We try to keep in mind that we don’t always have control in situations. This was evident back in April when we postponed our CDT (mostly) northbound hike. Now we are in a similar situation, where conditions on the ground don’t align with our intentions.
Instead of being thwarted by COVID, this time it was the weather and snow conditions that caused us to rethink our plan.
The miles we hiked in the snow before getting off in Jackson were pretty eye-opening. The reality of how slow the hiking was in snowy conditions was definitely something we needed to take into consideration. We knew that we had a 30ish mile stretch right after Jackson and then another 50ish mile stretch after the next town stop in Darby. We had expected the snow to melt faster in June, but the temps just haven’t been super warm.
When we got off in Jackson, we spent hours (literally) hashing out all the possible options we could think of for going forward with completing the CDT, while avoiding the snowy northern MT miles for now. Over breakfast at the Jackson Lodge and in the lounge of the hostel, we finally came up with what we thought would be our best “next move.”
Since 2016, we have been hiking trails between 200 and 800 miles in length. It is a lot easier to plan for these types of trail, as the chunk of time is very manageable…you stay in one season and you pick the best time for that area. The CDT doesn’t allow for that type of relaxed planning, since you are trying to squeeze out as much time as possible for completing it and that usually means you are pushing into some non-ideal seasons.
What we have decided to do is to break the CDT up into these more manageable sections and hike them out of order, but hopefully in a more appropriate season for each section. Because Colorado has had a quick melt-off this year, we are headed down to Colorado to start hiking in Steamboat Springs. We will head south until we get through the San Juan Mountains in southern CO.
While we haven’t locked ourselves into the section following Colorado, chances are that we will head back to MT and finish the section to the Canadian border. Then head to Wyoming and fill in the gap from West Yellowstone to Steamboat Springs before heading down for the final 800ish miles and finishing with the New Mexico portion of the CDT. But, since we’ve accepted that we can’t always control the situation, this plan is certainly up for change.
This new plan definitely has us jumping around on the trail in a way we have never done before. It feels kinda weird, but we are excited about the prospect of hiking different sections at their best times. We’re lucky to be hiking the trail with friends, since we definitely won’t be hiking with the crowd this time.
Because of the weather and the preparations for getting to Colorado (big drive), we have been off the trail for five days and we are eager to get hiking again! Hopefully by tomorrow night we will be sleeping on the trail again and ready for a long snowless stretch of hiking in beautiful Colorado.