Memories and Reflections

Truckin‘, I’m a goin’ home, whoa-oh baby, back where I belong.
Back home, sit down and patch my bones, and get back truckin’ on.”
(Robert Hunter)

Sept 20: Near the end: gettin’ close and gettin’ cold! (Note: all remaining pics in chronological order)

In the present case, patching my bones may take some time. As I write this I’m wavering under the weight of a yet-to-be-identified malady that gradually sapped my energy during the last few weeks of the hike and then roared into the foreground within hours of completing the trail. Hopefully the doctors will get a handle on it soon and my rebound can commence in earnest. Meanwhile, I’m glad to be resting at home and finally putting some rear view mirror observations to paper.

April 16, Gutterspoon
April 29: Mercury (Akuna and Cougar in back)

In retrospect, I found the CDT as different from the AT as the AT was from day hikes I used to do in Lebanon Hills Regional Park years ago. While the AT features more elevation gain and loss (i.e. continuous ups and downs), in my opinion that is the only dimension by which the AT can be considered more difficult than the CDT. The Continental Divide Trail stretched me far beyond my previous limits: physically, psychologically, emotionally. I’m simply not the same person that started the hike and doubt I’ll ever morph back into who I was.

April 29: MAV and Birdy (before MAV’s SOBO start)
May 5: OB, Locomotive

Despite my current condition (relentless nausea, unreliable bowels, a level of weakness I’ve never known), I loved this hike. The old adage about “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” seems apropos. I spent most of the hike alone, which was not at all what I expected (nor desired) going into the hike, but something I made my peace with and- eventually- embraced wholeheartedly. If you’re reading this and thinking to yourself that you’re in the market for a very personal, very isolated wilderness challenge, then this may be the hike for you. I don’t think most CDT thru-hikers become as “spent” as I did but I do think that many can relate to the very solo nature of the hike.

May 5: Cheshire Cat (with Stella Blue), OB, Locomotive
May 9: Hammer, Impala at Ghost Ranch (where I eventually returned to conclude my hike)
May 10: Impala in the cabin from the film “City Slickers”
May 17: Atlantic City, sentimental favorite

Over the past month I was often asked to sum up what I “learned” during my five month trek. In my case, the lesson that resonates the clearest has to do with redefining “luxury.” To the person sleeping in a cold tent every night, digging holes to poop in daily, fetching water from milky, stagnant ponds and cow troughs, surviving on a steady diet of lousy junk food, scratching one’s legs raw from a thick coating of fly bites, keeping a watchful eye for all manner of dangerous wildlife and flora that stab painfully from every direction, changing layers all day long as the cold -> warmer -> hot -> chilly -> cold again cycle repeats ad infinitum, battling precipitation in all forms (but predominantly hail), to the person who spends five months in such conditions, returning to a world of clean sheets and warm blankets, sit down toilets, refreshing drinks and showers on demand, fruits and vegetables, insect and varmint free indoor living, clean laundry and shelter from the storms feel like nothing less than winning the luxury lottery. I am profoundly moved by this hiking experience and hope that years from now I’ll continue to carry with me the gratitude I feel today for the simplest things in life- the “table stakes” that can so easily be taken for granted. I loved this hike, I love how it stretched me and I hope the change is lasting.

May 18: Calvin, Shane, Carmela and Nick
June 15: MAV and Hammer in Glacier
June 15: Cougar, Paya, Hammer, Moonshine Pete, MAV
June 16: Cougar

I’m bored of posting scenic shots so I’m turning this final post into a chronological tribute/recap to some of the people I met along the way. While on balance I hiked most of the trail alone, I also made the acquaintance of- and had the privilege to hike with- some dear, dear new (and old) friends along the way: people with whom I hope to never lose touch. I hope you enjoy this final set of pictures- some of which have shown up in earlier posts. Unfortunately I can’t find pictures of everyone I had the pleasure of meeting or hiking with, but the ones included here should at least paint the broader picture of the great souls I encountered between Mexico and Canada. Thanks again for your interest in this adventure and my sincere regards to you all. See you down the trail! Max

June 16: Hammer with his zip chip
June 22: T-Pain
July 1: Hammer…a very memorable morning hiking into Lincoln after he pulled a 35 to catch me in “the Bob”
July 2: MAV, Swish, Birdy in Lincoln, MT
July 13: Jerry, MAV at the Montana Folk Festival in Butte
August 12: Airplane Mode
August 14: Rango, Wingit and ?? in the Wind River Range
August 17: Tristan, Scifi, Eagle Cow, Wow, Mr. President
September 4: Masa (Not Yet)
September 26: Biscuit on the Colorado/New Mexico border

8 thoughts on “Memories and Reflections”

  1. Maxheap, congratulations! This is Montana here. From Montana and trailname as well. We met on the AT in 2015, you SOBO, me NOBO, outside Damascus, where the Creeper trail intersects the AT. Glad you got to hike CDT. When we met on the AT I was on a trip that started on the CDT the August prior. I’ve worked a bit since 2015, wandered even more. Hope you are well. Liked you immediately when we met for that short time.

    1. Montana! I sure do remember you- and as I recall we sat and had a snack together on a bench next to the Virginia Creeper trail- I think I was munching on an apple. Great to hear from you and so glad to reconnect after all this time! I had to wade through a ton of recent spam comments to find yours- its a bit of a scourge with these WordPress sites. Anyway, I hope you are well and I’d love to stay in touch! Any more hikes planned any time soon? I’m keen on attempting the PCT in the near future and am also interested in a coast-to-coast walk of some kind, though I’m not sure yet it I’d try the ADT or not. Anyway, Thanks for the comment and I’ll send you a note via email too just in case you don’t check back on my Maxheap.net. Cheers!

    1. Thanks Renee! Sorry it took a while to reply (just saw this today) but so glad you got a chance to view my blog. And it was great seeing you last week in Minnesota! Cheers!

  2. Glad to see you have #2 under your belt. Looking forward to some play-by-play over a beer (ON ME!!!) when you visit MN. You are an inspiration to all of us wanna-be hikers and to “Do-You!!!” Hope you get better and can’t wait to chat soon.

    1. Thanks Ali- looking forward to catching up! I should be visiting Minnesota very soon! All the best and thanks for tuning in!

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