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:


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