Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Gear Part II

Endless apologies to you faithful blog readers who are thinking, what the heck is wrong with this girl, why won’t she just finish the silly gear review already? Well enough procrastinating,  here it is; I’m sure I've forgotten things but I think this as thorough as its ever going to be…

So what do you want to wear for the next five months? Remember, some days it will be over 100 degrees and others will be below freezing (seriously 17 degrees with gusting wind is cold!) but mostly you will have sunny hot days and chilly nights. Weather is fairly mild on the PCT but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. I got snowed on, rained on, walked through constant mist and just generally baked in the sun. So what does this all mean clothing wise? Be versatile, layers are your friend! If you like pockets than make sure you have pockets, if you’re bra didn’t fit before you left chances are its going to be annoying on the trail too. Listen to your gut and remember common sense.
I remember stressing about shorts versus pants, button down shirt or T shirt. Why are there ever so many options? Headbands, hats, visors what the heck is a sane person to do? I think this is just a big personal preference thing. Logically I knew light colors make more sense in the heat and long sleeves and pants protect you from sun/bugs but personally I just can’t do pants. I tried, I really did, but am just so much happier in shorts. And with only one basic outfit I want happiness, so I hiked in shorts. I went for some durable ones I found on closeout at Patagonia and they lasted the whole hike, I like running shorts but they are so much more prone to ripping that I tried something different for this trip.
Overall I liked hiking in shorts; I had two pockets and a drawstring, things I hadn’t thought much about but that I loved. One pocket usually had a map or a snack and the other was my dirty pocket. Okay this might be in the TMI area but I’m a big fan of a pee rag, its exactly what it sounds like and a word to the wise if you see bandanas on the trail proceed with caution, I am by no means the only female out on the trail making use of one and they have a habit of getting dropped.

just a bit of the classy trail fashion
I did wear a big baggy long sleeved Ex-officio button down shirt and while it was serviceable I sort of hated it. I’m not a big fan of long sleeves but at least I loved the front pocket. I had mesh vents on the sides and I think I stayed as dry/cool as could be expected. I stopped wearing it around crater lake when I started battling heat rash and switched to my long underwear top which I actually really liked except for the stench. Polyester has a very rank smell but my baselayer shirt was by RAB made of something called cocona. I think it’s a mix of merino and synthetic and when I was hiking I would smell like a dead sheep. However it had the neat trick not reeking when it was dry, and it dried super quickly. So just keep your distance if I’m sweating… As for next time what will I wear, well I’m not so quick to jump back on the button down bandwagon but we’ll see. I watched merino shirts shred in less than 1000 miles while my ex officio was actually still going strong. I think it will depend on the trip, mosquitoes bite through merino stuff but not the synthetic…
I carried a pair of light pants that I very occasionally wore as well as baselayer tights that I wore less than ten times. They were occasionally bug protection or laundry clothes. But I was glad I carried them even though I so rarely used them. Next time I might try wind pants instead of a pair of long pants but the baselayer is a must for those really cold times.
I carried a wind shirt that I used quite frequently, it’s a great layering piece and I really enjoyed having it. I did carry a rainjacket for the second half of the trip but it was mostly dead weight.
I had a hooded down jacket by Montbell because I get cold. I liked the hood and was pretty happy with the jacket although the zipper didn’t work for over 1000 miles and then whatever invisible dust was jamming it finally fell out. I would go through hundreds of miles never using it but I loved having it when it was really chilly. Useful in unexpected places, who knew Tehachapi would be freezing? I was very happy with the jacket but I think I’m leaning towards something synthetic for my next hike just due to my paranoia about things getting drenched. I hiked with some people with the Patagonia Nanopuff and I’m pretty sure that will be my next choice if I can find it on sale.
my classy sun hat with all
my hair jammed underneath

Hats, this is a big one. I love hats. They can be ever so useful. I had a sun hat for ages but lost it near Mt. Rainer. It was incredibly ugly but kept my nose and ears from being sunburned and did its job. I even managed to look slightly less shabby when I realized I could (and should) wash it whenever I did laundry. Alas it is now in a bush somewhere. After that I picked up a visor in Shasta which worked okay. I had met a lot of folks who did the visor/bandana trick (protect neck/ears with bandana tucked under visor as needed) but I think I needed a bigger brim. My nose kept getting sunburnt. But not too fear I lost that visor too and found a classy beige visor with a massive brim that served me well the rest of the trip. Although I think I wore a sun hat less and less frequently as the trip progressed I would never do without one totally.

