Weminuche Wilderness – Sept. 2022: Trip Summary

On September 3, 2022 I started a backpacking trip into the Weminuche Wilderness, starting at Rio Grande Reservoir and hiking to the south and southwest of the reservoir. The map below shows the route I took. Continue reading for a daily summary of the trip. 

Route of my hike. Blue is day 1, purple day 2, etc.
Elevation profile and approximate statistics from my Garmin inReach tracking. Created using GPS Visualizer.
Day 1

I made it to the trailhead at Thirtymile Campground around 3:00 PM. It had looked pretty stormy for the last couple hours driving to the trailhead, but it looked better once I reached the trailhead. The county/forest road getting to the trailhead was rough, and I had to take it easy in a few spots, but I made it there in my sedan without any problems. 

Looking up the Squaw Creek valley.

I started up the Squaw Creek trail. Right off the bat I ran into some raspberry bushes and had me a few fresh raspberries. I love finding fresh berries along the trail! I had a bit of a scare shortly after that when I pulled out my camera and my battery was much lower than it should have been. When I was preparing for the trip I noticed that the battery was low after I was sure I had charged it, but I charged it again. Now it was low again. I was really hoping it was a bad battery and not something with the camera. I had a spare battery if it was a bad battery. About a mile or so into the trail I ran into “Pseudo Sloth”. I hiked around her for a brief period during my Continental Divide Trail (CDT) hike last year. It was pretty wild to run into her on the trail. She said the trail up to the Squaw Lake turnoff was “cruisy” (aka good for fast hiking), which indeed it was, and I made it to the turnoff for Squaw Lake around 5:30 PM. I was able to get across Squaw Creek without getting my feet wet, which I was very thankful for. I took a quick break after crossing the creek and then continued on towards Squaw Lake. 

I got to the lake around 6:30 PM. It was a strenuous hike up to the lake, and I was quite glad when I finally reached it. It didn’t help that it was getting more and more stormy as I went on, so I was pushing harder than normal to get to the lake before I got stormed on. Shortly before getting there it started to sprinkle and right after arriving it started to rain moderately, with some small ice pellets mixed in. I took shelter under a tree, and thankfully it passed quickly. I spent a few minutes walking around trying to find a camping spot. There were 4 other tents already set up, so I was trying to find a spot that wasn’t too close to one of them. Once I found a spot I got camp set up and then made dinner. While I was eating dinner I chatted with a couple of the people camped there. By the time I finished dinner it was nearly dark. I got camp chores finished up in the dark and called it a day. 

Day 2

I was up around 6:30 AM and on trail around 7:45 AM. My camera battery was dead, so I put my spare battery in and hoped that would last the rest of the trip (and thankfully it did). I started the day going from ~11,600 ft to ~12,700 ft, with a pretty steep climb right off the bat. The difficult climb was paid off with some cool views, including down to Squaw Lake. About 30 minutes after starting I got a message from my dad through my Garmin inReach Mini that my home alarm system had gone off, but apparently the police hadn’t seen any issues since he didn’t get a call back. So between the climb, stopping for pictures, and working through the alarm system situation, it was slow going early on. I somehow managed to get cell service just long enough to see that everything appeared to be ok and get the alarm system reset, so that was a relief. 

Looking down at Squaw Lake.

Near the top of the climb I reached a junction with the CDT and continued down that trail. I ran into a couple deer near the top of the climb. The views hiking up to and along the ridge were great, but I was glad to finally have some downhill when I got to the top of the climb. There was a lot of hiking through overgrown brush shortly before I took a break around 10:00 AM. I wasn’t feeling great during the break. I didn’t feel like eating much and had a bit of a headache, but I ate a bit of granola and drank some water. I was hoping to refill water during the break, but unfortunately the creek bed where I stopped was dry. After the break the trail went around a peak/ridge and had some cool views down into the Squaw Creek valley. Thankfully the next creek I came to had some water, so I stopped there and refilled.

Looking down at Squaw Pass.

At Squaw Pass I got onto the Cimarrona Trail and then had a long climb up to a saddle. I went pretty slow. Shortly after going over the saddle I ran into a couple backpackers going the opposite way. The trail was pretty overgrown in spots on the other side of the saddle. Thankfully the brush was dry. I stopped for lunch next to a creek just before the junction with the Hossick Trail. It wasn’t a great place to stop for lunch, but it was nice being next to the creek (although I didn’t end up getting any water from it). 

I got to the Hossick Trail junction quickly after lunch and turned up that trail, after which was a really hard climb from ~11,500 ft to ~12,400 ft. I went very slow. Haha. It was steep, overgrown in lots of spots, and rocky. Thankfully there were some cool views along the way and at the top of the climb to reward me for the work. It’s definitely not a good choice if you’re afraid of heights though, as there is a short section at the top with a very big drop off on either side. I had originally planned to go to Hossick Lake, but when I got to the junction and realized more climbing would be involved, I decided to skip it and head down to the Weminuche Valley to set up camp. I was already pretty worn out. 

View from near the top of the climb on the Hossick Trail.

I underestimated that decent. The trail went from ~11,800 ft to ~8,500 ft. in ~5 miles. By the time I got to the bottom I was so exhausted, and my feet, legs, and hips were all hurting. I was pretty sure I had a blister on one heel. When I reached the Shaw Creek Trail I continued on it and camped next to Milk Creek. I had hiked about 14 miles. I reached camp around 5:00 PM. The way I felt by the time I reached camp rivaled how bad I felt after some of my worst CDT days. I don’t ever remember feeling that bad after a day of hiking outside of the CDT. It was definitely a rough day. 

I got my tent set up, made dinner, and then finished getting camp set up. I washed my feet and then looked at other options for routes for the next day. The next day was supposed to have another really big climb right away, and I really didn’t feel like doing that. Thankfully there was a shortcut and much easier route I could take, so I decided to do that even though it involved backtracking about a mile or so. 

I spent the rest of the evening doing camp chores, reading, and typing up notes for the day. Not sure if it was the altitude, dehydration, it was harder than I expected, or a combination of all those, but this day definitely kicked my butt. Thankfully the brush wasn’t wet, though, else there would have been lots of “hiker washes”, which would have made it even worse. 

Day 3

On day 3 I was up around 6:45 AM. There was a squirrel right above my tent that decided to be my alarm clock. I can’t remember if I was awake before that or not, but I was a definitely awake afterwards. After getting going I made the mile or so hike back to the junction with the Weminuche Trail and took that trail toward Divide Lakes. I was feeling better in the morning, but was really glad I had decided to take the easier route. The Weminuche Trail seemed like the most heavily used trail I took during the trip. It’s apparently a popular trail for horses/mules, so there were some spots where the trail was in rough shape, but it ended up being a neat stretch of trail. The Elk Park area was neat, and there were a bunch of sunflower looking flowers (but much smaller) along a good portion of the trail.

