Saturday, April 2, 2016

Thru-Hiking The Tahoe Rim Trail Article

Those of you that missed it this past summer, I teamed up with the incomparably awesome Why Not and Rockin' to hike the 173mi trail over 9 days. The latest issue of TrailGroove Magazine was released this week including an article I wrote about our Tahoe Rim Trail experience. In the article, I also explain why I think the Tahoe Rim Trail is one of the best "shorter" long distance backpacking experiences out there. Especially for those looking to hone their skills and try out a quite varied long distance trail experience.
Click photo to read the article on TrailGroove.
This is also a great preview to what my summer will hold. This fun trio will be teaming up yet again this summer as Why Not and Rockin' will be joining me on both the Sierra High Route (end of June-ish) and then the Wind River High Route (mid/late July). So excited to do these routes with Rockin' and Why Not!
With Rockin' and Why Not atop Twin Peaks side summit on the TRT.
While I tend to take the off season away from hiking, Rockin' and Why Not have been quite busy! Why Not recently completed hiking New Zealand's 1,800mi Te Araroa Trail that I aim to do next winter (read her daily journal here)...and as usual, Rockin' takes advantage to get out almost every weekend (whew!) and just spent spring break on a leg of the Hayduke (Rockin's daily journal here) with my friends Drop-N-Roll and Bubbles(follow their Hayduke thru-hike here). The spring weather and sun has just recently arrived here in Portland and I'm starting to get that wanderlust back in me...oh boy, it's gonna be quite a year ahead!



Friday, March 4, 2016

Reflecting On The Triple Crown

The second part of my interview with Gizmo from the Sounds of the Trail podcast is now available. For those of you bummed to be missing out on my presentations, this is a great opportunity to hear some of what I talk about in my presentations. In this particular episode, I talk about the Triple Crown experience and the overarching personal journey I had over those 7,600mi of trail. My interview is halfway through, but the whole episode is a great listen! If you missed the previous episode, here's the link to that one as well. Enjoy!
Sounds of the Trail: The Key Players (Starts at 24:30 mark)





Saturday, February 20, 2016

Sharing The Journey

Those of you that have been following since the beginning of this blog will especially enjoy this post. You all know how much purpose I've found in sharing the journey I've been on since 2011, when I started thru-hiking. Although I don't post about my daily personal life (pretty much working a ton when not hiking to save for the next hike!), I do enjoy sharing the trail in various ways during the off season with articles, presentations, and podcasts. I'm happy to share two new things with you all...

Sounds of the Trail Podcast!
I was recently a guest in a very special episode of the Sounds of the Trail Podcast titled, "This Is Why We Do It." Sounds of the Trail is consistently ranked as one of the top podcasts in the category of Outdoor Podcasts on iTunes. This particular episode really is a MUST LISTEN for anyone seeking to be inspired and motivated to live this one life to its fullest!!! It is only 30mins long and be sure to listen to the full episode to really understand why this episode is so great. Warning, you may cry, so save it for the drive home from work rather than the drive to work if you don't want to arrive all puffy-eyed. Thank you to host Gizmo for the opportunity to contribute to such a inspiring podcast and for showing the true heart of thru-hiking and living one's dreams. The episode is linked above and embedded below, but if you'd like to download it from iTunes, here is the link to that.
Sounds of the Trail: This Is Why We Do It

**Special Presentation Announcement!**

Those of you that listened to the above podcast, and want to hear more about how thru-hiking has impacted me personally, this is the presentation for you. On March 14th, I will be doing a special presentation that is a culmination of all three of my hikes that comprise hiking's Triple Crown. Before I advertise this more on other platforms, I want to be sure to first tell those who are devoted followers. Seating is limited, and is expected to reach full capacity, so I want to give blog followers a chance to register before the general public. REI Portland has started to host monthly presentations to larger crowds in a more social atmosphere at the Lucky Lab (Quimby). I'm honored that I've been selected to present for one of these special evenings, and I'm especially excited to give THIS presentation.

Many of you may have already attended my presentations on these trails individually, but this is going to be different. Yes, I may recall some of the same stories and experiences, but this will focus more on my overarching personal journey over the years of completing the Triple Crown. The transformation and life lessons learned as I went from a relatively newbie backpacker to a Triple Crowner. Here's the link to register for the FREE presentation. Please only register if you truly plan to attend so you aren't taking the spot from someone else. Note that the event begins at 6pm, so people have time to get food/drinks, but the presentation won't begin until 6:30pm if you're worried about making it in time from work. I look forward to seeing everyone there for this truly special presentation.


Saturday, January 30, 2016

Thru-Hiking the Hayduke Trail Article

I wrote an article about the Hayduke Trail for the awesome online magazine, TrailGroove Magazine. TrailGroove had yet to feature the Hayduke Trail, so I was happy to introduce it to a whole new audience. The article is a reflection and summary on my Hayduke experience, along with some of the high and low points of the trail. Seeing all the photos on the full screen layout is always great! In the next two months, I'll have an article on each the Tahoe Rim Trail and Great Divide Trail in TrailGroove Magazine as well. A note about this particular article, after the content and map portion, keep turning the pages. There are two more spreads of some of my favorite photos from the trail to flip through. Remember that TrailGroove Magazine is best viewed in full screen or presentation mode on your computer. Enjoy!
Click photo to read the full article on TrailGroove.com
FREE Navigation Instruction Videos!
While on the topic of the Hayduke, I've had many people ask me about that transition to routes that require a stronger navigation skill set. It can be intimidating and even with the courses I've taken, I often worry that I'm doing something wrong or that I need a refresher from time to time. My friend John, who I learned navigation from at the Mazamas in Portland, Oregon has created some excellent instructional videos that cover everything clearly and concisely. They were published by the Columbia River Orienteering Club and are an amazing resource! These instructional videos are just as good (or better!) than any class you can take on navigation and I highly recommend them. Mad props to John and the CROCs for providing these for FREE to the public!!!

