Hiking the Continental Divide Trail by Jennifer Hanson

One of the enduring hobbies of my life has been hiking. Not extreme, multiple day, backpacking hiking, but rather what’s commonly called day hiking. I came by it honestly. My Dad’s profession was that of public school teacher, and many a year my family would pack up our gear and head out on an extended camping trip during the summer months. We went all over the country, and I had visited every state in the continental U.S. – and also Canada and Mexico – before I was even out of high school. We went everywhere, but my personal favorite destinations were always in the mountains. I guess growing up in flat-as-a-pancake Indiana left me more awestruck by that terrain.

I also had a boss at my last job who enjoyed camping and hiking. A few years ago, he took his vacation with several others in the mountainous back country of Wyoming. They had a guide – from the Sierra Club, I believe, or at least sanctioned by that organization – and hiked several days through largely unspoiled country. Naturally, this inspired much envy on my part. It was also when I learned that one of his sisters had “hiked The Continental Divide Trail” and had written a book about it(!!) I had never heard of anyone doing that. Heck, I didn’t even know there was such a thing. (After reading, it turns out there really isn’t – at least not in the traditional sense) I had read and immensely enjoyed Bill Bryson’s “A Walk in the Woods” (about his hiking portions of The Appalachian Trail) several years ago, but this was something on a whole different order of magnitude.

So, after lunch with my former boss and friend about a month ago, he promised to bring me a copy of the book the next time we got together, which turned out to be a couple weeks, er, I mean a fortnight, ago…

Jennifer Hanson’s book did not disappoint. It brought back a flood of memories of my own hiking experiences, and was inspirational in its chronicling her determination to finish the hike even after her husband had to drop out due to an injured nerve in his foot. The book also gave me an appreciation for the vast amount of logistics and preparation required for such an endeavor. Her encounters on the trail with all kinds of natural phenomena and animals rekindled a longing of mine for similar adventures, but alas I am probably getting too old for that.

I did spend one glorious afternoon on the Continental Divide myself, however. I believe it was a July or August in my early teens when my Dad and my older brother and I hiked up Taylor Peak in Rocky Mountain National Park. It was a grueling day of hiking, even for my young legs, but the summit of Taylor Peak (over 13,000 feet) was worth it. Hiking back and along the Ridge of the Continental Divide has also become the stuff of legend in my personal memory. Other summits in that area are Flattop Mountain, Hallet’s Peak, and “The Sharkstooth” – all very accessible once you were “up there.”

You would enjoy this book if you’ve ever spent much time hiking, especially wilderness hiking. You would also enjoy it if you’ve ever felt like you can’t do something. How do you know if you never try? As my Dad was fond of saying, “Can’t” never did anything…

You can find the book at the following link:


Sent from my iPad


  1. Scott said,

    April 17, 2011 at 12:30 pm

    I can still remember you telling me you had been in all but about 2 or 3 states already by the time we were in elementary school. I always envied you that. It has only been in the past few years that I have made an effort to see a bigger part of our country. Unfortunately, hiking has not been a very noticeable part of it. I would love to hike in the mountains, but with a nervous wife and asthmatic daughter, hiking wasn’t high on their list. I long ago gave up my dream of hiking the Appalachian Trail, and I know exactly what you mean by the legs starting to get too old for that. I’m glad you have those memories, both of the hikes and the time spent with your family.


    • Jay said,

      April 17, 2011 at 1:27 pm

      Hi Scott,

      The last ‘real’ hiking I did was in October of 2006 in Zion National Park. I last hiked in the Rocky Mountains in 2004 when my two brothers and two nephews and I went on a road trip to Rocky Mountain NP. I was more out of shape then than I was in 2006, but still was able to get some serious hiking in. My little brother Gary and I had a great hike on his birthday up Twin Sisters Mountain in ’04. A picture I took of him precariously balanced on the summit lives on as his Facebook profile pic.

      You’re right. Great memories to have.



  2. April 23, 2011 at 7:35 am

    Jay – thank you so much for this encouraging review of my book. It has been a treat to be able to share my experiences on the trail with so many friends, family and folks that I have yet to meet. In those cases where it has ispired another to do a bit more hiking… or tackle a dream that once felt impossible, I feel especially grateful to have contributed in some small way.

    Your web-site is amazing! I have loved to read all of my life and as a child, fervently wished to read EVERY book in the library. Can you imagine? Now that may truly be an impossible dream, unless it were a very small library. In any event, your web-site and review of so many great books is truly an inspiration. Have you ever done a review of James Joyce, Finnegan’s Wake?

    Take care,


    • Jay said,

      April 26, 2011 at 10:39 pm

      Hi Jennifer,

      No, I have not read nor reviewed Finnegan’s Wake yet. The only Joyce I’ve read is A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, and that was long before I started blogging… (loved it though!)

      I’m sorry I will be out of town when you visit for your book signing the weekend of 5/12-5/14. My family has an annual “Getaway Weekend” to one of the Indiana State Parks that also happens to fall on that weekend.



  3. June 12, 2012 at 11:06 pm

    Jay- thanks for leaving the link to this on my blog. Looks interesting!


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