Yellow flowers along the Weminuche Trail.

I stopped at E. Fork Weminuche Creek around 11:00 AM for a snack break and to fill up with water. There just so happened to be some raspberries there as well, so I helped myself to a few of those. I made it to Los Pinos River around 12:30 PM. I had planned to do lunch there, but there wasn’t much shade, so I started up the Pine River Trail and stopped at the first creek that crossed the trail, around 1:00 PM.

The hike up Los Pinos River was pretty easy, and was great for making some miles. I got to the junction with the Rincon La Osa trail around 2:45 PM. Right after getting on the Rincon La Osa trail I came to a Y in the trail and took a path that went to a camp, so I had to backtrack a bit. The climb up the Rincon La Osa trail was difficult, but not as hard as the climbs on the previous day. I ran into a couple more deer on that trail. I found a good camp spot around 3:45 PM at ~11,000 ft and decided to call it a day. I had hiked about 13 miles. I was way ahead of schedule due to my change in plans and it was also starting to look stormy off to the east. 

After dinner it started to look like some rain might be headed my way. I went ahead and got my feet washed and started to hear thunder around 7:00 PM. All evening it looked like it might rain. The sunset ended up being really cool with the sun lighting up the rain from the thunderstorms. It was definitely one of the more impressive sunsets I remember seeing from any of my backpacking trips. It started raining just as it was getting dark. I was glad it waited until then. It rained on and off for a bit, but didn’t rain a whole lot. 

The sunset on day 3.

There was lots of hunting activity on this day, whether that was hunters, a train of mules, hunting camps, etc. If I remember correctly I met three people going the opposite way on trail, all before Divide Lakes. I generally felt better, although my pack was really hurting my right hip, so I unbuckled the pack several times throughout the day to try and help that. I was really glad I had done the easier route. 

Day 4

I was up around 7:00 AM on this day. Between the rain on the outside and condensation on the inside my tent was soaked. I tried to dry the inside up a bit using my towel. There was some frost on the tent at the foot of the tent. I hit the trail around 8:00 AM. Thankfully the vegetation along the trail wasn’t wet, which was surprising. Shortly after starting I again came to a Y in the trail, and once again the trail I chose went to a camp spot, so I had to back track again. I seemed to have a knack for choosing the wrong trail on this trip. 

Rincon La Osa valley.

The hike up through Rincon La Osa was really cool. I stopped several times for pictures while hiking up the open valley. I passed next to a hunting camp with some llamas while hiking through the valley. I didn’t see any of the hunters around. There was a bit of a strenuous climb to get out of the valley, but not too bad. After reaching the top I went down into the East Ute Creek valley. It was a bit difficult to find the trail at the top. Shortly after finding the trail it turned into a fairly steep loose gravel trail with a pretty good drop off to one side. Had I slipped on the loose gravel and fell the wrong way, I would have tumbled down a steep embankment about 20-30 feet. It made me very nervous and I took it quite slow. I was quite relieved to make it past that part of the trail. I took a break shortly after that.

After that the trail was relatively flat and good for making some miles for most of the valley, although difficult to see in some spots. It seemed like the least traveled trail of my entire trip. Towards the bottom of the valley the trail steepened and was a bit more difficult with rocks and trees. I put my sandals on to cross East Ute Creek as I couldn’t see any way to rock hop across that. I was able to rock hop across West Ute Creek. 

After crossing West Ute Creek there appeared to be a trail that cut NW over to the West Ute Trail. However, I lost that trail after a bit, and there didn’t appear to be a trail where the USGS map showed the trail would be. After wandering around for a bit I eventually found the trail, lower in the valley than the USGS map indicated it would be. That was a bit frustrating but I was glad to be back on the trail. The hike up the West Ute trail was exposed nearly the entire way. 

Shortly before lunch I ran into a couple men hiking the opposite way. They were both decked out in camo and everything about them screamed hunters. However, when I asked them if they were hunting, they said no and one of them said his friend wanted to see the area. I’m not sure if they were being smart with me, if they were up there illegally, or they were truly just out hiking, but their outfit was definitely outside the norm of hiking outfits. It was a really odd encounter. Shortly after that I stopped around 1:00 PM at a shady spot for lunch, which was the first shady spot on the trail since getting on the West Ute Trail. I laid my tent and footprint out in the sun to dry them out. 

West Ute Lake.

It started looking stormy after lunch. I started hearing thunder around 2:00 PM. I made it to West Ute Lake around 2:45 PM. For some reason it hadn’t dawned on me until reaching the lake that that wasn’t the lake I wanted to be at. My plan had always been to go to Twin Lakes, not West Ute Lake, but for some reason my mind had latched onto West Ute Lake on this day. I wasn’t a big fan of the camping at that lake, and it was still fairly early, so I decided to hike the 4 miles to Twin Lakes and hope I didn’t get stormed on. At a creek crossing about a mile from Twin Lakes I noticed some bear prints in the mud, and shortly after that saw a moose. 

I arrived at Twin Lakes around 4:30 PM. My feet were pretty sore, particularly my left foot. I had hiked about 15 miles. There was a storm fairly close with some thunder. It took me a few minutes to decide on a camp spot, and then I hurried as best I could to get the tent set up. According to my map there was an outlet stream from the lake close to my camp, but that wasn’t the case so I went to the lake to get some water. Filling up my water bag in a lake is difficult, so that was frustrating, especially since I was in a hurry. Once I got some water in the bag I noticed there was a definite yellow/green tint to the water. After getting water I finished setting up camp and then ate dinner. Thankfully the storm that was close wasn’t moving towards me. 

While dinner was hydrating I washed my feet. I had a couple CDT hikers go by after dinner. I spent some time with my map and compass making sure I could remember how to use them. Thankfully I still remembered. Haha. Late in the evening another really heavy thunderstorm got going. I was so glad I wasn’t under that one. It made for another really cool sunset. I was stoked about having two awesome sunsets in a row. Shortly after sunset the wind picked up and it started to rain lightly, but that was short lived. 

Day 5

I was up around 6:45 AM. I had slept awful. There wasn’t a good place to secure my bear bag with my food, so I had it sitting next to my tent, which had me a bit paranoid. I could also hear animals wandering around outside throughout much of the night. I normally don’t sleep well while backpacking, but this was a really bad night. 

Looking back towards Ute Lake and Twin Lakes.

