How I Describe the CDT to People

Using Pop Culture to Describe the CDT

With April finally here, this is the month that I leave to start the CDT. It is hard describing to friends and family what I am about to do when a) they have never gone hiking in their life and b) are from Australia and are therefore unfamiliar with the part of the States that the CDT traverses. So I have taken to using pop culture as my starting point.

Photo sourced from by cottonbro studio. Original photo modified.

Sample Conversation

Photo sourced from Photo by Miguel Á. Padriñán.

The conversation usually goes something like this:

(F = Friend or Family, K = Me, the intrepid hiker!)

F: So what trail are you hiking this time?

K: The Continental Divide Trail. It starts down in New Mexico and goes through Colorado, Wyoming, Idaho and Montana. Does that help?

F: Ah, not really.

K: Ok, so have you ever seen an episode of Breaking Bad?

F: Yeah.

K: Imagine that sort of scenery. That is the state that I start it.

F: So, you’re going to run into drug lords!?

K: Umm, that is not where I was going with that…then think of stereotypical Rocky Mountains for Colorado.

F: I’m not familiar with the Rocky Mountains.

K: Aspen, Vail, moose, aspen trees. Is any of this helping?

F: Not really.

K: South Park was set in Colorado.

F: Really? That’s cool. Got it.

K: Then the trail goes through Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming.

F: Why does that name sound familiar?

K: Probably because there is a TV series called Yellowstone.

F: No that’s not it…Was Yogi bear from Yellowstone?

K: No, he was from Jellystone, but it was a takeoff of Yellowstone National Park.

F: (eyes widen). So will you see bears?

K: Maybe. I will have to carry bear spray in that area.

F: (eyes widen more). That’s crazy.

K: It will be ok, if I take sensible precautions. Then the trail ends by going through Idaho and Montana.

F: Ok, that I’ve got.

K: How?

F: Well years ago I watch a movie with Robert Redford in it. It was called The Horse Whisper. I’m pretty sure that was set in Montana.

K: Your picture of Montana comes not from Yellowstone, a TV series that is still currently airing but from a random movie from the 90’s?

F: Hey, I remember it being good and Robert Redford is just as good as Kevin Costner!

K: Okay.

F: So, what will you do each day?

K: Have you seen the movie Wild?

F: Yeah.

K: The main character walked a long trail in the US and her journey on the trail formed the backdrop of that movie. So kind of like that, but I am doing a different trail.

F: Is that the one Lorelei did in Gilmore Girls?

K: (sighs) Yes.

F: Gotcha. So you’re camping with drug lords, bears and horse ranchers.

K: (rolls eyes). Yes, that is exactly what I am doing.

How did I go at describing the CDT?

I’ll leave it up to you to decide if my pop culture references were helpful in describing the trail or not. I’m also open to suggestions in the comments for how to describe the CDT and thru hiking to people who have no starting reference point.

Next time I post I should be on trail, and hopefully these blog posts and my socials will have clarified things a bit for my friends and family. But if not, I’ll continue with the pop culture references and I will let you know if your suggestions helped.

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