Trailblazing on the Continental Divide

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On November 19, 2007

Armed with a GPS unit, Michelle Marincel, NucE’06, and Brian Payne, a senior in civil and environmental engineering, bushwacked and backtracked their way through the Medicine Bow National Forest near the Wyoming border with Colorado last summer in an effort to blaze a better trail along the Continental Divide.

Along the way, they encountered antelope, deer, badgers, mosquitos and a freak hail storm.

The pair were among more than 3,000 applicants who responded to an ad in Backpacker magazine requesting volunteers. As part of their application, Marincel and Payne submitted a video showing how they could make a snow-melting machine out of Power Bars.

Backpacker plans to use information from 300 volunteers, including Marincel and Payne, to create a comprehensive Continental Divide Trail website with an interactive map, notes, images, water location, markers and GPS coordinates.

“We started out at about 11,000 feet,” says Marincel, a graduate student in environmental engineering at UMR. “Then we ended up hiking through beautiful meadows and sagebrush.”

They hiked 15 miles the first day without water. Their total trip lasted five days and covered more than 50 miles.

“At one point we could see a storm on the horizon,” says Marincel. “There was no shelter and we were on an old overgrown sheep trail. It was kind of exciting. We were really forging a new trail. There were no markers.”

“We hope Backpacker’s project makes information on the CDT more accessible and encourages people to get out and hike it,” says Payne. “When the trail is finally complete, we look forward to being able to point to a 50-mile stretch in the Wyoming wilderness and say we mapped that.”

Watch the video that got Marincel and Payne chosen for Backpacker’s quest at

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On November 19, 2007. Posted in News, Winter 2007