Click Here for the link to all the instructional videos below....
Wilderness Navigation #1: Parts of a Compass
Wilderness Navigation #2: Red In The Shed
Wilderness Navigation #3: Taking a Compass Bearing
Wilderness Navigation #4: Following a Compass Bearing
Wilderness Navigation #5: Measuring a Compass Bearing From a Map
Wilderness Navigation #6: Plotting a Compass Bearing on a Map
Wilderness Navigation #7: Orienting Your Map
Wilderness Navigation #8: Using a Finger Scale
Wilderness Navigation #9: Adjusting Declination
Wilderness Navigation #10: Deciphering Declination
Wilderness Navigation #11: UTM Coordinates
Wilderness Navigation #12: Contours and Elevation
Wilderness Navigation #13: Contours and Terrain
Wilderness Navigation #14: Map Scale
Wilderness Navigation #15: Smartphone Tools for Wilderness Navigation


Thursday, December 31, 2015

On The Horizon For 2016...

UPDATED: 4/20/16
Let The Drumroll Begin!
Cirque of the Towers, Wind River Range, WY
Here's what's to come for 2016...and even 2017! This past year was quite a year. After five months of hiking 2000mi (on the Hayduke Trail, Tahoe Rim Trail, Lost Coast Trail, a section of the CDT, and the Great Divide Trail) I returned home to Portland, OR in September ready for a break from hiking and blogging for awhile. I have been doing presentations about this year's hikes, but I've mainly been working. For those that don't already know, I'm able to afford 5 months or more of hiking each year through simple living and working 60+hrs a week substitute teaching and nannying/babysitting during out of school hours. It is tiring, and quite the imbalance that leaves little time/energy for much else, but it's worth it to be able to travel so much each year. I'm very fortunate that all has fallen into place to seamlessly make this lifestyle possible and I want to take advantage of it while I can physically and financially. For me, sharing the journey is all part of keeping things in balance. Being out on the trail gives me so much, that I want to pay it forward in some way, and the blogging is my way of contributing. This is going to be quite the year (and a half!) ahead, so here's the general timeline. I'll explain each venture briefly now, with more detail to come on why I've chosen each of these and more details of terrain and strategy in future posts.

**The 2016 hikes I've chosen are high routes that are largely weather and snowpack dependent. The dates I give below are ideal time frames that may need to be shifted (or even postponed to another year) if snowpack is too high this year. I'm very flexible and am completely entertained by local Northwest hikes if conditions are not safe to head out to high elevation earlier in the summer.

1) Late June/July: Sierra High Route, CA (195mi)
2) Late July: Wind River High Route, WY (~100mi)
3) August: Kings Canyon High Basin Route, CA (124mi)
4) Late August/Early Sept: Wonderland Trail, WA (93mi)
5) Late September: Bibbulmun Track, Austrailia (623mi)
5) October: Larapinta Trail, Austrailia(139mi)
6) November-March-ish(2017) Te Araroa (and other travels), New Zealand (1,864mi)

Why These Hikes?
Here's the basic reasoning in all of this. I will go into more detail in future posts. I seriously had no idea what I wanted to hike in the future when I returned home after this past season. I took some time to think about it and wanted to just go with my gut. I've had New Zealand on my radar for years and I've been waiting for when it felt right to go. Since New Zealand has opposite seasons from the US, I'll be hiking there during the US fall/winter. I've chosen to work through the whole school year this year to make as much money as possible for the overseas hiking (plus the fact that I'll miss most of the school year next year while I'm gone). I'm completely content with the extended time at home this year. I have been craving some "nesting time" and a break from the planning, blogging, and endurance of long distance hiking. That opened up a window for me to do hiking during the summer months that most years, I would't be able to do. Some of the more challenging (mentally and physically) high routes that are shorter miles, but still require a good chunk of time given that mileage will be much lower on those mainly off trail routes. These summer hikes will be another step up for me in challenge and I'm interested to see if I enjoy them and the more tedious terrain of these hikes that are mostly off trail.

Are You Hiking With Anyone?
Rockin', Why Not, and myself on the Tahoe Rim Trail
I'm soooo STOKED to announce that I've convinced my good friends Rockin' and Why Not to join me for the summer!!! We all did the Tahoe Rim Trail together last summer and I love the power and inspiration of hiking with them. The trio reunites! Rockin's a teacher and has til early August to squeeze in the SHR and WRHR. For those of you that don't know, Rockin' is my friend and mentor that I've done many hikes with since we met in 2011(when I was preparing for my first thru-hike of the PCT). She is also a committed and well known backpacking blogger with the site, ladyonarock.com. The Sierra is Rockin's backyard playground and she's a big fan of climbing on all the jagged rocks out there (hence the name Rockin'). Rockin's enthusiasm for the Sierra is sure to be a boost in such difficult terrain. Why Not is awesome and is in for possibly all three high routes I hope to do! Why Not just returned from the Te Araroa in NZ, which I plan to hike later this year, and also keeps a daily blog I love. I've consistently been following in Why Not's footsteps for years and I'm excited we will have a whole summer to hike together. The three of us are going to have a lot of fun doing these together. As for AUS and NZ, I plan to do those solo. There are many other hikers out there and I'm looking forward to doing my own thing as I usually do on the really long hikes.

