The Continental Divide Trail was my ambitious plan for 2018.
This trail is still being put together so there isn’t an entirely set route and it can range from 2,600 miles to 3,100 miles in length depending on the route. Part of the challenge of this trail is choosing the trails that are most appropriate for stock and for the given snowpack that year.
The trail travels through New Mexico, Colorado, Wyoming, a smidge of Idaho, and Montana. The trail in New Mexico was the least well-marked and there were times when I went the entire day navigating with only my GPS since there was no discernable trail to follow. New Mexico was also composed of long stretches of dirt road walking, limited water and grazing, and numerous barb wire fences blocking the “trail”. For those reasons New Mexico was logistically the most challenging state I’ve ever ridden through.
Obstacles improved in Colorado and I was extra fortunate that 2018 was a record low snow year in the San Juans. Colorado is no lazy stroll, though, and the immense elevation gain and loss every day is a challenge in its own right. Wyoming was the most diverse state in terms of scenery. The trail crosses through the Great Divide Basin in southern Wyoming, then moves to the dramatic Wind River Range, and eventually crosses into either Idaho or Montana in Yellowstone National Park. Due to terrible fires in southwest Montana I decided to reroute north through southern Montana, staying east of the fires and thus avoiding miles of road walks in favor of sticking to the mountains.
In late August and early September there is the odd combined threat of wildfires and fear of an early snowstorm. I managed to largely avoid both. In Montana we wound our way through the Gallatin National Forest, the Bob Marshall Wilderness, and lastly Glacier National Park where we finally ended our journey at the Canadian border. My 2,800 mile ride on the Continental Divide Trail was the culmination of years devoted to traveling on horseback in the backcountry and was a true test of everything I had ever endured.