By: AHS Ambassador, Jennifer Pharr Davis
The Continental Divide Trail is not easy to get to, but it is worth the effort.
This past August I flew to Colorado, met my hiking partner at the airport, and then we picked up a rental car and drove 6 hours to Rock Springs, WY. From there we took a two hour shuttle to Elkpark Trailhead outside of Pinedale. Finally, we hiked a 12-mile spur trail to reach our ultimate hiking destination, the C.D.T. After a full two days of travel spent getting to the trail we were immediately rewarded with awesome views of the Wind River Range.
The next day we scrambled over Knapsac Col, which offered technical boulder hopping, loose scree fields and awesome views of Gannet Peak (the tallest mountain in Wyoming.).
The challenge of navigating Knapsac Col left me exhausted and grateful to follow a more defined dirt path out of the Winds to Green River Lakes. The large bodies of water in this section were gorgeous and lured several moose out of the woods and into our line of sight.
I would soon long for that clear abundant water as we traversed the high grass plains that define the divide near Dubois, Wyoming. We crossed over Hwy 26, and soon the forest started to show the evidence of previous wildfires, meanwhile present fires in Idaho and Wyoming left a hazy smoke in the sky that had traveled on the wind and settled near Yellowstone.For four days my friend and I did not see anyone else on the trail. Then we entered Yellowstone National Park, where we still had the backcountry lakes, geysers and hot springs primarily to ourselves. When we arrived at Old Faithful Village we were forced to share the scenery, but the incredible geothermal activity helped keep our attention focused on nature and not the crowds.
We left behind Wyoming to travel a day on the border of Montana and Idaho before finishing our journey with a celebratory dinner and a very long shower in West Yellowstone, MT.
Even after hiking over 12,000 miles on six different continents the trail continues to offer challenges, surprises, and respite. For example, getting snorted off the trail by two buffalo certainly ranks high on my list of interesting animal encounters. After 3 days of travel and 11 days or 260 miles of backpacking I returned home eager to share my stories, but also with a renewed enthusiasm for work and a deep appreciation for my family.
I am working on the Continental Divide Trail in sections, which sometimes doesn’t seem to make sense. This trail is exceptionally long, very difficult to access at points, and often hard to navigate. It will most likely take me 10 -15 years to complete the entire path. But each time I make the effort to connect my soul with the wilderness, each time I go out into the middle of nowhere and risk getting lost, I come back better equipped to navigate, endure, and embrace my everyday life. And I come back ready to start planning my travel and logistics for next year’s section hike.
Jennifer Pharr Davis is a hiker, author, adventure speaker, and 2012 National Geographic Adventurer of the Year. She is the founder and owner of Blue Ridge Hiking Company, an Asheville, NC-based guiding service that strives “to make the wilderness accessible and enjoyable” for hikers of all ages, genders, and ability levels. Read more about Jen, HERE.
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