Thursday, September 5, 2013

Starting Date?

This year, I started on May 24th from Crazy Cook with 3 other hikers. If I had things to do over with, I would have left at least 2 weeks earlier, and this is why.

Actually, I will be hiking the trail again in the next few years [if I am lucky enough to put it together]. And if I decide to go North Bound, I will depart in mid to late April for a couple of reasons.

First and foremost, when it is hot on the CDT in southern New Mexico, the water carries are heavy and long. All 4 of us were departing from pretty much every water source with 2 gallons. This became counter productive. We spent a lot of time resting our sore shoulders in the little shade we could find. The umbrellas are still a must, but as you can see by the picture above, there is not much shade for the 1st 150 miles. Although I hiked New Mexico in 3 weeks, it really was not worth the agony, dealing with the extreme heat.

The next reason I would leave earlier, is the fact that it would have been nice to spend some more time in town, and a few less miles during typical days. There were a couple stops that I just blew right through, and wish I would of stayed longer. Also New Mexico has a few places along the trail that are historical sites that deserve a longer visit.  But one of the most important reasons would be to remain strong and mentally prepare myself for alls to come.

 Now because I already hiked it late, and saw little snow in the Southern San Juans, I would like to experience a early snow season there. I have hiked the Sierra a few times in early season, and there is nothing like it, but what I saw in the San Juans, left over from a late snow fall, made me want to experience the snow and its melt off.

Also, there are the fires! I believe as far as fires go, its just a gamble. The later you leave, the more chances you are going to have them. They are beginning to be part of the trail experience these recent years. I was the very last person to make it through the Fire in Southern Colorado this year, and everyone behind me had to either skip, flip, or hitch around it. This is not my first fire hiking out west, but believe it when I say it was the largest. For me, there is no flipping, skipping, or hitching. When my footsteps are stopped for any reason, my trip is over and will have to begin another year. For me Thru-hiking is more than just doing all the trail, its about connecting footsteps continuously from beginning to end. I respect others decisions, but that is mine. So avoiding the fires is a big plus to starting early.

Next is the quality of the water sources. I noticed that some of the water sources were not only drying up, but polluted by people. You could see the oily residue on the surface, and when you do not treat, who knows the filth you are subjecting yourself to. So cleaner water, especially in New Mexico would be a big plus.

Now, there would surely be a down side to all this. One would be, carrying more cold weather gear, as well as snow gear. But in reality, it is a lot lighter than the heavy water carries. Also the possibility of foul weather in New Mexico. And probably the hardest thing to deal with, for me, would be the fact that you would not see very many people. The CDT is a lonely trail, and in general, people will leave early May and finish early to mid September. So leaving before, and staying ahead would be a lonely hike. I would not want to complete after Labor Day for work purposes, but if someone who wanted to spend a lot of time on the trail, mid September is about as late as I would want to be in Glacier National Park. Any later, and you are gambling your completion.