Thursday, July 17, 2008

Two Lads From Across the Pond Take The Challenge

All European hikes seem like a walk in the park compared to the adventure Paul Hayton of Eaglescliffe has embarked on.

The 31-year-old senior designer is on a mission to cover 3,100 miles on foot from Mexico to Canada.

Together with his old university pal, Simon Cook of London, Paul is walking across the USA following the Continental Divide Trail. The wilderness trail runs along The Rocky Mountain range crossing five states, 25 national forests, three national parks and three Indian reservations.

Carrying all they need to survive on their backs, the duo are walking more than 20 miles a day, six days a week for six months through mountainous terrain.

Paul and Simon started out on May 1 and have encountered heavy snow, water scarcity and their first bear.

Paul’s mum Barbara, 53, a machine operator from Eaglescliffe, said: “They are doing this to raise funds for The Cystic Fibrosis Trust as they both have friends who suffer from this currently incurable disease.

“Paul’s one of these lads who will push and push and he just lives for a challenge.”

Paul said: “Back in 2000 when we left university we made a pact to walk the Continental Divide Trail in 2008. We chose it purely because it was the longest walk we could find any information on.”

The former Egglescliffe School pupil and Yarm Army Cadet, said the San Juan mountains were one of the best sections of the trail so far.

Simon, 31, said: “There is something great about being the first people to make tracks in the snow but it does mean that you have to be constantly alert to where you are and where you’re heading.”

Paul said their shortest pit stop was when they almost came face to face with a bear.

“Before our packs hit the ground I heard a deep grunting or growling sound that sounded nothing like any animal we had heard before.

“Our packs were on our backs quicker than we took them off and as we moved away talking very loudly and making as much noise as possible I turned to see a bear the size of a small car pounding down the hill before it stopped under a tree a short distance away. We did not stick around to appreciate this animal.”

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

The Continental Divide Trail Planning

by Joseph Hazelbaker
The Continental Divide Trail (CDT) was created by Congress in 1978 and covers 3,100 miles through five U.S. states from the Canadian to Mexican borders. Nicknamed the "King of Trails" as it will be the longest continuous backcountry trail in the U.S., the CDT is scheduled to be complete in 2008. Currently, seventy percent of the trail is hikeable.

Tackling a trail of this magnitude requires complex planning. Due to its relative youth, and incompleteness, the CDT lacks the "thru-hiking" infrastructure and reconnaissance that more established trails like the Appalachian and Pacific Crest Trails have. If you are planning on hiking the CDT, your first stop should be the Continental Divide Trail Alliance (CDTA). There website is located at

CDTA manages the trail and publishes and sells several guidebooks and videos that will be critical for you to reference. These include the four volumes of the CDT official guide. You will also find books about the other two long trails in the U.S. helpful. For example, Ray Jardine's PCT Hiker's Handbook is considered not just a classic guidebook for the Pacific Crest Trail, but also a vital handbook for hiking long trails. Other examples of useful crossover resources are the AT Thru-Hiker Planner and the AT meal planner.

In addition, there are several books you should consider that address hiking long trails generally, such as Hiking the Triple Crown: How to Hike America's Longest Trails. Good sites for these resources are:

In order to plan hiking the entire length of the CDT, you'll need to put in a lot of planning, more so than in hiking any of the other long trails in the U.S. You will also, undoubtedly, need to do a lot of scouting in advance to determine suitable towns for mail drops and to create emergency contingency plans. The good news is, if you pull off a CDT thru-hike, you'll have an experience that's worth writing about and that few others in the world will have.

Happy trails!

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

The Continental Divide Trail

Spanning from the Canadian border down to Mexico, the Continental Divide Trail is one of the most incredible hikes in America. And you don't need to be superhuman to do it.

By James Ross Gardner

You're never climbing Everest. There's no Arctic expedition in the cards. But the almost finished Continental Divide Trail you can do. No extensive training. No specialized gear. Just six months of doing what even the most accomplished long-distance hikers refer to as walking. Walking. Thirty-one hundred miles of walking, through some of the most rugged terrain in the country, from the Canadian border to Mexico.

Compared with the nation's other two big scenic hikes, the Appalachian Trail and the Pacific Crest Trail, which see hundreds of annual through-hikers, the CDT sees about thirty people complete it each year. That will change as the trail improves. And this past spring, a new forty-mile section of trail in Wyoming opened, and another sixty miles are being blazed through the Colorado Rockies in time for the 2009 season. For now, hikers navigate "unfinished" sections with topo maps from the Continental Divide Trail Alliance ( -- and in some cases circumambulate via dirt roads. Despite the improvements, the CDT will still be tough enough for lifetime bragging rights. Montana is especially grueling: In Glacier National Park, you cross snow bridges in mid-June -- only to endure 90 degree heat in thistle-choked cow pastures a week later.

Your concerns are mostly about survival. Will I make the next ridge by nightfall? Where will I find water? But you're asking those questions amid what is arguably the most spectacular and variegated stretch of land in North America: from the red-rock skyscrapers of New Mexico's El Malpais National Monument to Montana's Chinese Wall (twelve miles of thousand-foot limestone cliffs).