I also had a fancy shmancy warm hat (down and ever so light) that I managed to lose coming over one of the passes in the Sierras. Being bright red didn’t help, I still managed to drop it and the trail never brought it back to me. I managed to pick up a warm hat from a hiker box in Sierra City. A very stylish pink floppy thing that was about three times too big (as I do not have dred locks) but it made me smile and kept me warm all the way until Canada. Having two different hats worked well for me, I also carried a buff (yes the one of survivor fame) and I loved that thing as well. It was a lifesaver for my cold ears (especially after I had lost my warm hat), I started most mornings with the buff and only slept in the warm hat. It seems like a lot for just your head but I used all three throughout the trip and would do so again.

Socks, oh socks you were a trial. Somewhere during the second half of my hike I complained to my lovely support person (thank you mom you honestly were fantastic) that all my socks had holes. Seriously I was carrying 4 pairs and every single one had massive holes and my next resupply box arrived with the cryptic phone message, “I hope I didn’t send too many socks.” Well who am I to turn down perfectly serviceable socks? The thing is you can hike in seemingly busted socks for a pretty darn long time as long as they aren't causing blisters. So I headed out from that resupply with seven pairs of socks! And the day before the border I pulled on a brand spanking new fluffy pair because I refused to show up at the border with unworn socks. Ounces count but I became so much less picky as the miles passed.

Is it bad that these were some of
my better looking socks?
what happens when you wear mesh running
shoes and no gaiters...

I tried lots of brands and styles. Darn tough are awesome but do wear through and can too thick or me, Defeet wear through quickly but not as quickly as wrightsocks, those things didn’t last a week, and I put a ton of holes in smartwools too. I think a great trick for saving socks is frequent rinsing and gaiters, oh and not letting them roll off a bridge, that helps too.
Gaiters: I used a pair of dirty girls and loved them until they fell apart and I was just too lazy to replace them. Its amazing how much junk gets into your shoes. Nice and lightweight highly recommended. 

pair number 3 all bright and shiny, pair number 2 with
800 or so miles on them
I wore brooks road runners, a total of 4 pairs. One pair is still getting use now that I’m back home. I wore two different models all in extra wide and a bit big. I had foot trouble starting around sierra city and blame the shoes, my feet had changed and the shoes offered too much support. It took hundreds of miles for my Achilles to be even somewhat normal (although two months out they are now 100% back to normal, woohoo). If you want to wear hiking boots go for it, but it’s not a technical trail and trail runners or road runners are just fine. Websites like Zappos are your best friend, call and shoes will be waiting in the next town, so simple.

Camp shoes, I carried mary jane style crocs. Say what you will I love camp shoes and am not yet ready to part with them. Lots of people forgoe these but not me just yet. I actually hiked a few hundred miles in them when my feet were giving me trouble and was beyond thankful for their cushy loveliness. 

Trekking Poles
I used them until the sierras and then carried them for miles. When my feet started giving me trouble I went back to using them and was glad I hadn’t sent them home. Poles can be fun, they can really help you haul butt up hill and take some stress of your knees going down. I do hate how you lose use of your hands though, snacking is just not quite as easy.

Water Filtration
I’m going to be totally honest here; I filtered my water very rarely. I was vigilant in So Cal using my sawyer squeeze filter up until Idyllwild when I lost it in a hitch. The next stretch I was supposed to be hiking with people who were going to let me use their filter but during the day of mission creek I was thirsty and alone so I started the slippery slope of not filtering. I judged water sources and if they looked really awful I would still filter. Then right after Kennedy meadows my second sawyer filter froze and stopped working and I gave up. I treated my water once the entire rest of the trip. Yes people get Giardia and other nasty bugs but quite often its from bad hand hygiene not bad water. So this is very much your own decision but it worked okay for me. That being said I will carry backup chemicals like aquamira, sweetwater drops or bleach on my next trip because there were times when I carried extra water because I didn’t trust sources and I was just pretty lucky and I know that.

