Some Questions and Answers
If I don't answer your question in this document or in any of the others, or you can't find the answer, please feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- What is the Continental Divide Trail? The CDT is one of the National Scenic Trails that have been designated by Congress. The Pacific Crest and Appalachian Trails are two of the more well known, and travelled, NSTs. Unlike those two, however, the CDT is not well constructed and in many places no official trail has been designated. Most hikers choose their own routes and it is rare that any two hikers will tread the same path. The northern terminus is Canada, either in Waterton Park (Canada) or at the Chief Mountain border crossing (a highway). The southern terminus is Mexico, either near the minor town of Columbus, NM, or in the middle of nowhere NM near Antelope Wells. Or where ever a hiker decides to stop. Along the way, the CDT tracks close to the Continental Divide, following the Rocky Mountains, and passes through Montana, Idaho, Wyoming, Colorado, and New Mexico.
- What guidebooks are there? There are two different, competing guidebooks. The one you want is written by Jim Wolf and is published by the the Continental Divide Trail Society. The other ones, published by the Continental Divide Trail Alliance, have a lot of pretty pictures and a reputation for inaccuracy.
- What maps are there? This is an easy one. Jonathan Ley hiked in 2001 and mapped the entire trail. He took USGS topos and drew out the trail on them, along with many alternate routes, mileages, and notes. You can find the maps (he'll send you a free CD) on his website, Phlumf. It would be very possible to hike the CDT with only his maps and without the Wolf guidebooks, especially as many of the guidebooks have not been updated for quite some time. However, I wouldn't recommend doing it.
- How long is the CDT? This is unanswerable due to the nature of the trail. However, many people do a border-to-border hike and cover something like 2200-2800 miles.
How many people thruhike the CDT each year? Not a whole lot, but the numbers are growing. In 2004, there might have been something like 15 people to complete a thruhike.
- How hard is it to follow the trail? Except for in Glacier (where there was a lot of snow), I had little difficulty in following the trail. Later on (ie, south of Lincoln), however, I understand that things become more difficult.
- What is the season for hiking? Most southbound hikers start in mid June at Waterton. Most northbound hikers start in April or May in New Mexico. However, weather changes things greatly. No south bound hikers got through southern Colorado before snows closed off the high routes in October. Few northbound hikers made it through Glacier on the high route before snows closed things off in September. Southbound hikers generally plan on mid-June to November. Personally, if I was going to hike south again, I'd wait until early July and then set out from Glacier. If I pushed hard enough, I could get through southern Colorado by mid September. If I didn't make it, I'd come back in another season.
- What kind of permits do I need? None, except for campsites in Glacier and Yellowstone National parks.
- How do I get to the northern terminus? The most popular way to get to Chief Mountain is to take Amtrak (which may not be running in the future) to East Glacier, MT. Then, the local hotel chain will shuttle you (about $35) up to Chief Mountain or all the way to Waterton (about $45). Alternatively, you can fly into Calgary and catch a Greyhound bus to Pincher Creek, which not supre far from Waterton. There are supposed to be shuttles running from there into the park, but I haven't ridden them.
- What route did you take? I followed something like the CDT south from Waterton to Lincoln, although I was heavily jammed up in Glacier and had to bail out of it after three days and a morning. From Lincoln I had planned to hike the CDT to Helena and then from Helena to Bozeman on my own route. From Bozeman, I'd hike south into Yellowstone and then east through the park to Cooke City, MT. From Cooke City, I was planning on hiking south and then west to the Tetons, where I'd pick up the Teton Crest and take it into Jackson. From Jackson, there are plenty of trails to head east through the Gros Ventre and into the Wind River ranger, where the CDT goes. Essentially, I was planning to cut off the cow-pasture hiking along the Idaho-Montana border that the CDT favors.
- How far did you hike? About 450 miles.
- How many days did you hike? About 3 weeks worth of walking and another 7 days spent sitting around towns or campsites on zero days.
- Why did you get off the trail so soon? I was having a miserable time on the trail. I wanted to be elsewhere doing other things. I had to come back and clean up a mess that I had left at home and found that it was too difficult to be out on the trail, in solitude and isolation, while trying to understand that mess. I was doing both things half-assed and it just wasn't working.
- Are you going to thruhike the CDT in the future? Not bloody likely, but it is hard to predict the future.
- Are you really retiring from long distance hiking? It looks that way. I have no desire to set out on another multi-month trip any time soon. Trips that last a month or so seem much more appealing to me right now.
- Are you really going to move to Florida and take up golf? No chance of that happening. My head wasn't right when I thought such things and I am feeling much healthier now.
- What kind of camera did you use? I used a Canon G6 Powershot 7.1 megapixel camera equipped with a 1 GB memory card.
- What are the three cardinal rules of thruhiking that you keep mentioning? If you're not having a good time, you're doing something wrong. Only a fool leaves a dry place. Never leave good trail for bad. These are my own rules and others have their own. However, I especially like mine as they apply equally to life in civil society if you expand the meanings of some of the words.
- Could you explain a little more about the events of July 4th and in Butte? No. I don't really understand them myself and have had difficulty putting them into words at all. The events seem to be things that one has to experience for oneself in order to understand.