I don’t really want to hike the Continental Divide Trail.
When I accepted my previous job in 2015, I was planning a Continental Divide Trail hike. The job meant delaying the hike indefinitely, and for six years I used every bit of vacation time to hike shorter trails in the west or south to become a well-rounded hiker. I needed to meet the west on foot because I had spent over a year backpacking in the east – it was the west’s time. I hiked in western mountains, in western desert, in western bentonite clay, and in western smoke.
I went on my spring trip this year because I wanted to knock a few trails off my list (check!), see if I can still do the things I need to do (yes! but now featuring slightly more pain!), and I wanted to visit the Appalachians.
I had forgotten how much being in the east feels like going home. It had been eight years since I last hiked in those lush mountain forests. I love them. I have missed them. They made me ask: Why hike the Continental Divide Trail? Because I feel expected to? Every hiker eventually gets there? It’s an impressive achievement? Because I wanted to in 2015? Those don’t feel like good enough reasons.
I am not sure I want to be in the west for half a year. I also don’t want to be away from family for so long. On top of that (and I know this really does not matter, but it somehow does) I want to finish whatever I start. I have some unfinished trails already (thanks, COVID!).
My summer hiking buddy Julie and I concluded that we would have more fun on a trail I had never envisioned hiking: the Oregon Coast Trail, a 425-mile trail from Washington to California. We should also have time to hike the Timberline Trail (circling Mount Hood) while we’re out there. Later in the summer, I’ll head to Montana and Idaho via train to roadtrip to national parks with friends.
“But Jo, you just wrote about loving the east yet you’re going west?” Yes, but for 7 weeks this summer, rather than 5+ months of CDT. I will come home in late summer to visit loved ones and regroup.
Then I will return east, back to my beloved Appalachians, back to the mountains where I feel at home.