So I’ve been planning for this trail for about 2 months now, which I guess is the next logical step after already having hiked the CT, TA and PCT. But it goes deeper than that. My very first long-distance hiking goal from 20 some years ago, when I first became a backpacker, was to hike the CDT through Colorado, my home state. Now that I know I can do much more than that, why not the whole thing? Yes, I will hike the whole CDT.
I am going for what I call “the slightly Dyslexic Triple Crown.” The official Triple Crown amounts to hiking the Appalachian Trail (AT or TA if you’re dyslexic), PCT, and CDT, usually in that order. For many reasons that I don’t care to go into now, I am not too keen on hiking the full length of the AT, at least not as a thru-hike. So I am counting my nearly 2000 mile-long hike of the TA as a substitute. Can I really claim to be a “Triple Crowner” in this way, who knows and who really cares? The distinction is rather arbitrary, anyways. What I can say is that I’ve thru-hiked a whole lotta miles, regardless of which trail it’s been on.
The CDT is roughly 3000 miles long but involves multiple alternate routes and still has long sections that follow roads instead of trail (a bit like the TA). It is considered to be the most difficult long trail in the US, for many reasons. There is a lot of exposed high elevation, prone to thunderstorms, which I am already all too familiar with from the CT. The trail is unmaintained in some sections, so route finding and navigational skills are key. Grizzly territory encompasses the trail in northern sections. Water sources are very scant and poor, especially in New Mexico and parts of Wyoming. And it can be cold, very cold, throughout the “summer.” It is not uncommon for it to snow in the high country at all times of the year.
Speaking of snow, Colorado has seen a record amount this year…nearly double that of average years. The San Juans, the first mountain range that northbounders come to in Colorado, may not melt until late July or even August this year. Avalanche danger is high and I have very little experience with hiking in snow. So what is a CDT hiker to do? The most obvious answer is to go SOUTHBOUND, starting at the Canadian border. This has been my calling for all my previous thru-hikes and of course it made the most sense for this one. But I am so antsy to get back on the trail, I can’t wait until June or July. So I hatched a flip-flop plan that will hopefully be the answer to all my hiking hopes.
I plan to start at the Mexican Border in New Mexico sometime around the end of April. I am flying to Colorado first to visit my parents for a couple of weeks. This will give me a chance to get acclimated to elevation once again and maybe even practice some ice axe skills in the nearby hills. Then I am getting a ride with a trail angel down to Silver City, NM to attend Trail Days. This will be the first time I’ve had a chance to attend one of these events and should be a lot of fun. I can’t wait to be with “my people” once again! Afterwards, I’m headed down to the border, one way or another, to start northbound all the way through NM. I look forward to being a NOBO for once and also experiencing the desert in the spring, when the plants are in bloom.
Once I hit the snow wall (Colorado border or even sooner) in late May or early June, I’ll flip up to the Canadian Border to hike the rest of the way south. This plan allows an intermediate option to hang out at my parents house, if need be, for an optimal SOBO start time, probably around last week of June or first week of July. Montana has had an average to even low snow year, so a mid to late June start is looking good! In this way, I’ll get to make friends with the herd of both NOBOs and SOBOs starting the trail.
Save the best for last: COLORADO. I will get to finish the trail in my homestate, spending time with friends and relatives along the way, and enjoying the best weather window. The CO highcountry is prone to terrifying thunderstorms during monsoon season, late June through early August. But late August and September see some of the nicest and driest weather, albeit increasingly cold nights. I just have to be sure to make it through before the heavy snow starts, sometimes as early as late September or early October. I managed to beat the snow in the Sierra last summer, so here’s hoping for another round of luck with all my timing!
I don’t think I’ll mind not maintaining a continuous footpath from border to border on the CDT. There are so many alternates and breaks in the trail, it’s kind of an arbitrary point anyways. I’ve very proud of having completed all of the PCT from Canada to Mexico, so I’ll let that stand as my shining accomplishment. I’m excited about the crazy plan I’ve hatched up for this trail and think it will work out for the best.
As before, I’ll be trying to post daily blogs and also have a page with my most recent location, so followers can track my progress. I’m using a Garmin Inreach Mini this year (instead of a Spot messenger), so there are some new bugs to sort out. I’ll also hope to have some home-turf advantages and perks in Colorado…more on that later. So thanks for following once again and let the adventure begin!