Here’s our video of our whole crazy fun adventure hiking the CDT!
You may recall from CDT posts #3 and #4 that our son, Philip, hiked with Og for his first week of the Continental Divide Trail in April 2015 from Crazy Cook on the border of Mexico. They trudged north across the New Mexico desert in searing heat with little water and undefined trail, but had a blast, of course. As Chief Resident in Ophthalmology at USC in Los Angeles, Philip couldn’t get time off to finish with Og last August as he made it to Canada. So it’s even more meaningful that Philip was able to complete Og’s final week with him this September 2016, in the formidable Weminuche Wilderness, previously impassable with deep snow.
The mountains of the Weminuche Wilderness are the most remote on the whole CDT, and, between 11,000 and 13,000 feet, among the highest.
The weather window to hike the Weminuche is narrow. Last winter’s snow had finally melted, but Og and Philip had snow their first night out, then storms with heavy rain, hail, and sleet for part of most days/nights after.
They hiked more than twenty miles a day. Given the steep climbs and descents on difficult terrain, Philip, who sailed through five Ironman triathlons, said “The Weminuche is the toughest physical challenge I’ve ever faced!”
Route-finding was especially difficult, and they got lost at least once a day.
The views from the alpine tundra were spectacular, though!
The sunsets allowed for deep reflection.
Almost out of food on their fifth day, they raced to their final destination at Elk Park, where the Durango Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad train picks up the occasional backpacker who flags it down in the wilderness.
Here we are, Og, Intrepid, She Who Must Be Obeyed (see CDT post #33 for the story of our trail-names), and Philip, in Durango celebrating the end of a 3,100-mile journey on the Continental Divide Trail.
Thank you deeply for all your support, cheering us on every step of the way. We keep you in our hearts as Og, Intrepid, and She Who Must Be Obeyed head for a week-long silent meditation retreat on our way home, to absorb the profound transformation of our wilderness experience.
You may know from CDT post #22 that Og was given his trail-name by Beacon, Problem Bear and Maverick as they approached the CDT’s Canadian border last summer. Porter became known as “the other guy” by thru-hikers who knew the other three from previous hikes. They shortened it to OG, and it morphed into Og to signify my heroic cave man! On our thru-hike of the Pacific Crest Trail, our trail-name was “Porter-and-Gail” because we were always together. But now that Og is Og, what should be my trail-name?
“I’m intrepid,” I reassured Og as I drove him up ridiculously steep boulder-strewn dirt roads to various trailheads. “Intrepid!” he said. “That’s got to be your trail-name.” Works for me, especially since I’m emotionally intrepid as well, watching him hike into the wilderness without knowing whether I’ll ever see him again.
Intrepid also for hiking solo on CDT trails, here high above the clouds at 12,000 feet.
Intrepid for driving into the wild blue yonder on deserted roads to find him at a trailhead many days later.
And not giving up until I do!
“Everyone’s got a trail-name but me!” Amber said. “Henceforth, mine shall be ‘She Who Must Be Obeyed!'”
Although Og climbed the eastern side of Colorado’s Collegiate Peaks earlier this summer when the western side was impassable with snow, he was determined to go back to hike the western Collegiates, the official CDT. These spectacular peaks are some of the highest on the CDT, with elevations above 12,000 feet. From Marshall, Monarch, and Cottonwood Passes, I hiked up behind him for a few miles on steep rocky trails.
Most of the snow had melted on the alpine tundra, but it was critical he get over exposed ridges before the afternoon storms, with lightning, hail, and torrential rains.
Even so, he got soaked and chilled during a storm that raged all night. For a ground cloth under his eight-ounce tarp, he uses only the handmade chaps that cover his legs while hiking in cold rain.
“There’s such a thing as going too light!” he said when I picked him up for resupply. I gasped. I never thought I’d hear him, ultralight gearhead that he is, utter those words. He agonized over whether to buy a real tent rather than die of hypothermia in the upcoming Weminuche Wilderness. His tarp drying over a lamp, he set up our new Hilleberg Anjan 2 in our hotel room in Durango.
Amber had her own tough decision to make. “Malbec or champagne?” she fretted. “I know–both!” So a good time is being had by all.
I knew something was wrong when Og struggled down the trail toward me, instead of bounding as he usually did with trekking poles outstretched in greeting. “I’m really sick,” he said. “I can’t eat, and if I can’t eat, I can’t hike.” He looked as bedraggled as these trees.
But with the indomitable spirit of the bald eagle in his photo above, Og made it over the CDT’s Colorado border into Wyoming. We succeeded in our goal of hiking from northern New Mexico to southern Wyoming, the section impassable because of snow last midsummer!
I drove nine hours straight from Steamboat Springs, CO to pick up Og at the top of Battle Pass, WY, then across Wyoming and home to Boulder where he took a week off to recover from a viral gastroenteritus and exhaustion.
But we’re not done yet! Since Og hiked the eastern side of the Collegiate Peaks when the western side was impassable with snow in late June, we’re now back to hike the higher, tougher, western side–the official CDT. Here we are, starting up at Monarch Pass.
Not to be outdone, Amber helped Nathan (the mascot of Tom and Sheila, see our previous post) earn his Boy Scout merit badge in kissing.