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Backpacker Magazine – May 2008

The CDT Project

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.

by: Kelly Bastone

See video footage and a photo gallery from BACKPACKER readers and editors out on the CDT.

Team 35b
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

6 days, 68 miles, mapped by Team 23

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

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Reader Rating: -


Jun 20, 2009

Are the GPS waypoints for New Mexico now available?

David Sullivan
Nov 28, 2008

When will the data be available?

Jul 04, 2008

I love backpacker mag. But i seem to never see any articles on the American Discovery Trail.

Jun 28, 2008

Will the project be continued for the teams whose trips were cancelled due to wildfires last summer?

Chris Jaynes
Jun 21, 2008

I was wondering about the southern terminus. When I left Tucson, there was talk about where the trail was to end near Organ Pipe and the Yuma area.

Jun 12, 2008

When will the maps be out for people to use?


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