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Steamboat Magazine

Over the Hill

07/10/2018 12:51PM ● By Alesha Damerville

Image from Noah Wetzel

By Dan Greeson 

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS- Forty might sound old to you, but in trail-years, the Continental Divide Trail is still just a youngster. Younger than its siblings in the “Triple Crown” of trails (the Pacific Crest Trail and Appalachian Trail), the CDT is still in the process of being marked and blazed – a process which the Continental Divide Trail Coalition hopes to complete this summer. Steamboat Springs is among the few communities that serve as gateways to the CDT – let’s get a little better acquainted with the trail.

Tips and Tales from the Trail

Two experienced CDT hikers share what they’ve learned from their journeys. 

Eden “Starfish” Hafernik

A Triple Crown hiker (someone who has completed the Continental Divide, Pacific Crest and Appalachian Trails), Starfish is a through-hiking (walking an entire trail, end-to-end) veteran.

• “There really is only one way to prepare and get in shape for a through-hike, and that is to do it! It’s best to start out with lower mile days to ease your body into it and to get your ‘trail legs.’ After two or three weeks you’ll be flying along.”

• “I would recommend the last week of June or first week of July for a southbound start date.”

• “Never sacrifice a warm night’s sleep for a lighter sleeping bag or quilt. It’s worth the extra weight. Your body will thank you.”

• “You’ll encounter all manner of weather and terrain on the CDT. An umbrella is ideal in the desert sun in New Mexico, micro spikes in snow, and it’s always, always a good idea to have rain gear.”

• “There are CDT navigation apps you can use, which work even with your phone on airplane mode to save battery.”

• “If the thought of quitting crosses your mind, remember this quote from William James: ‘Beyond the very extreme of fatigue and distress, we may find amounts of ease and power we never dreamed ourselves to own; sources of strength never taxed at all because we never push through the obstruction.’”

 Kathleen Lynch

Lynch through-hiked the CDT in 2015, and now works at Big Agnes, where she planned the company’s 2018 CDT Trail Adoption, Employee Relay and CDT trail maintenance, among other projects.

• “You can’t really train for a through-hike. Imagine gaining 40 pounds overnight and making your full-time job hiking – your body will revolt. The best thing you can do pre-hike is break in your shoulders and your shoes (yes, shoes – boots are for skiing).”

• “The crucial stuff to pack is small and cheap: a trash compactor bag (to use as a pack liner or emergency shelter), dental floss (for repairs and cavity prevention), zinc oxide (the only sunscreen that works for me and great for preventing chafing) and powdered lemonade (masks a multitude of sins when you have to drink cow poop ditch water).”

• “I think for some folks, the solitude is hard, but for me, hiking solo is the only way I can stay sane, so I loved it.”

• “The Idaho/Montana border was the toughest for me. When Lewis and Clark reached the CDT in southern Montana, they thought they would crest the Divide and see the Pacific Ocean on the other side. Instead they saw Idaho. I deeply relate to what that must have felt like.”

• “You have to know how to read terrain on a map. Also, learn what you and your hiking partner’s shoe prints look like. Being able to retrace steps or find a lost hiker based on their footprints can save lives.”

• “I had a toenail get so infected I had to get it surgically removed, I maced myself with bear spray in my tent, I shredded all my gear through sheer stupidity, I got lost in the Bob Marshall Wilderness for four days, and I hitchhiked with some seriously questionable drivers. And yes, I could have prevented all those things from happening and had a smoother hike. But also, all those things were essential to humble me and break me down and ultimately prove to myself that I can get through anything one step at a time.”

• “Best piece of hiking advice I ever got: ‘Never quit on a bad day.’ Stop at 11 a.m. and set up your tent if you have to. Eat all your good snacks. No matter how rough it gets, just give it one more day.”

For more on the Continental Divide visit:

-Eden “Starfish” Hafernik’s Instagram: @starfishhikes

-The Continental Divide Trail Coalition

Instagram: @cdtcoalition 

-Big Agnes Border to Backyard Rally

Instagram: @bigagnes #bordertobackyard

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