Going Loopy in the Wild West

State of the Great Loop

I feel that I have some explanations about my goals hiking in the Canyons and Mountains West.

My goal is to emulate Andrew Skurka’s Great Western Loop hike in sections. Andrew did the most incredible thru hike ever, travelling near to 7000 miles in about six months, on what he calls the Great Western Loop – a melange of the great trails in the west. He is one of my hero’s, right up there with John Muir, Henry David Thoreau and others. I know that is quite the statement, but I believe he has a heart for the wilderness and its future.

The origins of the Great Western Loop trace back to Spring 2006, when Skurka and the Publisher of Backpacking Light Magazine, Ryan Jordan, were talking late into the night about “what’s left” in long-distance backpacking in the Lower 48. It was agreed that the “Great Western Loop,” named later by GoLite President Demetri Coupounas, was the only notable expedition that had not been undertaken — and, interestingly, in many respects it seemed to be the most desirable ultra-long-distance hike that had ever been conceived, as its scenery, wilderness experience, and elegance was unrivaled.

Go to the Resources button on the main menu to find his site. On his site you will find a wealth of information describing the route and logistics and more – concerning The Great Western Loop and his world class journey.

The Great Western Loop Follow the Yellow Line to see Trail Hiked Thus Far. The Red Line has yet to be Hiked.

My design is a far different style of hiking, doing the loop in big sections, over a period of years. The scope of my hike is a bit longer with more time spent on side excursions and explorations. I will probably hike over 8000 miles by the time I close the loop. I am, what the hiking community affectionately labels, a Lasher. That is, A Long Ass Section Hiker!

Continental Divide Trail at Two Medicine Lakes Glacier National Park 2017

Thus far I have completed the following sections on the Great Western Loop over a period of many years:

The Pacific Crest National Scenic Trail 2660 Miles. 2013, 2014, 2015.

The Arizona National Scenic Trail 800 Miles. 2015.

A traverse of Joshua Tree National Park 100 Miles. 2016

A section of The Grand Enchantment Trail between the Arizona National Scenic Trail and the Continental Divide National Scenic Trail 400 Miles. 2016.

A section North on the Continental Divide National Scenic trail from the Gila Wilderness to Cuba, New Mexico 400 Miles. 2016.

From Glacier NP, Canada, to Bannock Pass, above Leadore on the Continental Divide National Scenic Trail in Montana and Idaho 750Miles. 2017.

From Bannock Pass to Seadhouse north of Steam Boat Springs through Montanna/Idaho, Wyoming and Colorado on the CDT 750 Miles. 2018.

(I took a vacation from explorations on the Great Western Loop and my “Going Loopy” Project and hiked the Oregon Coast Trail and the Northen Redwood and Lost Coast Trail on the California Coastal Trail. 500 Miles. 2019.)

From Seedhouse North of Steam Boat Springs, Colorado to Marshall Pass above Salida 450 Miles. 2020

From Marshall Pass on the Continental Divide National Scenic Trail across the High San Juan’s in Colorado to Cuba, New Mexico 425 Miles. 2021

From Gila Hot Springs, New Mexico to the Monument at the Mexican Border. Thus completing the whole CDT 200 Miles. 2021

From Chief Mountain, Glacier National Park, Montanna to the Kettle Crest at Republic, Washington 475 Miles. 2022

So far I estimate I have covered a total distance of about 7000 Miles on the Great Western Loop. That including the tails or sections to terminus on the PCT, AZT and CDT. Plus some bonus miles on side trips.

Incidentally, I have pretty much stayed true to the official route on the CDT avoiding the so called cut offs or alternates (short cuts), thus accruing some additional miles. I also have tried hard to adhere to a line with the highest wilderness quality, avoiding roads if possible and staying true to what is called “The Red Line” on our incredible trails.

In 2023 I will resume my hike on the Great Western Loop on the Pacific Northwest National Scenic Trail. 245 more Miles on the Pacific Northwest Trail, from Republic, Washington to connect to the junction with the Pacific Crest Trail. Plus 480 bonus Miles if I decide to hike the whole PNT to the Olympic Seashore.

Lastly, I will complete that illusive and mysterious section, called the GAP, across Arizona from the Grand Canyon into California to Josua Tree National Park. 575 Miles. (However, I might hike this “Missing Link” in the winter of this year 2022/2023. There is more to come concerning the GAP and possible routes in future posts.

