Suggestions for mountaineering the Continental Divide Path, or CDT

Millions of people canceled their travel plans in 2021 when Covid-19 suspended international travel around the world.

Renee Miller and Tim Beissinger were not among them.

The two are “thru-hiker,” a term used to describe a style of hiking that begins and ends in different locations, often covering long distances.

Rather than staying home, the American couple saw the pandemic as an opportunity to take a 3,149-mile hike along the Continental Divide Trail, which stretches across the United States between the borders of Mexico and Canada.

TikTok famous

Miller and Beissinger shared their four-month journey down the road commonly known as CDT on the TikTok social media website, which they now have 1.7 million followers.

“We knew that … other hikers would find it interesting to watch someone on the CDT,” said Beissinger. “But the fact that a lot of people were inspired and motivated to think more about hiking … was just fun and worth it.”

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the CDT stretches north to south across the United States and passes through famous hiking destinations such as Yellowstone National Park and Glacier National Park and along the Rocky Mountains.

Beissinger and Miller arrive in Canada after a four-month hike that began on the US-Mexico border.

Courtesy Timothy Beissinger and Renee Miller

The couple gained popularity on TikTok as followers tuned in to see the CDT’s picturesque views and monitor their progress.

“We didn’t have to work to show how nice it is,” said Beissinger.

The couple said they had received messages from people saying they had been inspired to start hiking – some for the very first time.

Beissinger said a man told them he was inspired to start hiking for health reasons.

“He’s lost 42 pounds,” Beissinger said, adding that long-distance hiking doesn’t require any prior experience. “You just have to have lust and passion.”

Hiking tips

From packing lists to recipes, the couple’s social media pages and online blog have prep tips for hiking the CDT.

To ensure adequate food supplies, Miller and Beissinger dehydrated 100 homemade dinners and mailed them to the various cities they wanted to pass on their trek.

“It’s really nice to have a healthy home-cooked meal at the end of each day,” said Miller, who said these meals usually had a combination of carbohydrates, vegetables, beans, and flavorings.

Miller and Beissinger shared 15 different recipes on their blog, including coconut cashew curry and taco noodles, with instructions on how to dry and cook the meals.

Courtesy Timothy Beissinger and Renee Miller

The couple did not always have access to clean water during their trip and often relied on creeks, lakes and rivers to stay hydrated.

“Our water filter was extremely important … We could have got sick if the water sources were infected or contaminated with Giardia“she said.” It could have thrown us off course.

The couple used disposable water bottles during their hike because they weigh less than aluminum bottles.

Courtesy Timothy Beissinger and Renee Miller

As they were crossing a desert, Beissinger related how they ran out of water after a spring they used ran dry.

“After walking 11 miles back and really getting our water rationed and thirsty, we found a nice full cow pot,” he said, referring to a water trough. “Cow water has never tasted so good.”

Bumps on the way

Miller and Beissinger’s trip on CDT may sound like the perfect escape from the lockdowns many experienced in 2021. But their journey was fraught with challenges, they said.

Rapid changes in weather often meant hours of traveling through rain.

Harsh weather conditions were the order of the day during the couple’s hike from Mexico to Canada.

Courtesy Timothy Beissinger and Renee Miller

“We even had our raincoats, rain pants and rain gloves with us, but our feet were always wet,” recalls Miller. “I had a blister on every single toe on the sole of my foot.”

The pair went through five pairs of shoes over the four months, she said.

The equipment brought along to stay warm and dry throughout the hike “could be life or death in a weather change,” Beissinger added.

On their four-month hike, Miller and Beissinger encountered animals from bears to mountain goats.

Courtesy Timothy Beissinger and Renee Miller

Traveling during the pandemic also meant that when the couple left the trail to venture into the cities, drivers were more careful about taking them.

“Usually the route leads into the mountains,” says Beissinger. “We usually hitchhike into town … cars may have been more nervous about stopping and picking us up.”

The couple also didn’t always have access to showers. At one point along the way, they did not bathe for 23 days.

No regret

Although they put their careers on hold and faced unforeseen challenges during their trek on the CDT, I “never thought about quitting,” Miller said.

“The desire to come home to bed also means the responsibility not to be on a trail and to be away from this beauty,” said Beissinger.

He said his favorite spots on the hike were when the couple were “in the middle of nowhere”.

The hiking duo is currently north of the Arctic Circle in northern Sweden and experiences the “polar night”, a phenomenon in which the sun does not rise for weeks or even months, depending on where you are.