A beginner hikes the CDT

Hi, welcome to my blog. My name is Jon and I am backpacking the Continental Divide Trail (CDT) northbound (NOBO) starting the first week of May 2023. This blog is how I’ll share my adventure.  First, thanks to The Trek for allowing me the space to share my adventure. Here goes nothing.

Who am I?

  • A father of two kids, a husband to a partner of 18 years, and a dog dad to Brittany named Theo and a reluctant dog dad to a Morkie named Harry (he’s my wife’s)
  • An Air Force Officer who is retiring after 24 years of service at the end of April.
  • A bit of an idealist. I like to think it’s not too late for me to make a difference in the world
  • I’m not the world’s most avid backpacker, but I take a trip or two each year.

Why am I hiking the Continental Divide Trail?

  • I’m in search of an adventure, retirement capstone, midlife crisis respite and vision quest all rolled into one.
  • I’ve heard lots of people say, ‘don’t do the CDT first.’ So yeah, let’s do the CDT
  • I like the choose your own adventure part of the CDT. I’m not interested in breaking any records or tattooing the trail onto my leg.

Why are you writing this blog?

  • I don’t use social media with any regularity and I was hoping to find a good way to share my experiences with my friends and family.
  • I aspire to motivate others in a similar position to find their own vision quest. Life is short.  We spend too much of it working.
  • I hope to increase awareness of a mental health condition I suffer from called Paruresis, AKA shy bladder syndrome. It’s very common but most who suffer do so in private.  Removing the secrecy around my condition improved my mental health exponentially so I’d love to help others who suffer.

What about…

  • Bears? Yes, there are bears, but dying from a black bear is really unlikely.  And I will carry bear spray in grizzly country and hope I don’t get to see one up close.  But in general, it’s not something I am too concerned about.
  • My family? They’re very supportive.  They know that opportunities to do this type of trip are limited and the timing couldn’t be much better.  They’re well experienced in not having me around since they’ve all been through multiple deployments and shorter trips over the years.  They’ll find some time to link up with me on the trail at least once.
  • Money? I have enough leave/PTO/vacation time built up to cover most of the trip.  My official last day in the Air Force is 1 August.
  • Getting lost in the wilderness?  First, this is America. I Bear Grylls has to intentionally get lost in the wilderness here. But I feel pretty confident in my navigation skills.

I hope you enjoyed my first blog and I hope you follow along for the walk.

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Comments 19

  • Tim Pyle : Dec 3rd

    Looking forward to following your adventure. Best of luck! – Tim Pyle, executive director, paruresis.org

    • Jonathan Carter : Dec 4th

      Thanks Tim. So glad I found Paruresis.org a couple of years ago.

  • Manger Cat : Dec 3rd

    Thank you for your service.

    I’m looking forward to reading your blog. The Continental Divide Trail seems to take Third Place when it comes to popularity of the Triple Crown Trails, which, in turn, leads to fewer hikers blogging about it.

    I’m looking forward to reading your posts.

  • Sam Sheffer : Dec 3rd

    Looking forward to reading your posts.
    I met someone completing the CDT (southbound) 3weeks ago while eating at Ohana Cafe in Pie Town, NM. He had about a week left to finish. After a nice chat over kalua pork, I started thinking about doing the trail myself. My window is fast closing at 58 yrs of age. But that bucket list…

    • Jonathan Carter : Dec 4th

      You won’t be the oldest person on the trail. You know what they say, the best time to start was yesterday and the second best time to start is today.

  • Rena : Dec 3rd

    Wishing you every success and looking forward to reading your posts and sharing your journey…☘️☘️☘️
    Rena (from Ireland)

  • Jef Garner : Dec 4th

    Congrats on retirement and thanks for your service. I just retired Dec 2 after 53 years in industry and leave for off road Jeeping in 2 weeks. Texas desert in my first travel zone. Best wishes as you get ready.

