Mexico to Canada, Again.
“... without a doubt, the most eye-popping, jaw-dropping, challenging wilderness trail on Earth.”
On September 19, 2017, I reached the northern terminus of the 2,650 mile Pacific Crest Trail after 3 years of dreaming, 7 months of detailed planning, and 148 unforgettable days of hiking. Many of you supported me during this time, quick to provide encouragement, prayer, or a pair of new shoes when needed. I have no words for how that impacted, and continues to impact, my life. What is a gift it is to share and celebrate life together.
My first steps off the PCT felt like graduation. The tassel was turned, and the trill of completing a multi-year project rushed in my veins. Standing at the northern terminus, pride for my trail family ran deep, tears were shed, and it was a cinematic end to a wonderful story. But dang y’all, I was exhausted. Mentally, physically, and spiritually. It was time. I told my friend Linnea (Otter), “I’m never thru-hiking again.” That’s it. Doneso. Kapeesh. Sayonara. Adios. Next chapter.
On my flight back to Texas, I flew over Washington’s Goat Rocks Wilderness, a PCT highlight, and the oh-shit-I-didn’t-expect-these emotions flushed in. Pride turned into loss and frustration, joy into mourning, exhaustion into an electric hum. I was being taken back to Texas by strangers, having mistaken my eviction as a graduation. Immediately I knew thru-hiking wasn’t leaving my life anytime soon.
Skip forward 9 months to June 2018 and you’d find me back on the summit of Mount Whitney, now with my dad, celebrating our father-son thru-hike of 210 mile John Muir Trail.
This trek affirmed a dream to cover more ground in 2019, with a penciled-in idea of what the project would look like. When 2018 came to a close, the familiar reality of dreams making way to plans set in.
On April 22nd I’ll begin my third long trek, connecting the United State’s Continental Divide Trail (CDT) to Canada’s Great Divide Trail (GDT) for a 3,800 mile traverse along the spine of the Rockies. Unlike the PCT, this route will include a few hundred miles of route finding, including a next-level alternate on Wyoming’s Wind River High Route.
Long-distance hiking has become a tool to resharpen senses and better understand self. It’s pressed me to be curious about Creation its planetary relationship with the Cosmos, while giving space to strengthen spirituality and mature self. The world of thru-hiking has introduced me to some of my all-time favorite people. Plus, living outside is just freaking rad. It is a JOY to get to share the journey.
More fun news: My good friend and incredible hiker woman (and fellow PCT ‘17er) Danielle “Giggles” O’Farrell will also be attempting this route across the Rockies with me. We plan to connect in southern Wyoming to finish the back half of the route together. Our hope is to provide beta and backcountry information where there has previously been little, while challenging the limits of what’s feasable in a typical Northbound hiking season.
Giggles and I met at a random tent site in the middle of the Sierra in 2018; she was on the Sierra High Route and I on the John Muir Trail. She’s wonderful.
“If [the Great Divide Trail] were tacked onto the northern terminus of the Continental Divide Trail (CDT) – as some believe it should be – the combined routes would create, without a doubt, the most eye-popping, jaw-dropping, challenging wilderness trail on Earth.”
As I mentioned, the route exists through the connect of two scenic pathways, the United State’s Continental Divide Trail (CDT) and Canada’s Great Divide Trail (GDT). I’ll also be tacking on Wyoming’s Wind River High Route (WRHR), but more on that later.
Let’s start with the United State’s CDT. The trail stretches 3,100 miles from the New Mexico/Mexico border to Montana’s border with Alberta. The CDT boasts of world-famous landscapes through NM, CO, WY, ID, and MT, following the spine of the American Rockies. Alongside the Pacific Crest Trail and the Appalachian Trail, it makes up one of the Triple Crown trails of hiking and is the créme de la créme of backcountry experience.
Spicing things up, my plan is to link the CDT to Canada’s Great Divide Trail (GDT). This trail picks up at the northern terminus of the CDT at Waterton Lakes National Park in Alberta, Canada. Banff, Yoho, Jasper, and Lake Kakwa are just a few of many National Parks this route passes through. Unlike the Pacific Crest or Continental Divide, the GDT is a route, requiring GPS navigation, bushwacking, and the ability to say “see ya” to any type of trail for hundreds of miles. Rumor has it, the GDT offers pretty gnarly terrain and animals over its 750 miles. Guess we’ll see, eh?
So if you’re counting, that’s 3,850 miles to cover in the 5 month hiking season between April and September. Calculating this linkage (plus the WRHR) has already brought a beautiful frustration the Rockies are rumored to give.
Frustration aside, I’m stoked for the opportunity to attempt this linkage. I’m optimistic about the road to come and hopeful it will develop into a project beyond another white male hiker “crushing miles.” Similar to my last two major hikes (PCT ‘17, JMT ‘18), I have a good feeling about this one.
There are fears that I won’t like it, or that the pace the linkage demands will take away from things I found most valuable on previous thru hikes – friendship, stillness, and a pressure off of performance. My brain has been asking itself the same questions, which only leads to a higher level of concern.
If I’m already to Wyoming in June will there be any hikers in my area?
Will I experience the Wind River Range solo?
What if I feel like the Rockies just aren’t my jam?
Would I sacrifice a healthy mind to achieve a goal if it came to it?
Can I really eat ramen and mashed potatoes for another 5 months?
What is my motivation for thru-hiking?
Am I trying to hike away from something?
What if I fail?
Welcome to my brain, and welcome to my blog! I’m pumped to share the journey with ya, and hope you’ll explore some of these questions with me. My desire is to share stories well, stir up some conversation, brain dump, and hopefully make a life outdoors seem a little more close to home. Let’s do this.
Continental Divide Trail - 3100 miles - NM, CO, WY, ID, MT
Great Divide Trail: 750 miles - AB, BC
CDT+GDT - 3850 miles - NM, CO, WY, ID, MT, AB, BC
NOBO GCDT start date: April 22, 2019
Estimated CDT end date: August 22, 2019
Estimated CDT+GDT end date: September 23, 2019
Map + Estimates
Map found here (excluding Skurka’s WRHR alternate).
*CDT estimates made on 27 mile/day average, with 5 built-in Zeros.
*GDT estimates made on 24 mile/day average, with 2 built-in Zeros.