I got on trail around 7:45 AM. There were a few elk on a hillside in the distance as I was leaving. Just a bit down the trail I ran into a creek that wasn’t on my map, which would have been much better than the water out of the lake. Oh well. Haha. I stopped to clean my socks from the previous day since they were pretty dirty. I didn’t fill up with water, which I figured I might regret later. The hiking from Twin Lakes to Ute Lake to Rincon La Osa was really cool. It was one of my favorite segments of the entire hike. It was slow going due to climbing and stopping for lots of pictures. Just before getting to Rincon La Osa I chose the wrong trail once again at a Y. It was really cool hiking around the rim of Rincon La Osa after having hiked up that valley the previous day. As I was nearing the end of the rim of Rincon La Osa I noticed a spring next to the trail. I had been rationing water so I was really thankful to find that water source. I drank the water I had and then refilled. 

Rincon La Osa valley from the CDT.

After Rincon La Osa I came to the same junction I had reached the previous day but continued on the CDT this time. There was one last big climb. It wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be. Thank goodness for switchbacks. I took a snack break at the top of the climb. On the decent down towards Los Pinos River there was a cool view of The Window and Rio Grande Pyramid. There were also a couple cool waterfalls. I stopped for lunch just before meeting the Pine River Trail, around 12:45 PM. I was really hoping there was water in the ditch next to the trail, but it was dry. Thankfully I still had a bit of water for lunch, and there was a creek a bit down trail I could stop at to refill. 

Rio Grande Pyramid and The Window

It was already looking stormy when I stopped for lunch. Shortly after getting started again after lunch there were some sprinkles. The trail was nice and good for making some miles. I stopped at Weminuche Creek to refill water. I started to hear thunder around 2:00 PM. On the way down I met some people taking some horses/mules in. The lower part of the trail was really cool. I made it to the trailhead just before 3:30 PM. 

Final Thoughts

Despite changing my plans and going to the wrong lake, I was quite happy with how the trip turned out. I think I got quite lucky with weather and not getting stormed on while hiking. There was a lot of exposed hiking on this route, and not much hiking in the forest, although there is so much beetle kill that even in the forest there isn’t a whole lot of shade. I wasn’t much of a fan of the East Ute Creek and West Ute Creek valleys, but other than that I enjoyed the route. With as much hunting activity as I saw, I would recommend wearing some bright colors if you’re hiking this time of year. It definitely made me a bit nervous not having some bright colors on. If I exclude the hunters and all the people camped at Squaw Lake, I didn’t come across many people at all. That was nice, but it makes it a bit lonely as well. I always enjoy conversation with other hikers. It was a bit of a difficult hike, but definitely worth it!

Decisions, Decisions, Decisions

View of King Lake. One of my last views before getting off the CDT last year.

Today marks one year since I made one of the harder decisions of my life: quitting my CDT hike around the halfway mark, after 72 days and roughly 1,500 miles. I had been struggling a lot since around the Colorado border, and thus had decided at my last town stop to take an alternate route in the next segment that would hopefully be easier. However, I would miss the highest point on the CDT, and it would separate me from the people I had been hiking around consistently (aka trail family, or tramily). Since it had taken me nearly a month and a half after starting to finally feel like I had a tramily, I was pretty bummed about splitting up with them and not knowing if/when we would meet back up. The day before quitting I hadn’t seen any other CDT hikers on trail and I tripped and fell hard just before getting to camp. The morning of I had a difficult climb, and I really struggled on the climbs. After the climb, there was an exposed ridge walk with wind chills likely around freezing (I had seen ice on the trail near the top of the climb). I was pretty miserable that whole morning. I stopped for lunch at a place where I could either continue on the CDT or get off trail and hike into Winter Park, CO. One of the popular mottos on trail is “Don’t quit on a bad day,” but after eating and mulling it over for a bit, I figured if I kept going I wouldn’t be enjoying it much and would be miserable pretty often, so I decided that I had had enough and hiked into Winter Park. 

Although I still sometimes second guess that decision, a lot of good things have happened in the year since that decision. I got to keep my streak of running in the Oklahoma City Memorial Marathon/Half-Marathon alive (I’m now at 10 consecutive years). About a month after quitting I got to go do trail magic on the CDT in New Mexico and catch up with the tramily. I got a job in NW Arkansas and got a house bought. I have been able to meet up with a couple friends from the CDT in NW Arkansas. When I was in Wyoming earlier this summer I was able to meet up with and do some trail magic for some CDT hikers I had met through an online thru hiking community (Thru-r). I have adopted a section of the Ozark Highlands Trail, and am the secretary on the board of directors for the Ozark Highlands Trail Association. I have found an animal shelter I can volunteer at and enjoy some kitty time. I have got involved with a running group and really enjoy trail running with them each week. 

And yet, I feel like I’m right back where I was a year ago: different paths ahead of me, pondering what my next move is.

  1. Do I get back into attempting to sell prints of my photography? If so, when? If I get back into it in the next few months, it will likely mean pulling a few thousand dollars out of money I have set aside for retirement. Do I wait until I have more photos from around NW Arkansas? Where do I sell? Can I even find a gallery to exhibit in? Do I set up an online store? What do I do differently this time to improve my chance of success? Can I sell enough prints to keep the printer busy enough to not have issues with clogged nozzles? I could go on and on with questions. 
  2. When/how am I going to get back to the CDT to finish the southern half? The HVAC system in my house is old and needs to be replaced soon. That will likely cost around $15,000. As it currently stands, it will be late 2024 before I have the money saved up for that (and that’s with putting 20% of my take home pay into savings). Which means, at least from a financial perspective (unless I pull money from retirement funds), it will be at least 2025 before I can make it back. And that’s assuming no other large expenses pop up during that time. 
  3. What do I do about my job situation? My current job is far from fulfilling. However, I think it’s going to be near impossible to find a job that is fulfilling and also pays as well or better (and has as good of benefits) as my current job. If I get back into selling my photography, my current job might be beneficial in that I can hopefully use the photo studios to get some good product photographs of my prints (after having a couple of the photographers teach me how to do it). So do I try to “tough it out” another 3-4 years at my current job until I have the money to finish my CDT hike? Do I take a chance on another job that pays more but may still be low on the fulfillment meter? Do I get a more fulfilling job that pays less, but then be even more stressed about my budget?

It just so happens that on this one year anniversary of quitting my CDT hike I’m back out in the Colorado mountains on a solo backpacking trip, which should give me plenty of opportunity to think through all this. Haha. I hope not to spend too much time thinking about all this though. Hopefully I can spend most of the time being present and enjoying being out in nature. Maybe in another year I’ll be able to look back and see more good and progress that has happened and have some new life decisions to ponder. 

Northern Wind River Range – July 2022 Trip Report

At the south end of lower Green River Lake looking toward Squaretop Mountain.

Back on July 3 my brother and I started a four day backpacking trip in the Wind River Range that took us from the Green River Lakes trailhead over Porcupine Pass, to Heart Lake, to Summit Lake, and then back to the trailhead. This will be a quick rundown of my experience. 

Our route. Stars indicate where we camped.

