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.
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.
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.
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