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Thread: CDT Sobo

  1. #1
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    Default CDT Sobo

    Hi all! First time posting on here, but just wanted to see if anyone had any good pointers from their experience. Definitely a different ballgame when looking for any advice on the CDT.

    -Any sobo hikers have any good tips that you learned after doing this trail.
    -Accurate gear checklist posted anywhere?
    -Thoughts on the snow conditions for this upcoming season.
    -Any good facebook groups or pages for 2017 thru? (I'm more active on facebook)
    -Anyone planning on sobo CDT as of now for this year?

    Thanks for any replies in advanced.
    Get wild! Live free! Be happy!

  2. #2
    Registered User srvand02's Avatar
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    Hey there FrogLegz!

    I thru hiked the CDT southbound in 2015 and it was an amazing experience. Here a few things that I can say about heading in that direction:

    - Montana is beautiful in the summer but is definitely a rougher start than down in the desert. I had nothing but blue skies in Glacier and had just a few times where I walked on snow; thankfully I didn't bring an ice axe or crampons (call the Backcountry office before your trip about snow!!). When I got to the Bob, however, the weather went sour. On one weird day in July it got down to 20 degrees which was a RECORD low for that day and it snowed fat wet flakes that clung to everything. When it wasn't snowing I'd still wake up most morning and go through the "carwash" (thick vegetation that grows on both sides of the trail that's covered in dew). Simply put: Be prepared to be wet. Also, be ready for late nights and early mornings as the sun sets at like 11 and comes back up around 5. I woke up on my second day thinking it was 730am and it turned out to be 5:10.
    - I went the Anaconda route and had a friend go towards Butte. When we reconnected he said he wished he would have gone Anaconda, but reported it as fun with no trouble hitching the apparently hard Butte hitch.
    - Yellowstone, after being told by countless Nobos that it was a horrible section, and albeit packed with tourists at Old Faithful and anywhere paved, was an amazing place. I guess it's because going southbound you're not spoiled by the Wind River Range which you'll hit afterwards. If the weather is good, do most of the alternative routes there in the WRR. Knapsack Col and the Cirque will forever be two of my favorite days spent outside.
    - THE GREAT BASIN SUCKS. It's barren, void of good water and shade. When your maps says *dirty water here* IT MEANS IT. I had to drink from a stagnant, crap-filled pond about two days in and even after filtering and boiling I could still taste cow turd. When you finally hit the spring that is guarded by a fence itll be like stepping into a damn oasis. If somehow you can rent/buy/borrow/find a bike, ride it.
    - If you can go for it, do the San Juans. I was almost all the way through when a snow storm passed and I tried to wait it out an entire day (an entire day stuck in my tent with nothing to read) but had to bail as it was continually getting worse. Luckily when I finally found a road a forest service ranger passed and (although not suppose to) gave me a ride to Pagosa Springs.
    - On Bear Spray.... everybody had it except me. Call me what you will, but I enjoyed the pound saved. I only saw one bear the entire trip, too, unfortunately from a car while hitching in MT. And yet I did come across some tracks near my campsite in Wyoming... and if I saw that bear on the trail I'd probably piss myself because his paw print was a size 17 in Men's shoes. So... yeah.
    - The Gila low vs high route.... I went the low in mid October and it was the most dangerous and thrilling hiking I've ever experienced. I was cutting across that thing with water above my belly button (I'm 6'2") and it was 40 degrees out. At one point I had my beanie, fleece, down, AND rain jacket on, (while wearing shorts) and if I would have fallen in, would immediately have to stop hiking and start a fire to stave off hypothermia. It was so beautiful though, and could totally understand why all the northbounders told me to take that route. I warned some fellow hikers of the conditions and one being quite short they decided to go the long, high route.
    - Lordsburg vs Columbus routes - see my other thread in this forum regarding this. Most go Lordsburg, I went Columbus and loved it. It was fun to walk into Mexico and celebrate and buy some food, margaritas and memorabilia before getting to El Paso and flying home.

    Hope some of this helps, and I hope you have a blast! I'm planning my triple crown sobo hike for the PCT this year so here's to us having great weather!

  3. #3

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    The Great Basin doesn't have to suck. If you aren't pushing too hard, it isn't a bad walk. You'll see lots of wildlife (i.e. 50 or more antelope a day, elk, wild horses, badgers) and the clouds and sunsets are gorgeous.

    It's much too early to know about snow levels. Being a La Nina year, there may be more snow up north, or not. For a hiker the big issue is how warm it is in the spring, which will determine how quickly the snow melts. One issue with being SOBO is snow melt is much more of a factor than for NOBO hikers. We had a few crossings in the Bob that were impassible and required detours to get around. Have good maps so you can find alternatives.