Day 1: Green River Lakes TH to Dodge Creek

The drive into the trailhead was slow and rough. The last 15 miles or so to the trailhead was a rough dirt road. Having a more off-road type vehicle would have been preferable, but it was doable in a sedan. We were in a Chevrolet Impala and were typically going at most 20mph, so the dirt road portion alone took about an hour.

We arrived at the TH around 10:30 AM. With it being a holiday weekend, I was worried about finding a place to park at the TH, but thankfully there were still several spots available. We registered at the TH and then got to hiking. We took the Lakeside Trail around the west side of the lower lake. There were some good views across the lake in a few spots, and we ran into a few day hikers along that trail. Shortly after getting on the Porcupine Trail we ran into some day hikers on their way out who warned us of a creek crossing and water flowing on the trail. When we got to the crossing we hiked upstream a bit to try and find a dry crossing, but after no luck we headed back to where the trail crossed and put on our creek crossing shoes. The next half mile or so of trail after the crossing was essentially a flowing creek. We stopped shortly after the crossing for lunch and then hiked in our crossing shoes until we reached dry trail at the bottom of the switchbacks. 

Shortly before the turnoff to Twin Lakes and Shirley Lake we ran into some backpackers who had stayed at Shirley Lake and highly recommended it. They would be the last people we would see until late on day 3. We continued on up Porcupine Trail. Instead of crossing Porcupine Creek at the next crossing, we followed a faint trail and then did some bushwhacking to meet up with the trail after it crossed back over Porcupine Creek again. It saved us having to change into our crossing shoes again. 

The trail up Porcupine Creek after this was often covered in water and/or muddy, particularly in the meadow areas. Once we got into the meadow areas there were some neat views of the west side of the canyon and some great areas for camping. These were the first good scenic views since leaving the lower Green River Lake. I knew going over Porcupine Pass might be sketchy due to snow cover, so when we reached the last crossing of Porcupine Creek I told my brother that if we were going to turn around that was the point to do it so we could make the most the next three days. We decided to continue on. That last crossing of Porcupine Creek was a difficult crossing. It was around knee deep and fairly swift. I was thankful for my trekking poles. We eventually got to the point where we could tell there was snow over the trail switchbacks going up to the pass. However, it looked possible to cross the snow down low where it wasn’t as steep and then climb directly up to the pass where there was no snow cover, so that is what we decided to do.  

Approximate path we took to get to Porcupine Pass.

Once we got close to the top of the pass, it got really steep with lots of loose rock and gravel. We had to be really careful about our steps. Progress became painstakingly slow and it was quite stressful. At that point, though, I felt like it was safer to continue on to the pass instead of trying to go back down. Just below the pass we were finally able to start using the trail. We made it to the top of the pass just before 6:30 PM. It would still have been an exhausting climb with the trail, but it would have been much less stressful. I wouldn’t recommend going up or down the north side of the pass if the trail isn’t available. Lighting for pictures wasn’t great at that point, it was a bit windy, and it was getting late and I wanted to make it down a couple of miles, so we didn’t spend any time at the top of the pass and started our hike down. I was afraid the south side was going to be the same as the north side, but much to my relief it was much better. I believe we reached the crossing of Dale Creek around 7:45 PM and decided to camp just before the crossing. It was a long, tough day. 

I was hiking in trail runners, and due to the wet trail conditions, my socks and shoes were still bit damp when we got to camp. Since we were in a bit of a rush to get dinner and chores done, I didn’t take off my shoes and socks, so by the time I got into the tent for bed my feet were quite cold. A bit after getting into my sleeping bag I started getting pain in my toes, which I don’t remember happening before, so I probably let my feet get a bit colder than I should have. 

Day 2: Dale Creek to Heart Lake

We started the second day crossing Dale Creek and then had about a mile of downhill hiking before reaching the New Fork River. I had been worried about crossing the New Fork River due to the ongoing snow melt but the crossing wasn’t too bad. The hike up Palmer Canyon was one of the more scenic stretches of the entire trip. There was lots of stopping for pictures in that stretch. We saw a couple deer in the canyon as well. The climb up and out of the canyon was difficult, but thankfully there was a good trail. We started running into some snow patches near the top of the climb. 

View climbing out of Palmer Canyon. Black arrow points to Porcupine Pass.

As we approached Palmer lake a bald eagle took off from a tree. We stopped at the lake for lunch. It was fairly breezy so we found a spot in some trees to try to get out of the sun and wind. After we finished lunch we continued down the trail to the Heart Lake Trail. We turned down that trail and then stopped at Dean Lake so my brother could do some fishing. He caught several small brook trout in that lake. After that we continued on to Heart Lake. We found a good camping spot at Heart Lake around 4:30 and got camp set up. Heart Lake wasn’t particularly scenic, but it was sheltered and had a great spot to camp, so that was nice. My brother tried some fishing (he wasn’t able to catch anything) and I was able to get some reading in. Overall it was a fairly uneventful day with some great scenery. 

Day 3: Heart Lake to Green River

To start out we headed toward Gottfried Lake. Once there we turned onto the Pine Creek Canyon Trail towards Borum Lake. Borum Lake was a beautiful lake, although it looked like it would be difficult to find a camp spot that met regulations. We stopped at the outlet to get some water and then hiked a bit farther before stopping so my brother could try some fishing. He wasn’t able to catch anything out of that lake. It was a beautiful spot to take a break though. After spending some time at Borum Lake we continued on to Summit Lake. We reached Summit Lake around 11:45 AM.  Summit Lake was a really cool spot. It didn’t have much to offer for shelter, but it was a really a scenic place. My brother went to do some fishing while I spent some time taking pictures. My brother caught at least one decent size cutthroat. 

We ate lunch at Summit Lake and then got back on trail around 1:00 PM to head down to the Green River. There were a lot of snow patches and lots of wet/muddy trail on the way down. When we reached our first crossing of Trail Creek my brother realized he had lost one of his creek crossing shoes between there and Summit Lake. He decided to go back and try to find it, so I hung out at the crossing until he got back around 40 minutes later with the shoe. We kept our crossing shoes on since we had to cross the creek a second time just down trail. My brother slipped at that second crossing and dropped one of his hiking boots in the creek. Thankfully he was able to grab it before it went downstream. There was a snow patch on either side of the second crossing, and it wasn’t particularly pleasant walking though the snow in sandals with wet feet after the crossing. I quickly got to a spot where I could sit on a rock and get my feet dry and into my socks and hiking shoes. 

One of the many snow patches covering the trail.
My brother crossing Trail Creek before the switchbacks down to the Green River.

