The LHT is an excellent but very traditional geometry. If it was made today it would probably have a sloping top tube for better ergonomics but thats another story. We love the Cross Checks, they were good enough for touring The States and S even uses hers in The Alps. Currently E´s Cross Check runs as a descent cross bike, which answers Your question. You don`t want to go riding fast or crossing on the LHT. We went with doubles in front. S on Shimano and E on Campy. Some say triples is a must but we don´t care. Less gears make You stronger. Touring is not about the bike but get a Cross Check (Or Genesis Croix de Fer ;)) if You want to have fun off touring. Good Luck
The seasons will give You the answer. Crossing the Rockey’s or Sierras too early in the season will get You frostbites. Too late it might be too warm. We followed the spring from March in Austin to July along the west coast and loved almost every day. We used Adventure Cycling Associations cycling maps. Worth the bucks if You ask us. We followed The Southern Tier, Grand Canyon Connector, The Great Divide, Pacific Route and a few more, built our tour as we went along. You`ll meet so many people telling You what not to miss, doing plans too meticulously is a waste of time. Time depends on budget and speed. Training is not necessary unless You never ridden a bike before, You will get fit along the way, we promise! Set a date, tell Your friends, plan 3 days ahead and just go!