The first time I walked the 75 miles from the Wyoming Border to Hwy 114 on the Continental Divide Trail, I was sick. The kind of sick where you stop to filter water and wake up four hours later in a puddle of your own urine. Over the previous three months I had: maced myself with bear spray in my tent; had an infected toenail surgically removed in Hamilton, Montana; hitchhiked with the drunkest driver in Wyoming; and gotten lost for four days in the Bob Marshall Wilderness. But the Zirkel Wilderness was a special kind of hell that I had never felt before on my 2015 thru-hike of the CDT. “That whole Yampa Valley Curse is a lie”, I thought.
Two years after the Zirkels nearly broke me, I was back drinking at the same stream. This time I was with the people whose obsessive designs had enabled every step I had taken on the PCT and CDT. We weren’t hiking through the flu, we were building cairns and removing trees.
The Continental Divide Trail is 3,100 miles along the spine of North America from Mexico to Canada. It is wild, desolate, humbling, astonishing and agonizing. It will turn your spirit into a balloon full of hot spaghetti that spills out of you in a torrent of joy and rage at every bend in the trail.
The Steamboat Springs community calls the CDT their backyard. From Big Agnes’s headquarters, you can hike 9 miles of spur trails and be on the CDT. The CDT is where the Big Agnes family learned to ride mountain bikes, break in new skiis, get married, have their ashes dispersed. The 75 miles from Hwy. 114 to the Wyoming Border (knows as 1101- The Wyoming Trail) has inspired everything Big Agnes has ever made.
2018 is a monumental year for trails. 50 years ago Congress signed the National Trails System Act, codifying the importance of trails to our heritage and designating them a public resource to be enjoyed by all. Forty years ago, the third and longest National Scenic Trail was added to federal protection as, “a living museum of the American West” – the rugged and iconic CDT. In 2018, wilderness areas, BLM land, National Forests and Monuments are under the gravest threat they have seen in decades. Climate change has brought severe droughts, fires, beetle kill epidemics and flooding creating unprecedented need for annual trail repair projects.
During times like this, you can wallow in fear and despair or pick up a saw and do something about it. Big Agnes did two trail work projects on the Continental Divide Trail last summer. The going was slow and the learning curve was high, but it was a blast. We picked up trash, removed trees, re-built cairns, replaced blazes, cleaned campgrounds, and committed to taking care of this section of the CDT for generations to come.
To be back on the CDT in September, 2017 doing trail work with my co-workers and the founders of Big Agnes, was one of the most fulfilling moments of my life. More than anything I have done, the CDT forged me into the person I am today. It is a privilege to walk the CDT and share the responsibility of caring for it with the Big Agnes family.
P.S: Are you thru-hiking the CDT in 2018? Stay tuned, we will have on-trail maintenance projects for hikers who want to give back!
-Kathleen Lynch, Product Development Team, Resident Thru-Hiker