Pacer’s 2022 Continental Divide Trail (CDT) Thru-Hike: Getting Started

Follow along as Chris “Pacer” Ford attempts to thru-hike the Continental Divide Trail (CDT). He will keep us updated every week or two with the progress of his adventure with stories and photos from the trail. Follow along with us… get automatic updates by subscribing to this blog.

April, 2022

0 of 3100 miles…0% complete

A warm hello to you all, and I hope you’re ready to follow along on another long trail.   You may recall that last November when I finished the Pinhoti Trail in AL/GA, I mentioned that the Continental Divide Trail (CDT) would be my 2022 hiking project. Since that time, I’ve continued to hike a bit in the Smokies; kept an eye on Colorado’s San Juan Mountains’ snow fall (which is a little below average at the moment…🤞); researched and gathered my gear; and built my hiking/resupply plan.  

How I’m Getting There:

On Thursday (4/28), I fly to Tucson, AZ, and will stay the night there.  Friday morning (4/29), I catch a 2.5 hour Greyhound bus ride to Lordsburg, NM. I’ll pause in Lordsburg until early morning Sunday (5/1) to gather my supplies and make sure I have everything. I have a seat reserved on the 6:15 am shuttle that will take 8-10 of us to to the southern terminus on the Mexico border. The CDT Coalition shuttle is four-wheel drive equipped for the 2-hour ride on rugged dirt roads. 

Then, I’ll be ready to HIKE! But first, a bit about the CDT.

Trail Description:

For those of you that want to dig deeper into the CDT’s uniqueness, click link below: This is GreenBelly’s website where Paul “Pie” Ingram wrote a great easy to scan/read CDT overview.

For those that want an abbreviated description: The CDT is approximately 3,100 miles long, passing through five states along the Rocky Mountain Chain–New Mexico, Colorado, Wyoming, Idaho, and Montana. Its southern terminus is at the Crazy Cook Monument on the border of Mexico about 80 miles (by trail) south of Lordsburg, NM; the northern terminus monument is at the border of Canada in Glacier National Park, MT, at Waterton Lake. The highest elevation is Grays Peak, CO, at 14,278 ft; the lowest elevation is 4,200 ft at Waterton Lake, the northern terminus. Most of the CDT is above 8,000 feet.

The CDT is about 70% complete with large sections of off-trail navigation and is more of a corridor that passes through rugged and remote terrain. Hikers get to make navigation choices depending on what terrain they’d like to hike…some may choose a road walk, maybe just stick to FarOut’s “red line,” others a high mountain pass, yet others an alternate scenic route…there are many, many choices to make. The number of hikers attempting a CDT thru hike are very low (an estimated 200 hikers start per year); only 63 completed a thru hike in 2021. This makes the whole experience on the CDT a more alone and solitary experience compared with the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) or the Appalachian Trail (AT) with large hiker bubbles. These three trails combined make up the “Triple Crown” of hiking…a little over 700 world-wide have completed the Triple Crown.

There’s a reason I put the CDT behind the AT and PCT…to make sure I was ready for it.  In 2006, a CDT thru hiker named Mike “d-low” DiLorenzo gave the CDT a slogan: Embrace The Brutality!” A Google search shows how widely these three words have stuck to the CDT. Everything is amped up on the CDT and more consequential: scorching daytime temps; overnight temps can plummet into the teens…or lower; long stretches without water, and when you find it, you pull from cattle ponds, troughs, old cisterns, tires, etc; navigation challenges; long sections of snow pack; no fall zones; possible snow storms; Colorado’s high elevations bring late afternoon monsoons, thunderheads, lightening, and hail; rattle snakes, cougars, black bears, grizzly bears; and then there’s all the time to wander around in your head, because there’s better than a good chance you’ll be solo hiking for weeks/months; oh, and the mosquito hatch (I’m looking forward to that, NOT)! 

