I’ve told several people of my intent to walk the CDT, and generally this draws a blank stare. Everyone is aware of the Appalachian Trail, and the magnetic draw it has for the throngs of hikers of all shapes and sizes, but not many are aware of the Continental Divide Trail. It is six million steps, from the Mexico border to Canada through the roughest, most remote terrain this country has to offer. It is indeed six million steps, or 3028 miles if you prefer that measure. It has 457,000 feet in total elevation gain. Curiously enough, the trail starts and ends at about the same elevation.
To put into context the difference between the AT and the CDT, a few hundred will through hike the CDT each year, while thousands will complete the AT. Three million people will do sections of the AT each year, making it heavily trafficked for sure. With all that traffic comes quite a lot of resources for the miler to draw on. On the contrary, the CDT leaves them to their own resourcefulness.
After explaining all of this to those friends of mine with the blank stares, the very next word to pass their lips is, why?
There are as many reasons folks hike these trails as there are hikers. I got my first job 40 years ago, and have not spent any time since then not working. As such, aren’t we due some R&R at some point? That’s the reason I offer up when asked, but of course for many people that choose to embark on something of this caliber, that’s the throw down statement that satisfies most people. The actual reasons people do this run much deeper. It’s a multi faceted answer for me.
My father passed away late in 2020. I watched him go from vibrant, to a shell of his former self over the last 20 years. 20 years ago he was my age. 20 years ago his health failed, and he was never the same. The last few years he actively encouraged me not to spend my entire life working, chasing dollars, but to make sure to set aside some of my small allocation of time on this earth to myself. As I watched his last year spent in misery, hooked to a ventilator and helpless, I decided to heed his warnings about not taking the time to live. And so, here I am 6 months later, having quit my job and frantically trying to gain the skillset needed to survive the hundreds of miles of desert with little water, the frigid nights on mountains, the challenges of predatory animals, and my own mental state.
So here I find myself. It is 5 days before I climb off the train in Lordsburg, and begin living.
Without further adieu, it is high time I shut off the chronological faucet that has been dripping my lifewater for the last 54 years, and so we begin. What I intend is a bit different from most hikers on the trail. I have no intentions about worrying how many miles I can make in a day. I am an avid photographer, and intend to park on noteworthy spots until the light is right, or the water runs out. I’ll share what I do and how I do it as I can, so aside from smart-alecky commentary that I like to toss around, let’s do this.
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