Outdoors Archives

I like to go outdoors a lot. Primarily hiking, occasionally camping, and sometimes other fun activities.

Watching me work

While I was working in the front yard this afternoon, a dove stopped by for several hours.

Dove, watching me work
“Hey, whatchu up to down there?”

How to Coordinate a Supported Thru-Hike

It started with a spreadsheet. For his northbound thru-hike of the Continental Divide Trail (CDT) in 2016, Dad cataloged the towns where he planned to resupply, i.e., buy food, mail food to himself, and/or pick up food he’d mailed previously. Sometimes the trail would meander right through the center of town, but most of the time he’d have to roadwalk or hitch, often a great distance from the trail. Generally he’d aim to resupply every 80–120 miles (or every 4–6 days at a 20 mile-per-day pace).

Excerpt of Dad's 2016 CDT resupply plan
Excerpt of Dad’s 2016 CDT resupply plan

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Flipflop Slackpack

While attempting to thru-hike the CDT in 2016, Dad began to suffer from some respiratory issues. He had reached a remote spring, about 15 miles south of Cuba, New Mexico, where he found two guys doing some maintenance work. They offered him a ride to town, and that was all he needed to throw in the towel. This is how Cuba (really the spring south of Cuba) had become the finish line for the “long-ass section hike” he was attempting this year. Now, an early snowstorm had derailed those plans, 150 miles north of the spring. But since we could stop by Cuba on the way back to Austin, Dad started thinking that he could at least knock off those lingering 15 miles into Cuba if there wasn’t much snow, leaving a funny little 135-mile section of the CDT as a project for another time. On the drive down, we discovered that there was no snow south of Chama. Dad said, as much to himself as to me, that he’d consider continuing northbound beyond Cuba (what thru-hikers call a “flipflop”), provided that he didn’t hit heavy snow on the trail and that he could slackpack every day—a tall order that would require finding Jeepable roads across the trail every 15 miles.

Dad (aka Tartan) returning to the spring, 15 miles south of Cuba, New Mexico
Returning to the spring, south of Cuba, 4 years later

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Snowbound on the CDT

When Dad arrived at Elwood Pass for our 28th meetup, I quipped that his CDT hike was at risk of being overshadowed by my four-wheelin’ adventure. I’d arrived not 10 minutes before he appeared, having spent a good 2 hours “crawling” up to the pass, the whole time in low range, four-wheel drive. Two times on the way I had to pull over, park, and walk the “road” ahead to figure out how to negotiate the steep and rocky obstacles, one of which I couldn’t surmount until my 3rd attempt. Given what I’ve driven through, it’s astounding that I had yet to puncture or otherwise destroy a tire on this journey. We planned to camp there, but it was only 2pm—Dad had slackpacked 17.3 miles from Wolf Creek Pass—and he wanted to keep going. His next segment was a long 50.4 miles, and if he could chip away at it, the following 3 days would be that much easier. So he resupplied in a flash, switched to backpacking mode, and I got back in the Jeep, winding my way on dirt roads to our last meetup in Colorado.

La Jeep on the road to Elwood Pass
The road to Elwood Pass

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Resupply in the San Juans

The 82.2 miles of trail between Stony Pass and Wolf Creek Pass far exceeded Dad’s desired max of 45 miles (or 3 days) between meetups. It would require hiking for 5 or 6 days in the notoriously difficult San Juan Mountains, while weighed down with 5 or 6 days of food. To put it mildly, the prospect of this terrified him. You’d think by now it would be “old hat” for a man who has thru-hiked both the PCT and the AT, but as he frequently confesses, “I have a deep-rooted fear of the unknown.” He also admits that our schedule of meetups has “spoiled” him—not necessarily that it’s made him “soft”, but that seeing a familiar face so frequently has helped him stay motivated. Since I couldn’t accompany him the whole way (I’ve got a Jeep, a wolf, and a cabbage…), I came up with a 5-day plan to meet in the “middle”.

Day 1: Departing Stony Pass, Dad hiked southbound, while I drove ahead to Wolf Creek Pass (and spent the night there).

La Jeep on the road heading down from Stony Pass
The road heading down from Stony Pass

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