Tuesday, September 6, 2011

New Sections Of CDT To Open Soon

Today the wrinkles, tomorrow the flies.

The Continental Divide Trail (CDT) is the longest of the three north-south trails, and the least used, but nevertheless is beginning to show signs of wear.

Just days before completion crews tied huge cables to each end of the trail and with giant machines they pulled the entire thing taut.

Now, many years later, that same trail is sagging like a worn out T-shirt. Any more pulling would only increase the sagging.

What to do?

There are three possible solutions, all potentially crazy.

(1) Drop anchors into the trail and use bulldozers to drag long sections of it east or west into a mileage-eating zigzag pattern. But this could also scrape away many trailside towns and ranches, and because it's a lot like pulling a string along a carpet, it might attract cats as well.

(2) Send in parties of trail tailors to use up excess mileage by converting it to decorative loops, figure eights, and curlicues. Skeptics wonder if those crews could actually work on such a large project without "getting all foofy on us".

(3) Running a distant, currently impractical third, but also most promising, is shrinkage. Basically you douse the entire trail with really hot water so it shrinks up.

Getting the hot water, dumping it on cue, and controlling the shrinkage are three key problems.

Overdo it and you suddenly yank Canada and Mexico together with a thump. And the trail might pucker something fierce, making it even lumpier.

Following months of high-level meetings, National Park Service bureaucrats, adventurers, slackers, trail bums, concessionaires, and hangers-on finally decided to try option two.

So they signed a trial contract with the CDT Alliance Of Trail Tailors to complete a pilot project.

After months of feverish alterations, hopeful officials last week dedicated a new 1-mile section of the CDT named the Button Connector. It joins the Pocket Treadway to the important but previously little-used route over the top of Jack's Flap.

Now, because of the new Button Connector, hikers will have an easy time getting from the Flap to the Pocket, a sheltered, cozy area with plenty of good camping.

This is only a first step, and work continues. There is lots more to do.

No telling what could happen next.


New section of Continental Divide Trail open at RMNP