Pick a Place to Go: My 2017 CDT Lists

It’s 158 days to my tentative Continental Divide Trail kick-off date. It sounds like quite a bit of time, but I’m starting to feel the push. As a school administrator, I know each moment between now and the end of school will be filled to the limit with day to day responsibilities, as well as, the task of wrapping the job up to be able to hand off the baton.

While I’m focused on the logistical and physical prep work ahead of me, I thought I’d share a slice of the psychological because I’m not making repeat mistakes.

I am thru-hiking the CDT because…

I have unfinished business. I spent a summer and a fall on the Appalachian Trail in ’90 and ’91 but didn’t finish and still have 600 miles or so to go to seal the deal. Ran out of gas in ’90 just short of Harper’s Ferry. I’d been hiking with my brother and a friend. They both got off the trail and I managed to keep going for a couple hundred miles, but my heart wasn’t in it anymore. In ’91 coming SOBO from Abol Bridge, I didn’t have anything planned right for a fall hike. Struggled with gear and then to top it off, I let my driver’s license expire. In those day’s ATMs were pretty much connected to individual banks. You had to get a cash advance inside a bank with a credit card. No valid license, no money, no more hike. Not finishing has hung over me for 26 years. I thought hard about going back to the AT, but it just didn’t feel like the right choice. The AT miles will be there for me after I complete this walk. Right now, I want to walk the Divide AND FINISH IT.

I am craving a grand adventure. I understand I’m stretching my skills and my endurance to the limit by going after the CDT, but I like pushing the limits. I’m willing to risk failing for the opportunity to walk the spine of America.

The high places are calling to me. For this walk I’m craving the extreme the CDT promises. Where you’re alone and exposed at 10,000 feet, eighty miles from the next road crossing with enough food for three days, you have to do it yourself. I want to be up there with the wind and the clouds, the rain and the hail. Wild and high where you can’t think about anything more than the next step. 


Climbing out of Lyle Canyon towards Donahue Pass

Test to end all tests. The CDT is the ultimate thru-hiking test. I want to take it to see where I measure up. I know there will be more tests in my life, but this, this is the hiking one. My legs, heart, and head are ready to give my best effort.

Clean break from my current employment. This is a tough one because loyalty is a key personality characteristic for me. I’ve lived and worked in a small rural community for twenty-some years. I’ve been a teacher and an administrator in the local school district. It’s one where a lot of kids live in poverty, more than 90%. The needs are great. For the last six years, I’ve been the superintendent and K-12 principal with stints as the athletic director and the special education director as well. In my little district everything ends with me. Recently, I’ve needed to obtain my CDL, so I could drive a bus.  It’s killing me; I have to let go. I’m not leaving because I’m headed off to another job. I’m going to stay alive. I love them all, it’s just time to go.

Yep. That’s the whole K-12 student body and staff.

The feeling of good day’s hard work. The daily mileage required to make it from resupply to resupply on CDT scares me. Let along the mileage needed to complete the whole trail. I’m willing to go after it though. I’ll put in the best miles I can ahead of time to be physically ready and make sure my gear is tuned in and light. Then I’ll grind it out day by day, mile by mile, step by step. I’ll savor the views and the beauty around me, and I’ll keep moving on.

I want to say, “I walked from Canada to Mexico.” I want that feeling of accomplishment as I move forward.

Truckin’ on.

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Comments 8

  • Sandra : Jan 14th

    Michael: Following “The Trek” & saw your posting regarding the CDT.

    I live in Helena, MT & could help restock your food needs & even let you stay at our home if you need a break. I am retired, was a Sub Teacher for a while & owned 2 small businesses b4 moving to Helena. Ennis, MT was my home! Small town, Montana.
    After selling businesses, I spent almost 2 years volunteering with abused kids & living in my tent in GTNP. Winter camping is rough but I needed a change in life & a challenge. Loved it.

    Was going to hike part of the AT last February but my heart said “no way”…so did my husband after 1 year of training, getting equipment, etc. Now I just long distance walk & ski, as the old ticker is grouchy sometimes. He doesnt want me to go alone & he’s a skier, not a hiker.

    Still my dream to Section Hike the AT before I’m too old & I will. Have lots of friends along that trail if help is needed.

    I will help you & motivate you & drive to wherever to get you & restock your supplies.
    406-465-4979. Its tough to mentally push through the tough times but know that there are lots of us “Trail Angels” here for you.

    Happy Hiking…

    • Sandra : Jan 14th

      Old ticker is my heart not my husband. Hes just a worrier.

    • Michael Sweet : Jan 16th

      You are awesome, Sandra! Thanks for the support. I have your number will let you know as I approach Helena.
      Can’t wait to hear about living in a tent for two years!
      You are very kind and a saint because I sure know how hard it is to be a substitute teacher.

  • Peg Leg the Pirate : Jan 16th

    Great article! Godspeed on those 158 days! So happy for you and envious! 🙂

    • Michael Sweet : Jan 16th

      Aw shucks. Thanks, Peg Leg.

  • Dano : Mar 1st

    Godspeed Michael. This is your hike. SOUNDS NEEDED. Best of luck!

  • Colleen : May 8th

    Amazing Mike! I know what it is like to work in that rural school. After is almost died during the summer of 2005 the demands on me from above were too much. After being told if I stayed they would drag me through the mud if I stayed in 2007, you helped me leave. Thank you. I will always love my students. I loved working with them!! My journey has included 5 back surgeries as well as close to 20 others and daily pain. I long to be on a journey like yours instead. I will keep following along as you take this physical and mental journey and as you are alone or meet others or um some interesting wildlife. Stay safe. I will be praying daily for you and your family. God speed Michael.

  • Dean Wheater : Jul 1st

    Awesome adventure, Mike. Tons of natural beauty to take in. Now I look up to you in more ways than one!
    Make it memorable!!


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