The Great Western Loop
The Seed Planted
I first heard about the Great Western Loop (GWL) on my southbound Appalachian Trail thru hike back in 2018. Thinking that it sounded like a cool idea and unique hike, I recorded it in my “Bucket List” note on my iPhone. However, time passed, the trail escaped to the back of my mind, and my focus became doing the Triple Crown trails individually, which brought me to the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) in 2020.
Originally, I intended to hike northbound (NOBO), but Covid caused me to postpone and go for another southbound (SOBO) hike. Therefore, when the fires in California caused the trail to be closed down, I found myself forced off trail in Chester, CA near the halfway point with a little group. We rented a car, road tripped to Utah, and started the Arizona Trail (AZT) SOBO about a week after getting off in Chester.
One of the guys in my tramily (trail-family) has a slight man-crush on Legend, a well known thru hiker and FKT (Fastest Known Time) setter. So, one day, he started talking about Legend’s journey on the GWL, and he turned to me and told me that I should do it. After witnessing how consistent AF I was with the big mile days in Northern California (and how much of a bad ass I am), he thought I could definitely do it. The seed was replanted. As we continued to hike south on the AZT, the more I realized I really should and could do it. Every day I was thinking about getting my shit together for the GWL. What new gear would I need? How would I route it? And mostly, just getting pumped up for another adventure! Maybe the PCT was a bust for a reason, maybe this is fate. I don’t know what I believe when it comes to that, but it sure helps in the mental game of tackling this challenge.
The Trail Itself and History
The GWL is about 7000 miles. It consists of the majority of the PCT and the majority of the Continental Divide Trail (CDT), which are connected on the northern ends by the Pacific Northwest Trail (PNT) and a combination of trails and routes on the southern end. These include the Great Enchantment route, the AZT, and a route that you have to determine yourself for the remainder.
There have only been 2 people who have successfully completed the GWL, Andrew Skurka back in 2007 and Legend in 2018. Skurka was one of the people who put the loop together in 2006. Legend added his own twist to it by doing the Nolan’s 14-er challenge in Colorado, dubbing his journey the Greater Western Loop.
This past year, another hiker made an important attempt at the GWL. His name is Airborne, and his idea is called the Greatest Western Loop, which included tagging the termini of the PCT, CDT, AZT, and PNT, adding over 1000 miles to the journey. Like Airborne and Legend, I plan to add on and do things my own way…
My Great Plan
Besides hiking the GWL, one of my life goals is to be a Triple Crowner by backpacking the 3 big trails in the US, the AT, PCT, and CDT. Since I have the AT and the PCT was taken away from me this year, the GWL provides me with the opportunity to claim the PCT and CDT in one go. Therefore, I plan to do the GWL and add in the termini for the PCT and CDT! Unlike Airborne, I do not plan on including the termini of the PNT and AZT. I don’t know what I’ll dub my route, but I’ll probably also do a little bit of my own thing across the southern East to West footpath.
How to Follow Along
I will continue to blog about my journey through The Trek, and if you want to see any of my older articles from the AT, they all can be found through my author page at https://thetrek.co/author/emma-rosenfield/. Here you can enter your email address and “subscribe” to my posts. I will also be posting on instagram (@emmalu93), YouTube (https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCvVxN683GN32ALQNLg55bUQ), and TikTok (@emma_aka_wildlife).
As I begin to approach my start date in late March/early April, I hope to be posting more. I hope you decide to follow along!
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