Post-Trip Report: Continental Divide National Scenic Trail

Finishing a Hard Thing

Three and a half months of hiking and camping sounds like a dream. The reality is a little harsher but it's still an amazing experience. Hiking north/south across the United States of America is an insane thing to do but it takes you through so many beautiful places.

Watching mountains from tent

I was fairly lucky with good weather and was able to do all the side trips that I'd wanted to do along the way. From dry deserts, to high alpine mountains, to salt flats, and through shifting wilderness the Continental Divide Trail is an outdoor lovers paradise. The remoteness of the track can be felt with every step and the reinforced by the quiet sounds of rushing streams and wildlife moving around as if humans never existed.

San Luis Peak: This was the final 14er going SOBO in Colorado that is easily accessible from the main trail and I was originally planning on hiking to the top. The weather was perfect the day I passed by but I was rushing myself to get to Lake City which I regret in hindsight. I should never shirk away from these kind of opportunities. I'll sneak one more suggestion for a summit of Mount Massive as well that I could have probably planned on doing as well.

Grand Canyon of Yellowstone: I learned about the existence of this part of the national park once I was well past hiking through it. Apparently it features some really cool geologically features and the trek to get there is quite intense as well. I'd make plans to do this side trip and explore more of Yellowstone National Park which is barely touched by the CDT.

Wind River High Route: I had tentative plans to attempt a high route and test my skills through the winds. I went so far as to print out paper maps! In the end I decided not to do it since I had no other hiking partners or emergency beacon so if something bad happened I'd be all alone.

With proper maps and good weather it's something I'd not pass up again, regardless if I company or not. The Alan Dixon route is shorter and "easier" than the Andrew Surka route, so I'd choose that track to follow and easily integrate it into a CDT thruhike.

Here was the gear I brought and my thoughts on some items:

Keep 2:
  • Zpacks Plex Solo:

    I bought this brand new for the CDT because I wanted something light yet sturdy to handle wind and rain storms. Compared to my SMD Gatewood Cape this tent is much lighter, has a larger interior space and has tons of tie outs. It worked very well for me for all the weather I experienced(heavy rain, hail, brief light snow). I was initially worried about the DCF material since it's very delicate but it held up for the whole hike. I didn't use a groundsheet so surely there are small holes in the bathtub floor now though.

    My one complaint is the zipper placement. There is no nice way to sneak in and out of the tent easily versus something like the SMD Serenity Nettent. Zpacks could easily fix this by copying the L-shaped zipper profile SMD uses. Either way a solid tent if you have the money. Link

  • A real rain jacket

    Similar to my thinking with the tent, I wanted a robust and durable rain jacket to handle the weather of the CDT. I was brought a 1lb rain jacket versus something like a Frogg Toggs Ultra-Lite Rain Jacket which is prone to tearing. When it rains I want to be dry and not think about my jacket shredding. I will always carry a "real" rain jacket from now on. My current jacket is the OR Dryline Rain Jacket which is sub 1lb(2.2kg)!

Lose 2:
  • Ben's InvisiNet Head Net:

    This thing is simply too small for my big head. The times I'd use it I was almost as stressed out by the net as by the mosquitoes biting me. It would lie flush with my cheeks and thus provide no protection from the bugs. The obvious solution here is to not get an "ultralight" solution as any generic normally sized head net will do a fine job.

  • Down Jacket + Beanie:

    I always carry this on trip "just in case" it gets cold. Well the CDT definitely had its fair share of cold weather but I never used the down jacket nor the beanie for the whole trip. I am a hot sleeper and a hike very hard so just wearing my rain gear instantly heats me up. This is what I'd do on cold mornings and it worked great. I always carry a buff which I wear as a head wrap at night. Essentially the down jacket and beanie are redundant and I will try to not bring them with me in the future.

New Mexico - Gila River Gila River Montana - Glacier National Park Glacier NP Idaho - Cottonwood Peak Alternate
Wyoming - Wind River Range Wind River Range Colorado - Argentine Spine Alternate Argentine Spine

Do you want to read a day by day journal of the journey?
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Want to see some tips for planning a trip like this? click here

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