    Going SOBO tends to be colder than NOBO and a bit lonelier. Snow can happen any month. We had falling snow on July 4th and September 4th, and the first serious snow was on September 14th. Our water bottles were frozen in August. You hike in Montana before the weekend and vacation hikers are out, then you're hiking in Colorado when the crowds there have lessened. However, you have a bit more freedom in regards to timing. There is no push to make the border before the border stations close. You'll have more water in southern NM because the rainy season is late summer.

    There is no bad route in the Winds. The place is gorgeous. Same with Glacier.

    There are several CDT FB pages that I know of. CDT17 is one. So far it's not very active. There is also a group called Continental Divide Trail that is more general but has good information.

  4. #4

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    We're getting nailed with snow in Wyoming and Montana this year, especially in the western part so just keep that in mind when you think about a SOBO start date.

  5. #5

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    Is it your first thru? What's the longest time you've been out or the longest mileage hike you've done in a continuous fashion?

    I was out for almost 7 months starting at the Belly River TH in G NP by myself on June 23 finishing at Columbus. This was in 2010. Maybe 8 or so going SOBO. I know of only 5 that made it. The CDT has changed some since then. It was postholing largely through G NP and much of the Bob Marshall Wilderness. The CDT I did was about 3700 miles because I added on other scenic experiences - Anaconda and Butte Route, Grand Teton NP, Yellowstone NP off the CDT plus the CDT, Rocky Mt NP on and off the CDT, Malpais National Monument circumnavigation, etc. The CDT is one of those potentially epic journeys that no two hikers have to take the exact same path which is encouraged with so many alternates just as are the North Country Tr and American Discovery Tr. I encourage you to design your own CDT journey rather than do what someone else has done! This makes for greater complexity though! None of these routes/trails are turn your mind off and totally zone out follow the always beaten super hiker highway path that is the AT, PCT, JMT, LT, etc I went out with the goal to savor the experience with a prioritizing of scenery let's see what I can see mindset not a here's the beaten path stick to it get er dun mindset, not achieve a thru, or complete the TC or gain some award, trophy or plaque for hiking.

    I had a shartload of maps and used every single one. I'm a map person though. I like seeing where I am and what potentially is additionally worthy to experience. Depends on how you hike but I like to view a thru as opening myself up stretching my arms wide making myself vulnerable to experiences we'll beyond a narrow 30" wide beaten into the ground signed path. I see a thru as a 100-200 mile wide corridor of adventure and exploration. You may see it differently.

    Review CDT trail journals and contact CDTers. Elicit a wide range of opinions. Take a little from each and HYOH. You'll see traditionally the CDT is approached individually uniquely. That means you have to truly HYOH to hike the CDT. Don't do someone less CDT hike. Do yours.

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    Evening srvand02!
    ~I appreciate you breaking down some sections! I was just talking to a friend who just got back from a loop road trip around all the NP's in the lower 48 and the two things I was most eager about was Montana and Yellowstone. Montana he had said the same thing, nothing but beauty at its finest. As far as Yellowstone.. Eh, he said he couldn't stand all the tourists that weren't really there for the same reasons as most hikers are. His pictures that he took of the landscapes were beautiful! Not a single person around him, he said those were the best spots in the park.

    ~Thank you for the clarification of the *dirty water*. Now I know that it's not an exaggeration of it being bad if a thru hiker said it's bad haha. I'm very excited for the San Juans, I don't think I should've watched so many "post hike" videos on the CDT because it seems like that's an incredible spot to hit.
    ~I've never carried bear spray, but I've also never hiked backcountry out in the western area. I probably still won't carry it even for when I'm out that way.
    ~The low route definitely sounds like it was a bit rough, but I'm quite tall myself. I guess with the CDT it's important to stay current with current conditions as far as something like that.

    This is a bit of a stretch, but is there any sort of page that you know of that hikers post to warn people about conditions in specific sections? This definitely help a lot too. Again, I appreciate you taking the time to reply to this. I definitely will, happy trails! Do you have any facebook page at all that I could follow? I have a page that I just started on facebook called Froglegs.

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    Hi Spirit Walker!

    Thank you for the reply. Oh i'm very excited to see the different wildlife and landscapes that are offered out there!

