Where do you both call home?
Morgan: My roots are in the Midwest (northern Illinois-southern Wisconsin), but I’ve called Denver home for the last four years.
Dean: Originally from Wyoming and have lived in Conifer, Colo. for 28 years.
What do you do for a living (currently or otherwise) and how did you get into this field?
Morgan: Multimedia Journalist, currently freelancing. Writing was my first love, so I went to Mizzou’s Journalism School to learn how to be a professional storyteller, and here we are! Out telling stories on the trail! I met Boomer when I was working as a digital producer at The Denver Post in 2015, right before he took a buyout and hiked the Colorado Trail.
Dean: Photojournalist and photo editor, currently freelancing. I previously worked at the Rocky Mountain News and The Denver Post for many years. Until hiking the Colorado Trail ruined my life.
Why did you choose the CDT for your Thru hike?
Morgan: The CDT is local in Colorado and gave me my first taste of backpacking. I asked Boomer one day, “If I get my stuff together, can I go out hiking with you?” So we ended up trying to find the CDT off Georgia Pass near Breckenridge and climbed over seven-foot snow drifts in search of this elusive trail that later, we discovered, isn’t even an identifiable path at times. And somehow, I just loved every part of the wild challenges the CDT presents. Boomer will tell you the whole thing was my idea.
Dean: It takes a lifetime of wilderness skills and experiences and combines them into one big adventure. I grew up on the Continental Divide and have always dreamed of documenting life on the trail.
What will be your starting base weight at the beginning of your trip (all carried weight in your pack, minus consumables like water, food and fuel)? What will your Max weight be with everything?
Morgan: I would like to take this opportunity to provide false information about my base weight. It was 12 lbs. But since I stand behind truth, I will tell you the scale read 22, but I weighed it with food, so. Pack weight has fluctuated a ton on the CDT since the Bootheel, where there is no water, and the Gila River, where this is arguably too much water. In the Bootheel, my pack felt around 50 lbs. It probably wasn’t, but oh the pain of water weight.
Dean: My base weight is meaningless to me since it’s changed so much over the course of this trip. I guess it was around 12. I actually never really understood what’s important about base weight. I’d rather just get on the scale and see what everything weighs. It’s like, “Here’s your base weight — okay, now add 12 pounds of water.” In New Mexico, it’s like 50 freakin’ pounds.
Tell us more about what you are looking to get out of your CDT hike this year?
Morgan: To become a more knowledgeable, experienced and innovative outdoors woman. I’d like to hone my adaptability and patience, because part of the trail is that things don’t always go your way. Actually, things don’t go your way a lot of the time, and I hope this trip will give me a more levelheaded approach to life challenges and problem solving. The CDT tests every wilderness skill you have, your nerves and will expose your weaknesses. But it also makes you much stronger person.
Dean: To strip everything away and gain some clarity about the stage of life I’m in. I also love physical challenge, and this is about as physical as it gets.
What Luxury items will you be carrying that aren’t critical to your survival or safety?
Morgan: Biodegradable toilet paper that I do pack out because leave no freakin’ trace. I don’t know. There’s probably of a ton of crap I don’t need to survive, but still carry with me. I do value my hygiene on the trail, so I may carry a few more face wipes that other people.
Dean: My down booties — but not in New Mexico.
What skill you would like to learn that would help you on the trail?
Morgan: Improving terrain association on maps while navigating. Navigation is a big part of the CDT because there are so many different routes and alternates you can take. It truly is a “hike your own hike” kind of deal. But, again, there isn’t really a trail some of the time, so you have to know where you’re at.
Dean: Ditto on the navigation. Probably my biggest weakness on the trail. And food planning, but you never truly nail that one down.
What is 1 personal strength you feel will help you most on the trail?
Morgan: Navigation, because obviously Boomer can’t navigate us anywhere.
What is 1 personal weakness that will conflict with this strength?
Morgan: Waking up in the AM. I am NOT a morning person, but getting in those miles before the heat of the day hits or the afternoon storms roll in is crucial. Can’t navigate anywhere if you’re still sleeping in the bag.
Dean: Age. I’m 65. Gotta keep up with Morgan, who is the navigator. If I can’t keep up, I can’t navigate. So.... If I get left behind, I get lost and she has to come back and find me. Also — I tend to overthink things, particularly water.
Name 1 person, a trail celebrity or other, who has inspired you most to get on the trail.
Morgan + Dean: A unanimous Liz Thomas, super-hiker. Amazing role model and such a down-to-earth woman who has really made an awesome career and hiking legacy for herself.
Name 1 animal you have seen or would most like to see on the trail.
Morgan: I seem to stumble across many a striped Whip snake. We always make eye contact, but dang they’re fast to GTFO. I’d love to see a rattlesnake... Or even a Grizz. Maybe not a Grizz. But definitely from about 500 yards away. Predators are fascinating, no?
Dean: A mountain lion. Morgan always scares the snakes away before I can get there though.
What lessons can we take from the wilderness, and how can we apply them to Urban life?
Morgan: Forget about all the material things in life. Everything you have out here gets dirty, wet, sandy, dusty, covered in mud, breaks, gets lost, falls off a mountain or floats down a river. It’s all just crap at the end of the day. We aren’t defined by what we have, but who we are and what we can contribute to the world. The wilderness really gives you time to be your truest self and really get to know who you are. I think the great thing about the CDT is it challenges you so much, you always come out a better person on the other side. We all go through challenges in life, so learning to accept them as things that will only make us better is kind of a life-altering mentality.
Dean: Simplicity, flexibility, acceptance, surrender — especially when it comes to walking up the river and just getting your freakin’ boots soaked already. Embrace it.
Tell us how we can connect with you and your organizations on all of your social networks:
Morgan: I’m an Instagram junkie, so you can follow me at @morgandzak, or Boomer and I made a great joint account — @greatdividehikers — since we’re trail ambassadors for the Continental Divide Trail Coalition. We post a lot about other hikers on the trail and in the CDT’s gateway communities. My blog is morgandzak.com, although it’s been tough to update lately.
Dean: You can follow my personal Instagram at @dkrakel and my website is deankrakel.com.