It’s finished! Through all sorts of wild adventure, logistical twists and turns, fires and floods, and more, I completed the Continental Divide Trail in 108 days and 19 hours. I experienced so much and learned a good deal about myself, the outdoors, my wife, and more and over the next few weeks, I’m sure many worthwhile thoughts will surface. Here are some immediate thoughts:
-This is the most challenging adventure I’ve ever taken on, and challenging in so many ways. As expected, this trail is way less complete than any other we’ve walked and thank goodness we were able to learn how to read maps, use a compass, and use our GPS to stay on track most of the time. While I’m glad we learned, I like well-marked, well-maintained, and easy-to-follow trails best. Challenge number one overcome.
-Super-logistics trail. Murphy’s Law was in full effect out here and if it could go wrong or be difficult, it seemed to. From figuring out how to get around fires, floods, and thunderstorms, to figuring out our resupply strategy, to making new resupply strategies when our food wasn’t where it was supposed to, to getting our passports in time to walk in to Canada, it felt as if we were constantly in problem-solving mode. While fun and rewarding, I am so happy to have this aspect of the trail behind me. Challenge number two overcome.
-This trail has way more wildlife and feels more wild than any others we’ve hiked. Grizzly bears running towards us, pools of blood in the trail, moose carcasses surrounded by grizzly scat, half eaten coyotes, mama bears and their cubs, mountain lions, dead calves with fresh shiny blood coating their skin…nature is harsh and I’m so glad animals generally to leave us humans alone. However, I know my vulnerabilities and an elk could easily take me out, even one of the hundreds of cows we walked by could crush me. While it’s cool to see animals in the wild, I’m glad to be inside again and not so concerned about the circle of life. Challenge number three overcome.
-Aloneness. We hiked 27 days in New Mexico without seeing another hiker on the trail. We would go days without human interaction other than each other. I even got to have a week alone when Julie was off the trail so I got to experience sleeping alone in the wilderness for the first time. Life is so different without people and constant interactions with human things. Rewarding, yes. Challenging, you bet. I’m glad to be back and connected with the world again, to talk regularly with my parents, brother and sister once more. I appreciate my friends and family more than they probably understand. Challenge number four overcome.
-Relationship stress. Julie and I are together 24/7 on the trail. We walk together, sleep together in a one person tent. We are often our only real connection with anything human out there. We are also both going through really challenging mental and physical stuff on a daily basis together. We blame each other, we push our stresses on each other, and we suffer together. We have also grown and celebrated together. Julie leaving the trail and coming back to share this with me has been so good for us. We love each other deeply and understand each other better than ever before. I am extremely thankful for this challenge because the reward is so rich. Challenge number five overcome.
-We are weird. We see the world differently than most simply because of our experiences. This country is so huge and so vast, moreso than most can probably appreciate. Montana, Colorado, Wyoming, Idaho, and New Mexico are largely untouched and unknown. There are so many miles of barbed wire fences in this country, so many miles of dirt roads, and so many cows roaming free in federally owned land such that most people would be amazed if they could get a glimpse into how different the many parts of this country really are. We also take much of this for granted. It takes some pretty amazing scenery to impress us anymore. We don’t remember names of mountains, streams, or rivers anymore because we’ve seen so many of them. We are spoiled rotten when it comes to nature that it almost feels like we don’t appreciate it. We do, but after spending over a year of my life living in the American wilderness, I see it differently than most and I didn’t realize this until recently. It’s difficult to get into other people’s shoes and see things from their perspective, and after this unique experience, I’ll probably be more challenged than ever to look at things through the eyes of others after my eyes have seen so much and seen things that most never see.
-Lastly, we are extremely loved, and we are extremely fortunate for that love. We have super strong and supportive families. We have amazing friends that go out of their way for us. Strangers are kinder than I could ever imagine. We were vulnerable, in need, and often totally unable to take care of ourselves based on the positions we put ourselves in. Fellow humans always came through for us. We stayed in peoples’ homes, we accepted rides from strangers, we received so much from people and this trip would not have been possible without all this love and support. There is so much we have to be thankful for and it feels as if by putting ourselves in such crazy situations where we couldn’t do things alone, we have been able to truly see just how good people are, how much people love other people, and how much people are willing to do for others, even if they don’t know us. We are lucky as hell and I am so happy and pleased with my life, that I have been able to experience not only the crazy challenges of the CDT, but been able to connect with people in such a unique, loving, and powerful way. Thank you to all for being part of my journey and for making my life feel so special and rich. I love the trail life, I love life period, and as long as I have the opportunity, I am empowered to live as fully and richly as I can. Thank you all for being part of this.