This dirt path that I follow has carried me through some spectacular scenery, especially within the many remote wilderness areas it traverses. These wilderness areas can be part of national parks, national forests, or other public BLM land, and are protected by the Wilderness Act of 1964 to ensure that America's wild lands do not disappear. There are over 800 wilderness areas in the United States, and the CDT passes through 21 of them.
To maintain their wild nature, mechanized tools and vehicles are not allowed in designated wilderness areas. The trails in these areas are instead built and maintained by hand, with crews carrying tools in themselves or with a team of horses, and many hours of manual labor going into each project. Some projects may take days or weeks, and even something as simple as removing a fallen tree from the trail can be a major task.
While walking through Rocky Mountain National Park, I came across two lovely humans who volunteer their time to help maintain this incredible trail. I caught Howard and Mary Jo having a trailside snack after using a hand saw to remove a fallen tree from the trail. They have volunteered with the park for years and spend their days hiking and clearing the trail by hand. Mary Jo shared how fun (and dangerous) it can be, especially when multiple trees fall on top of one another, creating a complex puzzle to work out. Howard proudly shared that this is the 3992nd tree that he has cleared from the trail.
As I continued hiking, I took more notice of the hundreds of cut trees that lay along the side of the trail. I thought about the hands that may have cut them and the many hours spent keeping this trail clear. I have so much gratitude for the employees and volunteers who work so hard to maintain this trail while keeping our wild land wild. Thank you to Mary Jo and Howard and all the other wonderful volunteers who make this hike possible!
When I resupply, I look at how many miles I need to hike until my next stop and what the terrain is like to determine how many days' worth of food I will need. The more I hike, the better I get at this calculus, but sometimes I still get it wrong. On this last stretch through the Gila River Wilderness, I definitely got it wrong and my hiking partner and I ended up a bit at odds, having some severe food anxiety for days and being VERY hungry. How did it go so wrong?
Usually I make my food before I leave home, dehydrating and measuring and preparing every meal with nutrition, calorie content and weight in mind. I sort all of my food into resupply boxes and label them for post office drops along the way. Sometimes, however, things get messy. A box gets lost in the mail. I arrive on a holiday weekend and would have to wait 3 days for...
Honestly though, this hike has been worlds apart from my thru hike of the PCT. The trail itself has a very different feel, the people are different, and I am a different hiker than I was on my last journey. This hike has been such a unique experience from any of my other hikes and I am so grateful for it.