Why would anyone want to do such a thing? Sunsets, sunrises, those perfect moments, a good hard day you earned, the desert blooming, the view at 14,000 feet, to feel the cold morning lose its grip as the day warms, the eventual hot shower, being grateful, connecting with friends I haven’t seen in many years, walking across Yellowstone, the Rockies, Tetons, the Wind River Range, the Bob Marshall Wilderness, Glacier, solitude, seeing and feeling so much more than I can describe, all at 3.0 mph. The reasons are too many for this post…maybe one day I’ll write about it.  😉

The Gear I’ll Take:

Attached is my CDT load list with a base weight of 10.25 lbs. Over the many miles I’ve hiked, I have become a complete gear nerd that sweats every gram. If I had to describe my load-out (see attached), it would be: “ultralight gear, but full comfort…for me.” If the piece of gear is essential emergency gear, then I carry it, no questions. Otherwise, I question every item for a given hike. Here’s my process:  

1) Consider…Do I really need this item? If not, eliminate it.  If so, go to step 2.

2) Modify…Can the item be modified to reduce weight (example: cut toothbrush handle off)? Everything you need, nothing you don’t.  

3) And last, Replace…Can the item be replaced for weight savings by purchasing or making another item (example: homemade pot lid made out of soda cans)?

For you other gear nerds, I’m betting you’ll find several Easter eggs in my gear list.  After my many, many hours of scouring backpacking gear, I continue to find clever solutions to niche backpacking problems. 

A bonus tip is Senchi (they have a new drop on Tuesday, 4/26, (…a very new “mid-weightish” uber-light hoody that didn’t make my gear list. I love my Senchi, but for this hike, I had Timmermade make me a custom hoody and wind shirt. Given the dramatic weight savings, these new hoodies are making Melanzana customers converts. That last sentence is completely for insider gear nerds like me.  🤓!

The largest weight savings usually comes from focusing on the “Big 4” (pack, tent, sleep pad, and sleep quilt/bag). The perfect piece of gear is multi-purpose (ex: 1/8 thin foam that can help bump up the R-value of my sleep pad, but also serves as a daily sit pad). The clothing system for this hike is a particularly hard puzzle to solve given the wide temperature swings and extreme weather conditions. My clothing system is a good example of several items that will serve multiple purposes.  

Please ping me back, if you have a gear question.  

Resupply Plan:

Jamie (aka Cookie Jar) and I worked on building up supply reserves she can send to me. We also built and already mailed several resupply boxes and laid out about 1,200 miles of resupply locations…(see attached).  From there, I’ll try to give Jamie a rolling 1-month forecast of where I plan to be so she can get resupplies in place before I arrive. Our life-long friend, Kim, who lives in Colorado has a very large work territory and is planning to coordinate her work  schedule with my hike. Doing so, she has generously offered to support me as needed from northern New Mexico all the way up to Glacier National Park in Montana…what a gift!  I also hope to see friends from my Air Force days as I hike north.  


FarOut – Formerly Guthook.  This is by far my largest on-trail resource…navigation, trail comments, water, towns, roads, alternates, intersections, trail profile…on and on. 

Postholer – Snow report mainly, also trip planner function, on-trail weather.

CDT Coalition Resources – Trail closures/alerts. Their CDT Planning Guide has five pages of popular resupply points that’s very helpful.  Also has a water report.  Good place to start getting familiar.  

YouTube – Always helpful to check out gear and perspectives.

Gaia – Can use Gaia to double check FarOut, if needed.

Garmin inReach Mini – My main communications line when not in cell coverage.  I can send preprogrammed messages, and it Bluetooths to my phone so I can send/receive regular text messages via satellite…very helpful to coordinate pick-ups or when things go wrong. It also has an SOS feature for emergencies.  

I’ve added many new followers since my last hike. A little background for those who just joined. While I lived in Beavercreek, OH, I started dabbling with hiking/backpacking…it was 2013/2014. While living in OH, Great Miami Outfitters was my “go-to” outfitter and quickly became my friends. If you’re interested in dusting off my AT or PCT trail posts, Great Miami Outfitters has all of them in their Trail Post section….click link below, and you’ll start to see my PCT updates from 2019 as you scroll down. Keep scrolling down further to see my AT posts from 2015.

Assuming all goes well over the next couple weeks, you should get my first trail update around May 10th from Doc Campbell’s Post along the Gila River Alternate.  

Until Next Time,



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