|NATIONAL PARKS QUICKLINKS|
Backpacker Magazine – May 2008
We sent 209 readers out to GPS the Continental Divide Trail, the biggest, baddest long-distance path of them all. They brought back the makings of the first authoritative map of this American classic. These are their stories–and their favorite sections.
Yellowstone, 24 miles, Old Faithful to Lewis Lake
When Kevin Anderson introduced himself to his team, a silence fell over the group. He'd been a backpacker his whole life, and had thru-hiked the John Muir Trail as a teen. But starting this three-day journey, he was a broken man. His son, Ivan, had died recently playing basketball. Anderson wanted to map the CDT, but he also needed a release from the grief that had gripped him for months.
It was a bittersweet assignment: Anderson and his son had often talked about hiking to Shoshone Lake, a highlight of this section. And Yellowstone didn't disappoint. The team, which included Bev Wert, Mary McKinney, and Jason Wozniak, glimpsed wolf and bear tracks. They peered into thermal pools of pearlescent water that appeared bottomless. And they saw more than 100 geysers and fumaroles.
One night, Anderson wandered away from the team's camp near the Lewis River outlet. It had been a long, hot day, so he waded into the water. Impulsively, he plunged in. "I emerged feeling emotionally baptized, clean and pure," recalls Anderson. "The sadness and grief were washed away with the sweat and dirt, and for the first time since Ivan's death, I experienced an unqualified joy. I realized that he would always be my son, I would always be his father, and in this way, love is and always will be stronger and more powerful than death."
Best of the Best
4 solitude-blessed sections for your CDT life list
Touch the Sky
Copper Mountain to Bakerville, Colorado
Tread the Rockies' rooftop on this spectacular trek through the Front Range. It's six days of alpine splendor: Mountain goats skip through wildflower fields, mining ruins abound, and steely summits rise in all directions. Charge your camera battery, pack a windshell, and soar up a route that rambles mostly between 10,000 and 13,000 feet.
Day one starts with a three-mile climb through conifers, then crosses the exposed talus fields of the Tenmile Range. Camp below treeline near Miners Creek. On day two, you'll wind across wooded slopes overlooking the Swan River and hunker down for the night among the pines above Horseshoe Gulch. Day three's route stays just below treeline but peeks through openings back across the Tenmile Range. On day four, you enter the alpine zone where 13,370-foot Mt. Guyot looms above flower-filled tundra and marmots whistle at you. "We saw herds of mountain goats," says team leader Katie Richards, "and one even came within seven feet of us." After crossing the Continental Divide, scale 14,270-foot Grays Peak for views over two watersheds. Follow Stevens Gulch down to Bakerville to finish.
For more trail details, plus photos, an interactive (and printable) map, and driving directions, go to backpacker.com/cdt/copper.