[Cdt-l] The beauty of the purple line!

sage Clegg sageclegg at yahoo.com
Thu Jan 20 20:10:50 CST 2011

Looking at Piper's map I was struck by just how cool the CDT is. Every person 
who hikes it has a different route. We all get lost in different places, we 
choose different roads, ridges, towns to stop it. I LOVE the creative choose 
your own adventure aspect of the divide. I didn't realize just how much I cared 
for the freedom we have on the CDT until I hiked the AT this fall. For more on 
my opinion on the AT you can check out my postholer 
entry http://postholer.com/journal/viewJournal.php?sid=8a8dcf1c199029706855e47ff2ef83ac&entry_id=19396 

With the increase in mapping projects and the streamlining of the CDT route I 
predict that the choose your own adventure feel of the CDT will be lost. This is 
not a bad thing, but I just wanted to point out that the quality of the CDT 
expieriance is heading towards a shift. Soon the days of getting very lost often 
might be gone, especially if a person uses a GPS and the new maps in combo. 
Getting lost every day was how I found myself on the CDT. It was an essential 
part of my hike. Fortunately getting lost is always an option. No one is there 
to force you to turn on a GPS, use the latest maps, tell you you made a wrong 
turn. It will always be a Navaguessing journey out there on the Divide, and for 
that I am thankful!
While we still have the purple lines on our maps maybe we should speak up and 
say what some of our favorite alternates are and why. We as a hiking community 
should try to come up with a way to preserve these choices so other hikers don't 
have to reinvent the wheel on water and route beta for these options, or worse, 
so other hikers don't forget that they have a choice in the path and journey 
they take. 
Jonathon Ley has done a spectacular job with honoring alternates and the chaos 
that is the CDT in his maps. Is there a way to continue that in the official map 
project? I can understand the temptation to streamline the CDT, but what will we 
lose? One of the best things about the CDT is it's wildness. Maybe we should 
have an untraditional, purist-proof WILD set of maps to suit the trail's wild 
I know that easements and right-of-way issues are complex and challenging for 
the CDT & understand the desire to streamline the route in that regard. Is there 
a way we can focus money and easement attention on the red line route, but still 
have purple lines on our maps? What would be the harm in honoring some of the 
more popular alternates with an equivalent "blue blaze" CDT marker? 
Some of my favorite alternates along the CDT were:
The Gila!! (I also liked Diamond peak when I went there on the GET)
Perry Peak in Colorado
The Titcomb Basin in the Wind River Range (even though I didn't go over 
Knapsack... long story & longer re-tracing of the steps..)
The Cirque of the Towers. Why can't this be the official route? 
Lava Mountain. This area needs some attention. It was a bit hard to choose 
because there were SO many purple lines, and I think the red line route may have 
been impossible to follow...
Spotted Bear Pass in the Bob Marshall. The CDT official route through the Bob is 
a bit funky. It follows the eastern lower valleys. Why? I was stoked to walk by 
the Chinese Wall and Trilobite Ridge. 
Another reason I would like to see the purple lines stay on the maps is for 
safety. The CDT has so many unpredictable environmental factors: fire, snowpack, 
lightning, broken bridges, floods... Having alternate routes on our maps can 
save hiker's lives. I know we should all be creative enough to save our own 
asses and come up with our own ways around, but it sure is nice to just follow a 
purple route into a valley when the sky starts falling.
Ok- I'm stepping off the soap box now.
Thank you all for providing a lot of entertainment this fall! I checked the 
cdt-l regularly even though I could rarely figure out how to write back from my 
various not-so-smart phones. I remember one night I was trying to comment on the 
conversation about technology in the backcountry while crammed inside my 
sleepingbag in a shelter in the Jame's River Wilderness on the AT. The whole 
email I had been working on for 45 minutes vanished. I decided that was a 
good metaphor for technology in the backcountry. It sure is nice to have the 
illusion and occasional option of being connected to the rest of the world, to 
have the power to turn off your electronic tools when you want isolation, and it 
is good to know that you cannot count on them- that electronic tools are not 
something anyone should trust their lives to, because even if you are not a 
technotard like me, batteries still run out, glitches still happen, and hours of 
work can vanish unpredictably.
Hiking alone was a thread I really wanted to comment on too. I love hiking alone 
and think everyone should try it at least for a little bit. As a solo female I 
only felt creeped out once in my whole triple crown hike. That was in Grant, NM 
when a sketchy dude gave me a ride across town and then followed me into the 
dollar store. Now that there are trail angels there I bet I would feel better 
because I would have someone to call. That is ONE time out of  332 days of 
hiking. Not bad in contrast to sketchy interactions in the front country! I 
think traveling solo allows for more positive interactions. People see me hiking 
alone and are not intimidated at all, usually they are concerned and curious and 
I get to make new friends everywhere I go. When I hike with other people I enjoy 
the company, it is wonderful to have people to talk to & share experienced with, 
but when I am in town I realize people do not approach me as often. Also, I 
realized that I am not very good at compromising. When I hike with other people 
I usually will go the way they want to go, and don't feel responsible for the 
outcomes, whether positive or negative. When I am alone I have no choice but to 
make my own decisions and deal with the consequences. There is no one else to 
blame or to celebrate. Hiking solo is the best thing I have ever done for my 
ego. Byrd Baylor says in The Other Way To Listen that to learn how to truly hear 
"it is good to go with people, but sometimes go alone."
Another thing I wanted to comment on was Ben's AZT/CDT route! I am proud to have 
been Ben's OB instructor back in 06, though I don't think he learned anything 
about thru-hiking from me- I carried a 60lb pack back then and spent more time 
circling people around used toilet paper and emotional issues than maps and 
resupply plans. His route plan is super creative and hits home with the reasons 
I hike: to be free, explore wild places (internally and externally... can you 
tell I was an OB instructor?), to go your own way, to follow a dream to see if 
it can be done. Good luck Ben! If I didn't hate camping right now I would come 
with you!
Ok- for real now. I am off to eat a bag of potato chips and watch 3 movies and 
not move off the couch for the rest of the day. I love the off season! I also 
hate it... 
Be well & Wild!

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