What a surprising piece of gear! I thought I would chuck this thing at my first town stop but carried it the whole way. It was useful in sun, rain and snow. Depending on where you are planning your next trip stick this thing in your sternum strap and be pleasantly surprised. Wind is a deal breaker and it does mess with your peripheral vision but overall I really liked it.

First Aid Kit
In other words a ziplock bag full of odds and ends. A roll of tape, Vaseline, dental floss, a needle, a lighter and Ibuprofen got the most use. There were a few other things periodically in there but that really covered all my bases.

A few other odds and ends
I carried a few bandanas, mostly to jam behind my back when I got a terrible heat rash but also just to wipe my poor sweaty face, handy things. Just tie within reach and you are good to go. Also carried a bug net, may not have used it often but I appreciated the sanity it brought.

I carried Halfmiles maps ( They are free to download, just cost the money to print. I love having papermaps so was glad I had these. Often I never used them but I liked the security of maps. Southern California in particular was well covered and accurate, less so farther north with some annoying inconsistencies. I know that Halfmile had people out this year updating the GPS coordinates so hopefully some of that will get fixed.  

Iphone Apps
Along with my phone and maps I did have some handy apps on my phone that I highly recommend.
Its in its first year but Guthook, a previous PCT thruhiker has created apps for navigation. They have maps and pictures and my favorite were the lists of things on the trail, similar to halfmile you have lots of info about water and intersections and such. Still some kinks and mistakes but the ability to use it as GPS could be really fun too. Yes it takes some of the mystery out of the trail but if you want mystery than just don’t use the thing. He has split them into sections and I think they cost $5 each (a total of 5: socal, sierras, norcal, OR and WA). To each his own but I enjoyed them. 

Guthooks app
watching your gps dot on
guthooks app


Halfmile also has an app that a lot of people like and PCTHYOH has a ton of info in one little package.
Non-trail related check out photosynch for panoramic pictures and I used the Blogpress app to blog from my phone. It was much easier to use photo wise than the actual blogger app and apparently works with different Blog hosting sites. I would just type them offline and then post whenever I got service. My only glitch was movies wouldn’t upload, still no clue why not.

Good lord that was a lot of rambling! If I was carrying anything else I can’t remember it so that’s it, I’ll try to do one more little thing about food but at the rate I’m going no promises. Thanks for reading.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Gear Part I

Oh gear, where to even start. Before you get to caught up just remember a certain piece of gear will not guarantee you getting to the border, this hike was more of a mental game than anything else (at least for me). I remember getting ready for this trip, poring over websites and plaguing friends with questions. Reading all the blogs and gear forums and wandering around stores was always fun. Gear seemed so critical and overwhelming but really the gear worked itself out. Once you're out there you either make it work or throw it away. I appreciated the research I had done but you've heard it a million times, what works for me might not work for you. These are just my opinions and hopefully they can at least entertain you as you stare at all of your millions of options. 

It's going to be easier if your lighter but personally I found that while ultralight sounds great, I’m more of a lightweight backpacker. My base weight seemed stuck in the 12-15 lb range although I only weighed my pack 3 times the whole trip mostly I’m mostly just guessing. 

My gear stayed pretty much the same throughout the trip although I did mail things home and of course had to replace all the things I lost or broke on the trail.

