Saturday, August 18, 2007
Trail Update: Waterton Lakes, Alberta, Canada
Hike Vitals
Miles hiked to date: 3000
Miles to go: 0
Days since hike started: 116
Location: Waterton Lakes, Alberta, Canada!
Showers: 14

Fundraising Update
We raised nearly $35,000 from more than 200 people -- it was a moving display of support from our family, friends, and some whom we have never met. Thank you to all for the donations, care packages, and letters of suport we have received during our trek. We are very honored.

NOTE: For those that are supporting our charities through a per-mile pledge, we will be emailing you in the next few days with instructions on how to complete your donation.

Trek Update
We reached the 49th parallel marking the Canadian border on August 13th, 116 days and 3000 miles after leaving Mexico. We couldn't have scripted a better ending to our trip. Our week-long victory lap through Glacier National Park was some of the most majestic scenery either one of us had ever seen.

Our trek through Montana (and Idaho) did not begin with such promise. The first 500 miles of trail strictly (and often ridiculously) adhered to the divide, following jeep roads and ATV tracks as they meandered up and down (and up and down and up and down) the dry, rolling hills (labeled by another hiker as "PUDs", for "pointless ups and downs"). Thick haze from the summer's many fires often obscured views, and the lack of diversion and dimension caused the days to pass slowly.

Then we reached the Anaconda-Pintler wilderness, and we left behind the staid hills for more rugged terrain, rivers and lakes of alpine country. We continued to move quickly, weary of the rapidly growing fires in the north. Our fears proved well founded: By the time we reached our second to last resupply in Lincoln, fires had closed more than 100 miles of the remaining trail.

We settled on a route that preserved our long sought wilderness experience by tiptoeing around more minor fires on the western edges of the Bob Marshall Wildernes. During lunch one day, we sat on a high ridge and watched the dark, billowing smoke of trees bursting into flames a mile away.

Our detour extended into the southwestern corner of Glacier National Park where we left the fires behind (though not the smoke) and entered a glacially carved landscape of dramatic peaks, deep lakes, and beautiful tree-line passes. It was the type of scenery we had dreamed of on the CDT, but which had proven somewhat elusive. We swam in deep pools beneath towering waterfalls, ate trailside thimble berries, and took long lunchtime siestas. Mike Payne, our good friend from San Francisco, joined us for the last 50 miles, providing new perspectives and fodder for our daily trail banter. Jim's mom and her husband met us at trails end with food, comfortable beds and a welcomed ride home.

We are now spending our days working off our hard-won fitness as quickly as we can with a regimented diet of milkshakes, steaks, soft beds, and golf. Jesse will soon wake up to the imminent responsibilities of his September wedding, and Jim will face the challenges of finding a job and a place to live. But right now, it is time for another nap.

Saturday, July 14, 2007
Trail Update: Lima, Montana
Hike Vitals
Miles hiked to date: 2100
Miles to go: 900
Days since hike started: 84
Location: Lima, Montana
Showers: 11

Fundraising Update
Our fundraising progress has slowed a bit, but we have raised more than double our initial goal (pledge commitments are over $30,000). We will continue publicizing our efforts by talking to media outlets and organizing presentations (after we finish) with the goal of educating people on how important, easy, and painless it is to register as a potential bone marrow donor.

Trek Update
Welcome to our final on-trail post! Although days sometimes pass slowly, the journey has passed quickly. With continued good fortune, we will reach the Canadian border in just over a month, and hopefully our next email will be shortly after we relegate our hiking shoes to a comfortable retirement.

Since our last post, we've experienced both the drudgery and triumphs of the trail. The Great Basin was a low point: a sagebrush desert of dusty roads, little water and no shade. We drank from cattle ponds and didn't see a tree for more than 100 miles. As we sweated along the seemingly endless jeep tracks, we seriously (and sometimes profanely) questioned our sanity.

Fortunately, the Great Basin was immediately followed by the Wind River mountains - a fairy tale playground of forested trails, dramatic granite peaks, and alpine lake basins. We lowered our daily mileages to provide time for swims in the lakes, lunch-time naps, and off-trail adventures. It was an ideal tonic for our worn nerves.

Jon Zalisk (who hiked with us previously in the snowy San Juans of Colorado) again joined us in the Wind Rivers, bringing fresh perspectives and a chance to catch up with the outside world. We were then joined for a very memorable Fourth of July by Damien (San Francisco), Mo (Boston), Trude and Jilka (Los Angeles). Many heartfelt thanks to all of them for making our Fourth more fun than we ever expected.

