Reflections from Trail

Posted by: Sarah Fischer

If you’ve been following along this summer, you know that former Kammok marketing + creative lead Andrew Glenn left his home in Texas this April to conquer another long-distance trail.

A seasoned thru-hiker, Andrew completed the Pacific Crest Trail in 2017 and John Muir Trail in 2018. This year, he’s on a mission to connect the Continental Divide Trail, a 3,100 mile trail through the Rocky Mountains, to the Great Divide Trail, a 700 mile stretch that follows the divide between Alberta and British Columbia in Canada.

To our knowledge, Andrew is the first CDT hiker to advance northbound through Colorado this year, which was slammed with record snowfall and avalanches. Ahead of the pack, Andrew recently completed the Wind River Range in Wyoming and will begin his hike through Yellowstone National Park later this week.

Throughout his trek, Andrew’s been testing a new 20º Kammok quilt and repping our Kuhli Ultralight tarp. We checked in with him this past week to see how life on the trail’s been treating him and how his gear is holding up.

First things first. How are you feeling?

You know, I’ve attempted a few responses to this question, but, though each true, I haven’t found a way to note my feelings with justice.

On the very surface, I’m exhausted by another 30 mile day. I’m a little freaked by this hail storm I’m hunkered down in, but I’m happy to have packed out extra snacks and the Kuhli UL is holding up strong. My right knee is a little sore, and I definitely need to pick up better sunscreen in the next town.

A little deeper down, there’s a vortex of complicated feelings. Holy smokes, I’m grateful for the moments composing the hike, and I’m curious what lies in the miles ahead. I’m feeling relief and pride with the seeming crux of the hike in the rear view, while dueling the gravity of Canada pulling me closer and closer — all while trying to focus on being present.

Haha I guess I’m feeling a lot, and it’s good stuff.

Colorado was a challenge mentally and physically. How has the trail in Wyoming been so far?

Oof, Colorado.

Wyoming is remarkable. I haven’t been here since I was a kiddo, and I admittedly underestimated its grandeur. Down south, the mountains flattened into the Great Divide Basin, a true Wild West landscape with open skies and wild horses.

From there, the trail jumped from the Basin into the Wind River Range. Y’all. I’m unable to paint an adequate picture of these mountains, but imagine a dense High Sierra, with valley features of Yosemite Valley and Hetch Hetchy Valley, and granite towers comparable to Patagonia. The Cirque of the Towers and Titcomb Basin/Knapsack Col fought for my attention and won it with ease. Anyway, that’s the Winds. 

Tomorrow, I’ll exit the Winds and jet towards Yellowstone. I will probably wrap Wyoming on Monday or Tuesday. I can’t wait to come back. The Tetons are calling my name.

What’s a challenge ahead for you?

To set up for the GDT with a comfortable late-season start date, I will need to wrap the CDT within the next 5 weeks. This deadline brings a pressure of timing and pace I’ve been familiar with so far, but now is the time to kick into gear, testing stamina with few sub-30 mile days til Canada.

This time on trail, what has community looked like for you? When have you felt love?

This time around, I’ve recognized the pulse and value of community as it’s taken many different forms on trail. Through New Mexico, I hiked and shared camp with other hikers, similar to the majority of my time on the PCT. It was sweet, simple, and some of my favorite miles I’ve thru-hiked.

Since early Colorado, I’ve been rolling solo, with the occasional run-in with a SOBO (southbound hiker), section hiker, or day hiker. This means my community is built by infrequent interactions with passing strangers – the woman serving me copious amounts of coffee at the small-town diner, the man at the post office, the gaggle of first time backpackers at a trailhead.

As my time with other people is acute and limited, I’ve found myself to be more intentional with those I do cross paths with. Whether it’s a craving of human connections or a growing heart towards empathy, the trail is teaching and holding me accountable in the way I value others. It’s special.

In the days that you’ve had company, what have you learned from other hikers on trail?

Hikers are continuously teaching me how to duel optimism and grit in their individual way. Choosing positivity is a must out here, and so much of that comes down to perspective, one’s worldview, and keeping a pulse on self, especially in times that test your patience.
Through this, I’m learning the importance of self-confidence and independence as an asset in leading others and building community. We all have something to offer.

And, as always, I’m learning how to match the generosity and hospitality, even from other hikers, I’ve experienced in the hikersphere. It’s beautiful and inspiring.

Switching gears here, what's been the most clutch piece of gear in your pack?

Oh, gosh. I think there’s a rightful expectation for me to answer with one of the Big 3 (pack, shelter, insulation), as these pieces keep me alive and moving. But to switch things up, I’m going to say my bandana, the 1 oz Swiss Army Knife of possibilities. It’s kept me covered from ticks, shaded from the heat, and cooled after dunked in a stream. It cleans my food jar and has braced my knee. I have a thing for bandanas, and this one is no exception!

You’ve cowboy camped nearly every night. Favorite tarp set-up and location so far?

Oooooo, I have a strong Top 3, but I’m going to roll with the first night I camped solo in Colorado. I hadn’t camped alone since the first few days of trail, and I found a killer snow-free saddle to pitch the tarp. Deep down, I think I understood it may be the first night of weeks, possibly months, of camping alone. I was pretty proud of my spaceship pitch as the sunset beamed over the Continental Divide, exposing the dramatic peaks of the West Collegiates, my soon-to-be playground for the week.

Finally, one catch-your-breath moment on trail that you can’t stop thinking about?

I’ve been joking that I have a before-Lake-Ann-Pass and post-Lake-Ann-Pass self. I think a new cord was struck then, strummed with gratitude, fear, humility, and pride.

Lake Ann Pass, the second-to-last northbound pass of Colorado’s West Collegiates, is known to rock a pretty gnarly cornice, even in low-moderate snow years. This year wasn’t an exception, and a record snowfall only helped its height and length.

When I arrived, posting the first steps of the year on the pass, the cornice took up the entire length of the pass. I took a moment to be bummed about the conditions, but I quickly assessed the situation and made moves to get the heck down.

With a backdrop of snowy mountains in early daylight, I made an anchor with my ice axe and maneuvered over the cornice, kicking steps with my crampons and holding my breath.

After safely descending the icy wall, I was in a cavity of beautiful mountains and the reality of calling the Divide home really sank in.

Yeah, I think that’s my top moment.

Interested in daily updates from Andrew on trail? Check out his instagram @andrewglenn_ where he shares stories and special moments from trail. You can also learn more about his thru-hike on his website