Our own Tessa McGee reflects on her time hiking the Continental Divide Trail. Words and images by Tessa McGee.
I’m not sure how to tell this story. I’m not much of a storyteller and there are a lot of ways to sum something like this up. A recap feels a bit like trying to tie a little bow around some unruly pile of junk. I find it hard to talk about thru-hiking without making too much out of too little, or too little out of too much. It’s not for anybody else, so sharing it feels a bit uncomfortable. But here it goes – in the spirit of reflection in the start of a New Year – I’ll try to strike a balance!
It was 136 days with 21 zeros (days off). June 28th – November 10th, 2017. Canada to Mexico through Montana, Idaho, Wyoming, Colorado and New Mexico. My hike was a little over 2700 miles.
Born and raised in the Pacific Northwest, there are two items I will never have too many of; baselayers and fleece jackets. A good baselayer top is the foundation of an effective layering system ready to meet changeable weather conditions from coastal rains to snowy peaks. Because we take our baselayers so many places, we demand a lot from them. We expect them to be warm but not too hot, durable and yet lightweight, and cozy but not overly bulky.
Over the last five months I got to adventure with the new Arc’teryx Phase AR baselayer, and it is now my top-pick for a synthetic shirt.
A waterproof and windproof hardshell is the heart of my outdoor adventure kit. It is a piece of gear that goes on every single trip from a short day hike on my favorite local mountain to week-long backpacks in remote areas. Over the last year I searched for a new favorite hardshell, and I think I finally found it in the Arc’teryx Alpha SL.
At the end of September I took the jacket on a slew of day hikes and a multi-day backpacking trip. Fall hiking in Washington guarantees a mixed bag of weather, and we got a little bit of everything from rain to cold wind and sunshine. I was happy through it all in the Alpha SL.
The first thing I noticed about the jacket is how LIGHT it is. The women’s jacket (size M) clocked in at a pleasant 9.3 oz. This shaves significant ounces off the other jackets I usually carry, and I barely noticed the jacket while wearing it. The GORE-TEX® PacLite® fabric is not only light, but is less crinkly and compresses into a stuff sack that came with the jacket. Lightweight and packable, it was a no brainer to take it with me everyday.
Earlier in the summer a Feathered Friends staff member embarked on a five day backpacking trip through one of the most spectacular regions of the Alpine Lakes Wilderness. Her goal was to document the trip through daily sketches of the scenery she encountered. Here is an account of what it takes to paint and draw while exploring the backcoutnry. Pictures, paintings, and words by Claire Giordano.
The light shifts continually, playing across the face of the massive andesite rock walls rising from the crystalline lake at my feet. I work quickly, my paintbrush dancing between my sketchbook and the watercolor palette. Between strokes, I swat at the mosquitoes that hound my ears and bite my hands. It is just after dawn, and the alpenglow of sunrise has already changed from the palest of pinks to brilliant yellow. Soon, the light show will be over, and I hurriedly try to capture it’s colors before they are gone.
In July I had the lucky fortune to be invited on a backpacking trip to one of the most beautiful and highly regulated areas of wilderness: the Enchantments. Thousands of permit applications are sent in each year to visit this zone of alpine lakes, towering peaks, and fragile meadows. With so few chances to visit this area, I wanted to make the most of my experience and immerse myself in the landscape. My strategy was to bring a sketchbook, pens, and watercolor paper to record the things I saw each day that inspired me.