Completing the Trifecta: Hiking the Continental Divide Trail
The Continental Divide Trail is one of the most impressive trail systems in the world as it spans from Canada to Mexico across five US states. Kim Piscadlo and Chris Reamer are a dynamic hiking duo located right here in Vermont who took to the CDT this summer to complete the North American hiking Triple Crown. We caught up with them after a little breather to rest and hit reset.
Wow. Congratulations on completing this adventure. It's sometimes simpler to set the scene with statistics. What are some numbers that help paint a picture of the CDT.
The trip took 5 months and 3 days and around 2700 miles in total. We...
used 6 fuel canisters,
went through 6 pairs of shoes each,
ate around 5,000 calories per day,
enjoyed 288 waffles between raspberry, maple, coffee, lemon, cocoa, and chai,
consumed 120 packets of pure maple syrup, infused cocoa, infused coffee,
mixed up and drank 40 Mapleaids stick packs,
and used 15 AAA batteries.
Now given two months to decompress, how are you two feeling?
Looking back at our trek, it feels like forever ago. We already miss it.
We definitely have post trail depression, missing 12 hour of activity, the changing scenery every day, trail family, the “simple life”.
It’s been a big adjustment back dealing with new stresses, getting used to loud noises again, bright lights, driving, and people everywhere. Finding time to get out back in nature helps us to relieve some of that post trail depression. Brings us back to what we love.
This completes the North American hiking triple crown for you, which includes the Appalachian Trail and the Pacific Crest. What was the order in which you did them? How do they stack up against each other?
Chris and I both did the (AT) Appalachian Trail first going northbound, Chris in 2015 and Kimberly 2016. We then started the (PCT) Pacific Crest Trail southbound in 2018, followed by the (CDT) Continental Divide Trail northbound 2021.
All three trails are amazing but very different in their own way. The AT is more social, has more resupply points, more elevation gain per mile, more rainy weather with humidity and hiking in a green tunnel. The PCT we say is more of a story book trail. The trail is well defined. You know what to expect, less rain, no humidity, the views are open, not to crowded, higher elevation with longer climbs and nothing too steep to climb. We also went southbound on the PCT, which meant less people and we had to do bigger miles to get over the High Sierras in CA before the snow. The CDT was more difficult than the other two. Longer food/water carries, extreme unpredictable weather patterns, crazy landscape changes with varied terrain and more route/trail finding.
It’s one thing to go for a hike. It’s another to go to a multi-day hike. We have the Long Trail here in our backyard here in Vermont that’s 272 miles across the entire state. What has been your evolution into hiking? We’re guessing it wasn’t just one day thinking, “I bet we can accomplish the triple crown…”
Editor's note: the Triple Crown is the Appalachian Trail, the Pacific Crest Trail, and the Continental Divide Trail.
Chris actually started the AT in 2015, not having any experience and not knowing what the Triple Crown was. Kimberly started the AT in 2016 with more experience in backpacking. After having a background in canoe guiding and backpack guiding she was ready to get out for a longer mile hike with a simpler life style.
We have heard that once you have hiked a long trail you get a craving to hike another one. So in 2018 we both hiked the PCT. Well once you have hiked 2 big trails, you might as well do the last one too. We are sure glad we did, it was our favorite trail out of the three.
What’s going on in your mind during the very first step knowing that you have millions more steps to make before reaching the finish line?
Here we go. That was the first thing we said while leaving the New Mexico, Mexico border monument. Knowing we have many miles ahead of us is very intimidating. Especially, when you are looking at a map and see the distance. Your mind wonders with what if’s; what if I get injured, weather, gear fails, run out of food, potential of getting lost, my partner gets injured or getting sick? But then you think about all the things that you are excited for. For example: wildlife, scenery, meeting other hikers, views, experiencing different environments, reptiles, camping every day, living outside, and traveling to new places where a lot of folks don’t go. You can’t think about the end yet, it’s too far away. Focus on the here and now.
Any particular highlight/lowlight/terrifying moment/extremely satisfying/moments of extreme boredom?
The San Juan Mountains in Colorado were scary for Chris but thrilling for Kimberly. There was lots of snow hiding the trail and sketchy traverses. Thunderstorms are always terrifying above tree line at 10,000ft. Road walking in New Mexico was very boring. Getting rid of the winter gear was extremely satisfying. Glacier National Park was breathtaking. Getting bluff charged by a mother grizzle bear was a new experience and petrifying. Hiking through each state was very satisfying, also looking back at where we started after hiking for a few 100 miles.
And when you're not out attempting epic adventures, what you do for your jobs? How hard is it to take such extended periods of time off?
Chris works for Outdoor Gear Exchange. They are more than willing to let him leave and come back with more experience.
Kimberly works seasonally. You can find her in the woods taping/repair/checking lines for maple syrup season, snowmaking, gardening or working at a restaurant.
Once we know we want to do a long period adventure, we will start saving and go the following year.