After all that we continued on down the trail. The crossing of Trail Creek just above the switchbacks was a little nerve racking. It was about knee deep and moving somewhat swiftly. Not really difficult, but it was one of those crossings where if you fell in it probably wasn’t going to end well. We both made it across and continued on. There were some fantastic views on the way down to the Green River. Shortly after reaching the Green River we saw the first people since early afternoon on Day 1. My goal was to make it to Beaver Park, so we skipped a camp spot in Three Forks Park. We also skipped a camp spot right before Beaver Park. Beaver Park ended up being littered with blow downs and there weren’t any good camping spots, so we continued on. We ended up hiking another 45 minutes or so past Beaver Park before we found a camp spot that wasn’t right next to the river (about 6.5 miles from the trailhead). It wasn’t far enough from the trail per regulations, but at that point my brother and I were both tired and hungry, and it was getting late, so we set up camp there and hurried and got dinner ready. By the time we finished getting camp set up and chores done it was dark. 

Day 4: Green River to Green River Lakes TH

Moose at the north end of the upper Green River Lake.

Day 4 got off to an early start. We had planned on getting up at 6:30 AM so we could get out in time to meet some CDT hikers at Elkhart Park TH, but we were both awake at 6:00 AM, so we went ahead and got up and hit the trail around 7. Both of my heels had got rubbed raw the prior day, so I got those taped up before hitting the trail. Unfortunately we didn’t see any wildlife along the river. There were several people camped along the river. We stopped at the upper Green River Lake so my brother could do some fishing. He caught a decent size Rainbow Trout out of that lake. After that we continued on down the trail. At the north end of the upper lake we crossed paths with a moose. Thankfully it didn’t seem to mind us, and it allowed for a really cool photo opportunity. At one point along the lower lake my brother made a few casts but didn’t catch any fish. We made it back to the TH around 10:30, which was much more sparse than when we had arrived. 

Conclusion

Outside of the stressful climb up Porcupine Pass this was a great trip. A few of my key takeaways:

  1. I would definitely recommend doing Porcupine Pass after the snow has melted off the trail.
  2. There was lots of wet/muddy trail, but that wouldn’t be an issue later in the season after the snowmelt has finished.
  3. Be ready for lots of creek crossings that will get your feet wet, although there may be some that you could cross later in the season without getting your feet wet.
  4. It ended up being a good combination of lower elevation canyon hiking combined with higher elevation alpine type hiking.

Transplanted

It’s hard for me to believe it was only about 6 months ago when I called it quits on my Continental Divide Trail (CDT) adventure. It feels like it has been so much longer than that. A lot has happened in the last 6 months, and since I have been so quiet on here and social media, I figured I would take some time to update those of you who follow me with some of the happenings of the last 6 months. It has been a rollercoaster!

After I got off trail early in September I went to live with my parents in NE Oklahoma. When I announced my plans to hike the CDT and then move out west, they had decided to start looking to move closer to my brother in SE Kansas. Ironically, they ended up moving just a couple weeks after I got off trail. I’m sure some would see that as unfortunate timing, but it was great to be able to help them out with the move after all the help they had given me on trail. 

In early October I ran the OKC Memorial Half Marathon. One of the things I was bummed about when I made the decision to hike the CDT was that I would miss that event and break my streak (which at that point was 8 consecutive years), so I was really excited to be able to participate in that. I ended up running my second fastest time (which was completely unexpected) and I got to visit with some friends and coworkers while I was in town, so that was a great weekend. After that I headed out to New Mexico for a few days to do some trail magic on the CDT. That was a blast. It was great seeing many of the people I had hiked around, and I met a lot of new people as well. 

Trail magic in northern NM.

After that it was back to real life and trying to find a job. I had decided to try finding one in northwest Arkansas (NWA) first instead of out west. Thankfully it didn’t take long to get one lined up. At the beginning of November I found out I had the job, and after that it was time to find a house. I didn’t start the job until after Thanksgiving, so I had nearly a month to get a house lined up, but it ended up taking much longer than that. At the beginning of February, three months after I had started looking, and after two months of living in a hotel, I finally closed on a house. I spent a couple weeks getting some work done (mainly painting; huge thanks to my mom for helping out) before getting all my stuff moved in, and then have spent the last couple weeks getting everything put up, organized, etc. 

My new place in NW Arkansas.

Thankfully things slowed down some this past week and I was able to relax a bit and actually enjoy having the house. There are still a lot of projects to do around the house, but nothing at this point I’m in a big rush to get done. Yesterday I signed up to maintain a section of trail next to Lake Fort Smith. It’s not the Ozark Highlands Trail (OHT), but it’s right next to it, and I’m hoping I can eventually take over a segment of the OHT. I also got signed up for some volunteer training at an animal shelter type place, and I’m hoping to start getting involved with a couple running clubs. So after ripping up roots last year, it feels like I’m to the point of trying to get some roots growing in a new place.

As far as photography goes, I got the camera out a few times over the last 6 months, mainly for some shots of fall colors and snow. The snow pictures are still up on my website in my Fresh Off The Card gallery if you want to check those out. Hopefully pretty soon I’ll be getting it out on some trails around here. I have been able to get together here in NWA with a couple people I met on the CDT, one of which I shuttled for his OHT hike. It was fantastic seeing them, and hopefully I can get involved with more of that type of stuff on the OHT. While I won’t be doing any sort of thru hike this year, I’m hoping to get out on a couple multi day trips in the Rockies and get back to NM in the fall to do some more trail magic. Fingers crossed it all works out, and hopefully you’ll start seeing some trail pictures from around here soon!

CDT Reflections Pt. 3: Surprises, Disappointments, etc.

Reflections on a small pond in the Wind River Range.

This is the third and final installment in my CDT Reflections blog series. The first post was an overview of the MT/ID section, and the second an overview of the WY/CO section. In this post I’ll address various topics individually. 


Romance: I knew it was a long shot, and I didn’t have very high hopes, but there was a very small glimmer of hope that maybe I would find some romance and a future partner on the trail. It didn’t happen. Had it happened, I probably would still be going as that would have been a big incentive not to quit. Haha. Not a big disappointment since I didn’t have high expectations to begin with, but still a bit of a bummer. 

Trail Magic: I hate bringing this up because I don’t want to sound like I’m entitled to trail magic or that I’m ungrateful for the help I got. I am so thankful for all the help and trail magic I received. From a trail magic perspective, I knew there were much better trails to do than the CDT, so once again I didn’t have real high expectations. However, it was frustrating hearing stories from other hikers about awesome trail magic they had been a part of, not having received anything like that myself. From another perspective, the hike was great for getting ideas for future trail magic I could do for hikers, and I was recently able to drive over to NM for a few days and give some trail magic, which was a blast. 

Friendships: Similar to trail magic, I knew this wasn’t the trail to be doing if I wanted a really social experience along the trail. However, I had hoped that I could find a trail family (“tramily”) along the trail and within that tramily make some great friends along the way. Despite the high number of people on the CDT this year, it still ended up being a very lonely experience on trail for me up until the last couple weeks. It definitely made me cherish those couple weeks I had hiking with the group, but I wish I could have had more time with them. Not having more time with them down the trail was one of the biggest bummers for me when I decided to quit. 