    I figured that it was, but from what I'm hearing it may be quite rough at times. On the AT there was times when post holing was annoying because of the sun coming out, but seems like from what I've heard from you and several others the problem is the water crossings. I will be hiking with one other person on this trail so hopefully that'll help with the loneliness. I will have to check out the facebook groups- I just didn't want to join a bunch then some not be active what so ever. Again, thanks for the reply- have a great night!

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    DuneElliot,

    Thanks for the heads up. I was google searching some webcams that were fairly updated on the conditions and yeah that's what I'm seeing!

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    Hi Dogwood!
    This past winter I did a nobo hike on the AT, but have never been out to any of the western trails yet. This will be my first out that way. I'm definitely with you on the HYOH mentality, just always like to get a little insight from everyone and with that being said create my own plan. I have this feeling that with this trail even if I do plan a rough layout of what I want to do I'll end up venturing off a tad to see some other sites too.

    I by no means hike for any sort of recognition or trophy, though I have seen some people that do. I'm quite similar to your reasoning of hiking. I'll most definitely be checking some of those journals out. Do you only use maps or do you use a gps at all too? Paper maps are definitely on my pack list, but debating on a gps as a backup and mostly for the northern half of the trail. I appreciate you're advice and tips very much! Happy Trails!

  10. #10

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    The best part about a SOBO hike is that you'll have the wind at your back through Wyoming.
    And that wind is big.
    But, it's sort of like the AT in the fact that you are starting with the best part (OK, CO is pretty good too!)
    And finishing with NM (not as much fun as the other states.
    Good luck and have fun out there.
    Don't let your fears stand in the way of your dreams

  11. #11

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    The CDT with it extremely abundant alternates, with new ones added all the time, it's length between 2700-3300, typical narrowed thru window time frame, higher avg elevation than the AT or PCT, and other traits make for complex logistics increased when one adds the goal of wanting to cram as much scenic diversity into it, desiring the highest elevation route experiences, or has the perception of hiking a 100 mile corridor rather than a narrowed several ft wide trail. For me, I found the CDT to be the most logistically challenging of any trail I've thrued. I make that comment after having already done more than 15 thru hikes and 15K trail miles mailing boxes on most of those trips. I can honestly say I was able to cram a lot of experiences into those almost 7 months. I gave it my all. I had a hard time finishing.

    Which brings others and myself around to suggesting to others the CDT is perhaps better approached as long section hikes...particularly strongly to new LD hikers.

    Wish you the best.

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    Hey Fiddlehead,

    I'm glad that you said said that because I would've never even thought about the wind all that much. I was figuring that most of the trail would over all have wild wind just because it's not really all that secluded like the AT is. I'm very excited for NM actually. *As I sip an ice cold water currently* haha. Absolutely look forward to pushing myself a little bit harder for this trail and oh believe me, I will! Very excited! I appreciate you responding to this thread.

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    Evening Dogwood.

    I like the fact that there is no "right or wrong way* to hike the CDT. The more and more I read about it and hear from everyone, it sounds like some sections you really just have to stay current with the conditions and adapt and overcome one way or another. WOW, 15k miles- that's awesome. If you don't mind me asking, how long have you been doing long trails for? I appreciate your responses too, thank you I will.

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    Registered User Venchka's Avatar
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    NOBO vs. SOBO of the CDT isn't as predictable as the AT. 2015 may be a one time event, but the weather patterns played havoc with the traditional start strategy.
    Colorado received about a year's worth of snow in April and May. Meanwhile Glacier NP and much of Montana received below average snowfall.
    As a result, there was a perfect window for SOBO starters in late June and early July.
    The NOBO class of 2015 hit an impenetrable wall of snow in the San Juan mountains. Those who could flipped north to Montana.
    Be flexible. Snow, rain, floods and fires can change your plans.
    A resupply at the Benchmark Ranch is not always foolproof. Follow their instructions and allow plenty of time. If push comes to shove, hitch into Augusta, MT like Dogwood did.
    Anyone who gets uptight about crowds in Yellowstone should stay home. Yes, the Old Faithful area is a zoo. It's also the only resupply point for miles and miles. Be thankful that all the Flatlanders and Rubberneckers are concentrated on the pavement. If they were on the trail the CDT would be named the AT West.
    The Thorofare Creek Trail area is the antithesis of Old Faithful. Give it a shot.
    The Wind River Range High Route is what the CDT should be through the Winds. Check out Adventure Alan's route. You'll be in perfect shape for the route.
    Good luck.
    Wayne