Sierra High Route
Along the JMT
Most people are familiar with the John Muir Trail in the Sierra. The Sierra High Route is 195mi and should take about three weeks to complete. It basically parallels the JMT (overlapping for short stretches), is mostly off trail, over talus, and above tree line. This route is not new and was published by Steve Roper in 1997. Although it's been around for decades, few seek out such remote areas, so there will be a great deal of solitude along the route. Rockin' has hiked pretty much all of the SHR in pieces on trips mostly a decade or more ago, and has been itching to do a complete thru hike of the whole thing. This route has maybe 1/3 of the miles as trail, but the rest will be very taxing and cautious hiking on talus. That jagged, loose, and unforgiving rock is my biggest concern on this route with my trick ankle. Many times, I said I'd never hike this route and that I had no interest. After gaining more confidence on the rocks along the Appalachian Trail and then the scrambling on the Hayduke Trail, I have found that this is one challenge I have evolved to find interesting. I don't know that I'll love it...or even like it...but I want to give it a try. Rockin' already knows she loves it and that will be just the right kind of energy I'll need for something I find intimidating. I have friends that have hiked the SHR and it is quite different from most thru hikes. The conditions and terrain will vary from moment to moment with an average of ~10-15mi/day most days. The plan is to enjoy this one as much as possible by not trying to push mileage. We all have time and are in no rush, so we have the flexibility to adjust where needed. Just to give and idea of the talus we have in store for us, here is a picture Rockin' on one of her trips along the SHR.
Rockin' on the Sierra High Route talus.
The Sierra is a magical place for many and I think this is an experience worth putting time into. Few others will be out there and I look forward to the solitude and having much of the trip to ourselves. Yes, there may be a lot of snow this year, and that will dictate our decision on when we'll go, but the hope is by late June. All of us are familiar with Sierra snow and actually enjoy some snow on those mountains...especially if it makes for smoother travel over talus, ha!
Along the JMT
For many, grasping the concept of these high routes and where they go, can be difficult. For all these routes, I thought making a GoogleEarth virtual tour would be a fun way for me to get more comfortable with the navigation. I think everyone will really enjoy these. A great big THANK YOU to my friend GoalTech for teaching me how to make these virtual tours. Love it! I used the maps and points from Andrew Skurka's SHR mapset, which is based off of Roper's original route and guidebook to plot the route and create this virtual tour. If you're on a smart device, you may not be able to view the embedded video below, so click here to view the Sierra High Route Virtual Tour. This tour takes the route from south to north (it can be done either way). Yes, there is a track there to guide the viewer's eye, but remember that this is a route and there is no exact trail to follow. Note that the GoogleEarth image is from May 30, 2014 as a reference.



Wind River High Route
I've been making plans to return to the Wind River Range ever since I hiked through the Winds along the Continental Divide Trail in 2013. The flowers and green grass of the alpine lakes and meadows are unique and different from the gray kind of monotone the high Sierra can have. It is one of my all time favorite places I've hiked through. There are many high routes through the Winds. A very popular one is the route created by Alan Dixon and Don Wilson. It is about 80mi, and just like the SHR, goes off trail over passes along talus for a decent portion of the hike. Dixon and Wilson believe that the WRHR is "mile for mile the finest non technical Alpine route in North America." Of all I have planned for this summer, I'm most excited about this route!
In the Wind River Range on the CDT.
The WRHR will pose much of the same challenges as the SHR and it will also be low mileage days. The Winds can have heavy storms and should still have some snow on the passes when we hope to get there in late July, so again, we will be flexible. There will soon be another more extensive route from Andrew Skurka that should be released later this winter. It will probably overlap with much of Dixon and Wilson's route, but be longer (~100mi) and have some differences that may be preferable for myself and Rockin'. Once we get the maps, we will compare the two and make decisions as to the route we will be taking, which could be a combo of the two. There are also other resources with some great routes, including Nancy Pallister's off trail guide of the Winds, which is said to be what many of these routes are based off of. Again, there are many options on high routes and none of this is uncharted territory. Just less traveled and more remote. 

For now, here is a virtual tour I created using Dixon & Wilson's WRHR route. This tour goes southbound as they describe, but it can be done either way. This will not be our exact route, but is a good idea of what to expect. I think we will be out there a week and a half or more. If you can't view the embedded video below, here is the direct link to the WRHR virtual tour. Note that the GoogleEarth image for this tour is from July 22, 2014 the first half and June 28, 2014 the second half. Again, this is a route, and that track is there as a visual reference to guide the viewer's eye along the tour.


Kings Canyon High Basin Route
The Kings Canyon High Basin Route is a newly released route from Andrew Skurka that is also in the Sierra and is comparable to the SHR. It is about 124mi long and should take up to two weeks to complete. Like the SHR, and WRHR, these areas have been explored for decades. Skurka has connected them to create a thru hike. A resource that contains many of the areas that locals may know is Phil Arnot's High Sierra. There is very little beta on this hike as a thru considering no one has thru hiked it (or published anything about thru hiking it)other than Skurka. I have a feeling many are interested in doing it this summer with the fires last summer preventing many from going out when it was first released. The catch is that this one should be done in late summer with a difficult high water crossing along the route. Personally, this one is a 50/50 maybe on my list for this summer. There are many variables and I will just have to see how I'm doing mentally, physically, and time-wise after the SHR and WRHR. My understanding is that I may be craving more paved trail and mindless hiking after the first two hikes. I completely understand that, but am also intrigued by the KCHBR. Only time will tell how my mind and body deals with so much cross country along talus for multiple weeks. If I choose not to do this hike, I'll probably head up to the NW and do some summer ones I haven't had a chance to do in Oregon and Washington. I'm keeping the options open.