Arizona Trail 800 Miles 2015

Only 820 or so miles to go to close the loop! Though I have just got off the trail, I am already excited about the future steps and my last steps on The Great Loop!

If all goes well, by fall of 2023, I will have closed The Great Western Loop to completion!

After all these glorious years on the Great Loop, what could possibly be next?

This gentlemen false charged me twice, all huffs and puffs and warnings. Like a tourist, I got my camera out before the bear spray. Anaconda Pintlar Wilderness, Continental Divide 2017

If you are paying attention you will note that The Great Loop does not include the whole of the PCT ,AZT and CDT. I elected to hike the entire length of these trails, just because I was there. To be honest, to say I am hiking the Great Loop is just a way of creating a goal for myself. Also to create a concept for those following my eccentric excursion , a means to view my progress. In reality, just like so many hikers on the long trails these days, I am simply just out hiking a lot of trail.

You can hover and click over pic’s to enlarge.

I sometimes use another journal site where you can find more details at: http;//trailjournals.com/glideon

(However, I don”t always keep these journal sites up to date.) But for now, always remember to keep Gliding On! Yours on our nations incredible trails,

Glider aka David Kiel

Amtrak Reno to East Glacier

I took the plunge! Bought the ticket for the train to Glacier National Park. Here is the western terminus of the Pacific North West National Scenic Trail. 1200 miles westbound, the trail ends at the Olympic National Seashore. Rocky Mountains to the Pacific. Departing June 25th. This is a leap of faith, because my knee has not completely healed after last years epic finish of the Continental Divide National Scenic Trail. Just got to keep on Gliding On! Hiking On!

Border of Belief.

Sometimes I wonder what I am doing. Stretches me beyond the borders of belief. So, it is just so few miles to go to the Mexican Border and completion of the Continental Divide National Scenic Trail. Why does it have to be so hard? Perhaps, the conclusion should end with a challenge.

It was nearly Christmas, the days short and the nights long. I repeatedly ended up hiking in the dark to get to the next water source. In the southern most stretches to the Mexican Border, the trail is often cross country. Just trying to find one’s way from marker post to marker post, even in the day, lost in daydreams, I would find myself off course, and having to compensate, and scramble back to the track.

Those last three miles in the dark, I got lost in a tangle of Big Reed invasive plant fields, over head high and with no clear way to go. Lot’s of other weed plants clawing and scraping against your every move, trapped in the dark just a couple of miles from the Border – I wanted to break down and cry.

At last, I reached that monument marker, too exhausted to have any sense of accomplishment. Got the tent set up and dinner in my gut. Looked at the clock: It was 1:00 AM. I was the “Last Man Standing. The last 2021 SouthBound CDT hiker to reach The Monument Marker at the Mexican border at Crazy Cook.

Now I am worried about the fact that I am going have to hike back 30 miles to get to the Highway and a ride to more civilized haunts. I have barely enough food to make it back. I do have a good concept of the water logistics. No real problems. I walk back on the road, where I hope I might catch a ride. Every one has gone home for Christmas. I am here alone, yet not alone. My heart filled with thanks for everyone who helped me- Old Wounded Knee – while limping purposefully along the Long and Winding Path.

South to the Border

I am just 25 Miles from the Mexican border and the southern terminus of the CDT. I am at the water cache box on Hwy 81 provided by the Continental Divide Trail Coalition and BLM.

Last night I thought it might be fun to hike the 13.5 miles from an electric cattle well to the cache at Hwy 81 by moonlight. Very bad mistake. I stumbled into the cache utterly exhausted. Much of the trail was cross country, with random trail posts marking the way. In the dark, dodging all of these Chihuahuan Desert prickles, made the travel tedious at best. Relieved to reach the water cache box at Hwy 81, I was surprised to find I had energy left to set up my tent and get a good meal in me.

Water Cache Box provided by Continental Divide Trail Coalition and BLM

Next morn, I was stiff as a board. All night long my knee throbbed in pain, and I got no rest. Just 25 miles to go I thought. What is going to take to reach the southern terminus monument?

I decided to take a gamble and hitch into Hachita. This is a border town truck stop about as broken down and austere as it gets. I found the folks here way beyond accommodating.