Quitter/Failure: This didn’t hit me right away, but after I had a bit to process calling it quits, I realized this was another thing to add to my list of things that haven’t gone my way, that I have quit, or that I have failed at (along with storm chasing, fire fighting, selling fine art prints, etc.). I was really hoping prior to starting the trail that this was something I could finish and put on the success checklist. Despite being a great accomplishment, it didn’t help with the struggle of wondering if I’m not trying hard enough, if I quit too early when things get hard, or if I just haven’t found “my thing” yet. 

Road Walking: There are a couple different aspects to this. First, the large amount of road walking. I had heard it was a lot of road walking, but it surprised me how much there actually was. Most of it was on backcountry forest roads and not highways, which was good, but it was still a lot of roads. Second, the highway walks were awful on my feet. The highway walks were generally great for keeping a fast pace, but some of the worst blisters I got were after walking on a long highway stretch. 

Job Opportunities/Future Location: When I started the trail, my plan after finishing was to find a job and move close to the CDT, preferably somewhere in Montana or Wyoming. I had hoped that hiking the trail would give me some leads on job opportunities. That didn’t happen, but it did give me an idea on the trail towns that would be at the top of my list to live in, which was nice. Ironically, though, by the time I had quit the CDT, I had decided that NW Arkansas was actually at the top of the list of where I would like to end up. If that didn’t work out, I would start looking into jobs in my top trail towns. 

Anaconda Pintler Wilderness: Outside of my friend Kate, this was an area that I didn’t hear much about before trail, but it ended up being one of my favorite stretches of trail. I would love to go back there again sometime and take some time to really enjoy it and take it in. 

Towns Days: I had thought before trail that town stops would be a nice relaxing break from the hiking. They were a nice break from hiking, but there was often a big chore list to do, so I’m not sure I would say they were particularly relaxing, especially if it was in town one day and out the next. I still loved town days though. 

Recovery: The first couple weeks after quitting were pretty rough physically. I must have hurt my left shoulder more than I realized in the fall right before quitting, because after getting home it was sore for a few days. My legs felt awful when I went running. There were a few days when my lower back was quite sore. I found it quite ironic that I never took any pain medication while on trail, but took some a few times for the back pain after I was home. Thankfully after a couple weeks I started to feel a lot better. 

Do I Regret Quitting?: After giving it some thought for a month and a half, do I now regret calling it quits early? I still feel like it was the right choice. However, that doesn’t mean that I don’t second guess myself. I often wonder if listening to music on the hard climbs would have made a difference. Someone in our group mentioned this early on in Colorado, but for some reason it never crossed my mind to put in my earbuds and listen to some music during the big climbs. Should I have thought more of all the people cheering me on and sending me encouragement? Seeing the pictures from the San Juans with the fall colors has been a bit depressing. That was one of the things I was looking forward to the most.  Some of the hikers in the group I was around were part of a fairly large group in southern Colorado, and had I kept going, I may have ended up in that group, which likely would have been a lot of fun. 

On the other hand, I’m really happy I got to participate in the Oklahoma City Memorial Half Marathon. That is always one of my favorite days of the year, and I’m glad I was able to keep my streak in tact (now at 9 consecutive years). I’m also really happy I got the opportunity to do some trail magic on the CDT this year. As I mentioned earlier, that was a blast. Seeing the pictures of the snow and cold weather the last 2-3 weeks has made me pretty glad I’m off the trail as well. 

Most of all I keep thinking about how hard it’s going to make it to finish out the trail. If I finish it out, I would like to do it a bit earlier in the year so I’m not having to deal with winter weather, but that would put me in a time where there wouldn’t be many (or even any) other CDT hikers on the trail around me. I would be starting from scratch again with getting my hiker legs (although starting with a fresh body may not be a bad thing). Finally, at this point I would really like to get a job, buy a house, and start getting plugged into and settled into a community instead of continuing to put life on “hold” and having a temporary job and living situation for almost a year. I think the chances of me finishing the trail are pretty small at this point, but we’ll see how things unfold. Maybe we’ll meet again at some point. 


So there you have it: a very long response to the question “How did your hike go?”. I’m sure there is still a lot I’m leaving out. Haha. 

CDT Reflections Pt. 2: WY & CO Overview

Fog rising off of Shoshone Lake in Yellowstone.

This three part blog series is my attempt to answer the question “How did your CDT hike go?”. If you missed part one (overview of the MT & ID portion), you can check that out here. As you can tell from the title, this is an overview of the WY and CO portion. 

I was super excited to get into Wyoming. It is my birth state, the state where I spent most of my childhood, and it was nice to finally be finished with the MT/ID portion. Ironically, I think this is where things started to unravel on me though. Yellowstone ended up being really easy hiking, but I didn’t find it particularly scenic/interesting. Shortly after that I had a really frustrating town stop in Dubois (the town wasn’t bad, just didn’t go well). Then it was into the Wind River Range (“the Winds”), which was supposed to be one of the main highlights of the entire hike. In the northern part of the Winds I had one of the hardest days physically, and definitely one of my low points mentally/emotionally: the climb over Knapsack Col, where I broke both trekking poles and put a good gash in my shin. In the southern part the smoke returned, so the views were diminished. I rushed through the beautiful Cirque of the Towers area to get over a couple passes before rain moved in. Then a big climb on a cold and rainy morning, followed by awful blowdowns, made for an absolutely miserable day. So while there were some absolutely amazing views and scenery in the Winds, that stretch got heavily tainted by the abundance of miserable moments. Based on how much I struggled with the big climbs in the Winds, I knew I might be in trouble in Colorado and I really started to worry about making it through Colorado. 

Lander, WY was a place of big changes in my hike. The first one was with the trail itself. I was going from big mountains into relatively flat desert. This desert section had really worried me since the start of my hike. The second change was that it finally worked out so that I was hiking with a group after leaving town. In the 50+ days up to that point I had done very little hiking with other people. I had run into lots of different southbound hikers up to that point (mainly in towns), but had never been able to consistently stick around the same people for any considerable length of time. I thought it felt a lot like what speed dating must feel like. If the national parks (where camping is regulated) are excluded, up until Lander I believe I only had 3 nights outside of town (out of around 30) where I camped with other hikers. It had been quite lonely, and I was really glad to have some company leaving Lander. 

After Lander is the stretch known as “the Basin”, which is the relatively flat desert area I referenced in the previous paragraph. I got lucky and went through the Basin with great weather. It wasn’t near as bad as I had thought it might be (due mostly to the cooler weather I had), but it was still quite boring and monotonous, and I was really glad to have some company going through there to help break up the monotony. I managed to get in 40 miles during a day in the Basin, but it involved hiking the last 1.5 miles or so cross country (no trail) in the dark (with a headlamp), which was miserable and I highly discourage. Haha.

