800 Miles? Alone? Are you Crazy?

In the fall of 2012 I came across an article in Oregonian by Terry Richard covering a proposed 800-mile trail in the high desert of Oregon. I was immediately captivated by the thought of hiking this part of Oregon. Two years earlier I thru-hiked the Pacific Crest Trail and hiked sections of the Te Araroa in New Zealand. After finishing that epic journey that took me around the world and settling back into modern life my mind started thinking about my next adventure.   The logical choice would be the Continental Divide Trail (CDT). At 3000 miles the CDT traverses the US continental divide through New Mexico, Colorado, Wyoming, Idaho and Montana. However, leaving my current career for a 4-month hike is not an option at this time. At 800 miles the ODT seemed like the perfect remedy to scratch my thru-hiking itch.


Over 2013 I would occasionally do a search to see if any additional information became available. One day in June I came across an article on a women from Bend, Oregon who was going to be the 1st to hike the ODT! Her name is Sage Clegg www.sageclegg.com. I followed along on a blog about Sage’s journey as she hiked 600-miles and biked the other 200-miles of this new route. She was able to do this journey in 36 days. I was hooked. To be one of the 1st people to hike a new trail and help shape it for future generations to come only presents itself once in a lifetime. I had to seize this opportunity! Thankfully I have a very understanding employer who approved the time off for a 6-week journey.


In February 2014 the 1st version of the map set was released to the general public. I attended a presentation in Portland by the organization that proposed the trail: www.onda.org. I remember walking out of the presentation excited and scared to death at the same time.   This was going to be a major undertaking. The 1st 160 miles has only two reliable water sources along the route available to hikers. This meant caching water ahead of time along with carrying up to 7 liters of water over 20+ miles between water caches. Being strategic in placement was a must. Being a brand new route there was no information on where to cache your water or even how to get to the locations cache water.   I spent many hours pouring over maps and Google earth piecing together a plan.


In its current state, a newly proposed trail is broke down by the following tread types:


73 Miles of foot trail

416 Miles of 4WD dirt roads (most of these are abandoned)

267 Miles of cross country trail (no trail)

10 Miles of paved roads


Virtually none of this route is marked. A hiker must have strong navigation skills because getting lost out here with a lack of water will get you in trouble very quickly.


The biggest challenge will be the West Little Owyhee Canyon in Malheur County. In this section a hiker will travel down a 45-mile canyon that is home to more rattlesnakes and cougars than people. From the ODT handbook “The cross-country travel involves boulder hopping, bushwhacking though willows, walking in and out of water.” Photos that I seen from other people who have traveled down the West Little Owyhee also include floating (i.e. swimming) from one side of the river to the other. To top it off you are in remote country. If you look up “middle of nowhere by road map” in your favorite search engine this area of western part of the United States is highlighted. If you get in trouble here it could be fatal.


Over the last three months I have scoured the maps and information that ONDA provided to the general public along with correspondence with Sage and members of ONDA to place together a 38-day plan to hike the ODT. I was able to coordinate with two other hikers who will be hiking the ODT this year and place water caches for all three of us where we will be taking the same route.   My plan is to travel to Bend, Oregon on May 14th and setting up my water caches on the 15th and 16th. If all goes according to plan I will start hiking the ODT on Saturday May 17th.   Stay tuned to this blog for additional updates and I will have my SPOT GPS tracking device setup so you can follow along in real time.


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