|NATIONAL PARKS QUICKLINKS|
Backpacker Magazine – June 2008
On your mark, get set ... hike. Inside a 5,600-mile footrace on the country's hardest trail.
Nobody hikes the Continental Divide Trail in anticipation of finding a big party. The path bisects some of the country's most rugged and least populated lands. Unlike the Pacific Crest Trail and particularly the Appalachian Trail, it isn't punctuated by a lot of hiker-oriented shops, watering holes, and gathering spots. Trail experts estimate that only 50 hardy backpackers, or about 4 percent of what the AT attracts, annually attempt to thru-hike the CDT.
The Onion was in his element from the start. He began hiking almost a month after Mr. Magoo, due to school obligations, but he soon found solace breathing New Mexico's clean air and staring into the broad Southwestern sky. "I've hiked 577 miles so far, and I'm having a really good time. If my sister ever expects to get a phone call from me, she should quit sending me job announcements," he wrote from Ghost Ranch on his blog on May 22, sounding reassuringly Onion-esque.
The Onion sang made-up songs (like the one about hemorrhoids belted out to the tune of "America the Beautiful"), strummed air-guitar, and focused on blessedly un-heavy thoughts, like what he'd eat for dinner (frequently S'mores-flavored Pop-Tarts). Sure, sometimes he'd get wound up thinking about people who outwardly seemed completely rational–yet unquestionably accepted God. Take his devout dad, who was so logical that the Onion called him Mr. Spock. And like Mr. Magoo, the Onion struggled physically while traversing Colorado's snowy San Juans. But his mind cleared as he got into the rhythm of his marathon-mileage days.
Both the Onion and Mr. Magoo moved like metronomes, hiking three miles per hour from sunrise to beyond sundown. They had no choice: Colorado's wintry spring was behind them, yet they both had to anticipate the possibility of encountering an early Colorado winter on their southbound journeys. Mr. Magoo was so mindful of his need to make progress that he learned to keep moving–and avoid the spray–while peeing. He even brushed and flossed his teeth while walking. As for the Onion, he slotted four 15-minute breaks into his hiking schedule so that each day he had at least an hour of downtime. Neither of them even brought a stove (for the record, Magoo had the healthier diet, eating rehydrated couscous and textured vegetable protein from sponsor Bob's Red Mill).