Expert hikers do it in 145 days. Expect to take 180. And to have a story no one can top.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Opinion Is Split On Continental Divide Trail -- Push To Finish 3, 100-Mile Path Stirs Up Old Territorial Disputes

Opinion Is Split On Continental Divide Trail -- Push To Finish 3, 100-Mile Path Stirs Up Old Territorial Disputes

Los Angeles Times
MONARCH PASS, Colo. - In return for a handful of beads, a pound of flour, an American flag and a vague promise of firearms, Shoshone Indians granted Lewis and Clark safe passage over the Continental Divide nearly 200 years ago.
Modern trailblazers should be so lucky.
A well-heeled alliance of hikers and outdoor-equipment manufacturers has returned to the country made famous by the 19th-century explorers, this time to build the nation's longest wilderness hiking trail - one stretching the length of the Continental Divide, from Canada to Mexico.
The vision of a 3,100-mile route through some of the West's most rugged and historic countryside has won the approval of Congress, prompted contributions from a dozen major corporations, inspired hundreds of volunteers to work on the trail and led towns to link up their parks and jogging paths with the trail.
But not everyone welcomes the project; it has become a lightning rod for a broader debate about the impact of recreation and tourism on rural communities and remote, wild country.
The route runs through five states, three national parks - Glacier, Yellowstone and Rocky Mountain - a dozen wilderness areas and a score of national forests.
But it also goes by 300-year-old villages whose defiant residents still identify with their Spanish pioneer ancestors, and through Indian reservations and ranches where there are strong suspicions that modern-day trails bring trouble - urban refugees, environmental zealots, cultural conflicts, land-use disputes and a higher cost of living.
"We try to tell people we are not leading a wagon train full of cappuccino machines and California expatriates," said one member of the Continental Divide Trail Alliance, the nonprofit group leading the campaign to complete the trail.
But it's difficult to win over people like Moises Morales, a county commissioner from one of the old Spanish settlements who has helped bring the project to a halt at the Colorado-New Mexico border. "The last thing we need," he said, "is a bunch of backpackers and tree huggers tramping through our yards."
Tracing the crest of the Rocky Mountains for much of its length, the Continental Divide gets its name because it is the demarcation separating the headwaters of streams flowing east and west.
The impetus for a hiking trail following the entire route - making it longer than either the Appalachian Trail or the Pacific Crest Trail - came largely from two men.
The first champion, in the 1960s, was the late Benton MacKaye, a forester who decades earlier had suggested the idea of an official Appalachian Trail following the longest chain of mountains in the East.
He was succeeded by another devotee of the Appalachian Trail, Baltimore lawyer Jim Wolf, who set out to sell Congress on the idea of an even more spectacular route that would allow people to experience the American West as the pioneers did.
Congress endorsed creation of a Continental Divide Trail in 1978, but there was never enough money to get the job done. So there was only sporadic work on the project by the U.S. Forest Service, which began linking an extensive system of primitive logging roads and existing trails.
The government effort fell 1,000 miles short of completing the trail - setting the stage for the current push.
The trail is largely complete from the Canadian border south to the lower end of Yellowstone Park, and through virtually all of Colorado.
Hikers in Idaho can cross the same high passes used by Meriwether Lewis and William Clark during their 1804-1806 expedition to explore newly acquired Western territories.
In southern Wyoming, where the trail is not complete, its sponsors hope to track the wagon ruts of the old Oregon Trail for several miles.
In Colorado, it goes through ghost towns, past the sites of 19th-century forts and battlefields and over a 14,000-foot mountain. Hikers taking it through the San Juan Mountains don't cross a paved road for 146 miles. Farther north, it takes them down the main street of Grand Lake, Colo.
From snow-covered summits to waterless lowlands, the Divide can be a terror to traverse. During the summer, volunteers working on a section of the trail in northern Wyoming encountered many of the same hazards that 19th-century expeditions endured.
"Two mules temporarily lost. One washed downstream. One horseman kicked in the head. One camp torn up by a grizzly bear. One person unhappy with food, campsites, group leader, weather, etc.," surveyor Dick Inberg wrote in his notes of two weeks supervising trail work in the mountains south of Yellowstone Park.
Inberg's crew members were among more than 700 volunteers working this year to complete the job that was begun by the government, but which stalled by the early 1990s because of budget cuts and competing priorities.
The renewed enthusiasm to finish the trail is part of a surge of interest in outdoor recreation that is pumping new life and money into old mining and ranching communities up and down the Rockies.
Recognizing the benefits of high-profile public trails, the American Recreation Coalition, an industry trade group, began working with Bruce and Paula Ward - he was the president of the American Hiking Society, she a landscape architect. Headed by the couple, the 2-year-old Continental Divide Trail Alliance boasts an impressive list of business partners, including the Coleman Co., Vasque, REI, L.L. Bean, Walmart, Amgen and the Sporting Goods Manufacturing Association.
The alliance is counting on its corporate partners to pay at least one-third of the $10 million cost.
In return, sponsors will have their names engraved on trail heads and will be given the opportunity to mention the trail and their support on products and commercials. To fund the rest, the alliance is looking to foundations, environmental groups, individuals and the federal government.
Besides the physical work of clearing a trail where none exists and erecting signs and markers, the job involves acquiring easements across private property and trying to convince skeptical land owners and environmentalists that the project is worthwhile.
Meanwhile, some features of the trail have been the subject of continuing debate even among its sponsors - most notably the issue of motorized access by all-terrain vehicles, jeeps and snowmobiles.
Others worry that corporate sponsors will want to tame the trail, providing too much access and too many conveniences.
But it will require some doing to take the wilderness out of the trail. Passing through 12 official wilderness areas, where even mountain bikes are prohibited, the route runs through the last grizzly bear habitat in the lower 48 states and runs above timberline for many miles, exposing travelers to lightning and avalanches.