In a little over a month I will be embarking on a trip that I have been dreaming about for years. I will be traveling for six months on a 10,000 mile journey through the West and Mountain West of the United States and into Canada. I started planning the details of this trip in November of last year and after four years of University, I can say without a doubt this is the biggest research project I have ever endured.
The internet has been a fantastic resource for planning and I am truly thankful for the wealth of information now available at my finger tips. I have accumulated files upon files and folders upon folders of information, maps, guides, and calendars that I have been compiling since the very beginning. Offline I have collected maps, atlases, and guide books to a similar degree. Planning this trip has been a particularly onerous task, because I plan to spend the majority of time in the backcountry. Backpacking days into the wilderness requires an entirely different system of planing. It is no longer just where you will go and how you will get there but the planning factors begin to multiply several fold once you step off a paved road. You have to consider how long it will take you to get to camp each day accounting for altitude, elevation change, hiking conditions, etc. You have to plan where to camp, where to get water, and be in accordance with all regulations. Considering all this I have been printing custom topographical maps at the CSU Library for cheap, saving myself a good chunk of change, but I must warn that maps are only useful if you know how to read them and navigate.
The trickiest part of the whole things is to be well prepared while maintaining a degree of flexibility. On a journey this long things are bound to happen. In response I have a created very fluid schedule of options. The dates I have permits for are pretty much set in stone but everything in between, which is about 80%, can be changed and adapted as need be. Any one who has planned a backpacking trip knows how comprehensive a simple weekend trip must be, magnify that to over 170 days and you can quickly see why this has become the biggest research project of my life.