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    FrogLegz, I'm guessing your desire to sobo is related to not being able to start until sometime in mid-June. That time frame may or may not be possible depending on the snow levels in Glacier this winter. Same can be said for a nobo thru and snow levels in Colorado. Snow issues won't be known until early April at the soonest. Although I planned a 2010 nobo thru, I wound up doing the CDT in 3 chunks for a variety of reasons (giardiasis, family obligations, excessive snow in 2011) over 3 years. While the wind may be at your back thru the Great Divide Basin going sobo, the sun will be in your eyes the whole way. I didn't notice the wind heading north from Rawlings nor did I feel it on my back the next year when I filled in the section from Rawlings south to Steamboat. I've got to say I really enjoyed returning to the Rockies 3 years in a row. Have a great hike.
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  16. #16

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    I said what I said because if a CDTer wants to widen their scenic experiences, soak in hot springs, visit glaciers, experience more wildlife, like bison and wolf packs, waterfalls, etc they may have to deviate from, add onto, or amend the typical CDT routes. For example, the typical CDT Yellowstone NP route(s) avoid Hayden and Lamar Valleys two bison and wolf pack viewing hotspots in Y NP. Often the thru-hiker has a hurried gotta go go go get er dun if anything is worth doing it's worth doing fast mindset. This mindset is further encouraged and promoted by three of the most common hiking stats proffered and questioned: Start date, Finish date, and MPD avg. This is true for both the AT and PCT and to some extent the JMT and LT. To each their own HYOH but I personally would find it a shame to have skirted some of the best of Y NP, RM NP, G NP, San Juans, etc by having that attitude, yet it is common particularly among the ABC Trail/Alphabet Soup baggers.

    http://www.pmags.com/alphabet-soup-hiking

    JMTers and PCTers do it too skirting and ignoring Giant Redwood groves when all it takes is a few hrs to add to the backpacking/thru-hiking experience a shame when they aren't from the west coast and one of these thru-hikes is a once in a lifetime experience. The AT route and AT hikers do it too. For example, GSM and S NP's, Baxter SP, White Mts, etc experiences don't have to be defined by a narrowed AT only experience...even on a thru-hike. The AT does not totally define any of these places.

    As Ginny said "The Great Basin of WY doesn't have to suck. If you aren't pushing too hard, it isn't a bad walk. You'll see lots of wildlife (i.e. 50 or more antelope a day, elk, wild horses, badgers) and the clouds and sunsets are gorgeous." She's learned to appreciate and be present in the moment. Here's a good, or as Mags said, a required read. https://whiteblaze.net/forum/showthread.php/37986-Spirit-Eagle-quot-The-Thru-Hiking-Papers-quot

    http://www.spiriteaglehome.com/THP_top.html Great read!

    Paul "Mags" has a great condensed experienced knowledgable comparison about different approaches here: http://www.pmags.com/a-quick-and-dirty-cdt-guide

    So, this less common thru-hiker mindset often does involve greater logistical complications and thought than the typical "cookie cutter, here's the trail, follow the beaten path and blazes" LD hiking mindset found in common on the AT, PCT, JMT, and LT. Add that to the potential logistical complexities of the CDT in general and it deepens. Add to that being a Newbie LD backpacker and it can overwhelm. This is why some suggest the CDT be considered from a section hiking approach that allows for greater exploration and experiences for a shorter distance but possibly more profound journey or CDT thru not be the first very LD hike a person tackles.

    IMH, very opinionated opinion, there's entirely too much crazed focus on speed and thru-hiking. Don't get me wrong. Theses approaches certainly have their pros but also it's cons which aren't fully discussed. It's the fast paced off trail culture carrying over to on trail hiking community culture.

    Disclosure: I've personally approached hikes/thru-hikes having a fast and light, FKT, speed hiking mindset but I'm not locked into these approaches so don't get it twisted as if I'm taking a side or suggesting a right or wrong way. I'm offering options and considerations to explore to design your own joyful hike.

  17. #17

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    Forgot, I didn't experience bison, wolf packs, antelope, massive elk herds, Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone/Upper and Lower Yellowstone River waterfalls, or see a Grizzly Bear, Bald eagle, playful family of river otters or Trumpeter swans in Yellowstone NP until I veered off the common CDT Y NP route(s). HYOH

  18. #18
    Registered User Venchka's Avatar
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    Amen Dogwood.
    A body could spend a whole hiking season in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem.
    Wayne


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  19. #19

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    Here is a list of CDT related links provided by Spirt Walker. http://www.spiriteaglehome.com/links.html

  20. #20

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    http://www.spiriteaglehome.com/TH_attitude.html

    This is such a great read to get into the soul for any LD hiker or perspective thru-hiker. I came back to this repeatedly to assist keeping my attitude and ego in check.

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