Pioneering a 1,200-mile Hike

Charting the Route
By Stephen Stuebner
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Williams says it took him five years to chart the route. "The main thing was to avoid roads and developments, and, given a choice, stay high."

He also wanted to walk through the"best of Idaho" in places such as the Sawtooth Wilderness, the Bruneau River Canyon, the Middle Fork of the Salmon, Chamberlain Basin, the Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness, and the Continental Divide along the Idaho-Montana border. Starting from the Nevada border, the backpacking duo would drop 3,000 feet in elevation to the Snake River, and then climb to the routes high point of 9,700 feet above Redfish Lake in the Sawtooths. Then, the route would take them on a roller-coaster ride through hundreds of miles of Idaho's mountainous interior. The lowest point of the route was 1,700 feet near the Kootenai River in the Idaho Panhandle.

Williams' route-selectionthat is, staying high on ridges for the best viewsoften allowed them to look back at the previous day's hike and peer into the landscape ahead. "Some of the ridges were so high we could look back and see where we'd been even two days before," Tate says.

Both men used external frame packs for the journey. They started out with a cook stove, a water purifier and a small wood saw, but over time, they ditched all of that equipment to save on weight. They cooked all of their meals in their trail-worn pots and pans on a stick fire. They each carried four quarts of water.

"The farther along we went, we realized that we could get by with less and less and less," Tate says. "The nice thing about backpacking is it's about the most simple way to enjoy life there is. The key is to keep it simple. We jettisoned things as we went along."

Their ever-so generous wives would resupply them with food and clothing 12 times (about every two weeks).


Published: 29 Apr 2002 | Last Updated: 15 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication

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