Why I’m Hiking the Great Divide Trail (GDT) during COVID-19

So I guess I’m hiking the Great Divide Trail (GDT) this year.  Like many others, I had bigger, more ambitious plans before COVID-19 dropped by unannounced for what has been the longest overstayed visit ever. I’ve watched as the world shut down, I limited the people I saw, and ended or changed just about every single plan I had; it wasn’t easy, but at the end of the day they were only ever plans. I’m thankful that my experience with the pandemic has been as minor as it has considering the many people who have suffered or died as a result of Covid-19. More and more, though, I’m appreciative that I live in a small village in British Columbia with the outdoors at my doorstep. It was always easy to go outside (and feel comfortable going outside) whenever I wanted to.

While I appreciate the outdoors where I live, I’m especially thankful that my community was prioritized to receive some of those initial shipments of the Moderna vaccine to British Columbia; I’m even more thankful that I was able to receive my first dose. With that first dose, a lot of the stress and the anxiety I had been feeling slipped away and life has started to get back on track.

I finally feel okay to plan another thru-hike. I finally feel as though things are going to get better. Things aren’t going to be the same, but that’s okay. I find solace in the outdoors so I’m embarking on this journey to show that it’s okay and that it’s safe to do so; I want others to find their way outside and feel safe to be there. I want others to feel the same comfort walking out of their homes as I do whenever I am outdoors.


Yep, that’s me looking all cozy.

Who am I?

I’m Josh, also known as Moose. I’ve lived and worked as a teacher in the village of Lytton, BC for the past 6.5 years; over the years, I’ve taught a wide variety of classes and courses, but the most consistent courses have been English, Outdoor Education, and Physical Education. I’m fortunate to be able to take students outside consistently and teach them how to take care of themselves and their environment while outdoors. It’s important to me that I foster an appreciation of the outdoors so that more people help to protect the environment and preserve it for future generations. In my free time, I try to keep myself busy (and I’m sure my partner would say that I keep myself too busy) with multiple passions and pursuits. Some of the things I love to do:

  • Hiking and backpacking (obviously)
  • Snowboarding and splitboarding
  • Biking
  • Snowshoeing
  • Canoeing
  • DJing (check out one of my mixes)
  • Dancing

I try to keep a full schedule, so planning things out is pretty important (and absolutely necessary) for me. When I hiked the PCT in 2018 I planned a 14 day rotating meal plan (snacks included) and only grew tired of a few things. I’m going to be equally as thorough with my plans for the GDT.


alt=Berg Lake and Mount Robson

One of the perks of hiking the GDT is that you get to hike down the Berg Lake trail to the Visitor Centre to resupply; it’s only 28 km off trail.

What is the GDT?

The Great Divide Trail is essentially the Canadian section of the Continental Divide Trail. It’s about 1100 km long (about 680 miles for you non-metric folks) and it’s not officially designated, but it travels through some of Canada’s most epic landscapes along the Continental Divide.

Why the GDT for me?

  • I hiked a small section of the GDT (the Rockwall Trail) a couple of times and each time it was phenomenal. I heard the rest is equally incredible.
  • As a teacher, I have the summers off. The GDT generally takes most thru-hikers 1-2 months to complete (and the main hiking season is the summer that I, conveniently, have off).
  • It’s supposed to be challenging. I enjoy long climbs, big days, and rewarding views; I also fancy hiking through the rain in a fleece (rain jackets just get too sweaty). I feel like this could be some serious fun.
  • The borders are closed and I can’t really imagine traveling anywhere else in the world right now. I have my first dose of my vaccine (and will have the second well before I start hiking), but that only goes so far. Sticking (fairly) close to home seemed like the best idea.
  • My partner just became a Permanent Resident in Canada (yay! it’s only been a year and a few months) and she is planning on working throughout the summer so I don’t want to do anything too big without her. We met thru-hiking the PCT in 2018 and we wanted to thru-hike the CDT together so it felt like it was better to do something similar, but smaller in scale.
  • Honestly, though, I’m really itching for that time away from everyone and everything. I want my worries confined to the comfort of my feet and how well I will sleep.  I know that when I’m outside, regardless of whatever else is going on, I’m fully and completely content.

My Goals for the GDT

  • Plan a menu that I won’t get tired of by the end. There were only a few items from my last thru-hike that I wasn’t enamored with (I’m looking at you, Mac and Cheese); I aim to rectify that this time around.
  • Keep to my planned itinerary. The GDT passes through numerous National Parks of Canada (Waterton, Banff, Yoho, Kootenay, Jasper), and each stay in a National Park requires a reservation. This means that planning for the GDT is extremely important. I’m pretty sure I can keep to the pace I have planned, but we’ll see.
  • Have fun. Yes, seriously. Fun is my biggest motivator and I am always looking for the things that I find fun. Hiking the PCT in 2018 was the most fun I ever had, and I’m hoping that the GDT brings back some of those feelings of endless fun.
  • Take some photos that make people think “Ooh, that’s pretty neat.”
  • Keep a better written record of my daily thoughts and feelings. I’ve noticed that with intention, comes follow through; this is my written intention.

How I plan on hiking safe during the pandemic

  • Wear a mask whenever indoors with others or unable to maintain social distance.
  • Endorse vaccinations. I’ve received my first dose of the Moderna vaccine and will have my second before I start hiking.
  • Bring a larger than usual amount of hand sanitizer AND/OR send more hand sanitizer with resupplies.
  • Limit time spent indoors with others.
  • Send resupply boxes as my main source of food. Explore takeout options the few times I’m in town.

What’s next?

Thanks for sticking with me until the end. I’m looking forward to putting together some of the resources I used to help plan my trip of the GDT; I’ll also share some of my food and meal prep before starting. I’ll also be putting together my gear list. Stay tuned!

 

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Comments 4

  • Avatar
    Miranda : Mar 28th

    Hey Josh, did you by any chance document your journey of the PCT in 2018? This trail is a goal of mine and I would love to learn from your experience for better preparation. Thanks so much for your time!

    Regards,

    Miranda

    Reply
    • Avatar
      Josh : Mar 30th

      Hey Miranda, I documented most of my trip on Instagram (@moo5e_tracks). I also planned quite a bit of the trail and I’ll be writing about some of my planning process as I prepare to hike the GDT; my most recent post goes into detail about how I planned my itinerary for the GDT and you can check it out here: https://thetrek.co/how-to-plan-to-thru-hike-the-gdt/

      Reply

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