Two weeks away

Hello! I’m Alex or in some contexts, Braveheart.  I hiked the PCT in 2013 and have been thinking of attempting the CDT for the past few years and now it’s actually happening.  This time I’m hiking southbound which is a new experience for me.   It has a number of benefits; it works better for my non hiking life, the trail was originally intended as a SOBO trail, and at least this year it seems to be the Ullr approved route as Colorado has a bunch of snow while Montana has very little.  And to add to that the PCT was completely buried this year.  That said, I do wish that the ice axe in in Glacier would be less decorative.  Oh well, I can’t control the weather only adapt to it.

If you’re curious about the trail and how I have (somewhat) prepared for it then read on!  If you’re not then perhaps this blog is not for you!

The Trail

Chances are if you’ve landed here you’ve at least heard of the Continental Divide Trail.  Either from me directly or because you came here through TheTrek’s site and you know, or are at least curious about, what you clicked on.  In either case, welcome.  It’s a 3,000 ish mile trail which runs from Canada to Mexico across, well, the continental divide.  I say ish because unlike the other long trails it is much more of a choose your own adventure trail when compared to the other long trails.  Thus everyone’s distance is going to be wildly different.  The official distance is around 3,100 miles.  I’m planning on taking a few alternates either because they’re scenic, beautiful, and difficult.  Or because they free up time for those other alternates, they’re convenient, and I’m lazy.  We’ll see how those plans play out.  As the saying goes, no plan survives contact with the enemy.  Which, in this case I suppose are fires; or less dramatically, fatigue, or offers of milkshakes or convenient rides to the aforementioned.

In any case, I’m expecting to see some beautifully groomed hiking trail.  Or this.

Tom inspecting a moderate blowdown

One aspect of going southbound is that I’ll need faster in order to finish ahead of winter in the high mountains.  My goal is to follow the common wisdom to (try to) be south of Colorado before the end of September).  The longer that takes the more I’m rolling dice with the weather.  And I’ve played enough d&d to know that rolling a 20 (or a 1) is not that uncommon.

The Training

Training for this is a fairly common question but the dirty secret is… mostly, I’m not.  Aside from my normal level of activity.  Though that’s been somewhat reduced too due to prioritizing finishing up projects and such prior to this trip.  Similar to my approach to the PCT I’m mainly intending to hike myself into shape.  Glacier is forcing some fairly low mileage days for the first week anyhow and I’ll ramp up mileage slowly after that.  The Bob Marshall Wilderness will make that trickier b/c it’ll result in back to back long food carries but such is the way of things.

NOLS approved stream crossing.  Photo cred: Tom Bergeron

I have gone on a couple short backpacking trips.  One in Eagle Creek and another in Goat Creek with my college friend Tom.  Both involved a fair amount of trail maintenance and the latter involved being lost in the snow for a short while.  These intended primarily as a gear shakedown but also to start the foot toughening process.  I’d recommend the Goat Creek loop; very nice waterfall, almost but not quite snow camping, and a water crossings.  And a frozen lake to soak our feet in.  As refreshing and short lived as you’d probably imagine.

Non NOLS approved stream crossing.  Photo cred: Tom Bergeron


The Logistics

This trail journal is both for my own memories as well as a handy way of sharing my travels and develop my nascent story telling ability and my nascent photography skills.  At times I’m sure it’ll be fun to write and other times after a long day of walking perhaps feel more like a chore but regardless I want the memories.  If you have (constructive) criticism or something specific you want to hear more about then leave a comment on any of the posts and I’ll, eventually, read it.

If you’d like to contribute I’ve decided to use this blog as an opportunity to fundraise for Bonnie Brae.  It’s a charity which provides educational and therapeutic services to underserved youth in New Jersey; If you’d like to learn more about it their website is here:  If you’d like to donate, that’s awesome.  Either use that link or the handy tip button which (should) also direct you there.

With that plug out of the way the last bit of logistics is that unless you’ve coordinated with me somehow please don’t send anything to me on trail.  First, if I don’t know it’s coming I’d likely miss it entirely if I don’t know to look for it.  Second, anything I get I’ll need to either eat immediately, carry with me, or put in a hiker box.  And only one of those options is appealing.  I do appreciate the thought but I’d rather you donated to Bonnie Brae.

With that out of the way, onward!

The Real Logistics! Food!

Probably the most common question I’ve gotten thus far about the CDT, or for that matter the PCT, is about food.  First about whether I’m sending myself boxes of food or buying food in town.  The answer is both.  Though where I can I’m trying to minimize sending boxes because it’s a hassle.  But I need to send some to remote places.  And in some instances I just need to distribute medication and if something is being shipped than it may as well have food!  The second is a misconception about what I eat on trail.

Mountain House Veggie Chorizo Breakfast Scramble Pouch

What people think thru hikers eat on trail


What thru hikers actually eat on trail

Somehow peanut butter and kraft / annie’s macaroni and cheese didn’t make it into that picture but all of that is a pretty good sample of a trail diet.  Is it healthy?  Probably not.  But it’s plentiful, cheap, and tastes ok after walking all day.  That’s a pretty good sampling of what ends up in those boxes.  Lunch snacks are missing but they’re usually easier to find at the small stores anyhow.  I have a friend from the PCT as well as a prior CDT hiker, Hot Tub, who has graciously offered to help with my resupply boxes.  Thanks Hot Tub!!!

Thank you for reading my intro!  The next post will likely be from East Glacier just before I start.  Likely will be the intro part 2: the gear talk.  Ten more days!!!

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