Let’s talk about "trail planning resources". All that means is - "Where can you find what you want to know about the CDT?"
Since Ginny and I are readers, we'll talk about books first. There aren’t that many yet. So – the short list :
- The best is – “Where the Waters Divide” by Karen Berger and Dan Smith
- Also very good - the Westcliffe Publishing ‘coffee table’ books – “Along New Mexico’s Continental Divide Trail”, by David “Whiteroot” Patterson, and the companion volumes for Montana & Idaho, Wyoming, and Colorado. They have lots of beautiful pictures and some interesting trail journals.
- Cindy Ross’ “Scraping Heaven” about her multi-year journey with Todd and the children along the CDT.
- We really enjoyed Dick Mallery's "Crossing the Divide" which told about his CDT and GDT hikes from both his and his wife's points of view.
- Very good, but different – “The Great Divide” by Stephen Pern (out of print but check Amazon.com)
- The original (useless for a thruhike except as an example of how not to do it), but still entertaining - “The Ultimate Journey” by Eric and Tim Ryback.
- Too short to be useful for planning purposes, but a good story – “The Great Backpacking Adventure” by Chris Townsend.
- Out of print but may be available at used book stores – “Along the Continental Divide” by Michael Robbins. This is a National Geographic book.
- Not directly trail-related, but certainly CDT-related - "The Backbone of the World" by Frank Clifford, who was the environmental editor for the LA Times. He provides a window into the culture that CDT hikers walk through. It can give you a lot more appreciation for the country and the people you see along the way.
- A different take - the horseman's perspective of section-riding the CDT, is Al Quie's "Riding the Divide"
Those books are all good reading and they’ll give a ‘flavor’ for the trail. But the books you really want if you’re gonna thruhike are – guidebooks. I know, some of you think you don’t need them or can’t afford them. God bless you. We’ve seen several people hike without them. But I don’t like the idea of using partially empty, cast-off water bottles along the road as my water source because I don’t know where the springs are located and the maps are lying to me. Yeah – we know those who did that because they "couldn't afford" the guidebooks. So – guidebooks:
- The best (that’s our opinion), most detailed – and with the best water source information is the set sold by the Continental Divide Trail Society. Some of the books are (or at least were) out of date, but they are constantly being updated or there are supplements for them. These guidebooks are written for a North to South hike, except for Northern Montana which is written in both directions. In some cases (Northern MT, Northern CO and WY) there is both a guidebook and a supplement. Get both because the supplement details all the changes since the guidebook was written. In his newsletters, Jim Wolf also provides recent trail updates from current year hikers. If you can, get the past issues for the past 5 years so you will get firsthand descriptions of reroutes and alternate routes. It will save a lot of aggravation on the trail to do the research before you leave. Reading on-line journals, I’ve noticed a lot of people who were surprised by a reroute that I know was described in recent newsletters. It takes a bit more work to coordinate guidebooks and supplements, but the information on reroutes and water sources is worth the effort.
- The Westcliffe series of “Official” guidebooks. We haven’t used these guidebooks but few of those who have used them seem to have any use for them. The Colorado book is the best of the series, but the others, especially Montana, have some real problems. Among other deficiencies, they have errors in mileage and detail (they lack the detail that Jim Wolf’s CDTS guidebooks provide). The New Mexico, Montana and Wyoming books are written for a South to North hike, while the Colorado book is written for a North to South hike. Some of the books only present the ‘official’ routes, which can be a problem if you prefer an alternate route or if weather concerns force a different choice. The New Mexico book does present alternate routes, though there are gaps. If you want them, they're are available at Amazon.com or at the CDTA website.
- Yogi has published a Town Guide for the CDT.
There are also a few videos available –
- Mark Flagler has made a documentary about hiking the Continental Divide Trail called Walking the Great Divide
- Joe and Carol McVeigh thruhiked the CDT in 1991 and they made a video of their hike titled “Border to Border II”. This is available from Jim Wolf at the Continental Divide Trail Society .
- Lynne Whelden released a video titled “How to Hike the Continental Divide Trail”. It’s almost 7 hours long and has a LOT of information. Lynne videotaped a number of thruhikers – and used those interviews to put together a collection of information, techniques and opinions from those who have “been there and done that” - or were trying to do so. Yeah – we’re in it, but it’s good anyway. You can get it from the Continental Divide Trail Society or directly from Lynne Whelden.
- Several hikers in recent years have created dvds of their hikes, sometimes for sale and sometimes for free. A good free CDT video is Paul and Cookie's 2008 Hike. Disco made a video of his 2006 hike called Walkumentary If you can find a copy, Savant's video is a fun one.
Some of the books and guidebooks "may" be available at Amazon.com or Barnes and Noble or Adventurous Traveler (which is a subsidiary of Amazon.com). But I wouldn't count on ALL of them being available from those sources.
Organizations:The Continental Divide Trail Society (CDTS) was founded by Jim Wolf more than 25 years ago, and is one of the best sources for information about hiking the trail. The CDTS Web site contains information about the trail and about thruhiking. The Society is hiker-friendly, sells guidebooks, map packs, videos and books, and issues a twice-a-year newsletter (DividEnds) which includes realistic state of the trail and re-route information, information about other hikers who may be out there, etc. The Web site has links to short descriptions of each trail segment, as well as town and Post Office information.
Working closely with the Forest Service is a newer CDT organization, the Continental Divide Trail Alliance (CDTA). If you’re interested in trail politics and in trail construction, this may be the place to go. The Alliance also issues a newsletter and sells guidebooks and maps.
ALDHA-West is the “hiker” organization most concerned with the CDT. This is a long distance hiking organization based on the West Coast. They also issue a newsletter that often has articles about the CDT. The Web site also has several CDT-related journals.
E-mail lists and Forums:
If you want to “talk” to people about the trail, there’s the CDT-L e-mail list. There are a LOT of thruhikers on the list - some former AT thruhikers, some former PCT thruhikers, some CDT thruhikers and some who have done two, or even all three of the trails. There’s also a CDT-L instant archive page for those who want to browse past "conversations". At present the instant archive only dates back to July 2002. If you want to look further back than that then go to the full archives.
Postholer and Trailforums.com also have CDT forums. A few CDT posts also show up on Whiteblaze.
Websites and Journals:
The Wyoming BLM has a good site that includes information on water sources in the Great Basin. If the BLM site isn't up, then try here.
Tom Bombaci is a trail angel who lives near Grants, NM. His Web site has a lot of New Mexico information and other links.
Over the last several years, a lot of on-line journals have been published. They're fun to read and give a good flavor of the trail.
One of our favorite on-line journals is Jonathan Ley’s account of his 2001 hike.
There are a number of good journals on the Trailjournals.com site, especially in the last two years.
There are other CDT journals as well:
Both Brian Robinson and Team Triple Crown have pictures and journal entries for the CDT on their websites, though given the mileage they were doing, their experience is very different from that of most thruhikers.
- Doug Walsh - Raw Hike 2005
- Spur - CDT 2004 & 2006
- James McCreight’s 2003 CDT journal
- Ken & Marcia’s 2002 CDT hike
- Spirit Eagle - CDT 1999 & 2006
There are other journals and blogs on the Web - these are just a small sample of what's available.
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Created: Fri, 06 Jan 2004
Revised: 15 Nov 2009
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