Here is a virtual tour of the KCHBR I made using Skurka's mapset and route description. Again, this is a route and has many different options. Already, Skurka has made updates to the original route I have in the tour that he recommends over this original route. It's fun to watch the tour and I do hope I have the energy and mental stamina to give it a shot at the end of the summer! If you can't view the embedded video below, (blocked due to copyright of songs in NZ/AUS) here's the direct link to the KCHBR virtual tour. Note that the GoogleEarth image is from May 30, 2014. Again, this is a route and the given track is there as a guide for the viewer's eye.


Wonderland Trail
Living in the Pacific Northwest, this 93mi trail around Washington's Mt Rainier has always been on my radar, but I just haven't been home in the optimal window to make it up there. It looks like it will fit in perfectly sometime late summer after I've done the high routes. I'm really looking forward to this popular hike. Here's a great site on the Wonderland Trail if you'd like to see more.

Bibbulmun Track & Larapinta Trail
The original goal for this year was New Zealand, but I figure that while I'm already out there, I may as well take a month or two to visit Australia and hike two of the most recommended trails over there. It looks like it will fit in perfectly between this summer's hikes and NZ. I could definitely spend much more time there, but so far, the general plan is to mainly aim to do the Bibbulmun Track (623mi)and Larapinta Trail(139mi). I know very little about both and will look into them more at a later date, but they come highly recommended and I'm excited to explore Australia a bit. 

Te Araroa
Image courtesy of traildino.com
I'M FINALLY GOING TO NEW ZEALAND!!! Those that have been following the blog for awhile know I've had New Zealand on my radar for many years. There are many shorter tracks in NZ known as the 9 Great Walks, but the main hike one that people are thru hiking these days is the 1,864mi Te Araroa that runs the full length of NZ. Most hike southbound during New Zealand's spring and summer. I will probably start in late October for this hike as that is the beginning of New Zealand's spring. I will not go into great detail on this hike right now, but I will say that the term "trail" is used loosely and that this is a polarizing trail with much bushwhacking and road walking involved along with beach walking, muddy rainforests, and expansive mountains. My friend Why Not is currently hiking it, blogging daily, and having quite the social experience! The TA does not hit some of the highlights of New Zealand and misses some of the Great Walks I might want to hike, so I'm going to take time either as I hike, or for a month or so after, to do some more traveling and sightseeing. I'll be going into much more detail on this after this summer, but it's never too late to start planning. If anyone knows a New Zealander interested in helping me out over there, feel free to send them my way. One major goal is that I am looking to rent/borrow a car possibly around the month of Feb/March (2017) for general sightseeing and travel on each island for a month or so. I haven't looked into details at all and probably won't for quite awhile. Just excited to get over there and experience it all. 

Whew! I know that was a lot to take in! I'll post more as dates get closer, but for now, I'll be taking a break from posting much until summer gets closer. Excited to continue nesting at home until then! Happy New Year everyone and I hope you have some awesome journeys planned as well! Bye for now...

Friday, December 4, 2015

Backpacking Basics Article

Just a quick post to share that I was interviewed on the topic of Backpacking Basics by a new UK online magazine called Totally Active. Here's a link to the four page spread and screen shots of the article. I just have fun seeing all the photos:)







Thursday, October 29, 2015

"Wild Woman" Feature

I was recently featured on Trail to Summit's blog as one of the Wild Women in hiking. It was a fun interview to do and Allison has done a great job of featuring real women in the hiking community. Here is the link to the article and I also suggest that you check out Trail to Summit's "Female Hikers" tab. Allison has filled the void of quality women focused backpacking content. Thank you Allison for stepping up on this one! 
Click the photo to read the full article. 


Sunday, October 25, 2015

Hikin' & Helpin' With An Auction

Tonight I had a fun experience I wanted to share with everyone. I was invited to a fancy fundraising dinner and auction for a local non-profit environmental law center in Portland, the Crag Law Center. Not only was I invited to the dinner, but I was an actual item in the auction! There's a unique experience. I'll get to the details on the auction in a minute, but first I want to mention the event.

Every other year, Crag Law Center has a major fundraising dinner for their organization. Crag's mission is to protect and sustain the Pacific Northwest's Natural Legacy. As a non-profit law center, donations are an integral part of their organization and the work they are able to accomplish. It was admirable to be in a room with so many giving so much to help the environment. The event was held at The Benson, one of the most historic buildings in Portland and one of the finest hotels in the city.

I've never been to an event of this caliber and I have to say the Portlanders rock! Everyone was really approachable and easy to talk to. There were randomly three different acquaintances there that I know through hiking near Portland. Two people knew me just before I left to do the PCT on my first thru hike. It was crazy to reflect with them and think how much has changed in such a short time period! I've also never been to an auction, so that was really cool too. The best part was that all the auction items were something outdoorsy! Some pieces of art, trips, clothing, gear, etc. The big ticket item of the night was an Alaskan cruise that went for $10,000! People at my table were actually in on that bid up until the last moment. So crazy! Items were lined up all along the room for silent auction, and some, like mine, were bid on live on the stage. So cool! 

My item was one of the first ones up for the night as everyone was getting settled in. It went by so fast! I kick myslef for not letting the auctioneer know I was there and not getting on stage. I was too busy recording it, ha! Here's the video clip. You can hear it was a lively crowd and lots happening at once.

