CDT SOBO Day 0 – Last Thoughts Before I Walk 3,200 Miles
Hey y’all! I’m Jenn. Or Zebra. I started thru-hiking in 2017 on the PCT and basically started off doing everything I possibly could wrong. But somehow did I not only survive the trail, but fell in love with thru-hiking along the way. Now I’m more or less a serial thru-hiker. I took one year off of thru-hiking a few years ago to prove to myself I could function in normal society. I was wrong. So I’ve been back on the trail ever since… working away all winter and spring to save the moola and then hitting the mountains once the snow thaws enough to spend all my days hiking to my heart’s delight.
After flying into Seattle this morning and perusing all the tourist icons of the city, I’m currently sitting at Elysian Brewery in downtown Seattle, sipping a tasty IPA as I wait for my Amtrak train to leave in a couple hours. Next stop… East Glacier, Montana! After a 16 hour train ride that is. I love sitting about as much as I hate hiking so you can tell how excited I am for this train ride. Hence… beer!
So what am I doing in Montana you ask… hiking the Continental Divide Trail! CDT for short. A roughly 3,200 mile trail that runs from Canada to Mexico following the Continental Divide through Montana, Idaho, Wyoming, Colorado, and New Mexico. The CDT is one of the big three long distance backpacking trails in the US and having already completed the other two, the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) and Appalachian Trail (AT), this was naturally next on the list. In the thru-hiking community, completing all three of these trails is known as completing The Triple Crown. What do you get when you complete The Triple Crown? Probably some sore feet and a multitude of good memories.
Having gotten waaaaay better at backpacking since my first thru-hike in 2017 when I knew basically nothing about backpacking and started with a 50 pound pack and with waterproof shoes in the desert, I now have become pretty well-versed in this thru-hiking thing and have become accustomed to just jumping into a long-distance hike without a ton of planning or preparation, which is good because I absolutely hate planning. I prefer living in the moment, jumping into things on a whim, and just hoping for the best. Which could be seen as completely careless, but over the years I’ve found that the less I plan, the better things turn out. So as I’ve been telling people about my upcoming adventure and they ask me questions about where I’m going specifically and details regarding the trail, I mostly just shrug my shoulders like a complete fool. Pray for me.
While all thru-hikes are kinda the same as in you walk all day in beautiful places for weeks or months, shower rarely, eat as much as possible, make lots of great friends and memories, disconnect from the chaos of the world, live simply, work your butt off every day and mostly just enjoy life in nature, the CDT will be a bit different from the other thru-hikes I have done. For one thing, way less people. Being a super new trail compared to the other two of the big three, this trail is much less travelled as a thru-hike. I am also hiking southbound (Canada to Mexico) compared to the majority that hike northbound (Mexico to Canada). A large portion of the trail will be over 10,000 feet in elevation. The towns and resupply points will be much farther and fewer between, meaning carrying more food than normal and longer hitchhikes to get to those points. More navigating and route finding. And grizzly bears. Now I’ve seen my fair share of black bears and pretty much have zero fear of those scaredy cats at this point, but grizzlies… they’ll eat you for no reason at all.
But this is also the trail that I have been most looking forward to for years. The one I’ve been saving. Despite all the hardships and possibly terrifying days that are to come, I just know this is going to be the thing I’ve been craving. Big views, high elevation, walking for endless miles above treeline, probably going days without seeing people, more navigation and route finding… bring it on.
Going southbound on any of these long trails means waiting until June or July usually to start instead of the March to April northbound start due to having to wait for the snow to melt. Most southbounders (SOBOs) start the CDT mid-June on a low snow year which this year was looking like it would be. So I booked a flight for the third week of June and figured that would be perfect timing. And then the central part of the country got hit with insane late season snow. A few days before I was supposed to fly out, Glacier National Park was in a fury of snow and flooding. And to top it off a portion of the trail in the park was closed due to a bunch of cows dying and their carcasses attracting hords of grizzlys. So I pushed my flight back a couple weeks because I will do just about anything to avoid backpacking through mass snow or crazy river crossings after my 2017 PCT experience where I thought I was going to die every day in the Sierra. And now, here I am!
You don’t need a permit to hike the CDT like you do for the PCT, but Glacier National Park does require you to get a permit to camp within it. And since I didn’t apply for a permit in advance because I am incapable of planning that far in advance I am now at the whim of getting a walk-up permit when I arrive, which they save 30% of permits for. This means I might have to wait a few days to start or I might have to do some wonky itinerary that was me doing really low mileage days or really high mileage days. Oh well, it will all work out.
I’ll be posting occasional blog and social media updates whenever I have service, so follow along to see some pretty country and most likely hear some ridiculous trail stories.
I’m also using my hike as a fundraiser for a local charity that helps out families who have kids with cancer. After watching a friend from high school go through literal hell the past few years after her son got diagnosed with brain cancer and seeing how much this charity does to help out with the costs that go with having a kid who needs constant care and trips to expensive, out-of-town hospitals, medical treatments, etc, I figured the least I could do was use my hike as a way to help raise money for a few of those dealing with things way worse than I can imagine. Especially local families from the Shasta County area, where I’m from in NorCal. If you would like to help contribute to this charity as well, checks out Wings of Angels: http://www.aawoa.com/
Next update will hopefully be from somewhere along the trail. Happy hiking y’all!
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Wishing you well. I’m not a long distance walker … but I WAS a long distance bicyclist. I completed two cross-country bike rides (1993 and 1999) … first ride was solo … the second one I led a group of twenty folks who were all over the age of 50. Everyone finished, I’m pleased to say. But back to you and your “track record” to date … very impressive. So, I’m quite comfortable that — barring some major issue, perhaps weatherwise — you will accomplish this latest venture. In the meantime, I will enjoy following your posts. Will pray for fair winds and safe trekking. And again, wishing you the very best … and will look forward to your posts. PS: I’m now 85, but still active and in good health for a young poop. Cheers!