So I guess lets start with the basics:

Backpack: ULA Circuit

The backpack is pretty critical on a trip this long, I kept the thing the whole trail but I’m pretty sure it won’t be my choice on my next thruhike. Overall it’s a great pack, usually bigger than I needed, it carried the weight well (pretty sure at its heaviest it was in the 35-40 lb range in the sierras and on super long water carries). The shoulder straps were pretty comfy and I am in love with the giant hipbelt pockets. The pack was fairly durable, some fraying in a few spots and the mesh on the outer pack ripped but it all stayed functional, it’s a great pack and was very popular this year.
I was pretty happy with how the pack fit and I think I want a slightly smaller pack for my next trip so I’m pretty sure I’ll go with the ULA ohm. First because it’s smaller and second because of its backpanel. The biggest problem I had with the circuit was the mesh back panel. Somewhere before Crater Lake I started getting a really nasty heat rash in the shape of my backpack. Hosing off the pack and changing shirts helped but it remained an issue the rest of the trip. Balling up a bunch of bandanas between my pack and my back helped me make it, that and a whole lot of Vaseline. An experience I would dearly like to avoid ever having again. Overall ULA and osprey seemed like the biggest presence on the trail this year.

note the lovely chewed straps courtesy of
mystery rodent in the night

Sleeping bag: Western Mountaineering 20 degree bag
Solid bag, it seemed super popular this year and treated me well. I was only cold once or twice and that was fixed by adding a layer or 2. Was definitely too hot but that’s the beauty of zippers. But quilts sure do seem tempting for the weight savings…

okay maybe I would be warmer if I actually got in it the right
way but this was so much faster!

Sleeping bag liner: Cocoon Silk Liner
This right here turned out to be one of my very favorite pieces of gear. I’ve never used one before and wasn’t really expecting much but it was fantastic. I even ended up liking that it was white, who knew? Turns out it makes a great scarf, a sweet layer of shade in burning sun (white has its uses!) and of course helped keep me warm and my sleeping bag clean. Multipurpose is so handy. I put a rip in it the day before sierra city but the trail provided as usual and at the red moose inn I was able to get it patched and good as new. If you are on the fence about a liner just do it, its only 4 ounces and so worth the weight.

Tent: Tarptent Notch
I don’t regret carrying a tent but I avoided using it whenever possible. I saw a lot of the zpacks tents out there (and I saw a lot of broken down cuben fiber gear out there too…) but I was perfectly happy with my choice. I wish it was lighter but don’t we all. It held up in crazy wind (I pitched it badly and it was loud but never fell down), I stayed dry in serious rain and light snow. Although it was my very favorite when I set it up and was able to hide from the hellacious mosquitoes. I set the thing up less than 10 times the whole trip but did have problems with the zipper. One of my zippers became very touchy only a few pitches in. I’m sure it got grit in it and I know tarptent will fix it once I get it together to send it to them but still, it was annoying fighting a zipper when you have to pee and its cold outside after so few uses. It’s a solid one person tent, I would say I would tarp and bivy next time but even just those 3 or so times I hid from bugs make the extra weight worth it.

Groundcloth: sheet of Tyvek

Did its job just fine, although if you are going to throw it over you in the rain be aware that its waterproofing capabilities do wear off. Keeps you dry on wet ground but not from rain coming down after 2000 miles of use.

Sleeping pad: Zrest

By the end there was virtually no padding left but it was a handy insulation layer and it was still more cushy than the bare ground. This pad worked just fine for me although quite a few people swear by their inflatable ones. Those Neoairs are noisy! I loved that I could just throw it down and never worry. Nevertheless if you are a sensitive sleeper this is probably not for you.

Toss it down and immediately have a sweet nap spot


Stove: Caldera Cone

Pot: Evernew 900

Okay so I used my stove two whole times before Kennedy Meadows so I sent it home because I was sick of carrying gear I wasn’t using. It did its job just fine but I found I had no desire to cook and often didn’t think it was that safe with the wind and fire danger anyway. Stoveless worked great for me until I decided that Washington would be more fun with hot food. I was getting burnt out on my food choices and hot food sounded appealing in its variety. I still prefer stoveless but I enjoyed mixing it up at the end.
I think any alcohol stove would work but I really like the Caldera Cone and will probably use it again. My pot was a perfectly good size, no complaints there. Still the stove and cone seemed a little prone to denting so I did end up making it so everything fit in the pot and was contained in one place. I never had trouble finding alcohol, I’m sure it was in stores but I was lucky enough to find it in every single hiker box in Washington.

Food Bag: Ursak
Not sure it was needed on this trail but I liked the peace of mind it gave me. Kept my food safe and rodent free, a little heavy but I was happy with it.