So a day hike and dinner with me went for $300, yay! It was a fun evening and I'm glad I can give back in a unique way. Here I am with auction winners, Susan and Kevin, who also went home with an armful of other goodies from the auction. It was entertaining to watch them bid for sure. Thanks for a great night you two!

My inner introvert is wiped out with all that commotion and ready to crash harder than if I had hiked all day today, whew! If you'd like to DONATE TO CRAG CLICK HERE!

Also, a reminder that I have two events coming up over the next two weeks. My first Hayduke presentation is this week at the Mazamas Mountaineering Center.

And the weekend of Nov 7th is Oregon Trails Club's Annual Backpacking Seminar. I will be doing BOTH my Hayduke and Great Divide Trail presentations there along with many other presenters for a two day packed weekend at Nesika Lodge in the Columbia Gorge. Registration information can be found at trailsclub.org

...and, of course, don't forget to VOTE FOR THE CONTINENTAL DIVIDE TRAIL! It's waaay too close to comfort and we can't let it slip away in the final days of voting. Vote until Oct 31st and email me to be put on the daily reminder list if you like.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

PLEASE HELP!!!!

The Continental Divide Trail is up for a $25,000 grant and it's slipping away! The top two vote getters get the grant and it is too close for comfort. At the time of this posting, the CDT is in second with the third place Florida Trail inching up quickly (now just 760 votes away). There is just one week left and we need to hold on to this. It takes less than a minute to vote!

*If everyone who reads this VOTES DAILY for the next week, the CDT will get the grant easily! 

VOTE HERE!!!!

Email me to ask to be added to the daily reminder list!

*First time voters, be sure to confirm you are a real person in the confirmation email you will be sent as no fake account votes will count.



Sunday, October 18, 2015

Advice To Future GDTers

UPDATED May 24, 2016

Thinking about doing the Great Divide Trail? Not sure if it's the hike for you? Wondering what a GDT hike involves? Well, you've come to the right place. I'll do what I can to keep this as concise and informative as I can. I know this can seem exhaustive, but it saves me time in the long run as I get many emails and questions, so I try to cover all the bases here of what people might ask.

My Great Divide Trail Experience
I feel like my hiking partner (Elizabeth) and I had one of the most fortunate and optimal experiences anyone could have on the Great Divide Trail. Many things came together to make it a really great experience. Mainly, the weather!  Probably the key ingredient to a good GDT experience is less rain. I say less, because the rain(and possibly snow) is inevitable. We were lucky to have less rain AND a low snow year coming into the hike, so our stream crossings were less intimidating too. Overall, there was a decent amount of rainfall this summer along the GDT, but we were lucky to thread the needle on many occasions. Hikers within a week or two of us in either direction were not always as fortunate with weather and it definitely impacts the enjoyment of the hike. The clearer conditions also gave us the ability to do the highly recommended high route alternates. These alternates were some of my favorite experiences along the trail and gave the added bonus of avoiding the low route that was often in a lot of wet brush and mud. We were just extremely lucky with timing...and also fortunate to have each other to keep things positive when those inevitably cold and wet days or moments would come. The other ingredient that greatly impacted our hike was that the Great Divide Trail Association did major trail work on some of the most overgrown sections right before we got to them. It was like the green carpet was being rolled out and it was wonderful to benefit from all the hard work of those trail volunteers! The GDT surpassed all my expectations and I had built it up pretty big in my mind. It has set the bar for what I want in a thru hike. It had just the right balance of community, challenge, clearly defined trail, alternate routes, cross country, and solo hiking. More improvements are being made each year, and I highly recommend getting out there before the rest of the world finds out about it!

Resources
There are a few resources in development that could come to fruition in the next couple of years (and I will update this as those come along), but for now, this is what I recommend using. Again, I am the type of person who wants as much beta as possible, so this is a more exhaustive list than most would want or need. I know of a hiking couple that didn't even hardly use the guidebook this year, and just figured it out on their own with rough maps. It's a matter of personal preference, but here are the options.

-GDT Thru-Hiker Facebook Group
New in 2016! The GDT now has a Facebook group so hikers and supporters can communicate in one group! Here's the link to join and be in the loop with everything GDT.

-Great Divide Trail Association
First off, if you hike this trail and don't DONATE to the GDTA, a grizzly bear WILL attack you...go ahead and test that theory if you like, but it's true! Seriously, the GDT is a young trail in need of a lot of support. Canada does not have the government funding that the US does for trails, so that makes donations that much more essential. DONATE what you can and/or become a GDTA member. If you live near the trail, offer to volunteer!
My personal opinion on resources is that I can't wait for the day that all of the resources are combined into one comprehensive guide on the Great Divide Trail Association website. I do feel like it may be headed in that direction and the GDTA has done amazing things with just a few volunteers. I am in awe of the time and effort given by them and the incredible progress that has been made in a recent resurgence of the GDTA. Their website is a great resource and basically has everything there you need to hike. I am just expounding on what they already have and putting it in one post. I have trouble reading and found the layout to be confusing and a bit of a seek and find, but I think that may just be me personally. All you need is linked on the GDTA page! There is also a list of journals from past hikers and they would love to add more if you're planning to hike and journal online. I especially enjoy the interactive map they have of the trail and track available for download, that I will elaborate on later.

-GDT App & Guidebook*
There is currently a free app in production that is testing mode this summer(2016). It will not be available this summer. Check back right here for more details if/when it becomes available. If all goes as hoped, it will be a combo of a GPS with a track and guidebook with trail descriptions.