Unfortunately for me most of the group I was hiking with left Rawlins, WY about a half day ahead of me, but they were making a brief stop in a town that I would be skipping, so I knew I had a chance at catching them. I hiked the first couple days out of Rawlins really hard to try to catch up to them. I managed to link back up with a few of them on the third day, which was great, but my legs were completely exhausted. The stretch between Rawlins and Steamboat Springs, CO is when I really started to have serious thoughts about quitting, I think mainly due to exhaustion, as well as being miserable and/or “bored” through much of Wyoming.

After getting into Steamboat, getting some rest, and having what is likely my favorite memory from trail (staying at an Airbnb with several other hikers), I decided to keep on going. If I had been by myself, I think there is a high likelihood I would have called it quits in Steamboat. Despite feeling so exhausted getting into Steamboat and not taking a zero, I actually felt pretty good leaving town. Our group got spread out a bit between Steamboat and Grand Lake, CO, but I was still able to stick around a couple of the people in that stretch. There was a really big climb on the third day out of Steamboat that I really struggled with, but it helped a lot having someone with me to help motivate me to keep going. The next day had another big climb that again was a big struggle. There was a portion of the climb with blowdowns across the trail that were really difficult to get around, which made for miserable hiking and put me in an awful mood. After getting to Grand Lake I decided I would be taking an alternate route that would skip the highest point on the CDT and save me some miles and elevation gain/loss. The big climbs had been kicking my butt, and at this point I just wanted to get through Colorado. I could do a “14er” another time with a daypack if I really wanted to check that off my list. 

Although the hike out of Grand Lake was beautiful, it was a bit depressing as well since I knew the group I had been hiking with was going to be split up for a bit. Three of the hikers were getting off trail for a couple days to meet with friends. I was the only one I knew of planning on taking the alternate route, which would likely put me a couple days ahead of every one else. The first day out of Grand Lake was the first day in quite some time in which I didn’t see another CDT hiker and camped alone. Hiking with a group had a lot to do with me pushing on the last couple segments, so I was quite bummed to be without the group. Just before camp I tripped and fell hard, which didn’t help anything. The next day had a big climb up above 12,000 ft. Between the big climb, the cold temperature, the wind, and the exposed hiking, I was really miserable that morning. By lunchtime I was already fairly worn out and demoralized, and I had a decision to make: two more big climbs (with a big descent between them) for the day, or call it quits and head into Winter Park, CO. After eating I decided to call it quits. After that morning, there wasn’t much of me that was looking forward to the rest of Colorado and New Mexico. So on the afternoon of Sep. 5 I hiked my final few miles out to Winter Park. 

In part 3, I’ll cover some individual topics about the hike in general, so be watching for that in the next few days. 

CDT Reflections Pt. 1: MT/ID Overview

Morning twilight at Red Eagle Lake in Glacier National Park.

It’s crazy to me that it has already been over a month since I called it quits on my CDT hike. I get asked all the time how the hike went. It’s difficult to give any sort of short (or even long) answer that does the trip justice. Although it’s still quite difficult to put the experience into words, I have spent some time over the last several days trying to put some thoughts about the trip down in writing. I ended up with three different blogs (including this one). I’ll share the other two over the next few days. Hopefully these blogs will give you a glimpse into the main takeaways I had from the trail and give a decent answer to the question “How did the hike go?”. 


When I started the hike, I had every intention of going all the way to Mexico. However, some people may have noticed on my Instagram that I put “attempting a thru hike of the CDT” in my profile instead of a more definitive “thru hiking the CDT”. I knew the chances of actually finishing the trail were quite small, so I felt it was more appropriate to put the “attempting” in the bio until I actually finished, but I also wondered if that was an indication I wasn’t in the right mindset right off the bat. 

Starting off in Glacier National Park (GNP) was amazing, and I’m really glad I got to hike through the park. I really enjoyed spending time at camp with Little Red and Chuckles. It was a great way to kick off the hike. It was a bit difficult, though, leaving the park and losing the magnificent views, running into lots of blowdowns, hiking through lots of burn areas, and being alone at camp pretty much every night. I think it made for a more pronounced “honey moon phase” at the start. 

I said at the start that if I could make it through the first couple weeks, I would feel good about making it to Mexico. After the first two weeks, despite some rough moments, it was full steam ahead. However, it was around this two-week mark that I really started having issues with my first pack not fitting properly. I bought a new pack in Helena, MT and that pack ended up being worse than my first pack. At that point I had my parents send the pack I’ve used on my shorter trips over the last few years to Anaconda, MT. It ended up fitting better, but it still took my body some time to adjust to it. This whole ordeal made for some pretty miserable hiking over a few weeks. 

Unfortunately the pack I got in Anaconda was much heavier than the pack I had started out with, which I knew I might regret in Colorado when the elevation gains and losses were a bigger deal. It seemed to take until early Wyoming before I felt like my body was fairly used to carrying the pack. I really wanted to get a lighter pack before Colorado, but I didn’t want to have another fiasco of trying a different pack and it not working out again. I decided in the end to keep the heavier pack, which may have been a contributing factor to me calling it quits early. 

The other big story for me in Montana was the fire detour. There were all sorts of different things hikers were doing to get around the trail closure, which unfortunately ended up scattering hikers until northern Wyoming. I ended up skipping about 150 miles of the CDT, and instead doing a roughly 100 mile walk primarily on highways through the Big Hole Valley. It was a bummer not going through the mountains, but the Big Hole Valley was a neat area. The highway walking was really tough on my feet. Some of the worst blisters I had on trail occurred during this stretch. 

Other than the pack issue and the fire detour, the Montana/Idaho section overall went fairly well. There were definitely some really difficult/rough parts, but they were sparse enough that they didn’t taint the overall experience. In the next blog I’ll share an overview of the WY/CO section. 

CDT Prep – June 18, 2021: The Gear

I have had quite a few questions about the gear I will be carrying on my Continental Divide Trail (CDT) hike, so I figured at least a few people would find a blog post about my gear interesting. I have made a couple last minute changes this week (shoes and video equipment), so I’m crossing my fingers those work out. My pack weight is definitely on the heavier side compared to others thru hiking the CDT, which makes me a little nervous. I’m still debating whether or not to leave the umbrella and sandals at home to save a little bit of weight, but for now I plan on bringing them. Outside of the weight, I feel pretty good about this gear, so I don’t anticipate a whole lot of changes along the trail other than getting rid of the snow gear at some point, but we’ll see how it goes. Pictures and a list of my gear are below.


Most of my food for my first two segments of trail. I’ll leave the food for the second segment in East Glacier and pick it up when I hike through there. Huge thanks to Steve’s Gourmet Beef Jerky for helping me out with some free jerky!

