Most of the following are questions I’ve been asked before. I’ll also try to update this list with new questions that come up along the way.
What is ‘Maxheap’
- a binary tree data structure used in computing
- a cartoon character drawn by my son Oliver as a kid
- the ‘trail name’ I self-adopted during my first thru-hike
- a self-indulgent blog site that serves as my hiking journal
- an incorrigible state of mind
- not a prodigious accomplishment left in a cathole
What is a ‘thru’ hike?
Most people use this term to describe an attempt to walk the entire length of a long distance trail in one go, most typically, within a contiguous 12 month period. That is in contrast to hiking an entire trail incrementally over a longer period of time (‘section’ hiking), or hiking small portions of a trail for very short periods (‘day’ hiking).
One distinction I’ve observed has to do with mindset. A thru-hiker tends to carry an attitude throughout their hike that “I am currently living full time on this trail,” whereas a more typical mindset for non thru-hikers seems to be “I love hiking and am trying to squeeze some in without completely disrupting my life.” There’s something in the thru-hiker’s extended commitment (read: lunacy) that seems to me to stand apart.
That said, a thru-hike is almost never a completely uninterrupted nature walk. One occasionally drops back into civilization to snag a new supply of food or fuel, repair broken gear, get a shower, sleep indoors, reconnect with loved ones, wash those disgusting socks, update a lousy blog, travel off trail for a wedding, graduation or other commitment, and so on.
Why the Continental Divide Trail (CDT)?
After completing an Appalachian Trail (AT) thru-hike in 2015, I became increasingly interested in challenging myself to try another. I spent a considerable amount of time researching other long distance trails and ended up deciding on the CDT for several reasons:
- stark contrast to the AT
- longer trail: almost 1000 miles longer than the AT
- higher elevation: peaks often twice those on the AT
- fewer hikers: only about 10% of the AT
- more ruggedness/wilderness: no shelter system like the AT, far fewer surrounding communities
- relative proximity to home (Eastern Washington)
- the CDT passes through the Rockies as well as through parts of Glacier, Yellowstone and Grand Teton, three treasures of our national park system
- the CDT is part of the U.S. ‘Triple Crown‘ of long distance hiking
Why start northbound (NOBO)?
Mainly because one can start a northbound CDT hike much earlier in the year than a southbound (SOBO) and I want to get started now. Also, on the AT I hiked SOBO, and even though it was fun, going downhill the whole way makes you dizzy.
Truth be told, if things go according to plan I’ll actually be attempting a flip-flop hike this time.
What’s a ‘flip-flop’ and why do it?
The term ‘flip flop’ refers to a thru-hike that includes long stretches of hiking in opposite directions. Most typically, a flip-flop thru-hiker begins at one terminus (like typical thru-hikers) and walks toward the opposite terminus, until some point along the way where the hiker leaves the trail to travel to the opposite terminus, resuming the hike in the opposite direction back to the point at which the directional ‘flip’ occurred. Impassable weather, forest fires, schedule coordination with other hikers and off-trail commitments are all potential motivations for a flip-flop thru-hike. Many of the long distance trails are now encouraging thru-hikers to consider this option to reduce the concentrated environmental impact of hoardes of hikers starting concurrently from the same point.
Why not use Facebook for this?
I’ll probably post a one-time note to FB to let folks know I’m going hiking again, but I just don’t enjoy most of the ‘social media’ platforms and how they make me feel.
And please– if my posts ever make you feel like your life sucks in comparison to mine or that I’m a condescending dick or whatever, by all means ditch me immediately and go be with people who don’t do that to you. I mean that sincerely. I hate that stuff and the idea I might be doing it to someone else positively repels me.
Why no advertising or endorsements?
I suppose it’s just a personal preference.
On the advertising front, I prefer information that is free from commercial content, something that seems increasingly difficult to find. Also, in this particular case, I’m not trying to get others to fund my hike, I’ve got nothing to sell, and no political, religious or social axes to grind. I’ve got loads of opinions on that stuff, but we’d probably have to talk face-to-face for you to hear them.
With respect to trying to “promote” myself or the hike or the blog or whatever by soliciting sponsorships or media tie-ins or what-have-you, I don’t mind the exposure at all (otherwise, why do a public blog?) and in fact I gave multiple interviews during my AT hike (skip ahead to minute 48 of this podcast if you’d like to listen to one), but I just don’t want to feel pressured to come up with content or cool pictures or whatever for someone else’s deadlines.
I guess I really value autonomy.
Why don’t you carry a cook stove?
Another personal preference.
I actually started out the AT with a cook stove, mess kit, fuel, etc. but ended up abandoning all of that after the first 100 miles to reduce pack weight and simplify daily trail chores. I always managed to get my fix of hot meals and hot coffee in town and the absence of such never seemed to bother me while on the trail. Having said that, if my tastes change on the CDT, then I’ll just have to modify my approach accordingly.
And yeah, at this point, there aren’t many foods I haven’t managed to shove between two halves of a smushed bagel.