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One hike, indivisible

Ian Cropp
Vail CO, Colorado
The Continental Divide
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AVON ” Andy Linger spent 3 1/2 hours looking for a pair of shoes the other week.

When considering that Linger will be walking in those shoes for six months, 3 1/2 hours is a blink of an eye.

Linger, who lives in Avon, will be heading out in late April to hike the entire Continental Divide ” a more than 3,100-mile trail that spans from the Mexican border to the Canadian border.

Although Linger, 33, takes plenty of weekend trips during all seasons of the year, the Continental Divide is a momentous journey.

“I haven’t done a long-distance hike like this in 10 years,” Linger said.

And that trip?

The 2,174-mile Appalachian Trail.

“That was my first long hike,” Linger said. “Our family used to do lots of camping, and we’d often go with other families. And some of those families wonder why I do what I do considering how some of those camping trips went.”

During one trip on the Mississippi River, Linger said it started raining one day and didn’t stop for three or four days.

“Our car and camper were buried up to the axles in mud,” Linger said. “Our friends’ tent was floating down the water. It was always something.”

On his Appalachian Trail hike, Linger averaged about 12 miles a day. For the Continental Trail, Linger figures he’ll need to travel about 20 miles a day. On such a long and regimented trip, Linger knows he’ll need to stay on track and avoid what could be a hiker’s nightmare.

“When I hiked the Appalachian Trail, I had only two blisters, and that was after a 30-mile day,” Linger said. “If you have the slightest problem with you feet, you need to take care of it then and there. A lot of people drop out from long-distance hiking because of that.”

Linger said his shoes ” a brand-new pair of Monotrail Hardrocks ” could last around 1,000 miles, or a third of the trip. When they start to wear thin, Linger will order another pair and have them shipped to whereever he may soon be.

While very few people hike the entire trail each year (around 20, by several estimates), and there are challenging stretches, Linger sees the endeavor as a test of will.

“This is the simplest form of hiking; anyone can do it, “he said. “It’s all mental.”

The hardest part of the trip may be when Linger comes through Colorado, for two big reasons.

“Depending on what happens in the San Juan (Mountain Range), I could be stuck down there for two weeks,” Linger said. “That’s one of the big reasons people are apprehensive to go up north or start early.”

And the other potential snag has little to do with snow.

“I’m worried I’m going to get something called townsuck,” Linger said, noting that he’ll be coming off the trail a bit to make his way through town here. “Once you get into town you find it hard to leave.”

Linger has a fairly good idea where he’ll be for most of the journey. But Linger’s hours and hours spent mapping out the trip will be all for naught at times.

“A lot of places, the trail isn’t marked, and a lot of places, there is no trail,” Linger said.

Even in marked areas, there are certain dangers.

“You’re above treeline for days on end,” Linger said. “You need to have a plan to get off that ridge if the weather turns.”

Like most hikers, Linger hopes to keep his backpack as light as possible. On long stretches between towns, Linger will have to carry food, although he’ll still be eating significantly less while away from readily available food.

“It’s going to be virtually impossible to eat 7,000 calories a day,” Linger said. “The only way to do that is go into town, take a couple days and gorge. After I do that, and I’m hiking out of town with a week of food, I’m going to feel miserable. But I’ve been

there before, and I can deal with it.”

Linger said he’ll use about six planned mail drops for food and other amenities along the way, with trips to town accounting for the rest.

As for his 4,000-cubi- inch pack, Linger will have the essentials, including a sleeping bag, a tarp, a compass, water filters, iodine and a small first-aid kit.

“I’ve gotta ask myself, ‘What’s the worst case scenario?'” he said. “That’s how I planned my gear out.”

And one of Linger’s lightest pieces of gear will be a hand-held computer, which will allow him to post his progress on his Web site ” Andylinger.com. Linger chronicled his Appalachian Trail hike on his Web site but wasn’t able to post instantaneously like he’ll be doing on the Continental Divide (he wrote out his journal and sent it to people who then typed it out).

Although Linger’s parents weren’t ecstatic about his first trip, Linger’s journals helped win them over.

“That made a 180-degree turn for them,” Linger said.

With departure less than a month away, Linger has shoes, a backpack and just about all the other supplies. He’s printed out almost 200 pages of maps and has drawn up a detailed plan.

But there is one thing that has woken him up in the middle of the night recently.

“I’m looking to rent my apartment,” Linger said.

Without a stream of income, Linger’s rent is a big concern, as is his dog, that will be staying behind.

Even through the months of planning that started in the fall, and the packing, Linger still isn’t too worried about the actual trip.

“It’s going to hit me on the drive down to the trail-head,” Linger said.

Sports Writer Ian Cropp can be reached at 748-2935 or icropp@vaildaily.com.


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