-Guidebook
Dustin Lynx published the GDT guidebook, Hiking Canada's Great Divide Trail in 2000, and it was revised in 2007. We had the great opportunity of meeting Dustin Lynx during our hike and I really appreciate what he did with this guidebook. The book is outdated in some areas where the trail conditions could have changed for the better(trail maintenance) or worse (fire/flood damage), but overall, I found it to still be very applicable as the route has barely changed. Dustin does a great job of concisely describing each section and how you would experience it as you hike through it. Some of the shortcomings are that when he gathered this information in the late 1990s, the distances and waypoints were not collected using the precise mapping tools that we have today. The distances are sometimes longer or shorter than noted (nothing greatly significant) and the waypoints were done on a different grid (or whatever it's called), so the waypoints available for download (I will mention later), are not exact. That is a minor problem as most are easy landmarks that are easily located without the need of a GPS for assistance. The general maps in the book are drawn maps, so you will want a separate set of actual maps.

Trail Beta Notes From Previous Hikers
One of the best supplemental resources I had on the trail were the beta notes from previous hikers that have been passed on from year to year. It's very helpful to read where other hikers had rough navigation or weather, and also get thoughts on the pros/cons of alternates and route choices. I highly recommend hiking with these notes. Please feel free to contribute and pay it forward for future hikers after your hike. Contact me if you'd like to edit this document.

-Zdenek Sychrava's Website & MAPS! 
Zdenek Sychrava hiked the GDT in 2014, and most of it again in 2015. The trail is basically his backyard and the GDT has become his current passion. He will probably be out again in 2016, and I wouldn't be surprised if some kind of stellar resources come out of all his research in the next couple of years. You'll notice in my daily blog entries that I used Zdenek's elevation charts for my hike. There are no elevation charts in any of the other resources, so THANK YOU for that Zdenek. I found his GDT Map List to be more understandable than the one on the GDTA's site (more on that below). NEW FOR 2016...Zdenek made Maps!!! (more on this below in "other maps").

Basically, I recommend that you go through everything under his GDT Resources tab. If you go through Zdenek's blog, I found it very helpful Thank you for doing all this voluntarily Zed and for paying it forward to future GDTers! I highly recommend that you follow his blog to be apprised of any updates or announcements. I will update here if I hear of anything. Zdenek was a huge personal resource to me, and having seen some of the things he's produced for himself, I truly hope he takes the leap to share them with the public...yep, I'm calling you out Zed! YOU ROCK and I think you've found your niche!

-Ben Mayberry's Maps & GDT Resource Package
If you look around for GDT info, you may come across the name Ben Mayberry. I was able to get my hands on his Maps and Resource Package, but since then he has been MIA and seems to have dropped out of contributing to the GDT beta. His resource package was most helpful, but it was outdated. The GDT 2015 crew submitted updates to improve on the package with no response, so I would consider his materials non-existent until further notice. I've linked his website that has his email if you wish to try to contact him. Yes, a bummer, but great that there seem to be other more updated resources in the making for 2016.

-GDTA KML Google Earth File
First off, it is not a necessity to have a track to hike the GDT. The GDT is mostly on either road or already existing trail. The track definitely does come in handy for those sections that are not as clear, but it isn't essential. I love the embedded map on the GDTA website! They give a detailed description below the map on how to view all aspects of the map along with how to download the track. It's really fun to view each section and get an idea of where things are and the terrain it goes over. WARNING: The track is a compilation of many hiker's contributions, and it seems that some of it is a drawn in track in certain places. Do not rely on this track as an exact path to follow and only use it as a general guide for many of the cross country situations. Sometimes the track isn't even on the correct side of major streams, so be aware of that and don't blindly follow the track. I was fortunate to have a personal track from a previous hiker that was very helpful, but he wants that track to remain private. I do know that the President of the GDTA will be hiking the trail for the second time this coming summer and I wouldn't be surprised if a lot of these discrepancies are fixed by the summer of 2017.

-Other Maps
So there are a lot of different maps people can use for the GDT. A complete listing can be found on both the GDTA's site and Zdenek's site. Zdenek's is laid out in a more understandable way and helps you to see which maps cover which sections of the GDT trail. I found it very helpful! As of 2016, here is what I'd recommend...use Gem Trek, Nat Geo, and Zdenek's maps. Within Zed's GDT Maps pdf, he has a nice chart showing which sections need which maps. LOOK AT THAT CHART in his maps and it will make more sense! Zed's maps only fill in the gaps where Gem Trek and Nat Geo don't cover the trail and they stop at Mt Robson. I really liked the GemTrek maps, but they are not essential. They are not solely intended for the GDT, so they encompass larger parks areas that just coincidentally have the GDT marked on them. I liked seeing the whole park and sometimes we used them for extra exploration. The ones we found that we used the most were the Waterton Lakes, Banff & Mt Assiniboine, and Jasper. Good luck if you want to print off the free Natural Resources Canada GeoGratis maps...I didn't have the patience to figure it out, and when E did, they were NOT worth it!

-Downloading Free Canada Topo Maps for GPS
Some are familiar with my guide on downloading free maps for a Garmin GPS. Unfortunately, that that method does not work to download topo maps for Canada. Brian "Buck-30" Tanzman has awesomely written up tutorial on how to download these maps if you'd like free maps. If you'd rather buy them from Garmin, you want to order the Garmin West Canada Topo maps.

