Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Day 144 - It DOES Have An End!!!

Monday morning I woke up to a light dusting of icy snow on my tent, and a ton of dust that had blow inside.  There were low clouds, but off in the distance sun was beginning to poke through.  So despite a few nights with rain, I would successfully hike through Washington without having to walk in the rain.
The 10 miles to the border was fairly smooth, mostly downhill. For the first several miles the bushes were all still frozen. But as I got lower it warmed up and I got soaked again. I should have left the rain coat at home and carried rain pants instead. Or neither!

Just after 11:00 I reached the Canadian border, 2660 miles of hiking in 144 days. There were 3 other hikers there when I arrived. Each of them had just completed the whole trail as well. One was Calf, a hiker from Germany, named so for his massive hiker calves. I first met him back on day 3 of the hike. I saw him again at Kickoff and most recently at McKenzie Pass and Timberline Lodge. It was nice to see someone there I'd met before. I wish I'd been able to catch up to those I'd hiked in the desert with. I saw a bunch of names I recognized in the trail register.
The trail crosses the border in the middle of the forest. There's a 30' wide path cut through the trees along it. I'm not sure if that's just to mark it or what, but it makes the border pretty visible. There's a "Welcome to Canada" sign with a map of the trails on the Canadian side. The PCT continues on for almost 9 more miles to E C Manning Provincial Park. Part of the trail was down some old gravel roads that made the last few hours of my thru-hike pretty easy. I got a room at the lodge, a long shower, had dinner, then went for a swim in the pool, relaxed in the sauna and soaked in the hot tub. Probably still managed to have some dirt under my toenails, even after all that. It was a perfect sort of place to end the hike.

The next morning I caught a Grayhound bus to Vancouver; never been excited to ride a Grayhound bus before. That evening I rode the train down to Seattle, stayed the night in a hostel and took the train the rest of the way home the next day.

This concludes the story of my PCT thru-hike! I may do another summary post in the next week or two. I also plan on making a photo album with more pictures. Those I included in the blog were all taken with my phone. I have a lot more on my camera.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Day 143 - The Longest Day

Saturday night it rained and was very windy. Camping on top of Mathow Pass didn't provide much shelter. But my tent held up and I stayed dry. By the time I got up, around 6:30, things had calmed down, and the wind had dried out my tent somewhat. I still wasn't quite sure how far I wanted to go this day. I was 50 miles from the border, 59 from being completely done. Two big days.

I set out down the other side of the pass and after getting through the rougher areas near the top, jogged the last 3 miles to the bottom. The trail followed a big stream and had a lot of overgrown brush. I was soon soaked from the waist down. Ten miles in I took a break before starting a few miles of switchbacks up the last big climb. It was still fairly cool and cloudy but my pants began to dry out quickly once I was back out of the bushes. At the top of the climb I met a hiker named Glen who was doing Ashland to Hart's Pass, so most of OR/WA. Think he said he was 71. Age just doesn't concern some hikers. Glen had met Steve and Alice that morning and said they were planning back-to-back 40's these last couple days so they could catch the bus home a day earlier.

I met a dozen or so day-hikers in the few miles before Hart's Pass. There's a campground there and the last road you see before reaching Canada, 30 miles to the north. I took another break at a creek just past there and decided that I was going to make this, my second-to-last day on the trail, the longest day on the trail and shoot for 40 miles. There didn't appear to be any good camping at the 40 mile mark though so it was going to have to be a bit short or nearly 42.

The trail went on, miles went by, scenery continued with rocky ridges and huge glacial valleys. I got a few more miles of jogging in just before dark. Night fell with me miles beyond my normal stopping distance. Just before 9:00 I reached Rocky Pass, which was indeed rocky, and steep, and dark. I debated with myself over the safety of continuing, though maybe it was more about my sanity; 37 miles in, tiny raindrops falling, and if I go any further it would be 2+ miles before the next flat spot. Not a good place to be in the rain, especially in the dark.

But Glen had said we are not crazy, so I pushed on. And a while later I saw a light from another hiker way behind me following me across the steep slope. If I was crazy, I thought, at least I'm not the only one. I made it across to Woody Pass as tiny snowflakes started falling. It was cold and felt like it could start raining at any second. I was tired and my stomach was about to eat itself. So at 39.5-ish I decided to set up camp. It was a very long, very satisfying day that I'll probably never duplicate. If not crazy, maybe just a bit of a fanatic.

The lights behind me turned out to be Steve and Alice. I had passed them a while back as they ate dinner. So despite their 10 mile head start that morning, I managed to catch up and see them one last time. Their sights were set on the border; at 10:00 at night, 10 miles through pitch darkness, with impending rain. Glen and I may not be crazy, but I'm not sure about those two. I devoured dinner and rolled into bed for the last night on the trail.
You're probably going to have to turn off the lights and squint in order to make out anything in this last picture. It a super grainy picture of the trail going along the side of a steep rocky ridge in the pitch dark. Can't see much more while hiking in the dark with nothing around you than you can in this picture.