We sobered up on our way to Yellowstone, where we enjoyed private performances by the many back country geysers and hot springs. About 75% of the seventy miles of trail in Yellowstone traversed land that had been scorched during the massive Yellowstone fires of 1988. It was interesting to see signs of nature's gradual recovery: nearly twenty years later young trees are just beginning to fill the vast voids. It may take a century before Yellowstone returns to the way it was.

We walked out of Wyoming onto the Montana/Idaho border - a boundary that is officially defined by the Continental Divide. In addition to continued wonderful weather, Montana/Idaho welcomed us with a new nemesis: biting flies. We eat breakfast and lunch in big gulps so we can hurry back to the trail -- movement seems to be the most effective repellent.

Gail (Jim's mom) provided some welcome shelter from the flies with a midweek visit from Colorado. She fattened us up with an assortment of meats, breads, cookies and chocolate milk. We hope the added heft will help keep our shorts up.

As we continue northward, we look forward to experiencing the more rugged, glaciated topography of Montana's northern wildernesses. In the next week or so, we will also begin to meet the first southbound thru-hikers -- the folks that started the Continental Divide Trail in Canada in late May and early June. Their adventure will be in the early chapters while ours will be nearing its conclusion.

Thursday, June 21, 2007
Trail update: Rawlins, Wyoming
Fundraising Overview
We have passed $10 in pledges per mile... That means we are now raising close to $300 per day for the Dana Farber Cancer Institute and he Cammy Lee Leukemia foundation! We hope to add a few more dollars to that total in the final two months of our hike.

Hike Vitals
Miles hiked to date: 1500
Days since start: 61
Current location: Rawlins, Wyoming
Miles to go: 1500
Showers: 9

Hike Recap
We are halfway home! Yesterday afternoon we walked into the southern Wyoming oil town of Rawlins - 1500 miles from our start of the Mexican border and 1500 miles from Canada. We celebrated with an all you can eat pizza buffet, steaks, a double feature at the local movie theater and a night in some comfortable motel beds!

Much of the time since our last post from Lake City (southern Colorado) has been spent trapsing in and around the Colorado snow. Although we avoided snow storms like the one we experienced in the San Juans, we have used our snow shoes nearly every day between Pagosa and Steamboat Springs - a distance of about 550 miles. As beautiful as Colorado was, we were a bit relieved to finally trade in the high alpine landscapes for the arid sage brush lands of Southern Wyoming.

The new state greeted us with sunny skies and a good dose of Wyoming hospitatlity:

  • The first person we met on the "trail" in Wyoming -- a rancher out tracking down his cows -- pulled up and offered us two beers from the well stocked cooler in his pickup bed. We were hot and thirsty, and the first few gulps of the ice cold Bud tasted like heaven. The last sips didn't go down as easy, but they did help us get a few more miles down the trail.
  • The Infanger family (friends of Jim's dad) have graciously offered to drive over from Jackson Hole to meet us in South Pass City (they must not know how bad we smell!).

This afternoon, we hike out of Rawlins and into the Great Basin -- an area where the continental divide splits to create an enclosed basin. The Great Basin is known for being both arid and very warm -- daytime temperatures will hover in the 90's. So it is back to siphoning water from stock ponds and the occasional spring - much like our first miles in Southern New Mexico. But the trail is flat and wide, and we expect to cover the 120 miles to South Pass City in around four days. From there, we will head back to the cooler alpine confines of the Wind River Range (and enter our first Grizzly country!).

Lastly, we have posted some video clips from our hike to YouTube - check these out by searching for "marrowtrek" at www.youtube.com or by visiting our "Videos" post in our blog!

We hope this finds everyone well, and we look forward to detailing our Wyoming adventures in our next post (someplace in southern Montana!).

The highlights of our past four weeks:

  • Friends joining our hike - Rachel Tobey, Leland Fuhrig and Scooter (Jesse's dog) jumped on for a very adventurous hike (river crossing, dog throwing, bridge building, bushwhacking, log jumping and GPSing) around Steamboat Springs.
  • More Trail Angels - Matt, Michael and Tracy Brend met us in Grand Lake; Leland and his house-mate Ryan stepped up with accomodation and a bar-b-que in Steamboat Springs; and Lisa continued her altruistic service by driving up from Albuquerque for two nights of deluxe car camping.
  • Some pristine weather and the early signs of a late Spring highlighted the beauty which had eluded us for much of Colorado.
  • Signs of Spring, like fields of wildflowers and an abundance of newborn elk, deer and moose.