Should I Hike With A Partner?
It is completely doable to hike the GDT solo. In fact, it may be a very pleasant experience for some. I'll tell you why I personally found having a partner to be an advantage on the GDT. First off, grizzly bears. E and I saw no bears. We don't know if that's because the noise of two hikers and conversation scared them away, or if it was just a coincidence. Also, we slept much better at night with another tent nearby than we probably would have in grizzly country alone. Hanging a bear bag is a pain...even more so in cold wet brush. We shared this responsibility with E hanging most nights and me retrieving. It seems like a small thing, but it was a nice luxury to team up on the bear hanging. There were some very uncomfortable moments being very cold and very wet...having another person there to go through that with really helped both of our morale. Having two sets of eyes to find trail and navigate during the cross country or brushy sections really helped. Finally, the GDT will be epic at times. Sharing that with a great partner will only make it even greater! So, you see where I'm coming from with this. I would prefer a partner on the GDT. However, it definitely wouldn't stop me from hiking the GDT if I didn't have someone to hike with. To each their own and you all know your own wants/needs. If you want that solo experience, by all means, go for it!

Grizzly Bear Strategy
We didn't want to take any risks with the bears. We didn't carry a bear canister, but we did hang most nights and used OPSAKs to keep our food as odor proof as possible. I talk about them more in my 2015 gear review. We both carried the 8oz Counter Assault bear spray. We did make dinner near camp, but not in camp. We walked a good distance away from camp and made sure we were downwind of camp to cook. Really, there are so many little things that could attract a bear that it's hard to know where to draw the line...I was paranoid about inflating my sleeping pad after dinner because I worried that my breath smelled of whatever I ate or minty toothpaste. I always blew up my sleeping pad before dinner. Then there was my clothing I cooked in...do I hang that too? What about my jackets and beanie!? If my food was in my pack and side pockets all day, shouldn't I just hang it all? All of this runs through your head and you just have to decide what helps you to sleep best at night. Btw, bear spray can legally be driven into Canada from the US, but cannot be brought back into the US...and as a side note, DO NOT try to fly Air Canada with your hiking poles...learned that one the hard way on the way out.

What About Rain & Brush?
I'm not gonna lie, there is rain (and possibly snow!) possible every day on the GDT. There is no way to avoid it. For us, the rain would usually be a light rain sometime overnight. We were thankful for that and that it wasn't raining as much when we hiked, but it did make all the thick brush wet and the car wash effect took place. We would be drenched with soaking wet shoes sometimes just minutes into the early morning hiking. Having dry shoes the second half of the hike was an anomaly. There is no avoiding it and trail runners or a lighter boot are your best bet if you ever want them to dry out. We both used Sierra Designs Hurricane Rain Pants and I really like them. E has found that they can wear easily in the crotch and wetness can seep through, but hers were used when she got them. I used a heavier rain jacket than usual and was very happy with the Montbell Torrent Flier! I also used Nitrile medical gloves over my gloves to try to keep them dry and create a vapor barrier for added warmth. E used her older Marmot Precip rain jacket and it was really wearing thin. She was able to add a poncho she found and loved using that for added protection and warmth. She used nice warm fleece mittens that I envied on those really cold wet days. We both used umbrellas and swear by them for sanity. Here is a link to how to attach umbrellas to a pack and walk hands free. We even found that we could prop them over us in trees during lunch, if needed, for a dry break. All of my gear is reviewed in detail on my 2015 Gear Review. Zed found this video from 2014 hikers Leif and Elina that is perfect in showing the variety of experiences on the trail. That is the type of brush and stream crossings you can expect. Thanks for letting me share this Leif and Elina!

Resupplies
There aren't many options to choose from along the GDT, so everyone tends to resupply at the same places. The complete list and details are in Mayberry's Package and on the GDTA's website. Many are directly along the route and you hike right though, so that's super convenient! You're going to want to send to most places either because of insanely high prices or because there is no place to buy food. The only places I'd consider not shipping would be where you could get to a grocery store at Blairmore/Coleman(neighboring), Banff, and Jasper. They might be a bit pricey though. Our mailing strategy was that we were able to drive over the border with all our food boxes and then mail them within Canada. There is a post office in Waterton Lakes, but the one in the neighboring town of Pincher Creek is a larger post office with less routing, so we chose to go there to mail. Also, Pincher Creek is a larger town with a WalMart to do all your resupplies from if you need to do that. We were able to ship all 6 boxes for less than $100US. As for fuel, we both used alcohol stoves and were able to buy in towns with gas stations, which were most. We either found denatured alcohol or a HEET equivalent which is gas line antifreeze that come in small black bottles. Warning, don't buy the ones that have benzene. It will turn your pot black and has a strong odor.

Phone/Data Packages
Being Wired, I just wanted the phone plan that would give me the works and that I wouldn't have to worry about minutes or limitations. I found out that the Telus network is the one to get, so I got lucky and was able to get at local to add me to their Telus plan(THANK YOU Dave!) while I was in Pincher Creek. I did have to get the plan and a new SimCard in Pincher Creek at a place called the Phone Lady. If you do use a local's phone plan, they have to come to the store to make this happen in person. For most of you, you will probably just choose a basic plan you could get at WalMart. I can't remember which one E chose, but be sure to read the fine print! They can be tricky saying there is unlimited on things, when what they mean is that you can purchase an unlimited amount. It doesn't come unlimited unless you keep paying more. I found wifi available in most places we stopped, but often too slow to load a blog post. That's where my Telus plan came in handy. If wifi was too slow, I just did it directly using my own data.

Campsites
There are a lot of public, paid, and reserved campsites along the GDT. They are not the only option unless you are in a National Park (not sure about Provencial Parks as they vary) so know that there are more places to camp than the campsites listed on the GDTA site and Zdenek's website. The pro to sleeping at the campsites is that there were often nice eating areas, in protected areas for foul weather, and had pulley systems to easily bear hang. The con is that other people may be there, they tend to be quite wooded without views, and more animals may frequent an area if they are accustomed to people camping there.

