5 Ways I’m Preparing for the CDT
Myself, Click and Cheesebeard are setting off on a southbound hike on the Continental Divide Trail in June 2017 and although the hike is a long way off I’m already starting to prepare. I feel a lot of people can benefit from this information whether you’ve completed a thru-hike in the past or not but bare in mind these are MY preparations, your priorities may differ.
I completed the Appalachian Trail in 2015 and of course it was a huge learning experience, based on that knowledge here are some things I’m doing to prepare for the CDT.
1 – Research and Reading
I love doing research about topics that interest me, I always have. The wealth of good (and bad) information on long distance hiking has grown rapidly in the past ten years and with some selective reading you can find some real nuggets of wisdom. The CDT is the least documented of the three big hikes in the USA so it can be tricky to find solid information, but it is out there. My main areas of research right now are:
- Route Planning, GPS Data and Ressuply points
- Gear requirements for the trip based on temperatures, terrain and other factors
- Backpacking food recipes and dehydrating techniques
- Visa Requirements (being a Limey does have some disadvantages)
Researching and Reading encompasses the majority of the prep work at this point, I think it is THE most important factor in preparing for a thru-hike.
2 – I’m Thinking about Food!
As long distance hikers we’re often thinking about food. However I’m not thinking about my Hiker Hunger, I’m thinking about what food do I want to eat on the CDT next year. There are two main topics on my mind:
1 – We are going to be sending ourselves food packages on the CDT as resupply is not as straight forward as it was on the Appalachian Trail
This means all of my food needs to be pre staged in boxes and ready to be sent out to the trail towns. There are a lot of logistics involved in this process in terms of the resupply points, dates and amount of food in each box.
2 – I’m making a conscious effort to eat healthier on the CDT so I’m going to be dehydrating a lot of my own food and coming up with tasty, healthy recipes.
I’m going to be experimenting hard over the next few months with recipes and techniques for healthier meals, i’ll be posting those on my personal blog. www.pieonthetrail.com
3 – Im taking note of the Physical State of my Body
Next year I’l be hitting thirty (weeks before the CDT) and my body isn’t what it was in my late teens. An active lifestyle, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and 2189 miles on the AT are starting to have their effects.
I’m Analysing my weaknesses and coming up with a game plan to fix them. I don’t want to have to quit the trail due to injury having not prepared my body for the abuse it gets on trail.
Here are some of the issues I have and what Im trying to do to improve them:
- Bad Back – A common Injury for those that practice Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. I need to be very careful over the next few months and avoid sparring in classes. I’ll be working with a physiotherapist and masseuse to make sure it isn’t an issue on the hike.
- Like many people do, I’ve put on some weight over the holiday period – There’s no point in shaving ounces from your gear when your carrying ten extra pounds on your belly. My game plan is to tidy up the diet, get back to training and walk a lot. This plan obviously goes hand in hand with getting in hiking shape for the trail.
- Funky ankle after the AT – Luckily I had no major injuries on the AT (maybe because I prepared) but since then my right ankle has never been quite the same. Just like before the AT I’ll be doing plenty of Yoga and Mobility Exercises to keep it from becoming an issue.
I’ve written about how I physically prepared for the AT HERE
4 – I’m Trying to Prepare Mentally
The Mental game was the hardest part for me about the Appalachian Trail and i’d bet it’s the same for most long distance hikers. Physical Injuries are fairly black and white, you can either continue to hike or you can’t. Mental anguish is a big old grey area.
By thinking about my mental struggles on the AT I can come up with strategies for dealing with them on the CDT. For example:
- Being apart from my girlfriend for 6 months+ – The hardest part of my AT experience for sure. I want to implement a plan to communicate more with her on the CDT.
- Not having the comforts of home life -By learning to live with less “stuff” in everyday life, when you hit the trail you don’t miss them so much. After six months on the AT with only the stuff in my backpack I had a lesser attachment to the “things” in life.
- The Monotony of it all – Coming up with On-Trail strategies to deal with boredom and frustration. Podcasts and audiobooks helped a lot last year. Next year I’ll have a camera in my hand for a lot of the hike, hopefully I’ll be so busy I won’t have time to be bored.
Just thinking about these and other aspects help me to get into a positive state of mind. There has to be a certain level of acceptance about the hike. If you know to expect bad days then hopefully they won’t be so bad.
5 – Thinking about Gear
The CDT is quite a different animal from the AT and therefore requires a modified gear list. Here are the major factors that differ from the AT:
- Temperature and Weather – We’re going to be hiking southbound starting in June so it’s going to be cold up in the mountains, potentially for the majority of the trip. We may have a good amount of snow and ice on trail. That means warmer base layers, solid gloves, Micro Spikes etc.
- Bears – I saw three black bears total on the AT. On the CDT we’ll be going through areas populated by Grizzlies which are not afraid of humans and a real threat. I’ll be using some combination of Bear Spray, a Bear Bell and Bear-proof Food Storage.
- Maps, Compass and GPS – The CDT is somewhat a “create your own adventure” with multiple different routes, the trail is not marked thoroughly like the AT. What GPS unit to buy and what map sets to use?..
- Camera Gear – I’ll be carrying some serious camera gear this time round. The days of carrying just my iPhone and a Stickpic are unfortunately behind me. What do I need and how light can I go?
So there’s a lot of stuff to be doing and thinking about over the next six months, it’s nice to have so much time to prepare. As time goes on I’ll be able to zero in on more specific areas of preperation and will share some more thoughts here on The Trek.
I’d love to hear from any of you that’s hiked the CDT in the past or if you have any other ideas to help me prepare then leave a comment below.
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