Freezing temperatures at night; boiling desert stretches in the day; grizzly bear territory and elevations that top at 14,000 feet. Those are just a handful of the elements that Park City local Shay Blackley, 24, will face starting this April as he begins a solo trek along the 3,100 mile-long Continental Divide Trail.
Only a handful of people have traversed the entire trail, which covers 3,100 miles starting in Mexico and ending in Canada. But what sets Blackley apart is how he hopes to highlight the importance of the trail. Blackley, who grew up with Park City as his backyard, hopes to take one picture every 10 seconds for the entire length of the trail, capturing some of the wildest landscapes in the American West.
"I want to show people what the trail is. A lot of people would like to do it, but the hike can seem overwhelming," he said.
Blackley said the pictures he plans to take are a public service, which he will compile into a time lapse where people can research portions of the trail as a way to mentally prepare for it. With plans to also film an accompanying documentary, Blackley will track his solo trip. The media he is creating will serve as an effort to get people interested in hiking and maintaing the Continental Divide Trail.
"There are not many resources for this trail," he said. "The main nonprofit that helped organize volunteers and trail maintenance, all that stuff, they disbanded a little over a year ago.
"Now think, if you looked at a piece of trail in Park City and said only 10 people walk it in a year and you never do maintenance on it, that trail is probably going to erode very fast."
To fund the supplies he will need to document the trip, Blackley turned to Kickstarter, a website that uses an online pledge system to fund creative projects. For solar chargers and iPhones capable of taking and storing the photos, Blackley is hoping to raise $2,500. His campaign ends in just more than a week.
"I'm doing this hike regardless," Blackley said. "I want to get people to realize that the trail is there. It's falling into disrepair. And having this media source, people can check it out. Even something like a highlight reel on YouTube could impact how people think about this trail."
In past years, Blackley has hiked both the Pacific Crest Trail and the Appalachian Trail, among other trails, he said. He works with the snow patrol at the Park City Mountain Resort and also serves as an Outward Bound Leader Instructor. But even with his experience outdoors, Blackley admits the Continental Divide Trail will be a severe undertaking. Only 70 percent of the trail is completed, meaning at certain points he will be completely on his own.
"This means you have a map and a compass and the trail ends," he said. "You're walking through total wilderness.
"The trail motto, it's 'Embrace the Brutality.' You have to be prepared for the extremes of everything."
To help fund the project, visit www.kickstarter.org and search "A Time Lapse of America's Wilderness."