    • Douglas W. Vitt : Dec 4th

      Mr. Garner, My family and I just came back from a few days in my Willys JLU at Big Bend NP camping at their primitive road backcountry site “Paint Gap #1” it was a blast. My Jeep has the Deep Sleep System and Goose Gear Tailgate Table for my wife & I and then we added a Slumberjack-4-Tent with awning for the other three Jeep seats filled by kid & grandkids. You’ll also enjoy taking your Jeep to Big Bend Ranch State Park for pleasant trail driving and backcountry camping. Next year I’m planning on hitting some of the Backcountry Discovery Routes, which can be done in Jeeps. I call this hobby “jeepacking” as I mix Jeep trail rides with backpacking hikes!

  • Douglas W. Vitt : Dec 4th

    Good for you. I thought about Thru Hiking the CDT, since I live in NM, when I retired five years ago at 62 but instead started a new career as a Greenskeeper at the local Muni-Course here in the City of Hobbs. For adventure I started taking “jeepacking” trips in my Willys JLU along the NM, CO, WY, ID and MT Backcountry Discovery Routes all which essentially follow the CDT. So I’ll keep your progress on my watch list in case I can help you with a re-supply or two this coming 2023.

    • Jonathan Carter : Dec 4th

      Those trips sound fun too! Plus you can carry way more beer.

      • Douglas W. Vitt : Dec 4th

        Yep, having a Jeep as a support vehicle, especially out in New Mexico with our long water carry’s, does make backpacking more enjoyable. Back in the day I did many SARS Patrols with the NPS and lack of water was always more of an issue than weather in my State. I suggest the tougher new Sea to Summit Water Cells vs. typical clear bladders. Plus always drink any bladders down first keeping your “last” water in hard sided bottles. Additionally because of cacti punctures I suggest the old fashion Thermarest foam ZLite Pad vs. an air mattress. Bear Canisters are not required but due to lack of trees it makes keeping food safe easier and they make great camp stools. Finally, being former military you understand “Operational Tempo” and how that determines Unit Effectiveness. Many Thru Hikers don’t and wear their bodies down vs. build them up on Thru Hikes.

        • Douglas W. Vitt : Dec 4th

          One finally thought, from what I have seen visiting Trail Days in Silver City, now that marijuana is legal in NM the CDT Thru Hikers are now “rolling” more of the Spring Break vibe that the AT has. That’s fine in Northern NM but in Southern NM, especially from the border to Silver City the local Ranchers & Border Patrol are under stress so they don’t have time for that nonsense. So the fact that your still technically on “Active Duty” during your time in NM will make it difficult to “blend” with the Thru Hiking Community BUT get you instant credibility from the stressed out land owners and LE Officers you encounter. So keep that military look initially as you slowly hike north to Minnesota and your military retirement.

  • Kevin Brady : Dec 23rd

    Perfect timing Jonathan. I’m a former fire fighter, now OTR truck driver retiring next year ay 58 yo. and planning a thru hike on the CDT for 2024. Im an experienced backpacker but this will be my first official thru hike and like you I go direct to the greatest challenge.

    I’m looking forward to your insights along the way. Hopefully you plan on a detailed gear review and what worked and didn’t work.

    Good luck brother, looking forward to keeping up with your journey!

  • Rosetta : Feb 8th

    Wowee! That’s so interesting that you are going on a hike! I am appalled at how cute your dogs are. You should take Theo and your wife on the trail and leave the kids behind (also leave Harry). It’s really a shame that you will miss the development of Sewage Rat Studios over the summer, but everything in life is a sham and a shame. EAT MY ROSETTES.
    -Love Rosetta

    • Jonathan Carter : Feb 8th

      Thanks for reading and sharing. My dogs are cute. My wife needs to stay behind to keep an eye on my oldest kid. They’re a real handful! I’ll have to keep up to date on Sewage Rat Studios from afar.


    • Ken : Mar 8th

      Good luck. See you out there. Starting April 18th. New thru hiker as well.

  • Kelly Heikkila : Mar 17th

    Hey! I’m another middle-aged guy doing my first thru hike – PCT in May. Also from MN! I’m in the western Twin Cities. If you’re in the area, would love to talk hiking before we head out.

    • Jonathan Carter : Apr 2nd

      Kelly, I’m in Edina, so we’re close. When do you start the PCT?


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