Continental Divide Trail hikers already have a superb map resource, the one I’ve used on all my hikes, Jonathan Ley’s CDT-ROM. He’s been providing an incredible service to hikers for nearly a decade, and I’ll use his maps as long as he’ll make them and I can hike them. I’ve given him data and feedback from my hikes, but recently I’ve been enjoying adding trails to the OpenStreetMap, and I thought it would be nice to have the CDT data I’ve collected published there also. Currently it would take a lot of work to print a whole set of maps from this source, but it adds at least part of the CDT to online sources like Lonvia’s World Hiking Map and the lovely OpenCycleMap.org. You can even go to Walking Papers and use the CycleMap background to get a nice printable PDF of any area you like. I’m sure the resources will only improve, and others will add all the wonderful lengths of trail that I have no data for (yet)
Thu, 23 Dec 2010
Sun, 13 Sep 2009
At last I’ve finished obsessing over my trail photos! Part of the reason it took so long is that I really wanted a “storybook” view of the photos – a way to browse pictures and captions from at least the three different hikers in chronological order. This turned out to be difficult, so I took a detour to write some software to help accomplish it using a Flickr group.
I’m really happy with the result – you can see the stories as they unfold from our different perspectives. The only downside is that the videos don’t play yet, but maybe I’ll fix that another day. In the meantime, there are chronological galleries for each day.
Or, review the post for a day and link to the gallery from there. I’ll highlight some of the more dramatic days:
Mon, 10 Aug 2009
I failed in my goal of making map posts from the trail, but I still managed to collect a high-resolution GPS track of almost the entire hike. That in itself was challenging enough to be a proud accomplishment for me. I’ll write a little about how I did it, but let’s start with a map and the data:
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Red = on route, Purple = alternate route, Beige = off route
I collected this data with a QSTARZ solar travel recorder. It worked really well, but even with a little built-in solar panel, keeping the unit powered up for 12 hours a day was a challenge. On its own, a fully charged battery would last two days at most. So I relied on supplemental solar power from a 4.5 watt Brunton Solar Roll. Even so, a few times I lost power. I estimated our route later in these sections and made them a much lighter color.
This system works well if you can charge the battery from a car or wall outlet every 4 days or so, and there is at least a few hours of direct sunlight every day. If that’s not an option, you’d have to start carrying spare batteries.
Fri, 07 Aug 2009
Some numbers from our walk across Wyoming:
Miles Hiked: 550.5
Hours Tracked: 292.49999999999994
Elevation Gain (ft): 89339
Wild Turkeys: 5
Wild Horses: 22
Biblical swarms of mosquitoes.
Untold numbers of other insects, lizards, birds, marmots, and rodents.
Thu, 30 Jul 2009
Our last day of hiking in Wyoming has arrived! We’re not the first awake in the campground, there are already shouts and car engines roaring to life at 5 am. We have a big breakfast in Bob and Carol’s camper and drive back to Old Faithful, where we traipse along the many pools and geysers in relative quiet. Once we reach the Summit Lake trail, we meet no more people.
After an initial climb, the trail winds monotonously along a forested plateau. We steam along, excited to finish. It seems to take a long time to reach Summit Lake, where we have lunch.
The trail takes on a more ominous character after that. The plateau has been scorched by fire, so almost a all the trees are dead, and new growth seems minimal. The ground grows dry and rocky. It seems to go on and on like this, leading us to theories of apocolyptic purgatories and demilitarized zones in a war between Wyoming and Idaho. At long last we pass a small hand-drawn “WY/ID” marker on a dead tree, apparently done in Sharpie. We give a quick whoop and steam on. The terrain grows greener at last, and by 4:30 pm we’re at the park boundary, kind of amazed to have made it so quickly. We eat a celebratory dinner, then hike on into the Targhee National Forest of Idaho.
Hiking along forest road 078 at about 5:30 pm, we consider a nice campsite. It seems too early still, so we hike on. At one point I spot a phone tower in the distance, get a signal, and call Bob. Feeling ready to be done, I arrange a pickup for 8 pm tonight. With some added steam, we crank out our longest day of the whole trip to meet Bob on Fish Creek road. The completed trip is then celebrated with treats from the store, a six pack of Moose Drool, and a second dinner at Henry’s Lake State Park. One last night in the tent, and we’ll have all day tomorrow to prepare for our 7pm flight to Denver. It’s over. We did it!
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Wed, 29 Jul 2009
The theme of the day is set by our fantasies of food at our destination: french fries at Old Faithful. There is plenty to distract us from our obsession during the day, though, with the bubbling and steaming attractions of the Shoshone Geyser Basin and refreshing conversation with Steven and Kristen, who are out on a day hike. They’ve just quit their jobs and set off in their pop-up camper to travel and live outdoors with no set itinerary, which definitely gets them the cyberhobo stamp of approval. We reach the Lone Star geyser just as it’s erupting, a stroke of good luck as the wait can be 3 hours.
The final leg to Old Faithful goes quickly, and soon we’re approaching a cluster of huge buildings across a roaring highway. We’re soon negotiating traffic and crowds of people to the cafeteria, where we revel in the day’s destination. I manage a pretty good vegan feast with a tossed salad, vegetarian chili, and giant potato wedges. We eat ourselves into oblivion, watch Old Faithful erupt over thousands of heads, then meet Bob at the visitor center. Our night is spent at another bustling metropolis – the 400-space Grants Village campground, where we fall asleep to the din of countless campfire gatherings.
