The next big adventure: SOBO on the Continental Divide Trail

Embarking on a long hike feels like stepping into a new adventure with every stride. For me, it’s not just a journey; it’s a lifeline. My next adventure? Thru-hiking the Continental Divide Trail (CDT).

Yes, I decided to follow the feral dirtbag lifestyle and all that comes with it. I need to get back out there. It’s so crucial for me and my mental health. I’ve tried fitting into a world that feels like it wasn’t made for me, but it only left me feeling more lost. Since the age of 13, I’ve battled with my mental health, and conventional life just doesn’t cut it anymore. Nature is where I find solace, where I can breathe freely and find balance amidst the chaos. It’s a rhythm of hike, eat, sleep, repeat that anchors me in the present moment, free from the expectations and pressures of everyday life.

Nature has always been my sanctuary. When the world around me becomes too much, I find peace in forests, on mountain peaks, and by riverbanks. The sheer diversity of the natural world offers me a space to recharge and reconnect with myself. Getting out of civilization and into nature, feeling the sun and wind on my skin, breaking a little sweat, creating new memories, having tired legs at the end of the day, and feeling a certain contentment. It’s not just a hobby; it’s a source of strength and resilience. Out here, surrounded by towering trees and vast expanses of wilderness, I feel at home. Nature doesn’t judge me for my quirks or shortcomings; it simply allows me to be.

Since I went on my first thru-hike on the Te Araroa in New Zealand, I knew my life would never be the same again. Thru-hiking isn’t just a one-time adventure for me; it’s become a way of life. I believe there are two types of thru-hikers: Those who check off the box of this big adventure in their lives and move on to new horizons, and the ones that get stuck on it. I belong to the latter. Two years after finishing the TA, I thru-hiked the PCT and now, I’m gearing up for the CDT. I loved the rough wilderness experience of the Te Araroa, which I’m hoping to find on the CDT as well. Walking from the Canadian border to Mexico, this time southbound, promises to be another chapter in my ongoing love affair with thru-hiking.

In the 2,900 miles in between, I will see new states and will be able to add three more National Parks to my list. The first time I’ve been to the USA and therefore to my last of all seven continents was 2022 for the PCT. Since then, I’ve seen the entire West Coast of the USA as well as Nevada, Utah, and Arizona. I visited 13 of the 63 National Parks. It’s time to venture a bit more east.

Joining me on this journey is my boyfriend, whom I met on the PCT. We started as friends around 500 miles in at Tehachapi and took a step further a month later in the Sierra. We moved in together in the tent and made it the rest of the way together. I stayed some more months with him in the USA before my visa ran out, while we went on some more smaller adventures together. It then turned into a long-distance relationship for a year, and we are finally coming back together to set off on another big adventure.

I’m really happy to have someone on my side who is as much into this lifestyle as I am. I’m not going to lie, social-wise it’s tough to live such a lifestyle where I’m leaving everything behind every few years. Making and maintaining friendships is not exactly my strength, so it can get quite lonely in my time in between hikes.

Me on the PCT 2022

Me on the PCT 2022

Why I go Southbound on the CDT

There are some reasons why I decided to hike southbound on the CDT. First, Southbounders tend to hit more of the trail when weather conditions are optimal. I really don’t want to miss out on Montana and Wyoming because it’s getting too late in the season and winter hits first in the North. That way, we can also see the blooming of wildflowers in Montana. Furthermore, I don’t want to miss out on the San Juans where there is usually more snow left than up north in Montana. Sometimes Northbounders need to skip the San Juans or take a lower route due to the snow levels.

I’m also not very keen to get into the infamous thunderstorms in Colorado, so I’m hoping to be able to avoid the main thunderstorm at the height of the summer that way. Thunderstorms scare me more than any wildlife. The fall is supposed to be beautiful in Colorado with bluebird days and don’t forget about the Aspens turning gold. And finally, there will be no heat in the desert of New Mexico, and we won’t have to rush to finish New Mexico either. I’m aware that it can get cold in the desert, but to be honest, that’s the least of my worries right now. I think, hiking Southbound gives us more chances to hit the sweet spots everywhere.

Second, there are some life obligations like work (yes, I know, boring) to make some more money before embracing the dirtbag lifestyle once more.

I also like that a southbound hike is even more of a solitary experience than the CDT already is in general. Unlike most people, I’m not looking for too much of a social experience. For me, it’s about connecting with nature and getting away from all the people. For me, as a socially awkward person who struggles with personal contact with humans, it sounds like a dream to not meet too many of them.

Of course, there is a downside. We need to make it through Colorado by October to get through the San Juans before winter hits. But I’m not too worried about that as:

a) These are future problems, and you’ll never know what happens until then and
b) I’m willing to skip or shortcut not-so-interesting parts of the trail if it turns out to be necessary, so we can make it to the exciting parts of the trail.

A headstart

As the snow levels in Montana are very low this year, I’m looking at an early start at the beginning of June. If it turns out that there is still too much snow left, we will start a bit further south to hike up to the Canadian border and then flip down. I really want to maximize our window for completing the entire trail. That would give us four months to finish up in Northern New Mexico, after which we don’t need to rush anymore.

In June, we are going to have a daylight time of 16 hours, allowing us plenty of time to hit daily mileage without needing to stress out. The terrain in Northern Montana is more challenging than a start in New Mexico, but as we have that much daylight, I’m not worried about hitting our daily goal without having to go too hard on ourselves.

So, as I prepare to embark on another chapter of my thru-hiking journey, I invite you to follow along on my adventures. Take a look at my Instagram or my blog if you happen to speak any German (there are many cool photos, too).

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