Continental Divide Trail 2009

CDTlgmapThe Continental Divide Trail (or CDT for short) is a wonderful connection of trails following near to the crest of the rocky mountains between the US Mexican and Canadian borders. Our route with some variations to the official trail was over 2,500 miles in total.

Our blog post are below. Also see here for details and maps of a 350 mile variation of the CDT we called the Big Sky route between Yellowstone National Park and near Butte Montana.

Before the walk

  1. March Black Isle coastal training walks
  2. Maps, info and planning
  3. Our Itinerary
  4. Scorn….
  5. Cairngorm wanderings
  6. We head south to the Mexican border

The walk

  1. Mexican border!
  2. New Mexico border to Silver City
  3. From Reserve, New Mexico
  4. Some photos so far
  5. Howl, howl….
  6. Pie Town
  7. From Grants, New Mexico
  8. Cuba NM
  9. Ghost Ranch NM
  10. Good bye New Mexico, hello Colorado!
  11. Northern New Mexico photos
  12. Pagosa Springs -no spring!
  13. Cumbres to Wolf Pass CO
  14. Leadville Colorado
  15. Salida CO (pronounced ‘siliva’)
  16. Lake City CO
  17. Some more South Colorado images
  18. Flip flop through the hot springs
  19. Montana! -Glacier National ‘walk in the’ Park
  20. Glacier NP photos MT
  21. Horse Whispering MT
  22. Urban Montana
  23. Central Montana-Photos from Scapegoat to McDonald Pass
  24. Big Sky Variant
  25. South Montana photos
  26. Yellowstone National Park Wyoming!
  27. Leaving Griz-country WY
  28. Mountains of Light and Wind WY
  29. Wind Rivers Wyoming – some photos
  30. Wind Rivers photos II WY
  31. Southern Winds
  32. Reader, I married him…..
  33. Some photos from the final furlong WY

Post CDT

  1. Our final two weeks in the USA
  2. Gallery of our 650 miles thru New Mexico…
  3. Continental Divide Trail photos
  4. You tube videos!

CDT ‘Big Sky route’ alt notes

A 350 mile approx. variation from the CDT in southern Montana and northern Wyoming The Big Sky variant or Butte Super Cut-off is a route that we hiked in 2009 that travels from the CDT south of Yellowstone (at Two Ocean Pass) north to meet the CDT again north of Butte (at Delmoe Lake).

It cuts out the Montana/Idaho border section of the CDT and travels through Yellowstone east and north boundaries, Gallatin Petrified Forest, Spanish Peaks and the Tobacco Root mountains.

We are not the first to thru hike this way. Jim and Ginny Owen did so northbound in 2006. The Onion hiked a roughly similar line in 2007, provided good notes and mapped out the northern half from Delmoe Lake to Yellowstone north border in ‘Jonathan Ley style’ maps downloadable on-line. Skittles and Recess have hiked it in 2008 too. I am sure that there are others.

Overview map with mileages (click on map to expand)

Why hike the Big Sky variant?
Well, we did it primarily for a bit of fun and adventure away from the CDT and to explore different ground. Southbound we thought the CDT in mid-Montana a bit dull with lots of lodgepole pine and the alternative provided some varied scenery.

It was also refreshing to be heading out on our own making the route up as we went along- or at least it felt like that. Somehow if we got into less interesting hiking we made more of it because the route felt ours more than the CDT. It covers some interesting territory too- the Spanish Peaks offered the best mountains we had hiked since Glacier NP, Gallatin Petrified Forest has nice ridges and … petrified trees, and we meandered on a long hike through remote, scenic and wildlife rich parts of Yellowstone. Yellowstone isn’t quite up to Glacier or the Winds but it still provides a worthy hike on good trails with few other hikers around.

It’s also a fair bit shorter than the CDT equivalents; about 353 miles as described, to the CDT Butte route’s 576 miles and the Anaconda cut-off’s 517 miles. A mileage breakdown is shown on the overview map.

We used days saved on the Big Sky to spend more time in the wonderful Wind Rivers further south in central Wyoming.

Click here for our photos from the Big Sky variant

Below are annotated topo maps for the route, please note they were produced in 2009 at the latest and so may be out of date in parts!

MAPS – Big Sky SOUTH Brian’s 20 maps (36MB)

MAPS – Big Sky NORTH Onion’s 13 maps (52MB)

Other Useful Maps
You could navigate the route as we hiked it using the downloadable maps above. Listed below are other useful maps which would be handy for planning.

Yellowstone and Grand Teton Travel Map ($4.95) I couldn’t find this on the web but can be purchased locally and is great- almost a must have for planning. Extends from Union Pass in the Winds, Togwatee Pass, Two Ocean Pass to Yellowstone and also the Grand Tetons. Also good for planning another alternative between Yellowstone, the Grand Tetons to Green Lakes in the Winds but that’s another story…

National Geographic 201 Yellowstone Good overview of Yellowstone NP although it doesn’t show campsites.

Beartooth Bozeman, Big Sky,West Yellowstone Covers the Skyline trail in Yellowstone, Gallatin ridge, north of Yellowstone over to the Spanish Peaks. Sometimes the Beartooth maps lack detail but I was glad I carried this one.

Beartooth Tobacco Root Mountains I haven’t seen this but it looks nice and it should cover Ennis to Whitehall.

Southwest Montana Interagency Visitor/Travel Map This has been updated for 2008. I had the 1996 one but it has no contours and I wouldn’t buy or carry it if hiking the route again. The Beartooth maps would be better IMHO.