I am staying two nights here at the Community Center resting my knee. Ten bucks a night.

Jeff Hachita Market, as kind and good as it can be! A trail angel on steroids. Merry Christmas Brother!
Hey, this guy, Chris, local,delivered two cold ones two me. This in a non town that has none to sell. How cool. And one of those small touches that makes the long tough life on the trail so gratifying. God Bless.
Veterans Park Lordsburg

To get back to Lordsburg to catch the bus to Carson might be the greatest challenge of all.

Marshall Pass, Colorado. August 1st. 2021

That was the start of this seaon hiking the Great Western Loop. Of continuing to go Loopy in the Wild West, so many months ago.

Back on the trail tommorrow to finish the last 25 in two days.

There are places I’ll remember All my life though some have changed Some forever, not for better Some have gone and some remain.

Okay, I am going to cheat a bit. I can’t possibly report on so many months bouncing along the CDT this summer and fall and now into winter.

So here are some places, and people I will remember.

Lordsburg, NM

84 miles to Crazy Cook and the Mexican Border.

I have stayed in many Hostels etc. during my travels this season. My most favorite dwelling is to stay protected from monsoons in an old abandoned mine cabin.

So many different folks along the long and winding road. All a part of the picture that is the CDT.

Llama Packer

Responsibility. Like a wife?

Thunder Storm Mania in the High San Juans
Black Powder Elk Hunter with a very serious scowl on his face.
Colorado Trail Hikers. For a few hundred miles the CDTNST and the CT share the same tread.
Share the land? Ed Abbey slured the Forest Service moniker from Multiple Use to Multible Abuse.
Ranchland. The history of the West.
There are Bike Packers here.
They travel in Tramilys. That is a contraction of trail and family. They are cool. But I prefer a more back to nature trip. Here we are receiving trail magic. Cold beers and sodas.
Looking into the Eyes of the World
The line in the Clouds.
The most cute, but seriously driven patrol ranger in the San Juans.
Rest Stop in the SanJuans
All I got for now. Got to get ready to hike on. Glide On! Please hit the donate button if you can. I am on the fringe. I don’t believe in making money on the Wilderness. John Muir coined the biblical phrase “The money changers are in the Temple”. Yet, I need help in moving forward helping to keep our wild lands wild. Sincerely, David “Glider” Kiel Glide On!


Colorado NewMexico Border

One of those moments where you sigh with such a great sense of relieve. More so a great sense of satisfaction with your accomplishment. State to state borders so often the defining goal.

South bound mile point 2198 on the CDT. Montana, Idaho, Wyoming and Colorado done. 840 Long Miles of New Mexico ahead to the Mexican Border and completion for South Bound hikers..

For me however, I have already finished the middle 450 miles between Cuba New Mexico and Silver City in a previous summer on the Great Loop. I have a jump on my fellow hikers headed south.

In past weeks, I have finished from those license plates at the Colorado/New Mexico order to Cuba, NM, approximately 160 miles.

Northern New Mexico on the CDT, a land of high rolling mountains, this time of year in autumn splendor. What long cold nights in this high country. Yet so much easier then the High San Juans of Colorado past. The high points here are near 11,000′ whereas in the San Juan’s you might be camped near 13,000′.

Historic Chapel at Ghost Ranch
Northern New Mexican Grand Encantment

Then, that brutal trip travelling south across New Mexico from Cuba to Silver City. Bus, late night walk to train station, layover at outdoor train station in the dark. Train into Albuquerque. Long wait for bus at Greyhound Station. Bus to Las Cruces. Layover in the dark and cold from 1am to 8am, lingering at the convenience store bus stop. Bus to Deming. Walk to outskirts of town to Truck Stop convenience store. Miracle ride to Silver City. Check in to Triple Crown Hostel. Sleep the sleep of death in utter exhaustion. It might have been easier to walk the trail south. Some say the root of the word travel, is to travail.

The Dog
8 hours in the dark and cold. All night long outside the closed ” bus station”.

Next, 150 miles south to the Mexican Border at a dust bowl of a place called Crazy Cook. Next stop between: Burro Mountain Homestead in the Big Burro Mountains south of Silver City.

