How our Thru-hike became a LASH

We had every intention of thru-hiking the Continental Divide Trail (CDT) this season. Several of the hikers we met while on the CDT (Google & Bear Magnet, Timber & Coins, Ground Control & Major Tom, The Wander Women, and even the Strawbridge’s) have all finished their “logistically challenged” thru-hike of the CDT. Some even became Triple Crowners, upon its completion. We, on the other hand did not finish the entirety of the CDT for the 2020 hiking season, but made the decision to pair down our thru-hike to a Long Ass Section Hike. Or, a LASH for short.

COVID Made Us Do It

Because of COVID, our original start date got pushed back nearly 2 months. A two month delay did not breed much confidence that we would be able to knock out the whole trail, even with a Flip-Flop (or two), and be home in time to prepare for our annual October deer hunt in Wyoming. Considering the fact that we had tested negative for COVID (my daughter has Lyme’s Disease, so we are vigilant about staying healthy… and had access to testing), we decided to head to Rawlins Wyoming. New Mexico was (and still is) closed for all practical purposes.

We decided that we would start the CDT (June 18), smack dab in the “middle”. What better way to maintain social distancing, than to start in Rawlins and head north through The Great Basin.

Our plan was to go as far as Butte/Anaconda Montana, take a detour to Salmon Idaho for a white water rafting trip, and then flip back to Rawlins and head south through Colorado. With East Glacier (National Park), The Blackfeet Nation, and the Canadian border closed, due to COVID, it didn’t make much sense to us to go any further north. Besides, we had to be off trail no later than September 21st.

All these “plans” changed by the time we reached Leadore (August 8).

The Trail “Provides”

Anyone who has completed a thru-hike or a LASH of any significance, and has “surrendered” and/or tuned into the “Flow of the Universe”, knows, that without question, that the trail “provides”. What the trail “provides” comes in many forms. Mostly unexplainable, absolutely necessary (even if you don’t realize it in the moment), and certainly timely. One would be remise to avoid or decline what the trail has “provided”.

“Signs”

By the time we got to Leadore, we could not deny the “signs” that had been presented. Prior to Leadore, both of us had one trekking pole’s lower half shear off…for no apparent reason. We had also received information about the trail going forward that wasn’t promising. Some of it was accurate and some was not, as we would later find out.

We also were headed into a predicted heat wave (90-100°+), complete with afternoon lightning storms. The threat of being caught on trail in a fire started by lightning was too real for comfort. (We had been there, and done that, on our 2014 PCT thru-hike). AND… Two days before we reached Leadore, I had become unexplainably and miserably ill (NOT giardia). Maybe it was time for a break. Salmon Idaho, and a rafting trip down the “River of No Return”, was calling. An easy ride (from Leadore) to Salmon, from a Southern California “ExPat” whose parents lived in Salmon, sealed the deal.

“Realization”

As it turned out, rafting down the “River of No Return” was prophetic. It was here that we decided NOT to return to the trail. We had gotten all we “needed” from the trail thus far. It was time to head home. We were further convinced when we were offered a ride to Missoula Montana (some 140 miles) from our rafting guide, after having purchased a ridiculously cheap plane ticket home.

We got off trail in Leadore, having walked nearly 650 miles of the CDT. While 650 miles is not chump change with regard to continuously walking for 7 weeks, we had gotten what we needed out of our LASH of the CDT, even though we really hadn’t planned on leaving the trail…so soon.

LASH Accomplishments/Lessons

There is no mistaking that the CDT lives up to its billing as a “brutal” trail. But, for all its challenges, we found it to be nothing short of “Brutiful”. It was an experience well worth the effort.

With the exception of the 105 miles from the Colorado/Wyoming border to Rawlins, we walked across Wyoming. It included a grand desert (The Great Basin), a picturesque mountain range (The Wind River Range), and a geothermal treasure (Yellowstone). Very few people get to fully experience the rugged beauty of Wyoming, and for that we are grateful.

 

Of the 312 mile Montana/Idaho border, we straddled well over half of its length on our LASH of the CDT.

It had been six years since our PCT thru-hike, and five years since we had done a hike over 500 continuous miles. I dare say we were reminded of, if not learned, a few things along the way.

Top 10 +1 Bonus

  1. It is TRUE that the “fun goes up when the weight goes down”. Pack and Body. We will have to reduce both even more, for our 2021 completion of the CDT.
  2. There is NO such thing as “Water Proof”. The Winds taught us that.
  3. Technology CAN be a plus (besides Guthook) – especially when you remember to download Netflix movies/shows for those nights/days you are holed up in your tiny tent…or a quaint motel.
  4. A HOT MEAL makes everything better. (Unless it’s a dehydrated meal that has lost its seal and you become sicker than a dog)
  5. NATURE is COOL…even if it is often trying to kill or maim you.
  6. HUMMANITY is truly KIND and GIVING. Assholes are in all actuality an anomaly.
  7. When you get OLDER, while you need LESS STUFF, you need more SPACE. Once again, we are NOT as agile as we used to be. It takes more “space” to be able to get up off the ground, especially in a tiny tent. We will be “upgrading” from a “2-man” tent to a “3-man” one. It’s worth the 7oz.
  8. LIFE is about CONNECTING: With PEOPLE. With NATURE. With your SOUL and our CREATOR.
  9.  SOLVITUR AMBULANDO – “It is solved by walking”.  If YOU walk enough, you’ll find the ANSWERS you NEED. But more importantly, the ones YOU are READY for.
  10. The MIND and BODY are ONE…until they decide to be disagreeable. This is where STAMINA and DETERMINATION comes in.
  11. Be Wary of Thru-hikes, or even a LASH. They will CHANGE your life. FOREVER!
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