For the past couple of weeks I’ve been hanging on to all of my hopes that I’d still be able to pull off my CDT NOBO hike with this Coronavirus sweeping across the country and the world. After several attempts of trying to keep my April 16th launch date on go, the current variables, that change daily, are just too many. Just yesterday, the San Juan County Sheriff’s Department in Colorado issued a statement prohibiting recreationalists from backcountry activities in the county due to the limited Medical, Emergency and Search and Rescue Services currently available due to the virus crisis. On top of that, the Continental Divide Trail Coalition (CDTC), Pacific Crest Trail Association (PCTA), and the Appalachian Trail Conservancy (ATC) all have recommended that hikers postpone or cancel their immediate thru-hiking plans due to the Coronavirus. As you can only imagine, humans seem love those debates on social media.
The big topic out there on social media today is, wouldn’t a thru-hiker be safer out on the trail? I would say on a trail, absolutely. Social distancing would be fairly easy to accomplish when in the wilderness. However, much of a thru-hike journey involves both fellow hikers, better known as “hiker trash”, and visiting the many small towns along the way for resupplying, a good meal and of course a cold beer or two.
Thru-hikers often rely on Trail Angels and the locals for a hitchhike to and from these small communities and back to the trail. Some of these folks even open their homes to hikers and treat them like true family. The help and assistance from these small towns is really an amazing thing to experience on a thru-hike. So I would really hate to miss that part of the trail life during this Coronavirus crisis. Second, I would hate for the hikers to bring the virus into a small community for sure. The risks here just out weigh any reward. That’s been very hard for me to digest to say the least.
However, I’m not totally knocked out yet for a long distance hike in 2020. I’ve already made a new or revised hike plan which will give me a couple of months to see where all this Coronavirus crisis takes us. My adjusted plan would be to do a Southbound (SOBO) thru-hike in lieu of a northbound (NOBO) hike. As mentioned in my previous blog post, most NOBO hikers start +/-mid April from the Mexico border, while SOBO hikers typically start from the Canadian border +/- mid June.
As hard as this has been for me, I know I’m not alone in having all my plans blow up in front of me in a very short period of time. The silver lining for now is, all my family and friends have remained healthy in this crisis thus far. Hopefully, there’s another day for me to complete the CDT and my Triple Crown. Not taking away from the seriousness of the Coronavirus, but I truly feel sorry for so many hikers here and abroad that have planned for this moment to do a long distance hike for many years. Many of these hikers have already quit their real jobs, sold or given away most of what they own and have given up their apartments or current housing. That’s pretty tough when you don’t have a place to land. The good thing is for most of these hikers it’s not their first long trail rodeo, so adapting to a bad situation is probably where they shine the most, besides the trail. Hopefully, we will all see the end to this virus soon and can move forward in the future with those plans, commitments and dreams previously made.