CDT: How Did It Come to This?

This was not my first choice.

Or my second choice. Or my third for that matter. See, after I completed a NoBo thru-hike of the AT in 2018, I had the bug. I would most certainly HAVE to do another trek and I wanted to get out there sooner rather than later. I found myself gainfully employed again not long after the end of the AT, working for a cool outdoorsy company, and before I knew it, 2019 had come and gone. 2020 looked like a good target for another trail attempt and I knew exactly where I wanted to be. The Te Araroa in New Zealand was one I had dreamt about even before the AT. It’s a country I’ve long wanted to see and the trail combined all the perfect elements for a truly badass adventure. Tentative plans were being made for a SoBo trek beginning in the fall of 2020. Then of course Covid happened and blew everyone’s plans for the year straight to hell. I spent the rest of last year as so many of us did: binge-watching all the things, getting drunk over Zoom calls, and bouncing off the walls of my condo. More than ever, I dreamed of getting back on trail.

As 2020 wore on, it became apparent that it would be a mostly lost season for thru-hikers and even the 2021 season was cast in doubt. I’d considered the PCT for this spring but permitting had been delayed until after the new year, and I was reluctant to put my eggs in that basket. It was then that I started to give the CDT serious thought. I had been conversing with Picasso, a friend from the AT, about the trail and by New Year’s, we were close to fully committed to the idea. Whatever reservations or fear we held about the difficulty of the CDT had at this point been overwhelmed by the desire to get back out on a long trail. Damn the torpedoes (and grizzly bears), full steam ahead!

This trail scares me

The Appalachian Trail was a challenge, no doubt and there aren’t many “easy” long trails out there…but the CDT is truly a different beast. So many elements that give me pause when I consider what it’s going to take to do this successfully. Navigation for one, the AT is a single footpath with lovely white blazes every few hundred yards to mark the way. You basically have to go out of your way to get lost on the AT. The CDT on the other hand is a “trail” only by name. There are about a thousand different route options that will combine footpath, 4 wheel drive roads, highway walks, cattle trail, and general overland meandering with no other guidance other than to generally walk north. Getting lost is a near-daily occurrence as I understand it. Oh, and did I mention it’s almost 1,000 miles longer than the AT? No problem!

Then we have the logistics of a thru-hike. The AT is resplendent with water sources in almost every state and when you need to re-up on food, you’re sure to stagger through a town every 3-4 days. Not so with the CDT. Food buys will have to be much more considered and will probably require sending resupply boxes to strategic points along the way. Longer carries between resupply will necessitate a heavier pack laden down with food and water. Oh and the water? I’ll just say that I’ve never hoped I’d get the chance to slurp from a tepid pool in a cattle trough, but in a few short days, I’ll get that chance!

All of this is to say nothing of the terrain, wildlife, weather, or potential alien abduction. I’ll stop myself before I get into full-blown psych-out mode but you get the point. This is an extremely challenging trail, and I’m doing my best to not freak out before I go.


Ready or not, here we go

The hour is nearly upon us now. I’ll be flying to Tucson in four days to rendezvous with Picasso, her boyfriend Raphael, and another friend of hers (Michael) from the Carolinas who we wrangled in after he decided against the PCT this season. The four of us will supply up in Tucson and take a train out to Lordsburg, NM before hopping a shuttle to the Crazy Cook Monument and the start of the trail! A week from today I’ll be sweating and cursing through the desert heat of southern NM. If all goes to plan, we will pop out of the north side of Glacier National Park sometime in September.

I’m ready. I think.

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Comments 7

  • Pi : Apr 21st

    Good luck! Your description is how I felt before my cdt thru hike in 2006. We repeated this mantra in trying times: “Embrace the brutality”.

  • Ames : Apr 21st

    I think one the biggest myths within the hiking community is that the CDT is this crazy, hard, daunting trail.

  • Mark : Apr 21st

    Yeah, no worries it’s not that big of a deal. It was my first long trail after only weekend trips. It’s amazing, gorgeous and my favorite but not the big scary monster people make it out to be. I loved it.

  • Wendy : Apr 22nd

    Your article just came up in my news feed, and I love your style of writing!
    I am in New Zealand, and I am planning on doing Te Araroa as a through hike when I turn 65 and get the pension next year = the 2022-3 summer season here.

    I have signed up for your emails. 😊

  • yogidozer : Apr 22nd

    Just ahead of the mushroom path, is the….
    potential alien abduction?
    Seriously, this is a true challenge

  • Cat Adams : Apr 25th

    Bears! They love to circle around to observe you. Quite unnerving. Here’s to hoping you have an unencum”bear”ed trip ❣️🐻

  • Suz R : Apr 28th

    Heh best wishes. One step at a time.

    Memorial Day Weekend look for trail angels coming off My Taylor from Bear Mouth (Cerro Oso de Boca)…. We will have food and drinks for thru hikers. Be there on the weekend only, Sat, Sun and Monday morning.

    Happy hiking. Suz & company


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