Permits
Ok, I will admit that this is one of the things I find to be the most overwhelming. I was extremely fortunate that E handled this part of the planning. THANK YOU E!!! Here is what E has to say on the matter. "One of my goals while creating our itinerary was to have as few reserved campsites as possible, so I strategically chose sites where we could freedom camp or walk-in for $5.  I reserved 9 sites the entire trail: 2 Banff, 2 Kootenay, 4 Jasper, 1 Mt. Robson.  The GDTA campsite list is fabulous!  I would have been lost without it.  So much good information in one place. I made two phone calls to backcountry offices (Banff and Jasper) and one online campsite reservation (Mt Robson-Berg Lk area).  When required to leave a message for Banff and Jasper, I was skeptical that anyone would get back to me in a timely manner, but I was pleasantly surprised when they did." She totally rocked it!

In most cases, we do not like to plan out everyday, but for this hike we sorta had to have a general plan to ensure that we hit our permitted campsites on the exact date. Our strategy was to plan on the low end for mileage to buffer for weather or anything else that might come up. If we got to town early, we got bonus time in town. It worked out well and I think E planned for about a 30km (19mi) average, but that will be different for everyone. I recommend starting by going to the GDTA's listing of Campgrounds along the GDT. Download that pdf and note the campgrounds that require a permit. That will give you a start and from there you'll follow the process through each park's website. E was able to book through Banff & Jasper backcountry offices for even the smaller parks that border them, so that will save time. You need to do this months in advance as the fill up early! Honestly, once we were out there, we found that many people do not seem to make reservations and many stealth or use the campgrounds without a permit. Rarely were our campgrounds completely full...but maybe that was just a coincidence for us. I'm not saying to completely disregard the system, but I am saying that there does seem to be some possible wiggle room if you find yourself off your expected schedule.

Alternate Routes
Dustin Lynx's guidebook and Ben Mayberry's GDT Package contain many alternate route options. E and I did just about all of them we wanted to do. Most require clear weather as they tend to be high route alternates, so sometimes the weather will dictate your choice. Overall, I felt like the high routes were what I was out there to do. Yes, the low route brushy stuff might have been quicker, but that wasn't our goal. Those alternates were some of the highlights of the trip! I will be adding my detailed thoughts to Ben's Package, so here I will just link the alternates we did do. I can say that I didn't regret a single one, but that they may not be for everyone.
-Barnaby Ridge
-Coral Pass
-Wonder Pass
-Mt Robson
-Jackpine Mtn High Route (partial)
-Surprise Pass High Route
-Providence Pass High Route

What About that Field Section?
As you research or hear about the Great Divide Trail, you might hear about a section that is no longer maintained that is basically a wall of brush and water crossings. It is the section from Field to Saskatchewan Crossing. For us, this 71mi section took 4 days and was not as horrid as we imagined in our minds. You can read here what that section is like, but I found it to be worth doing to connect our footsteps. Yes, brush is annoying, and we did experience some of it in very cold wet brush. I would not want to do that section in back to back days of rain! I will say that going through that made us appreciate even more what we got the rest of the trail. We both felt like it gave us a new perspective and made the later challenges seem less taxing. Some hikers have tried creating various routes to go around this section or skip it altogether, but there has yet to be an alternate that anyone can say is worth doing over the original route. While we were in that section, we tried to imagine how it would feel without the brush and it would actually be a pretty nice section scenically. I will add that the GDTA has slated a section of this, the David Thompson Heritage Trail and stream crossings, for major trail work next summer. They plan to clear out that section of the trail and put bridges over two of the more intimidating crossings along the whole trail.

What Ending Do I Choose?
Once you look at the trail in detail, you will find out that there are multiple ways to end the GDT.
Option #1-Mt Robson: The most common ending is at Mt Robson. It is a very popular destination for tourists and is an 18mi side hike off the GDT. It is a nice place to end a trail and an easy place to get a hitch out.
Option #2-Kakwa Lake: The guidebook has the GDT ending at the remote Kakwa Lake. Looking at the GDTA map, you can see this section if you click on the sections of the map. For us, it was an additional 8 days and 136mi northbound of fairly relaxed hiking (there could be a ton of brush if you don't take high routes) to hike from Mt Robson to the point that a car could pick us up after Kakwa Lake. Had we not had a car to pick us up, we would have had to add another day or two and 45mi of dirt road walking to get out. Now you see why so few do that final leg. For us, it was one of the best and most remote legs of the entire hike! We only saw 1 pair of horsepackers between Robson and Kakwa Lake! We loved ending the hike in this way, but it could be a VERY different ending if this section was done in foul weather and a lot of rain. We had pretty much perfect conditions for this stretch. It is remote, in that, less people are out there, but we were surprised to find clear trail for much of the way. It is a choice all will have to make and some may not even decided until they get to Mt Robson with all the factors involved.
Option #3-Grande Cache Alternate: This alternate was hiked by a couple in 2013 and Zdenek tested it out this past year, but has yet to post about it. I'm sure he would give beta to anyone really interested in it. Again, you can get a good visual by clicking on the sections on the GDTA's interactive Google Map. This route basically forks east just before reaching Kakwa Lake to eventually end a the town of Grande Cache. This is one way to do a hike further north and end at a more populated area, but it will take at least 10 days for most people I believe.
Option #4-North Boundary Trail: Another option, done less frequently for those wanting to hike back to Jasper, is that the North Boundary Trail connects at the Robson junction and that would create a loop back to Jasper.

Whew, hope all that info is helpful!