Friday, June 8, 2007
Videos from the trail Saturday, May 26, 2007
Trail Update: Lake City, Colorado
Fundraising Overview
We are over $9 per mile in pledges -- closing in on twice our original goal! We have received donations and pledges from many people we have never met -- we are honored by the breadth of support the hike has generated. Thank you to all for your help.

Hike Vitals
Miles hiked to date: 900
Days since start: 37
Current location: Lake City, Colorado
Miles to go: 2100
Showers: 4

Hike Recap
Whoever is in charge of scheduling the world's climatic activities must have read our musings on the scarcity of water in our last post: we have had seen rain and/or snow every day for the past 31 days (and counting!).

In May, New Mexico had 300% of normal rainfall, turning the usually dry desert clay into a slippery sludge. The added toil was sometimes annoying, but otherwise of little consequence.

On May 18th we passed into Colorado where we were immediately greeted by the towering San Juan Mountains. The San Juans are among the most remote and rugged terrain in the continental United States, and they are infamous for guarding their winter snowfalls late into the summer; by noon on our first day the trail had disappeared beneath 3 to 6 feet of old snow. The challenge was just beginning.

Snow doesn't always spell trouble: miles can come with relative ease when it is hard enough to walk on. But the snow we encountered was unpredictable: sometimes we scooted along, but often we found ourselves plunging waist deep. It was exhausting, and it slowed our progress considerably.

Lisa (Jesse's fiance) delivered snow shoes in Pagosa Springs, but the San Juan's countered with a late May blizzard: 30 inches of snow fell on us in the course of two days. With very low visibility, our pace slowed to less than 1 mile per hour. Our running shoes held up to the snow surprisingly well; we ate our breakfasts and lunches while we walked to keep from getting too cold. Our tarp kept us dry in the nights we were forced to camp on the snow. By far the worst moments were trying to urge on our frozen shoes each morning -- we had to hammer on them with our snow shoes until they had softened up enough to slip in our feet.

Though we were hiking 14 hours a day, we were not able to make our expected mileages and our plans morphed frequently. We eventually arrived at Plan D, which traded in the Continental Divide on our last two days for the more hospitable terrain of lower elevations and made it possible to meet Gail (Jim's mom) for some planned R & R in nearby Lake City.

The highlights of our past three weeks:

  • Friends joining our hike - Randy Hulett joined us in Northern New Mexico and Jon Zalisk jumped on for some of the trek through the snow of the San Juan's (Jon may not talk to us again).
  • More Trail Angels - Don Roach (Jesse's dad) provided bar-b-qued chicken and many other provisions in Northern New Mexico, and Kathy and Anthony Skaff more than saved our bacon in the San Juans. Lisa continued here constant support by picking us up on Wolf Creek Pass for a night in Pagosa Springs, Colorado and renting us snowshoed. Read more about these saviors on our Trail Angels page.
  • Wildlife - Besides a wolf in northern New Mexico, and hundreds of elk everywhere, the little kids are out in force! We spotted a mother bear and her two two cubs mistook us for mom when the mother bear ran off. When the cubs realized their mistake they booked up some nearby trees. And yesterday, we stumbled onto a moose and her calf.

Sunday, May 6, 2007
Trail Update: Grants, New Mexico
Fundraising Overview
The generosity and support of friends, family and many others continues to be amazing. We are now up to $7.36 in pledges per mile which means nearly $22,000 in contributions (assuming we can complete our end of the bargain!). With three and a half months left in the hike, we are hoping to raise even more. Please forward along our site and hike information to anyone you know who may be interested in helping support our causes. And we are both available to assist in any way (email us at jim@marrowtrek.org or jesse@marrowtrek.org and we will respond as soon as we get to the next computer!).

Hike Vitals
Miles hiked to date: 440
Days since start: 15
Current location: Grants, New Mexico
Miles to go: 2560
Showers: 1

Hike Recap
On April 20th, we climbed over an inconspicuous barbed wire fence and briefly stood in Mexico. Our hike had begun.