My gear.

My clothing.

CDT Prep – June 17, 2021: Farewell OKC

In December 2016 I bought the house pictured above in Del City (part of Oklahoma City). It was definitely in need of some updating, and I was looking forward to making it my own. In the 4.5 years since, I have put a lot of time, effort, and money into improvements. My parents have helped out quite a bit as well. The completion of the full bath remodel late last year marked the last major project off the list I wanted to do. I lived in this house longer than any other place since my family left Wyoming back in 2003. (After Wyoming I lived in Artesia, NM just over 4 years. Between leaving Artesia in 2007 and buying this house in Dec. 2016 the longest I had lived in any one place was 2 years.) Up until just about a year ago, when I got the idea to hike the CDT, I had every intention of staying in this house for a while, thus all the effort to make it my own.

Yesterday I hit my last major “life milestone” before the CDT: I drove down to OKC to sign the closing papers on the sale of my house. I moved all my stuff out a couple weeks ago and have been staying with my parents in NE Oklahoma. As with the job, leaving OKC is bittersweet. I loved how my house had turned out. I had made it mine, and it was really the first place I could call my own. Having put so much time into it to make it mine, it wasn’t an easy decision to sell it. I’m sad to see it go, but it will be nice not to have to worry about it while I’m on the hike, and it will allow me flexibility after I finish my hike. I have loved living in OKC. It will always have a special place in my heart. There will definitely be some OKC related items hanging on the wall wherever I end up next.  But between now and then there is a big adventure to be had, and it is coming up quick!

CDT Prep – June 14, 2021: Prelim Post-Trail Thoughts

If you read my Fears/Struggles/Cons blog, you know that my biggest fears have to do with what happens post trail. One of the main reasons I decided to hike the Continental Divide Trail (CDT) was the opportunity to make some life changes after finishing. So even though I haven’t hit the trail yet, I have put a decent amount of thought into what I would like after finishing the hike. As it stands right now, the plan is to try to find a job I like – in a place I like – quickly after I finish up the trail (more on this below). I would like to find a place where I can settle down, plant roots, and make a difference. A place where I can find community.

With that being said, I have heard many people talk about wanting to do more long thru hikes after they finish their first one, and a 4-5 month thru hike will give me lots of time to consider what I want after the trail. Thus, I realize my post trail plans could be quite different after finishing the hike. However, I want to throw out where I stand at this point so that it can potentially give people ideas on opportunities I would be interested in post trail, and possibly have something lined up quickly after finishing the trail should I decide this is the route I want to go. 


JOBS

The list below contains some criteria that, if met, would place a job high on my list. If a job fits the center of the Venn diagram below (yellow star), it would also be high on my list. If you know of any jobs I might be interested in, please let me know about them or feel free to provide my resume to the appropriate person. You can view my resume by clicking here. Assuming I finish the whole trail, I likely won’t be available for a job until at least late November. If you think I would be interested in a job that doesn’t quite fit this, don’t hesitate to let me know about it.

  1. Has some sort of connection to mountains, backpacking, photography, or art. 
  2. Close to the mountains. 
  3. Close to the CDT (preferably in WY or MT).
  4. At least a somewhat regular schedule, ideally M-F 9 to 5 type.
  5. Frequent 2 sequential days off work (for short backpacking trips). 
  6. At least a couple weeks worth of time off each year.
  7. Somewhere with a good art scene.
  8. Not in a big city.

PLACES

I have listed some towns/cities below that interest me, along with some pros and cons. I’ll definitely consider places that aren’t on this list, but hopefully this gives you an idea of what I’m looking for. 

Pinedale, WY

Pros: Very close to the Wind River Range; close to the CDT; common resupply point for CDT hikers; would be back in my “home state”; has an outdoor gear shop; housing prices don’t seem to be too bad; might be a good place to get my art in front of tourists if I could figure out how to do so. 
Cons: not sure I would want to go this small; job opportunities limited; doesn’t appear to be much of an art scene. 

Lander, WY

Pros: close to the Wind River Range; close to the CDT; common resupply point for CDT hikers; would be back in my “home state”; has a couple outdoor gear shops; has a couple other places with job opportunities I might be interested in (NOLS, The Nature Conservancy); appears to be somewhat of an art scene; seems to be one of the more affordable housing markets; relatively close to extended family in WY
Cons: no big cons I have thought of at this point

Butte, MT

Pros: one of the most affordable housing markets in this list of places; fairly close to several different mountain ranges; has an outdoor gear store; appears to be somewhat of an art scene; on the larger side of towns I’m interested in, so more job & housing opportunities; 
Cons: not a common resupply stop for CDT hikers; on the larger side of town size I would want; is there a reason housing is so affordable?

Helena, MT

Pros: common resupply stop on CDT; several outdoor gear stores; fairly close to Bob Marshall Wilderness; appears to be somewhat of an art scene; on the larger side of towns I’m interested in, so more job & housing opportunities; 
Cons: on the larger side of town size I would want; housing probably on upper end of what I could afford; 

Pagosa Springs, CO

Pros: close to the San Juan Mountains; has an outdoor gear store; somewhat common resupply stop on CDT; appears to be somewhat of an art scene; great place to get my art in front of tourists. 
Cons: Housing possibly too expensive; on the smaller end of town size I would like; 

Cody, WY

Pros: lots of family friends and extended family live here or nearby; close to Beartooth Mountains and Big Horn Mountains; an hour away from where I lived most of my childhood; familiar with the town; a couple outdoor gear stores; somewhat of an art scene; great place to get art in front of tourists; 
Cons: not very close to CDT

Billings, MT

Pros: close to extended family in Cody, WY; has an REI, as well as another outdoor gear store; close to the Beartooth Mountains; on the lower end of housing prices compared to other places I’m interested in; on the larger side of towns I’m interested in, so more job & housing opportunities;
Cons: bigger city than I would prefer; not close to the CDT; 

Bozeman, MT

Pros: have heard great things about this place; close to the Beartooth Mountains; has an REI along with other outdoor gear stores; other places I would be interested in working at (Oboz, Mystery Ranch, Go Fast Campers); appears to have a pretty good art scene; on the larger side of towns I’m interested in, so more job & housing opportunities; 
Cons: I have no idea how I would afford a house here; not close to the CDT; 

Missoula, MT

Pros: have heard great things about this place; amazing place to live for backpacking; close to several different mountain ranges; has an REI and other outdoor gear stores; appears to have a good art scene; know a couple other backpackers who live here; on the larger side of towns I’m interested in, so more job & housing opportunities; potentially a good place to live to host people about to begin or just finishing the CDT;
Cons: not sure if I could afford to purchase a house;

Park City, UT

Pros: close to the Uinta Mountains; great art scene;
Cons: not very close to the CDT; not sure I could afford to buy a house here;