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CDT Thru Hike 2018 – Pre-Hike Ramblings

I have been thinking about hiking the CDT since 2012, and in late 2017 I decided to pull the trigger for a 2018 attempt. As much as I wanted to do this, voluntarily quitting my job and selling my house was one of the toughest choices I’ve made in the last decade. I’ve reached all the goals I set for my self and found life to be quite comfortable. However, complacency is something that holds many people back from doing things we really want to do. Realizing this, I decided to shake things up and just go for it! 

Why hike the CDT?

Why did I choose the CDT over the AT or PCT as my first thru hike? Simple… It’s the wildest and most remote (of the AT, PCT & CDT) with the fewest people. I want to hike it while is still as wild as possible. I’m not opposed to hiking with good company, but I’m not looking for a super social experience here. It just doesn’t feel like wilderness when there’s thousands of other people around. The less people I see, the more immersed I feel in the wilderness.

Route Planning

The first thing I did was choose the route I wanted to hike. The CDT is not a continuous beaten path like the PCT or AT, and offers infinite route options. I used caltopo to do my route planning, like I do for all my hikes. I found gpx files of the CDT, the alternate routes and waypoints which I imported into caltopo.

I spent several weeks looking at maps and refining my route. The beauty of the CDT is that you literally make your own way. While there’s technically an official route, that’s all it is… A route. It’s not a defined trail the whole way.

I have a killer high route planned through the wind river range, inspired by my 100 mile Traverse of the winds in 2014. This time I plan to include the glacier-filled northern section, which is what I’m most looking forward to of the entire hike. I’ll resupply in Dubois, then hike cross country through the Gros Ventre Wilderness over to Jackson, then hike the Teton crest trail north to Flagg Ranch. From here, I’ll enter Yellowstone through the south entrance and hike the Bechler region of Yellowstone before meeting back up with the official CDT trail at old faithful. So basically, I’ll be doing my own thing through half of Wyoming.

Here’s an overview of my planned CDT route:

https://caltopo.com/m/14E1

Navigation

For navigation, my primary method is GPS. The caltopo route I created can be exported to a GPX file to be used with my GPS, as well as printed to paper maps. I printed my paper maps on legal paper and will fold them in half to fit in gallon ziplock bags. Additionally, I have Ley maps and GPX files stored on my phone, but don’t plan on using the phone for navigation.

Resupply

Maps and cdt resupply planning

 

The most difficult part of CDT planning by far is the resupply plan. Some towns are easier than others to resupply in. If the town has a large grocery store or a Walmart, you can get away with not sending a package there. Some resupply points, like ghost ranch and Benchmark, have no place to buy food or supplies, so it’s almost mandatory to send a package. I’m fortunate enough to have my dad as my “support team” at home, who will send me the food and supplies I need to locations such as these.

Resupply packages are typically sent to general delivery at the post office or a business you plan on visiting… Motel, rv park, a store, etc. If you arrive in town at 4pm on Saturday, you’d have to wait till Monday morning for the post office to open. If you send it to a motel you plan on staying at, you get your box right away with no wait. My resupply plan aims to use a few post offices as possible so I’m not tied to their hours.

I will also be using a bounce box. Bounce boxes are used to ship yourself food, gear, and supplies (batteries, first aid resupply, sunscreen, etc) a town or two ahead. The main reason I’m using a bounce box is to support my documentation plan, which is laid out in the next section below.

Documentation

I plan on documenting my hike with a GoPro and 3 axis gimbal for video and a Sony nex-7 for still images. Pictures and video, as well as my GPX tracks from my GPS, will need to be dumped occasionally. I bought a western digital wireless passport pro external hard drive to dump my photos and video to. Simply plug in the SD card and it gets backed up. This will be included in my bounce box, and every two weeks or so I’ll dump data and clear my SD cards. I also bought a 2 in 1 tablet/laptop to include in my bounce box, so I have a computer to interact with my GPS unit as well as update my blog.

Pre-hike Concerns

I’m not worried about navigation and not too worried about water. There are certainly stretches of New Mexico and Wyoming that are dry but with all the great info out there on water sources along the trail I don’t think it will be a major problem.

I’m more concerned with hiking in 100 degree Temps in the deserts and the 250 mile stretch of snow that awaits me at the border of Colorado. It is a low snow year in the San Juans, so it’s possible snow will be less of an issue.

Another thing that has me worried is my lack of appetite when hiking. This has been a huge problem for me in recent years. Often times, the more I demand of my body the less appetite I have. Not only am I not hungry when I clearly should be, but food often tastes bland and things I normally like make me gag. Not being able to replenish calories makes it very tough to cover the daily miles needed to complete the trail. I’m hoping that I will “develop” an appetite after a few weeks.

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