The bootheel of New Mexico is high desert. Although the first days were relatively cool, water was scarce. There are no natural sources; we found our water from windmill-fed cattle troughs. The water is rarely appetizing, and sometimes downright inhospitable -- the first trough welcomed us with a large rattle snake and several hundred wasps! We were all there for a little refreshment and managed to stay out of each others' ways.

The dogs, although excited to be on adventure, were not excited to carry their food or water -- a task which fell to their human caretakers. The rocky and prickly terrain wore the bottoms of their paws, and the shoes we had for them irritated their paws. After 60 miles of sharp dry trail, we made the difficult decision to send them home (they will join us from time to time for more friendly sections). Lisa kindly offered to come down to Lordsburg (an eight hour round-trip) to pick them up. It was sad to hike on without Whistler and Scooter, but also far less stressful.

There is relatively little public land in Southern New Mexico, and the Continental Divide "Trail" sometimes follows roads to avoid trespassing on private property. Roads, in addition to being generally uninspiring, are also hard on the feet. As our mileages increased, blisters reigned -- an annoying reality that will likely continue for a few more weeks as our feet continue to adjust.

The highlights of our first two weeks:

  • Deer, elk, javelina, turkeys, and some beautiful spring flowers.
  • Trail Angels - Friendly folks providing spontaneous assistance along the way. Read more about these folks in our blog entry (which we will update as we go)!
  • The Gila River Gorge - We hiked 45 miles up the main and middle forks of the Gila River. The trail crosses the river more than 150 times (our feet got a little wet) as it traverses between the towering canyon walls. The river also flows on top of thermally active faults - so we were able to enjoy many of the several hot springs that border the river. Our two days in the gorge was a stunningly beautiful experience (and there was plenty of water!).

Trail Angels
The term "Trail Angels" refers to individuals who offer assistance to thru-hikers. Sometimes the "Trail Angel" is well known -- such as a resident of a town who provides water, shelter, showers, laundry, or a home cooked meal. Sometimes a "Trail Angel" comes out of nowhere -- unexpectedly offering a welcoming hand. Below is a description of the "Trail Angels" we have come across on our Continental Divide Trail travels (we will add to this post as we meet more -- most recent encounters show up first):

Leland Fuhrig and Ryan (Steamboat Springs, Colorado)

Leland (a friend of Jesse's from grad school) and Ryan opened up their comfortable Steamboat home to us and some of our friends during our hike through town. They also joined us for an evening of margaritas and grilled meet, and for a subsequent night of savory food and fine conversation at the Seedhouse Campground south of town. Thanks to both for making our northern Colorado odyssey more comfortable and enjoyable. (Picture to come soon!)

Matt, Tracy and Michael Brend (Franktown, Colorado)

Matt, Tracy and Michael met up with us in Grand Lake, Colorado where they provided us with very welcome company and a very comfortable campsite (complete with RV, grill and plenty of entertainment from the talented Michael!). Their shelter that evening also saved us from a night of rain! (Picture to come soon!)

Gail Schoettler (Parker, Colorado)

Gail (Jim's mom) made more than 100 pounds of granola that serves as breakfast each morning on the trail. In addition, she has met Jim and Jesse at every resupply in Colorado, providing comfortable beds, juicy steaks, tasty strawberry pies, and all other manners of creature comforts. Most recently, Gail brought Jesse and Jim back to Parker for some R&R from the trail near Silverthorne, CO -- just in time to miss two days of snows and high winds in the mountains. Alas, Gail is headed to China for two weeks. Jesse and Jim look forward to reconnecting with her in Montana!

Lisa Gavioli (Albuquerque, New Mexico)

Lisa (Jesse's fiance) has been our constant enabler during the first 1200 miles of our trip. She dropped us off at the Mexican Border, picked up the tired dogs in Lordsburg, shuttled us back and forth to Grants and Cuba, joined us for a few days ofthe hike in Northern New Mexico, visited us in Lake City, Colorado (bringing us much needed snow shoes!), and drove 7 hours North to the central Colorado mountains to present us with bratwursts and beer for an evening. On top of all of that, she is planning the wedding and holding down the fort (and the dogs!) in Albuquerque, New Mexico. A true Angel, Lisa has made our hike much easier and much more pleasant.

