4 Shorter Hikes on My Short List in Uncertain Times

I got an email from the Oregon Natural Desert Association (ONDA) yesterday asking people to postpone, cancel, or stop hiking the Oregon Desert Trail because of COVID-19. Not two weeks before, the Continental Divide Trail Coalition (CDTC) sent out a similar message. I am trying to hold onto hope for a little bit, as I have a July 8 CDT start date. But, I am definitely participating in some rethinking of my plans by considering shorter hikes for 2020.

There may be some hope of still being able to start the CDT in July—or maybe not—it changes day by day

Many folks who have planned on doing a thru-hike this year have had to change their plans completely. I am sure it is heartbreaking, frustrating, sad, hard to explain and imagine for all of these people. I know that it has been a journey of acceptance and denial for me and my hiking partner, Carolyn. Still clinging to the ideas presented in my last blog—Don’t Hike, But Still Dream. We usually live on the road in a Toyota Sunrader RV, but because of the pandemic we needed to find a more stable living situation. We are in an extended stay where I grew up in Washington State.

What Next?

What if I can’t hike the Continental Divide Trail? It sure is looking like that. I still took the time off. Took the time to plan on being financially stable for that period. We both bought some new gear. Most of all, I got mentally prepared for the challenge, struggle, and enjoyment.

Regardless of what happens, I still want to have some kind of adventure this hiking season—besides experiencing physical distancing and such.  

For me that might involve less of a time commitment. It might be a trip I can plan and do immediately when all of the travel restrictions lift. It most likely will be closer to home than planned.  Most importantly, it may be less of a financial commitment because futures are uncertain at the moment.

My Thoughts on the Matter

Here are a few shorter trips that I am thinking about if this pandemic slows down, travel restrictions lift, and I am able to still walk after isolation is over. Just kidding. I purposefully left this information vague and pointed you to a few resources. I want to leave the planning up to you all if you find yourself with new found free time! 

1) Ptarmigan Traverse, North Cascades, Washington

Photo credit: The Mountaineers

The Ptarmigan Traverse seems to be more of a mountaineering high route that traverses 35+ miles through some of Washington’s most beautiful and rugged terrain. It can be a choose your own adventure kind of route with endless peaks to climb along the way. Do it fast. Do it slow. It will definitely require some experience using ice axes, understanding glacier travel, and good mountain sense. Seems like an epic adventure that is not to be taken lightly.  Here is a map of the route!  This is definitely more than just a backpacking trip.

2) Cougar Traverse, North Cascades, Washington

The Cougar Traverse was a route that I stumbled upon on FastestKnownTimes.com. (I like to go there sometimes to research hikes because you are able to see all the different routes in so many states, and the world!) It is 242 miles of uninterrupted wilderness, with no resupply points and no road crossings! With little information out on the web, it most likely hasn’t seen too much traffic. There is good information in a trip report by Christof Tuescher. Also, here is a CalTopo map of the route! This one is high on my list as other options for this summer given its mysterious and challenging sounding nature. I am really looking forward to looking into this one more.

3) Wind River High Route, Wind River Range, Wyoming

The Wind River High Route is quickly becoming a classic in the thru-hiking community. It has been on my list for years AND it is on the Continental Divide. I am/was planning on doing this along with the CDT, but if that falls through this is definitely worth a stand-alone trip. It is about 90 miles and Andrew Skurka and Alan Dixon both offer different versions of the same idea. Choose whichever one you want or combine them!

4) Glacier Divide High Route, Glacier National Park, Montana

Photo credit: Larry Marshall

The Glacier Divide High Route. Wow! This one seems like a real wild card. Not for the faint of heart. An accomplished adventurer in the area, Dave Chenault, put this together. From what I can find, he and Andrew Skurka attempted it in 2016. Walking off trail in Glacier seems, well, really hard. I have not spent much time there, but I think I would need a couple warm-up trips in order to feel ready for something like this. Still, very intrigued by the possibilities. Once again, a route worthy of a stand-alone trip that also walks along the CDT for some sections. This one would require extensive planning and research to execute well. 

Honestly, these hikes could be thru-hikes (except the one that is a loop!) depending on your own personal definition of what that means. All of these have been on my list of adventures to do for a while. Now, because I am socially distancing in Washington, most of these would be close to me when—I mean if—everything calms down for a hiking season.

 I wanted to make sure that I am not losing hope.

Just because I can’t hike the Oregon Desert Trail or the Continental Divide Trail, doesn’t mean that I have to give up on completing any other kind of hiking goals this hiking season. I hope we all remember that. These are only a few options. As we all know, adventures are endless and hikes can be 10 miles or 10,000 miles. 

Think outside the box. Keep dreaming.

What will we end up doing? Follow us @walkingplacestogether

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Comments 2

  • Jacob G Myers : Mar 31st

    That Glacier Divide route looks absolutely stunning. I’m a little jealous of the opportunity!!

    • Jeff Podmayer : Mar 31st

      Yeah! I know. It seems like it would take some really strong pre-planning and research of some of the more unknown sections. Also, it will need a high level of fitness and don’t forget about the right conditions to make it feasible. You know, who knows if it will happen because of all of the COVID stuff – but I am always about holding onto the dreaming of trips.


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