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RE: [CDT-L] List numbers


Hi Earl and other Listers:

I must admit, I was considering leaving the list, and am still having second
thoughts and am undecided.

I live in Bozeman, Montana and have been hiking the Northern Rockies,
including the CDT, in Montana and Wyoming since 1986. Thus, the CDT has
special significance to me and I hope to through hike it someday-it has much
more appeal to me than either the PCT or the AT because of its navigational
challenges and wild character.

My frustrations with this list recently stem from the discussion of two
issues: politics and pack animals.

Regarding politics, while I am an avid backpacker and enjoy the outdoors, it
is not my religion and I don't cast my political votes based solely on a
candidate's views towards environmental issues. There is so much more to
life than environmentalism, and to me, many issues are more important-like
the economic health of my community, family values, education, scientific
research, and on and on. The point is, we can engage in political "wars" in
any forum but most of the time they are destructive and counterproductive to
the mission of the forum. It blows me away how "cause"-centric we have
become. Spend your time building your personal relationships and making new
ones. It's your relationships-not your "causes"-that count in the long run.
In regards to this list, spend your time helping others enjoy the trail, not
in selling your "causes."

Regarding pack animals, they have been on the trails as long as backpackers,
and have every right to share in the heritage of the CDT. I'm not a packer,
but I wholeheartedly accept them in the backcountry. I have 5,000 trail
miles under my feet and have encountered countless numbers of pack trains on
the trail. My distaste for packers from time to time resulted more from my
own misguided attitudes that were based on preconceived notions embedded
into my brain from others than they were on my own experiences with them.

They are part of the backcountry culture of Montana and Wyoming and offer
clients and others the opportunity to reach places that they might never see
in their lives because of physical conditioning, lack of time to "train" for
a long backpacking trip, or whatever. For some, it's just the appeal of
traveling like those of the "wild wild west", wearing a cowboy hat and spurs
and eating chili from a cast iron dutch oven 25 miles from the nearest road.
Every one of us deserves an experience like this sometime. It's certainly
different (but no better or worse) than eating ramen noodles out of a
titanium pot heated over a 

Most outfitters and pack train guides are a pleasure to talk to, learn from,
and 9 times out of 10, share a love and respect for the outdoors that is
equal to ours as backpackers. I don't like getting into arguments about
which one is better-especially when it comes to "no trace" camping. Yes,
clearly, pack trains impact the trails more than a walker. But they bring a
rich heritage to the outdoors in a respectful way. I've joined, by
invitation, a packing group around their campfire on a summer night more
than a few times. The fellowship was terrific-some of my fondest memories
were singing in chorus to a banjo around a blazing campfire with a cup of
cocoa in hand. They are indeed people too and with open minds, we can learn
from them as well. What has amazed me over the years is the true passion
these people have for the wilderness and the respect they have for the

My interest in the CDT is in the trail itself-the variety of routes that can
be followed, the places to see along the way, techniques and equipment for
enjoying the backcountry experience on the CDT, and hearing about the trail
experiences of others. My interest for this list is NOT in the subject area
of politics, trail "preservation", trail "designation", or who has rights to
use and not use "the trail". The CDT is wild and has the opportunity not
found in the PCT or AT to explore hundreds, if not thousands, of different
route variations. If some of those variations go over logging roads, skirt
private property, travel through a hunting camp, or avoid those ridiculous
trail markers that say "I'm a highway", fine. I say let's keep it that way
and start exploring, rather than trying to define and confine it. You want
to do the CDT? Then start somewhere in Montana and end somewhere in Mexico.
Pick your own way down and call it good. You want to through hike a National
Scenic "Trail" and make sure you take the right route so you can get a
patch? Then go to the PCT or AT.

Ryan (BigSkyRy)

PS: I mean no disrespect for either the PCT or AT or the thru-hikers that
travel it. I spent many hundreds of miles on the PCT in the fellowship of
great people and have enjoyed it too. I'm sure the AT would provide an
unforgettable experience for me as well.
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