Anthony and Kathy Skaff (Hermit Lakes, Colorado)

Our escape route from the snow storms of the San Juan's brought us to Hermit Lakes - a community of summer homes near Lake City, Colorado. What we did not know during the planning stages of "Plan D" was that Hermit Lakes was entirely on private land and that the Hermit Lakes management aggressively prosecutes trespassers. In our efforts to find a place where we might pitch our tarp for the night, we serendipitously chose the door of Kathy and Anthony Skaff as our first solicitation. The Skaffs had arrived for their summer at Hermit Lakes only hours earlier, and they graciously offered us stew, hot chocolate, beds for the night, and perhaps most importantly, a way out of our impending arrests for trespassing. We are indebted to the Skaffs for all of their kindness, and for keeping our criminal records clean!

Don Roach (Coyote, New Mexico)
Over the years, Jesse's dad has provided us with immeasurable assistance in many of our exploits. Our trek through Northern New Mexico was no exception: Don provided us with frequent food, drink, logistical support and fine company throughout. His efforts helped return meat to our bones, a bounce to our steps and a smile to our faces. Don - special thanks for the divine salsa and exquisite bar-b-qued chicken (among the many other favors).

Michael and Anonymous (Pie Town, New Mexico)
Heck... We have to get better and remembering (and asking) names. Coming off a meal of two T-bones, two cheeseburgers and two pieces of pie ala mode at the Daily Pie restaurant, Jesse and I walked outside to see Michael -- a truck driver and aspiring Christian ballad musician. Michael thought that hiking the CDT and the idea of a Continental Divide itself made for "good stories". The other fellow provided us with a cup of much needed gas (there are no gas stations in Pie Town) for our stove. Our time with these two outside the Daily Pie was probably the most entertaining fifteen minutes of our trip.

Anonymous (Snow Lake, New Mexico)
How we failed to get (or remember) the names of these two Indiana turkey hunters is beyond me (hopefully they will email me at jim@marrowtrek.org so we can right this injustice)... We had just finished a three day hike up the Gila River Gorge. The hike was beautiful but taxing -- we crossed the river more than 150 times and were struggling to make our 30 miles a day. We arrived at the Snow Lake campground in the late afternoon to inhale our meager lunch (of Power Bars and peanut butter). The two hunters pulled ambled over and asked us to come enjoy anything out of their loaded trailer. We gladly accepted, enjoying four ham sandwiches and a box of tasty Cheese Nips (who knew those were tasty?). Thanks, hunters, for brightening our afternoon and soothing our grumbling stomachs.

Keith Knadler (Gila Hot Springs, New Mexico)
Keith, a friend of Jesse's and Lisa's welcomed us hospitably to his comfortable digs at Gila Hot Springs. He had cold beers, cozy sleeping accommodation, free (locals only!) pass to the hot springs and organic free range hamburgers from the East Fork of the Gila River! He also lent us his car to handle a few outstanding errands. Our only regret was that we were not able to spend a bit more time relaxing there.

Stefan (Silver City, New Mexico)
It was 8pm, and we had just finished a (very unsatisfying) meal at Bob's Big Burgers in Silver City. We were facing a five mile hike out to the nearest public lands for our evenings rustic lodgings. The road we were hiking was busy, and it was getting dark. Stefan saw us walking by and offered us a futon to crash on, and more importantly, a shower (the first and only shower we had in our first 440 miles). It was a welcome retreat from an otherwise long, late evening. Thanks Stefan.

Carol Baker (the "Trouble Maker") and her husband to be (Lordsburg, New Mexico)
Jesse and I arrived at Separ (an isolated I-10 underpass) for our first resupply. Scooter and Whistler had been worn down by some long, windy days, and Jesse and I had decided to give them a break. Lisa (Jesse's faince) had agreed to drive the eight hour round trip from Albuquerque to pick them up, and Jesse and I were looking at spending the day amusing ourselves in Separ's "Continental Divide Trading Post" (need some fireworks, anyone?). By some stroke of divine luck, Carol and her fiance happened to pull off the interstate a few minutes after we hiked in. Carol -- who rescues abandoned and mistreated dogs -- offered to drive all of us (her fiance, her 3 dogs, Whistler, Scooter, Jesse, I) to the larger town of Lordsburg (fortunately she had a mini van). Their kindness allowed us to spend a relaxing day enjoying Lordsburg's restaurant, library, park, are post office (where our resupply package was waiting).

Recent Posts

Back to Blog Home