Okay these can cause some nasty arguments out there but seriously folks calm down. You often hear people nicely saying hike your own hike but it seems like they often don’t mean it and hikers can seem pretty darn judgy out there. Get over yourself people, we all go out there for different reasons and I like my maps and yes horror of horrors I occasionally like GPS and music. Shoot sometimes I had headphones on with nothing playing because I was too lazy to take them out or I just didn’t want to make small talk. Leave people to their own devices and if you are so against them don’t carry them, oh and don’t get all self righteous and then two minutes later ask to see my GPS. Not cool guys, not cool. Okay enough of that rant here goes:

Iphone: I got this right before the trip and it was quite the learning curve. But I’ll admit it, I ended up loving it. It became my phone, journal, camera, music player, and my main source of map/data. I had at&t and it worked pretty well until Washington, then I was pretty much out of luck. I was very happy with this choice and I don’t see why I won’t be dragging it on my next trip. Although one tip: airplane mode! That phone eats batteries so you do have to watch your usage.

Power: speaking of batteries one of the biggest questions I got was, wait how do you charge your phone? Solar my friend, solar. Solar works great, except in the tree covered land that is often the Pacific Northwest, oh well I had no service anyway. But seriously solar worked pretty well.

Powermonkey explorer: I got this based on some other people’s recommendations and was really not happy with it. It does its job but slowly and unreliably. The cords were finicky and it was very slow to charge. I had access to another charger and after seeing some other hikers with it I eventually swapped it out.

Goal Zero: so much better, yes its heavy but by Northern CA I really just didn’t care. I wanted my stupid phone to work and this thing was so much more reliable than the powermonkey. Plus if you charged the battery pack with a wall outet in town I often didn’t even need to use the solar portion, it had enough juice to last me 3-5 days with conservative use. Still not sure what I will use next time but this was better than my first option; guess it will be dependent on what trail I head for.

Camera: Panasonic Lumix
Lens cover jammed within two weeks and stopped working. That dusty desert is no joke. You all can judge the effectiveness of my iphone camera since that’s what all my pictures ended up being taken with. Not amazing but totally satisfactory in my opinion. I’m no professional photographer and they are really just for my memories so if I carry my phone next trip no separate camera will be coming.

Mp3 player: sansa clip
I loved the idea of this thing, lasted for ages battery wise and I wouldn’t cry if I lost it due its cheapness. However I ended up just using my phone because the thing decided to first not recognize the microsd card which meant I only got radio and then it stopped working entirely. All over the course of a few hundred miles, it’s really not worth replacing anything that often in my opinion. So yeah that was a fail, the phone used more battery but at least it never stopped working.

Flashlight: petzyl tikka plus headlamp
Well I used it once in 700 hundred miles so it was sent home at Kennedy Meadows. Worked fine but was dead weight. I used my phone for light one night which was hilarious and pretty darn ineffective but probably funny to anyone who watched me stumble by. The goal zero battery pack had an amazing little LED light that ended up being my go to light for night hiking. I’ll probably just try to find a little LED light for my next trip, never saw the need for more.

Extra Gear for the Sierras:
It was a light snow year so the microspikes, down socks and other possible warm things were never used at all. Just sitting in a box gathering dust waiting for another adventure. I never bought an ice axe so no loss there. Only special gear I ended up using in the sierras was my bear can.

Bear Can: Bear Vault
This was required so yes I carried it and gladly mailed that sucker home the minute I got to Echo Lake. Heavy and cumbersome I am not a fan, but I dislike fines and bears being shot so I follow this rule. It messes with how you pack and simply isn’t big enough for most resupplies. It does make a lovely stool though…

Okay this is getting ridiculously long so it looks like this gear review will be in two parts, clothing and such will have to wait for another day.

