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Continental Divide Trail

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The Continental Divide Trail is an approximately 3,000 mile long trail along the backbone of America running through the Rocky Mountains from the Canadian to Mexican border. It spans mountain ranges, deserts, and most other types of terrain. It is similar in nature to the more famous Appalachian Trail, but remoter, more rugged, more brutal, longer, and less well established. In the summer of 2012 as a kick off to my world tour I hiked south on the CDT. Against all advice, this was my first long distance hike and greatly pushed my limits.

Most long distance hikers start with the AT or PCT. I, however, fell in love with the CDT when I first heard about it — the beauty, remoteness and challenge — before I actually looked into what it took to hike the trail. By then though, I had my heart set, and reality could not sway what I had already decided to do.

The AT, at least in my mind, seems a little cliché, and an undertaking some attempt just to say they have done it. Most normal people have also at least heard of the AT, even if they do not really understand what a thru hike is. The CDT, not so much. I do not mean to slight anyone that has hiked the AT or aspires to do so, but it was not what I was looking for.

So I “bought a one way ticket on west bound train” to Glacier National Park and started hiking south.


I of course took a camera along on this trip (although I almost lost it) and have posted the pictures of the CDT’s beauty to share. I intentionally tried to not take a lot of photographs, since no one (myself included) wants to look at thousands of pictures of mostly the same thing afterwards. Still, over almost five months I collected over 500 pictures.

CDT Photo Gallery


If you want to read a mind numbingly long, day by day account of my almost five months on the CDT, my trail journal is available for perusing. Do not operate any heavy machinery after reading.



Why thru hike the CDT? I could give the reason that if you have to ask you would not understand the answer. Although partially true, it sounds like a copout and in some ways probably is.

Fame and fortune? Not so much. I generally shun anything near a spotlight and the number of people who know about the CDT, much less care that someone hiked it, is stunningly small. It will end up costing a fair bit of money as well (mostly due to not working for six months).

To make the world a better place? It would be nice to claim such a noble goal, but in all honestly I will not be meeting many people along the trail, and do not have a magic touch to help others anyway. Besides, when people claim to be undertaking something to better the world, it often seems like an excuse to do something they otherwise already wanted to do. They only justify it by encouraging others to give their money, rather than that person donating their own.

To make myself a better person? Again, a noble idea, but not sure how accurate that would be. Some say a journey such as this is life changing, but whenever I have been in those situations before I usually eventually come out exactly the same. Perhaps people over blow those experiences or perhaps I just do not want to change. After having slept in a bed of nails long enough, it becomes home, despite the cuts and bruises. Moving to the bed of silk is surprisingly difficult, especially if you do not know it is there.

Just something I want to do? I love to hike and be in the outdoors, although this is a little extreme. There will be some real pain and suffering, as well as joys.

A new challenge? My life was becoming too easy. Although running and triathlons induced some difficulty, I was getting in a rut with those. I had a good paying job at which I was decent. The big corporate culture meant I could have skidded through without too much trouble, but after twenty years of positive employment reviews, still not have accomplished anything. My home was also almost entirely paid off. I was not flying in a private plane, but had enough money for a single guy with simple tastes and no family responsibilities. I could have kept cruising through life, but I never have been one to take the easy road. I cannot claim I try to stretch myself to become a better person, but I get restless and aimless if I am not struggling through something.

Of course even being in the position to contemplate making the choice of temporarily dropping out of society to “rough it” on a long hike is an odd situation to comprehend. With so much suffering and poverty in the world, to be able to choose such a life is mind boggling. And that even just fifty years ago, survival itself was still in issue in the western world. But perhaps most of all I do not need a reason, it is just something I am personally excited to do, and it might not have an impact at all. I guess I will know in about six months and 3,000 miles.