March 24, 2013

Carey Kish: His toughest trek beckons

Soon to be 63, Tom Jamrog just might keep hiking into his golden years.

Tom Jamrog of Lincolnville is not your ordinary hiker by any stretch of the imagination. Over the past six years he has through-hiked the Appalachian Trail, the Pacific Crest Trail and the Long Trail, logging an impressive 5,500 total miles of hiking.

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The Pacific Crest Trail was no walk in the park for Tom Jamrog, but he competed the hike from California to British Columbia and now plans an even more ambitious endeavor, the Continental Divide Trail from Mexico to Alberta.

Tom Jamrog Photos

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Not even a recent hernia operation will prevent Tom Jamrog from attempting the 2,750-mile Continental Divide Trail, which could take five months to cover.

For a guy who is turning 63 later this month, you might think these feats alone would be enough memories for his golden years, but you'd be mistaken. Because Jamrog is right now finalizing preparations for his biggest hike to date, a 2,750-mile trek on the Continental Divide Trail from Mexico to Canada starting next month.

The CDT follows the undulating spine of the Rocky Mountains through New Mexico, Colorado, Wyoming, Idaho and Montana, passing through 25 national forests, 21 wilderness areas, three national parks, one national monument and miles of other public lands. Gray's Peak in Colorado is the high point at 14,270 feet; the low spot is 4,200 feet at Waterton Lake in Montana.

Everything I've read about the CDT points to it being one really tough trip, "a long freaking walk," as one hiker described it in an online hiker forum.

Jamrog noted just few of the myriad challenges when I spoke to him recently.

"No natural water for over 200 miles from the Mexican border, sections with no signage for 200 miles, and a Colorado section of 200 miles where you're hiking at or above 12,000 feet."

That's no walk in the park for sure, but Jamrog is undeterred.

"I realize it's going to be rough. You're moving all the time. It's not like camping."

Over the course of the five-month hike, Jamrog will need to average 20 miles a day to reach the Canadian border in mid-September before the weather makes a serious turn toward winter. Sixteen rest days are planned.

Jamrog is packing light, but with a few extras, like a special Mylar-coated umbrella to ward off the intense sun, a comfy air mattress, and a titanium multi-fuel stove that burns pretty much anything. His base pack weight will be 18 pounds, excluding food and water. Add a week to 10 days of food and two liters of water and that total will easily climb into the mid-30s, still a reasonable load for a long hike.

Resupply boxes with food and other necessities will be picked up at nine points en route. Jamrog will supplement these drops with the rare foray down into a town, for not only trail food but a big restaurant meal and a hot shower, two things long-distance hikers crave incessantly.

Staying healthy and accident-free on the trail are key concerns for Jamrog. Blisters, stress fractures, shin splints and worse can quickly put the brakes on a hike, never mind the mental fatigue of putting one foot in front of the other for long weeks at a time. And there's the ever present weather, the desert heat and the deep snows. You prepare well, take care of yourself as best you can, and hope for the best.

Jamrog has prepared physically with a regular regimen of outdoor activity, mostly day hiking and mountain biking around his home in the Camden Hills. But an unexpected hernia last month required surgery, knocking him down from full strength. Despite the setback, Jamrog is recovering well, alternating days between rest and exercise, and will be ready to go as scheduled. He meets his two trail companions, out-of-state friends who hiked much of the AT and PCT with him, in mid-April.

Determination is the hallmark of the long-distance hiker, and it's a good bet that Jamrog will persevere in his quest to hike the Continental Divide Trail. Success means not only another huge life achievement, but membership in an elite group who have completed hiking's Triple Crown, the AT, PCT and CDT.

You can follow Jamrog's CDT adventures on his blog at www.trailjournals.com/tjamrogCDT. For more information on the CDT, go to http://www.continentaldividetrail.org.

Carey Kish of Bowdoin is an avid hiker and freelance writer. Comments are welcome at:

MaineOutdoors@aol.com

 

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