Great Divide Trail: Introduction

Sunday, March 15, 2020

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As a hiker I drift between extremes. Too much easy hiking provokes a mental backlash; too much difficult hiking provokes a different kind of mental backlash; they must be measured so that by the time I return to one or the other I’ve forgotten whatever boredom or frustration I was feeling before. After two years of LASHing the Pacific Crest Trail, about which I have no criticisms other than its mental ease in conditions not including dangerous snow or torrential fords, I find myself needing to drift in the opposite direction to get my blood hot and pumping again.

Up until a few days ago I was planning to spend this spring hiking the Grand Enchantment Trail, a route connecting Phoenix and Albuquerque. Often I think of the Heysen Trail as a route since there was so little actual trail, but the GET is a proper unmarked route that also has a generous amount of trail – according to the GET website, 56% of its length is trail. The rest consists of 4WD dirt roads (20%), 2WD dirt roads (11%), cross-country walking (11%) and paved roads (2%). Sounding fun yet? Unfortunately, because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Canadian government issued a global ‘avoid non-essential travel’ advisory on Friday… one day before my flight to Phoenix.

I was of course wildly upset, but it is what it is. After trying to cancel my flights and travel insurance et cetera with varying degrees of success, I began researching Canadian hikes in search of a viable alternative. Canada has a lot of wilderness but not a lot of long hikes in the wilderness, so options were limited. I decided on the GDT starting in July (and possibly a warm-up for the GDT, but more on that later) because it’s a nice length, challenging, covers a gorgeous section of Canada, and has been on my bucket list for some time. Like the GET, the GDT uses a mix of established trail, roads and cross-country walking, and only a few areas have GDT signage.

The GDT is a gnarly trail and I would be lying if I said I had no concerns about it, particularly the fords. I trust my judgement though, and my amygdala which is the opposite of Alex Honnold’s, so… pretty sure I won’t die. I’ll try to update this journal often enough to avoid the ‘are you dead?’ emails.

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