Yellowstone camping guide You have to book campsites in Yellowstone but as a CDT thru hiker you can do it over the phone. This link provides details and a campsite map for the park.

Other References
2006 Hike Jim and Ginny Owen’s journal

2008 Hike Skittles and Recess journal description The Onion’s notes on his hike of the route

Our final 2 weeks in the US….



Canyonlands National Park Utah

We rented ourselves a car for the last 2 weeks so that we could become ‘normal’ tourists for a while. First, we took the car down to visit the Martin family and managed a couple of short hikes with MaryJoy.

We then traveled south and visited some nice desert areas in New Mexico, Utah, Arizona and southern Colororado.
Arches National Park, Moab Utah
This is Chaco canyon in New Mexico……
 A lovely camp with the last rays hitting monument valley in Arizona…….

The San Juan river has cut through the sandstone to leave these wonderful river meanders- Goosenecks State Park Utah.


More from Utah…IMG_5164IMG_5198IMG_5200-v2-pano

Some photos from the final furlong…..

The long straight road across Wyoming’s Great Basin. We walked 23 miles in a straight line on this day…..

Great Basin, Wyoming


The sun and lack of shelter required some novel solutions. In this case lunch was under the tent propped up to allow the wind to flow around. Surprisingly- it worked!


We reach the 2000mile mark and celebrate with some artwork using local materials and powerbars!

Martina at our finishing point on September 26th- Battle Pass Wyoming. The next challenge was to make it to Denver , Colorado- it took four hitch hikes and two buses to get there. Ready for a rest…….!

…Reader, I Married Him

Dear readers,

From the lofty Wind River mountains we were washed into the Great Basin of Wyoming by a spell of wet weather. The Great Basin is a curious natural feature where the Divide actually splits in two: in the basin itself, water just goes “down” and seeps into the ground. Mountain ridges either side of it shed the water into Pacific (Green River) and Atlantic (Sweetwater River and Platte River) respectively. What falls in between just soaks in! It is a high plateau covered in silvery sage, inhabited by antelope (more of these later) and wild horses. No shelter, no people, no towns for mile – and very little water. 120 miles of this – our final challenge!

After a recovery stop in the town of Lander (home that weekend of the annual “one-shot-antelope-hunt” – it seems we were lucky to get a motel room!) we headed into the sage desert in bright sunshine. Here we crossed path with the Oregon Trail, the Overland Trail, the Pony Express and the Mormon Trail – thousands of hopeful souls who crossed these waterless plains in search of brighter futures in the 19th century. Now there’s just a big network of trails for the benefit of people who want to shoot wildlife it seems.

The pronghorn antelope isn’t one (an “antelope” I mean), actually. It’s the only exponent of a family of ungulates unique to the USA and wonderfully adapted to being on every predator’s dinner menu between the ice ages: it is the fastest runner in the Western hemisphere at 60 mps – and not just for a sprint but for about an hour solid if necessary – it has very sharp eyesight and can spot things at 3-4 mile distance (or so I read on the WWW), it is certainly very wary of two legged animals walking towards it – we never got closer than 300 meters to any of them. Unfortunately it doesn’t seem concerned about things on wheels (a bit like the sheep on Skye) which, given that your average American hunter shoots from the truck window, is rather a shame for the species. They also are the only animal that grows proper horns (as opposed to antlers) and then sheds them every year. We didn’t find any though.

On day 3 in the basin we camped by a little cow infested yet promising spring under benign cumulus, tent turned into a mild Westerly evening breeze – only to wake 2 hours later to the tent being flattened by a northerly gale with snow … bell-end departed company with the pegs and someone (a man’s job this, surely) had to go out in the lashing storm (in underpants) to re-peg the whole mess. The next morning, snow lay on all the hills around us and an icy northerly continued to blow us infront of itself down the endless straight jeep-roads that serve as the CDT in the Basin.

This morning, we descended from our last Divide peak (Bridger Peak 11,000ft) to a trail head at Battle Pass. This is the pass where we set out in 2004 on a 300 mile taster-hike along the CDT, the end of which was Dillon Lake in Colorado (where we started this year’s Colorado Southbound hike) … sigh … sorry to be so complicated. The upshot is that this morning we completed to make a set of footsteps between Mexico and Colorado on the CDT (with 300 miles of steps from 2004). This year we have walked 2,100 miles.

Now we are finished
Now our feet get a chance to recover
Now we must eat lots so as not to frighten our parents on our return
Now we will hire a car for 2 weeks and be tourists

It doesn’t seem real yet
We’ve done it!

Thanks to all the lifts and support and spontaneous help we have had.
It’s been FAB

ps thanks to Tom and Debbie , Florida for the rare photo of the 2 of us hiking….

Southern Wind Rivers…….

We pride ourselves in pitching the tent quickly, but maybe not this speedily !!

Our trek along the Wind River mountains of Wyoming has now been completed. We made it to the southern edge of the mountains in prairie country at South Pass City. Its been a great hike taking about 11 days. The supermarket in Pinedale, Wyoming shows that we are in hunting country………..

Pinedale supermarket


And autumn is on its way….

Our tent (middle bottom of photo) lost in granite slabs, lakes and mountains. Spider Lakes, Wind Rivers Wyoming.


Martina makes a river crossing with Warbonnet Peak looming above.


We approach the Cirque of the Towers looking like the Skye ridge in Scotland – with Scottish weather.


Cirque of the Towers. Two classic rock climbs here- Pingora Peak’s right hand skyline and the Wolf ‘s Head in the middle.

The end of the mountains… We hit prairie and dirt roads heading for South Pass City, Wyoming