New Mexico is Cattle Country, would you drink this?
Good water

Chihuahuan Desert
Burro Mountain Sunset

Breaking the Silence

It is time to come out of a long internal hibernation. Days of silence. Time to share just a tiny bit of a huge experience.

I have been continuing my “Going Loopy” project in Colorado and New Mexico on the Continental Divide National Scenic Trail.

This year I started near Monarch Pass in Colorado and hiked South bound for about 450 miles to Cuba New Mexico. Extremely low miles, because I have been limping along on a bum knee.

But what a rich experience traversing the high San Juan’s in epic monsoon rains and later brutal fall snow storms.

Here I am in Silver City, New Mexico with but 160 Miles of route to finish the CDT.

Some stats: I have hiked over 2800 miles on the CDT and approximately 7000 miles of route on my ” Going Loopy in the Wild West” project.

Here are some random shots from my summer and fall.

Snow in August on the high peaks.
Home Sweet Home
All the layers of clothes needed.

Dwarfed by the immensity of the San Juans
I Dream in Colors
Cumbres Choo Choo
Streets Paved in Gold
Rented this cabin in Northern New Mexico for 12 days trying to rest my knee.

Okay, I am humbled to ask. I have had some troubles with my bank account and meager Social Security earnings. Fraudulent charges messing with my account leading to over drafts.

Please, if you feel inclined, click the donations button on the menu bar and help me out. I am going to need dollars for bus fare, etc., when I finally finish at Mexico in a couple of weeks from now. I am so humbled to ask.

So let’s all keep Gliding On! To the promised land my brothers and sisters. Hike on! Glide On! Sincerely, David “Glider” Kiel

The Long and Winding Trail. The Continental Divide

How many things can the trail, mother nature, civilization and your own short comings bombard you with? Before you just say, “This is it, I am done.” Well, I am not done yet.

First, just three days into the hike, I stumbled and took a head first crash, down slope into rocks, severely injuring my knee. Then I left my driver’s license in the motel. Next , I washed my phone killing it. This has my Guthook navigation app, all my personal business, 14,000 songs, books and all else.

Well, our Postal system is not operating so well. Two packages of food and one envelope of maps went awry, no fault of mine. I spend two days in a high rolling ski town renting a space in a Hostel unnecessarily. It takes me that long to print up a new set of maps at the library. I am lucky it is open. Then, the postal clerk finds the maps are at the P.O. all along.

Earlier I got off trail and dropped my sunglases into the brush. At high altitude my sensitive eyes require protection. Another $60.00 bucks out the window.

I love taking pics and sharing. Not happening now. My camera batteries and charger went bad. Who can control the fires? I had to dodge a fire closure with a difficult hitch around. The last few days have been spent waiting out a nasty and potentially dangerous early season winter storm. Gone my Social Security renting a Hostel in Leadville.

Now I am huddled under my simple, but effective tarp watching the frost building up and hoping the snow will be melting off. Wondering what obstacle is next?

Hoping now, for sunny Indian Summer to keep continuing on my hike South Bound on the CDT.

Despite all these annoying set backs I am Hiking On, Gliding On! No big miles covered, yet the experience has been rich. There is no better place in this world to be. Colorado Rockies in fall colors, the 14,000′ peaks with a lace of snow.

The world is in turmoil while I have the space to meditate and pray. I do pray for this earth and it’s people. And then all these peace filled times to commune with nature. Am I lucky to be able to drag these 70 year old arthritic bones over 13,000 foot’ mountain passes? I guess I am. But, ouch it hurts.

Never forget to Keep On Gliding On! Guess that is all we can do. Hopefully, With Love and Affection in all we do.

Yours truly, Glider

High and Higher

Now there is a different challenge. The great equalizer has me playing on a different level. Now it is all about acceptance and patience and living unabashedly in the world of the here and now. I need to accept that if I stay on the trail, I will only be able to limp along doing ultra short miles. Need to realize that I am going to have squander time and money, renting motels and hostels to rest and ice my knee.

Of course the Divide climbs higher and every day is a test. I am carted back and forth to and from the trail by a gang of Angels. That is “Trail Angels”, those devoted to aid the hikers along their path. I hike a mere seven or eight miles only to return to a motel to ice my knee. It has taken me all summer and now into fall to nurse my knee back into health.

Ascending Parkview Mtn. on a Wounded Knee