CDT T-90 Days: A Status Report
Are you feeling the excitement yet, fellow aspiring thru-hikers? I sure am. It hit me once the Christmas leftovers were all eaten, and the New Year’s champagne was all gone. So, with three months to go, where do I stand as far as planning and preparations go? Well, to be honest, I haven’t done much planning yet. I’m a top-down kind of person, so I have a pretty good overall strategy in place, but as far as the details go… not so much. Anyway, here’s my confession.
Getting Familiar with the CDT
Hiking in the wilderness can be wonderful if you know what you’re doing; if you don’t it’s not only dangerous but also unnecessarily tedious. I like to make sure I know what challenges the trail brings, and that I have proper gear and knowledge to face them. However, there’s also something beautiful and pure about hiking a trail for the first time, a freshness I don’t want to ruin, and an element of surprise I don’t want to spoil. Therefore, reading blogs and watching videos from the trail is a balancing act for me. So far, I’ve really found the CDT coalition planning guide useful for getting a good idea about anything from trail characteristics to safety concerns. The Facebook CDT groups are another useful resource; they require filtering out some fearmongering and general BS, but thankfully scrolling is not complicated.
Time to confess, I’m doing this one all wrong. I’ll probably stand at the Southern Terminus without having done any hiking at all this year. Wait. What? Why?
So I’ve been hiking in the mountains all my life, and I’ve done a fair share of ruck-marching in the army. I’ve competed in cross-country skiing, triathlon, and adventure racing. The point is I’ve built a pretty strong physique through many years of training, and I know my body very well. I learned on the PCT that I can get into hiking shape while on trail, as long as I’m willing to ease into it and listen to my body. I also know from the PCT that I can get bored and sick of hiking when I get up every day to hike all day for a long period of time. I’d rather set out on the CDT hungry for more hiking than already tired of it.
The other part of this is that I live in Sweden, where it’s full-blown winter right now. I can enjoy skiing in its every way, shape, and form right from my doorstep, and that’s pretty much what I’m going to do over the next couple of months. I’m saying this now: expect some time before I get my mileage up on trail.
As far as snow safety, river crossings, wilderness first aid, and navigation go, I feel well prepared from years of hiking, skiing, and being in the army. I’ll look over my first aid kit and I’ll check my compass, but that’s about it.
When it comes to animals and lightning safety, I’m less experienced. I’m used to hiking among friendly reindeer and cute lemmings. Dealing with potentially dangerous spiders, snakes, and grizzlies (!!!) is new to me. I learned on the PCT to coexist with rattlesnakes, but the CDT wildlife is a new level of scary for me and I’m going to spend some time making sure I’m prepared for this. I’m also going to read up a bit more on the Colorado thunderstorms, because the best way to stay safe during lighting is to avoid getting stuck exposed on a ridge above treeline in the middle of it.
Getting My Gear Together
I’ll post my gear list in a separate blog post later. Basically, I’m planning to use the gear I found that worked well for me on the PCT. Most of my gear will stay the same throughout the hike, but I’m a huge fan of a bounce box and I plan to add and subtract some items as the climate and conditions change.
I’ve been a planner all my life, but one thing the PCT taught me was that opportunities lie hidden in flexibility. Some of the most memorable moments happened when I said yes to things I had no way of knowing, let alone planning beforehand. The CDT is more remote than the PCT, and I’m going to look into possible resupply stops in New Mexico and some of Colorado to decide if I need to send myself some boxes. I also want to have a rough idea for my bounce box. Other than that, this time I’m going for less planning and more adventure. Unless my dentist kills me, I won’t die from eating Snickers bars for a week if I have to.
For navigation, I’ve decided to use Guthook’s app, as well as Ley maps on Avenza on my phone. I will also carry Ley paper maps and a compass.
Permits. Getting to and from the trail
I’ve booked my plane ticket, which is another “it’s getting real-factor.” I’m planning on using the shuttle to the Southern Terminus, and I’m waiting for that booking to open. During the coming weeks, I’ll dive into permits, and make the arrangements I can in advance. I’ll also make notes on what to take care of along the way, because these things are just so much easier to sort out prior to stepping foot on the trail. The CDT is a long hike, and anything can happen along the way, therefore I don’t want to make plans yet for the finish. I’ll admit, however, that Banff National Park would be a pretty awesome place to transition from hiker trash life back into normal (debatable) life.
Let me know – how’s your planning going?
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