Itinerate hiker: Retired surgeon explores, volunteers on CDT

Eric White has hiked 8,500 miles. And his favorite mileage has been along the Continental Divide Trail. It’s what brings him to Butte, Montana every summer to volunteer on crews improving the trail. White, a retired orthopedic surgeon who lives in Williamstown, Mass., spends part of his summers in Butte volunteering with AmeriCorps to improve the trail.

He first became acquainted with Butte in 2008 when he became lost on the infamously poorly marked CDT. He bumped into Jocelyn Dodge, recreation forester with the Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest, who pointed him in the right direction. But a week later, when he found he couldn’t make his way through deep snow in the Pintler Wilderness Area, he contacted Dodge and asked to be put to work.

For White, contributing a few weeks a year of his time to help build bridges, put up signs and record routes on GPS units is the least he can do. “Many hikers who have done the long trails appreciate all the help they get from others – Trail Magic,” White said. “Having experienced this, many hikers, myself included, want to give back to the trail community what we previously have received.”

White, known as “Mini Mart” in the long-distance hiking community, which is fond of bestowing nicknames on its members, said of the triple-crown Appalachian Trail, Pacific Crest and Continental Divide trails, the latter is his favorite. He hiked the AT while still working in the late 1990s and the Pacific Crest shortly after retirement.

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