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Article: The great crossing of the United States from south to north - episode 3

La grande traversée des États-Unis du sud au nord - épisode 3
Esprit de Liberté

The great crossing of the United States from south to north - episode 3

An extraordinary adventure


Episode 3: the crossing of the Northern States


After crossing Colorado, Pierre-Loïc arrives in a third state, Wyoming. By the time he leaves Colorado, he has already covered half of the CDT, some 1,500 miles or 2,400 kilometres. As soon as he arrived in Wyoming, he found himself in the middle of a very large plateau called the Great Basin. This is a plateau at altitude, still between 2,500 and 3,000 metres. The Great Basin gives the impression of a vast plain with very few trees. Unlike Colorado, where Pierre-Loïc didn't see much wildlife, he was able to observe many different species on this great basin, this great plateau with few trees. He came across antelopes, wild horses, and a very large herd of elk. There were over a hundred of them running across the plain. It was a magnificent sight.

As for the weather, once again he had to protect himself from the sun and the wind. He remembers having lunches in a 'crazy' wind with no trees to protect him from the sun. This crossing of the Great Basin lasted almost a week. He had to cover almost 400 kilometres to cross the Great Basin.

After spending a long time on this great plain, Pierre-Loïc finally saw the next mountains in the distance, the Wind River Range. This mountain range is little known but very beautiful, with a succession of lakes, peaks, and a wide variety of landscapes with extraordinary bivouac sites. On the other hand, it was difficult to stay out in the evening because of the huge number of mosquitoes at this time of year, and he had to protect himself from them all day long.

After crossing the Wind River Range, he arrived near the famous Yellow Stone Park. He crossed it in just three days.  It's a very wild national park, quite varied and very pleasant for hiking. He was even pleasantly surprised to find rivers with water as hot as 40 degrees and was able to take baths that he still remembers.

He also saw his first Grizzly at Yellow Stone. It was a young Grizzly. It came from the right of the road. He spotted Pierre-Loïc. They looked at each other for a moment, then the young grizzly scurried off. Between hikers, the possibility of encountering a Grizzly was clearly a topic of conversation. Many hikers were apprehensive about meeting one and used bells or listened to podcasts on their mobile phones to make noise and keep a potential Grizzly away from their path. Pierre-Loïc was not in this frame of mind. On the contrary, he wanted to see and meet some. In fact, he would meet several of them later on during his long crossing, including one that was older and much more massive than the first one he met in Yellow Stone Park.

On leaving the park, Pierre-Loïc quickly crossed into Idaho, the fourth state he had crossed after New Mexico, Colorado and Wyoming. At this point in his adventure, he has covered almost 2,000 miles, or two-thirds of the CDT route. He was by then heading for the last two northern states, Idaho and Montana.

He described the mountains of these northern states, the ones he was going to follow along the Continental Divide, as gentler mountains with forested islands, reminiscent of the landscapes of the Highlands in Scotland. What struck him most were the many flowers and lakes. Beautiful landscapes, quite varied and finally free of snow. It was also in these states that he came across many SOBOs, South-Bound hikers who also cross the United States along the CDT but in the opposite direction, from north to south.

After hundreds and hundreds of kilometres of walking, Pierre-Loïc proved, as a French song says, that "a kilometre on foot wears out, wears out, a kilometre on foot wears out your shoes...", as he ended up using five pairs of shoes instead of the three he had originally planned. The lava fields in Mexico, the use of crampons in New Colorado and, over the last month, paths made mostly of stones rather than dirt, took their toll on his soles and his shoes more quickly than he had imagined. As far as his clothing was concerned, he was able to complete the entire route in shorts and two EDELI T-shirts. We sponsored him because we were inspired by his adventure, and to test our clothing in a life-size test: 4800 kms and 111 days in a row in the open air, sun, wind, rain, snow... almost every conceivable weather condition in the space of three months.

During the 900-mile crossing of Idaho and Montana, Pierre-Loïc spent entire days in the middle of nowhere without meeting anyone, an experience both of solitude and of immersion in nature, which he had come to seek and which he found especially during this crossing of the Northern States. He never tired of it, even though some days were very similar in the way they unfolded and in the landscapes they covered. During the last few weeks, he sensed that other hikers wanted "the CDT to come to an end". But for his part, he was always happy every morning to be able to set off again for another day of hiking in the great outdoors in these vast landscapes and wide-open great outdoors of North America.

One of the last anecdotes during Pierre-Loïc's CDT was his encounter with the last Grizzly in the park called 'Glacier' in Montana. This Grizzly was by far the most imposing of all those he came across along the CDT. Between his first encounter at Yellow Stone and his last at Glacier, he had encountered two others. Each time, they were solitary grizzlies, which is preferable to meeting a mother with her cubs, for example. Pierre-Loïc really wanted to meet Grizzly Bears during his CDT, and in the end he came across four, in addition to all the other encounters with the varied fauna along the CDT route: lizards, rattlesnakes, elks, wild horses, antelopes, etc. 

After 4800 kms and 111 days of adventure, Pierre-Loïc finally reached the stele marking the end of the CDT route (for him and all the NOBOs - North Bound). Unfortunately, it was raining heavily that day and Pierre-Loïc couldn’t stay too long to celebrate the moment. But in the days that followed, he realised what he'd just achieved. And he describes his feelings in the days following the end of his adventure as a real moment of apotheosis. He felt deeply appeased and happy to have been able to experience this great adventure from the first to the last day.

After completing this superb crossing on foot of the USA from south to north, his advice can be summed up in two words: if you're tempted by such an adventure, don't hesitate! Of course, you need to have the time to do it. But it's not superhuman. You can make the crossing at your own pace. You just need to find meaning in it and want to embark on this wonderful adventure.

Finally, for everyone, Pierre-Loïc also has a piece of advice, like a little secret: ‘sleep under the stars once in a while'. It's a magical experience for everyone, whatever your age. In fact, that's what he misses now that he's back, living out in nature and bivouacking under the stars.

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