We’re Landen and Garrett Napier, but on trail we are known as Frick and Frack. We are 22-year-old identical twins from West Virginia. In 2018, after a year of college, we decided that we weren’t ready to start full-time careers. What we did want to do was tackle the 2,200-mile-long Appalachian Trail.
Over the course of 164 days, we walked from Georgia to Maine carrying very heavy packs—all while falling in love with the long-distance hiking community. While on trail we learned about the ‘Triple Crown’ of hiking and became fascinated with it.
A saying you often hear on trail is, “You either do one trail or all three.” We soon realized college was going to be pushed back a few years. After reaching Mount Katahdin, the northern terminus of the AT, many thru-hikers become depressed because it is the end of their journey. But for us it was only the beginning.
In 2019, more ambitious than ever and wanting to push our bodies even further, we set out to complete the Pacific Crest Trail. On May 4th, we stood at the southern terminus of the PCT in Campo looking north with a crazy goal in mind... to do a continuous northbound thru-hike of the 2,650-mile trail during one of the biggest snowfall years to date.
On August 11th, at approximately 10 pm, after a grueling 36-hour, 86-mile push, our headlamps lit up the iconic pillars of the northern terminus of the PCT. We had done it! We completed the PCT in 100 days!
With two trails down, we now had our eyes set on the longest, most rugged trail of the Triple Crown, the 3,100-mile Continental Divide Trail. Initially, we planned on a southbound hike, which would allow us to start later in the year and avoid the most amount of snow. But, as we prepared for this year's hike, our plans soon came to an abrupt halt.
We work as EMTs in our town, and with rising covid cases coming in everyday, our company decided to offer a special covid-assignment option. This crew would be confined to a station away from others, deal with only covid-related cases, and work 24/7 for the foreseeable future. Most wouldn’t even consider this job, but to Landen and I this was just another way for us to push ourselves.
We took the positions and worked 47 straight days, racking up 1,128 hours (952 hours shy of what a regular 40-hour-a-week employee works in a year). As the curve began to flatten our company decided to discontinue our assignment, and we returned to our normal positions still not knowing if we would be able to hike this year.
Then a few weeks before our planned start date, the Continental Divide Trail Coalition sent out a newsletter saying they felt that it was now safe to hike the CDT as long as you are social distancing, wearing a mask in town, and taking all the necessary precautions.
To us that was the best news we could’ve gotten as we hurried to finalize our CDT plans. Still, we couldn’t help but wonder about things like hitching into town for resupplies and whether another Covid spike might force us off trail.
On July 4th, we set out from the Canadian border without knowing the exact challenges that were soon to come. For the past two years it had just been Landen and myself the majority of the time on trail, but this year my girlfriend, Kelley Guimont, known on trail as ‘Wicked’, joined us.
A section of Glacier National Park was closed to visitors, which just happened to be where the CDT went through the park. From the border we did a 100-mile road walk around Glacier NP to get to the official CDT at Maria’s Pass. We quickly learned just how remote Montana is. Blow downs and a constantly disappearing trail made the first few days on the CDT tough, but we soon began to get back into the swing of life on trail and quickly found our trail legs.
As we made our way through Montana’s wilderness, we encountered grizzly bears, muddy and rugged trail, and only a few other thru-hikers. For two years we had heard stories from other hikers about how brutal and unforgiving the CDT was, and now here we were, right in the middle of it ... and it did not disappoint.
Unlike the AT, the CDT is much more exposed and open, allowing for constant views. Every day as we hike we see another vista and I think to myself, “this is the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen,” only to hike a few more miles and think the same thing all over again.
From northern Montana we made our way into Idaho where the trail became steeper and more exposed. In the southern Montana/ Idaho section of the CDT, the trail follows along the actual continental divide, which mimics a roller coaster, constantly going up and down.
From Idaho we made our way to Wyoming, which brought more spectacular views, easier terrain, and a not-so-welcome cold front. This particular cold front didn’t seem like it would be much but being in the Great Basin of Wyoming, we didn’t have much cover and overnight 4-foot snow drifts accumulated around our tent. The storm didn’t only bring snow, but also 50 mph winds for 36 hours straight, completely mangling the trees around the trail and making upcoming sections of trail impassable.
Due to that and a developing forest fire, we had to miss the official WY/ CO border crossing. As we began walking through Colorado, we watched aspens change color in front of our eyes. Valleys of green turned to yellow seemingly overnight.
Hiking at higher elevation means the nights and early mornings are much colder, making it hard to get out of our cozy Enlightened Equipment quilts in the early hours of the morning. As we made our way through Colorado, we had a few 14ers on our radar. Colorado’s highest peak, Mount Elbert (14,439 ft), was among them, and we were able to check that one off our list quite recently.
Now with just a few hundred miles left in CO we are excited to get to New Mexico where we plan on taking our time to the border to reflect on this incredible three-year journey.
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Thanks so much, have a great day and enjoy these CDT photos from our journey so far!