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Thru-Hiking the Idaho Centennial Trail

A few Boise locals take on the 900-mile journey

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The Idaho Centennial Trail is more of an idea than a completed trail. Running from the desert bordering Nevada clear to the cool mountain forests of north Idaho, the trail covers between 900 and 1,200 miles of the state.

"I would guess 10 people have thru-hiked it," said Clay Jacobson. "In history."

Jacobson's goal this summer is to join the ranks of those ambitious hikers. On June 30, he and his girlfriend, as well as two other friends, started out on the border of Idaho and Nevada—ready to begin their hike.

The trek will take them from the canyonlands of southern Idaho to the Sawtooth Wilderness, through 300 miles of the Frank Church-River of No Return and Selway-Bitterroot wildernesses, and along the Continental Divide Trail on the Idaho-Montana border. The trail ends in the Panhandle at the border of the United States and British Columbia, Canada.

It's not exactly well maintained, though.

"There are parts in the Frank Church where no one has been back for 10 years, so the trail is just gone," Jacobson said.

His girlfriend, Kelly Bussard, isn't sure what to prepare for. According to Jacobson, she has never backpacked before, but the couple started training at the end of January.

"We've been mentally preparing for six months," he said. "This is what 10 miles feels like, this is what 20 miles feels like, what 5,000 feet of elevation gain feels like. I'm planning for myself and making sure me and Kelly make it. Everyone else is open-invitation."

Nate Malloy, who met Jacobson working as a night lifty at the Bogus Basin ski area, decided to take him up on the invite.

"I've never done a hike like this," he said. "I did all my hiking in the military, which took the fun out of it."

Malloy said he had often heard Jacobson talk about his thru-hike of the Pacific Crest Trail, which inspired him to take this hike.

"Plus, growing up in Idaho, it'll be huge to say I've walked all the way across," the 38-year-old Malloy said, "as long as I can dodge all the snakes and bears and lions. It's going to be soul-searching for me. I'm gonna knock this out before I'm 40."

The party expects to reach the trail's end in 52 days, right around Aug. 20.