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Tue, 28 Jul 2009
Traversing around Heart Lake we start to see some people. A southbound section hiker headed for Togwotee Pass tells that a bear warning has been issued for the area. Apparently the bear layed in the trail blocking the passage of a solo northbounder, then bluff charged her when she tried to go around.
When we finally reach the shore of Heart Lake we see the resident geyser, and many birds on the lake including a Pelican. More people populate the trails, and a helicopter makes trips back and forth on some mysterious business. When we see a group of park employees we ask about it, and after positing that there’s been a drug bust in some remote part of the park, they guess that a patrol cabin is getting rehabbed.
We start passing bubbling hot springs and geysers, our first real clues that we’re wandering around in the caldera of a giant volcano.
At the trailhead Ann’s parents are waiting with hot food. I’ve finally stopped getting heartburn from every meal, and my appetite has kicked back in. I devour my Tasty Bite eggplant with rice and kidney beans, savoring the unchallenged intake of calories and barely noticing the short hailstorm that hits us while we eat.
We have plenty of time so we take the long route to our next campsite along the shore of Lewis Lake and Lewis Channel. The lake has a really serene, peaceful feel to it. We run into a small ranger with a big saw who checks our permit and tells it takes about 20 minutes to clear a 12 inch diameter deadfall from the trail by herself.
The campsite feels strange again, this time with a small pit toilet and bear pole near the shore of Shoshone Lake. We’re joined there by two guys from South Africa who are horrified by the hordes of mosquitoes. The lakeshore offers some respite while the wind is blowing, but soon we’re passed out in the tents once again, safe from the whining clouds.
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Mon, 27 Jul 2009
In the morning we cross the Snake River, but it’s so close to the headwaters that it’s little more than an ankle washer. Soon after we enter Yellowstone National Park, and immediately see two other hikers. We leap frog these guys all day, and assure them that they’re on their intended route. It’s kind of funny to watch them painstakingly change from boots to sandals for every crossing, and we hope we won’t be punished too severly for our smugness.
We descend the Snake for most of the day, making two more easy crossings and touring a cool canyon with nice views, waterfalls, and good trail.
At the Heart River we make another easy crossing, and soon we’re at our designated backcountry campsite for the evening. It’s a strange feeling to stop in this obviously used place with rope and some trash in the fire pit, but it’s a nice spot right on the river. We hang our food on the provided bear pole and soon erect the tents to escape the bugs.
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Sun, 26 Jul 2009
I’m grateful that the rain has stopped by morning, but it’s cold, and putting on my wet clothes is a torture. We hike briskly to our last Buffalo River crossing, the North Fork. This time we assess it carefully before wading in. It’s just a little easier than the South Fork, and I assist Ann a bit by crossing upstream from her to break the current. On the far side we bask in the sun for breakfast and start drying gear.
It looks like the hard crossings may be over for a while as we climb the North Fork, then over to the divide at Two Oceans Pass. Here Two Oceans creek splits at the “parting of the waters”, and half goes to each side of the divide. We climb steeply to a high plateau with view of storms around the nearby Tetons and a refreshing absence of mosquitoes. A light rain hits us as we descend to Mink Creek, where Pete spots a creature that very well might be a mink. The rain clears in time to set up a nice camp in a stand of pines. There has been a lot of bear scat around, and this location feels very wild. Later, a Yellowstone ranger will tell Pete that this area is “the most remote in the lower 48 states.”
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Sat, 25 Jul 2009
We get up very early to make it through the Togwotee Pass construction with enough time left to hike 20 miles. It goes smoothly, and we’re hiking around Brooks Lake by 8 am. We haven’t hiked an hour when we see two bears retreating up the valley.
The trail here is most heavily used by horse parties from the Brooks Lake lodge, and we’re lured off our route onto one of their loops. I catch the mistake shortly before we’ve made the full side trip to Lower Jade Lake.
The terrain is mostly forested with a lot of short climbs and creek crossings until we hit our first significant challenge at the South Fork Buffalo River. The crossing is about three feet deep and swift. That’s deep enough to make it hard to stay standing, but shallow enough to offer a real beating on the river rocks if you go down. We all make it, but we’re rattled, and Ann is left in dread of more crossings like it.
In the evening we get our first real rain since the Sticky Mud of Battle Pass south of Rawlins. Thankfully the trail mud is much less sticky, but it is slippery and a bit treacherous.
It’s still raining when we reach the next fork of the Buffalo River, the Soda Fork. There is a group of teenage kids on the other bank. Thinking they’ve just crossed, I take a quick look at the water and start crossing to talk with them. On the close bank it’s shallow, but the far bank is crotch deep and fast. I lose a foot and dunk up to my belly button in icy water, scrambling onto the bank with the help of one of the kids. They look at me wide-eyed, and their leader explains quickly that they’ve been afraid to cross. I advise against it, but start scanning up and down for a crossing for Ann and Pete. Eventually they choose a bridge of thin trees, crossing on all fours without incident. The group decides to postpone their crossing and starts making camp on the bank in the rain.
We walk a ways further. The rain lets up a bit, but we still have to make camp in the drizzle, and I have to strip down and air dry naked in the tent before putting on my dry sleep clothes. Once in my bag I’m warm and dry, but dreading the morning when I will pay again for my foolishness.
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