year I set out to do a one-month section of the AT, and over the course of 3 years (2012, 2013, and 2015) I continued to hike as a Long-Ass Section Hiker (LASHer) until the 1st of September, 2015, when I summited Mount Katahdin in Maine and finished hiking the AT. 

Mile 1777.3 Mt. Cube, New Hampshire

Mile 1777.3 Mt. Cube, New Hampshire

There was only one thing wrong with my hike: every time I finished a section, I found myself wanting more. When I summited Katahdin, I was conflicted with feelings of relief and restlessness. Hiking for weeks and months at a time went from being a hobby to being one of the few things I feel totally at peace doing. Why in the world would I stop doing what makes me inexplicably happy? “I am a graceful athlete,” my favorite hiker in the whole world would often say as a joke when we hiked together (actually he was probably completely serious), but if there was one thing I learned from thru-hiking, it’s that I am reeeeeeeeeeeeally good at walking. DO YOU KNOW HOW HARD IT IS SOMETIMES? Not just anyone can do it, and I happen to be one of the weird ones that gets giddy to walk a trail. Cue the Continental Divide Trail.

Grizzlies, Compasses, and Snow–OH MY.

I first heard of the Continental Divide Trail in Great Smokey Mountains National Park on my first section hike of the AT. I was stuck in a shelter during a rain storm with several hikers, including one of those clandestine and mythical TRIPLE CROWNers, and I listened intently as he described the CDT. It sounded like something only experts could and should do. On the CDT you needed to actually carry a map–you needed to actually know how to READ a map. Basically, it sounded a leeeettle too hardcore for me.

What’s Wrong With Being a Little Hardcore?

A couple years later, I approached the end of my AT hike, and I was already planning my next hike. I think it is a fair generalization, that most people who attempt the Triple Crown, finish with the CDT–so the question I get asked a lot is, why I have decided to do the CDT next, and not the WILD-famous Pacific Crest Trail? I can only say that it is what feels right for me. (Maybe I got a little hardcore over the years.) I need a challenge. I love the wild-ness of the CDT. (Also, it only makes sense in my Type-A brain that I do the long trail that comes next on the map.) I will begin my thru-hike in late April. Due to high snow predictions in Colorado in 2016, I am tentatively planning a flip-flop–beginning northbound (NOBO) and flipping up north to hike southbound (SOBO), but it is too soon to make any solid decisions, and I remain extremely flexible. You never know what life and the Earth want to throw at you. I look forward to the adventure!

Please follow along! You can subscribe to this feed to receive updates whenever I post them. You can also follow my pre-hike adventures and beyond on Instagram (@kaytebrown).




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