Six Habits for My CDT Thru-Hike

 James Clear’s book Atomic Habits is an absolute must-read and a book that gave an incredible amount of actionable guidance.  As I’ve started to visualize my thru-hike, I wanted to give myself some habits to help guide my behavior to stay focused on my priorities.  These aren’t rules and I won’t be keeping a log book of how often I hit or miss on these.   

Habit #1:

10 miles by 10 a.m. This will probably be the first one I break, especially as I get into Colorado and the hiking pace is dictated more by the terrain than when I roll out of my tent. I am a morning person, and 5 hours of hiking will always get me in the ballpark of 10 miles even in tough terrain. The ascent that breaks this rule will be pretty grueling and hopefully, I’m physically conditioned by that point to still hit this mileage.  I have a limited amount of time to complete my hike, so the pace will be important if I want to finish in 120 days.  

Habit #2:

Always order the special. One of the more enjoyable parts of traveling is experiencing something new.  I’m sure plenty of specials are just bacon cheeseburgers, but I’m hoping some are New Mexico chili or Montana elk. And I’m guessing that Pie Town has some sort of pie. Either way, if the joint has a special, I’m getting it.  

Habit #3:

Only good vibes. I’m not going to invest my time with people who have negative vibes.  People are going to have bad days and hiking can be challenging, but I want to focus on giving my time to grateful people who are excited about what they’re doing and what lies ahead.  The easy part of this is I love my alone time, so if I’m not feeling it, I can either move ahead, fall behind or call it a night.  

Habit #4:

Take my shoes and socks off when stopping for longer than 10 minutes.  It helps to keep my feet dry to prevent blisters and also gives me a chance to tape up the hot spots before they blister.  Taking care of myself on the trail is at the top of the priority list.  If my body is breaking down, then I’ll be miserable.  

Habit #5:

Leave No Trace.  There are a number of factors to consider in this habit, but one I’ll share is that I don’t plan on starting any campfires unless I need one.  I know that’s not what most people envision, but it’s an important part of leaving no trace.  

Habit #6:

Embrace missing out.  This thru-hike might be something other than a vision quest.  I might not find what I’m looking for or I might not be looking for anything at all.  There could be disappointment,  boredom, or distraction.  I’ll miss significant milestones in my family’s life.  Someone three miles ahead of me may see a mountain lion.  When these feelings happen, I will respond with a moment of gratitude and reflection.  This is a mushy habit without clear guidelines and I’m ok with that.  

Feel free to let me know if I should add or amend my list.

Affiliate Disclosure

This website contains affiliate links, which means The Trek may receive a percentage of any product or service you purchase using the links in the articles or advertisements. The buyer pays the same price as they would otherwise, and your purchase helps to support The Trek's ongoing goal to serve you quality backpacking advice and information. Thanks for your support!

To learn more, please visit the About This Site page.

Comments 6

  • Lynn Fuller : Feb 15th

    You have a Brittany!! Are both of your dogs that breed? My former husband and I raised, showed and hunted Brittany’s for many years.
    Best wishes on your endeavor! My daughter has a friend who has hiked the CDT. He has also hiked the Appalachian and the PCT. Overachiever…lol

    • Jonathan Carter : Feb 15th

      “Officially”, the Brittany is my dog, and our second dog belongs to my wife. My wife’s dog is a Morkie, half Maltese half Yorkie. The CDT tends to be the trail that people save for last. I’m dumb and stubborn, so I’m doing it first.

  • Bryson : Feb 15th

    Like Lynn, the Brittany is what grabbed my attention! We had one for 15 years, and picked up a new pup this past summer.
    They’re such great dogs.
    Also, great article. Keep it up.

    • Jonathan Carter : Feb 15th

      Thanks. Since I’m not on the trail yet, my pictures are just of my dog.

  • Jerry Jeff : Feb 16th

    Looks like you have a good plan, like #1 and for sure #4.
    A lot has changed in the 36 years since I walked the CD and that is what you can count on….change. Roll with the change in your plans brought on by everything that can and does happen on the trail.
    Best wishes for a great experience!

  • Leone Quigley : Feb 18th

    I’m still scratching my head. I guess it’sbecause I’m your Mom and who in the heck wants to do all this outdoor stuff? (love you


What Do You Think?