First things first - introductions: I'm Ben, I did my first long-distance hiking this year when I thru-hiked the PCT, TRT and Wonderland Trail. I'd originally planned for all that hiking to be a post-undergrad 'vacation' of sorts, after which I'd get a job and become a responsible adult. But it didn't take me long after starting the PCT to figure out that hiking is the superior lifestyle, which is why I'm now planning a bigger and badder (than the PCT) hike for 2011. I just joined BPL earlier today hoping to increase my ultralight knowledge before starting said hike.
Now, the reason for this post. The hike next year involves getting from Arches National Park (eastern terminus of the Hayduke Trail) to the Continental Divide Trail in Colorado. I'm almost entirely unfamiliar with that area but based on some suggestions I've received I mapped out a rough draft of a route to connect those two points. I'm posting the route here with the hopes that anyone more familiar with the area than I am can weigh in on the route and offer up some feedback. I'm open to anything: alternate route suggestions, hazards or issues I might not foresee as a stranger to the area, praise for good areas on the route, criticism of not so good areas, etc. The route can be viewed at: http://goo.gl/AfBh
Additionally, here's a verbal rundown of the route for extra detail:
-Starts near Tower Arch in Arches NP (approximately where the previous section of my hike - the Hayduke Trail - terminates) then heads through Devil's Garden and Fiery Furnace, stops by Delicate Arch before exiting the park, and heads cross country towards the Highway 128 bridge near the mouth of Dolores River. Pros = the route will tour the NP some more, offering more sightseeing and travel on trails; it crosses the Colorado River via a bridge; it's fairly direct and shouldn't be too difficult to navigate. Cons = paucity of water but that's pretty unavoidable given the general area
-Follows the Dolores River up to Gateway, taking jeep roads near the river when available, cross country when roads are not available or sticking to roads would go too far out of the way. Pros = scenic Dolores Gorge; route-finding should be easy; water availability won't be an issue; swings me through Gateway for resupply. Cons = none that I see
-Take roads/trails from Gateway to the Divide Road on the Unc Plateau, follow Divide Road to Dallas Divide area. Pros = most direct route along the Unc Plateau that I saw, basically takes me in exactly the direction I'd like to be going; relatively level and easy to hike terrain once you climb to the plateau, it looks like the Divide Road follows the edge of the plateau and should have good views looking west. Cons = lots of road (albeit unpaved) walking, not ideal or my favorite; water scarcity on the plateau but from Google Earth it looks like there are several reservoirs scattered around.
-Head south from Dallas Divide to the Dallas Trail and take it towards the Blue Lakes Basin, cross over Blue Lakes Pass into Yankee Boy Basin, follow Canyon Creek drainage down to Ouray. Pros = incredibly scenic from what I've read; should be physically challenging; dramatic topography should make navigating easier; swings through Ouray for resupply. Cons = snow'll be highly likely when I'm there
-From Ouray travel on roads or cross country through San Juans to the east of Silverton where I can pick up the CDT. Pros = scenic; challenging. Cons = challenging; snow highly likely
***Note - in the GE route posted here, the route is shown following roads all the way from Ouray to the CDT near Stony Pass Peak & Canby Mountain. I mapped an alternate route to this that goes more cross country through the mountains immediately west of the road-route shown in GE