Continental Divide Trail

After 1.5 days of travel from southern California, Amtrack arrives at the East Glacier Station, northern Montana, July 14, 2017
Crossing into Alberta, Canada by foot, July 15, 2017, enroute to the Waterton Lakes northern CDT terminus

Anyone who has delve into the literature and forums about the Continental Divide Trail (CDT) have no doubt come across the phrase “embrace the brutality”, first reportedly coined by Mike “di-low” DiLorenzo in 2006, along with lots of other hype that its a difficult trail, largely in navigation, terrain, and weather. Since then, hikers like Yogi, have branded this phrase in their literature on the trail, but most of it os just an ego stroker! Having succeeded with through hikes of the AT, TA, and PCT without a hitch, I decided not to be intimidated by such phrases. What I discovered was that the CDT was every bit as easy to complete as any other hike. This is not to say it didn’t have its challenges!!!

The navigation was my greatest concern. I reviewed blogs, but mostly the colossal 11 X 17 format Jonathan Lay map set provided on Yogi’s Triple Crown on-line store. The maps were different than others in that they had a compass rose printed on each one, with coordinates for GPS for easily and rapidly pinpointing an accurate location on each map page. The maps were still at a scale that I found useless, and I had not learned until I was half way through Montana, that the electronic version was much easier to navigate on with a smart phone. By Anaconda, I sent the remainder of the maps back home. They were cumbersome in weight and useless to me. I found even the most obscure, least traveled sections of trail easy to navigate without even glancing at a map.

Highline Trail, Glacier National Park, Montana, CDT southbound, July 16, 2017

One decision that I’ve always placed at great importance in the planning of my long distance hikes, is the departure date. Timing is everything when it comes to successfully completing an entire long distance trail in a season! By my 3rd hike, I had established my pace and could accurately estimate within reason, where I’d be a month into the hike, or even when I would finish. The hurdle for the southbound CDT hiker is the Colorado Rockies! Its well known that winter season can start at any time in the fall, and conditions on exposed ridges could be life threatening. I had to also factor in where I wanted to start. The CDT, unlike the other two transcontinental trails that complete the Triple Crown, has multiple alternates throughout out the route, including the northern and southern terminus. I was hell-bent on hiking the Highline Route across the Ahern Drift in Glacier. The route starts at the Waterton Lakes Resort, Alberta, Canada. Naturally, a passport was needed as well as the trail to be open!!! Glacier NP determined each year when this route was passable by southbound hikers. By late summer-early fall, the park blasts the Ahern Drift for northbound hikers planning to finish in Canada. After checking in with the park a few weeks ahead, I set the start date at Waterton Lakes, for July 15, 2017.

Dawn on Waterton Lakes, Alberta, Continental Divide Trail, July 15, 2017
Ahern Drift, Highline Trail, Continental Divide Trail, Glacier National Park, July 16. 2017