A stunning story about an amazing hike

While you will be inspired by Thomas Jamrog’s amazing experience hiking the Continental Divide Trail, you will not be inspired to do that hike.

For one thing, it’s a 2500 mile 5 month journey through New Mexico, Colorado, Wyoming, and Montana, on a trail often described as desolate and brutal. Having read Jamrog’s book, In the Path of Young Bulls, published by Maine Authors Publishing, I think that description is an understatement.

But I found the book fascinating and was unable to put it down, racing through it as fast as I could, captivated by his detailed (and sometimes troubling) accounts of each day. This really is an incredible story.

Three buddies joined him on the hike, although one gave up before they reached Montana. Much of the hike lacks trails and the elevation ranges from 4,000 to 14,000 feet above sea level. On the higher elevations, Jamrog had trouble breathing. But that’s only one of the many problems and challenges he faced including a number of injuries, a drought-caused lack of water, and horrendous storms. They actually got lost quite a few times too.

Consider this description of the start of a day in New Mexico, just a few weeks into the hike. “I woke up to a temperature of 17 degrees and a frozen water bottle. It was painful to pack up and get going, at over 8,000 feet elevation. My breakfast was cold, dehydrated scrambled eggs and a snickers bar… That day was an endless, dusty road walk of mostly pea-stone-surfaced trail that was rough on the feet. The day was punctuated by bone-dry stock tanks, with little other reliable water.” Sounds like fun, doesn’t it?!

Perhaps you would enjoy hiking this section of New Mexico: “Sometimes, nature resembles a trash heap, especially in the Cebolla Wilderness. Step one hundred feet off the trail and you could encounter a world of charred timber, decomposing bark, and thousands of crumpled aluminum beer cans and ejected shotgun shells.” As one of Jamrog’s hiking buddies said, “No one does squalor better than New Mexico.”

Consider this start to their day on May 30 in Colorado: “That morning, the wind was blowing steady, with gusts that were rocking my tent… We hoped that by getting up early we could put on some trail time without post-holing, while the snow surface was still rock-solid. Unfortunately, everyone’s wet footwear was frozen stiff. Train and I had the worst time of it, trying to force our feet into rigid shoes. Train had to pour water onto his tattered shoes to force his feet in. My boots were a block of ice.” More fun!

Well, these are only a few of the amazing days they spent on this journey, and of course, they had some wonderful experiences, stunning views, lots of wildlife, and pleasant off-trail days in various towns along the way.

While the 63-year-old Jamrog concedes that he will never do this hike again, he sums up his experience in a very positive way, reporting that he will “strive to live my own unique life, even if that means taking on an impossible task of unimagined experiences.”

Well, that hike was not impossible, because they accomplished it! And I guarantee that you will enjoy reading about it.

George Smith

About George Smith

George stepped down at the end of 2010 after 18 years as the executive director of the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine to write full time. He writes a weekly editorial page column in the Kennebec Journal and Waterville Morning Sentinel, a weekly travel column in those same newspapers (with his wife Linda), monthly columns in The Maine Sportsman magazine, two outdoor news blogs (one on his website, georgesmithmaine.com, and one on the website of the Bangor Daily News), and special columns for many publications and newsletters. Islandport Press published a book of George's favorite columns, "A Life Lived Outdoors" in 2014. In 2014, George also won a Maine Press Association award for writing the state's bet sports blog. In 2016, Down East Books published George's book, Maine Sporting Camps, and Islandport Press published George and his wife Linda's travel book, Take It From ME, about their favorite Maine inns and restaurants.