Monday, October 1, 2012

A few post trail thoughts

I went on a hike the other evening and felt comfort as the darkness settled around me. Picking my way down the trail in the dusk brought me a peace that I have found hard to come by now that I am off the trail. It’s been almost a month since I stepped off the trail and I am unfortunately 100% back in the real world.
The first few days were the toughest. Sitting in a house and being shuttled tourist style around British Columbia should have been wonderful but instead it was just shocking. On the drive from Manning Park after an hour in a cramped car I found myself dizzy and hyperventilating in the small space. I've never had trouble with car sickness or any kind of culture shock, but then again I've never been away from my life for 4 ½ months. I had pretty much discounted any type of culture shock, brushing it off and thinking it just sounded dramatic. But I fell into that one head first, big groups, constant noise and the simple lack of walking was overwhelming for me. It was exciting having things like kitchens, grocery stores and water. And I’m not going to lie, my body was pretty happy for the rest. But I miss the trail.

The simplicity of waking up every morning and knowing that all you have to do is walk is gone. Everywhere I turn I am forced to make decisions; I am having a surprisingly hard time with this. Restaurant menus and grocery stores offer more choices than I can handle and let’s not even get into the whole life/career decision thing. If I can’t pick what I want for lunch I think I’m going to have a bit of trouble planning the next year or two of my career.

The last miles into Manning Park I spent daydreaming about what’s next. The Continental Divide Trail draws me; it’s basically a burlier version of the PCT. It follows the Continental Divide along the Rocky Mountains and traverses five states — Montana, Idaho, Wyoming, Colorado, and New Mexico. Then there is the Appalachian Trail over on the east coast running from Georgia to Maine, plus a million other less official adventures I've come up with. But realistically I have no idea, the stability of homes and jobs are awfully nice. Being back and working I can see how easy it will be to slowly slip back into couch potato working land. I've met a few thru hikers who've struggled with post trail depression and I don’t want to fall into that trap. Hopefully day hikes and bike rides can keep me sane, I think it’s time for me to pick up a few new hobbies… The trail itself already seems like a distant memory. A great memory, but in a way it feels like it didn't even happen.

Well enough of my pity party, I got to spend a season hiking from Mexico to Canada, what a fantastic journey. If you are considering it go for it, section, thru, day hike. Whatever makes you happy but get out onto the trail, it’s a magical place. 

A video or 9...

Videos are always fun, just like pictures they never really capture everything but they give a little bit of a different perspective. I tried putting them in the blog along the way but they rarely loaded so I picked a bunch to entertain anyone still reading this thing. Sometimes its just me talking to myself (that's what happens when you spend so much time alone) and there are a few of some other hiker trash. 

This was our sledding adventure right after Forester Pass, Cheese was our guinea pig on some Tyvek...

One of my big days in the Sierra, over Pinchot then Mather Pass

The area right before Sonora Pass

And you thought all the water in the wilderness came from lakes and streams...

Near McKenzie Pass (Sisters, OR)

Ramona Falls (day after Timberline)

Across the Bridge of the Gods and into Washington

 Morning views

A glimpse of Goat Rocks, and honestly this was before the insane knife ridge gorgeousness

Log crossing of the Suiattle, Kombucha and then Toast heading across

Getting close to Canada!

I love Washington

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Manning Park

Sorry for the delay, I still have a few more entries I wanted to get to but traveling and being overwhelmed by the world has slowed me down a bit. There will be a wrap up and some gear talk, and thanks to everyone for reading and commenting its been amazing to know people are actually following me along on this thing. Bear with me for just a bit longer, I'm not quite done yet.


I woke up in the middle of the night and stared at the full moon. In just a few hours I would be packing up for the last time. The excitement is a little more bittersweet now. It's cold and beautiful out and I'm sad that tonight I'll be in a house in a city miles from the trail.

The thing about the border monument is, its in the middle of the forest. You yell and jump around and then as you calm down you have to laugh because the nearest major road is almost 9 miles away in a place called Manning Park, Canada. Yes you are done, but you aren't really done yet.
I had to face the fact that there was hiking ahead of me. Everyone slept in, but that just seems to mean 6 instead of 5. Oh what wild lives we lead. There is nothing quiet about our gear, trash bags rustle, clothing swishes, even my body audibly creaks. Basically everything we own makes noise. Noise and cold are great motivators. The thing is, when you look around and see people wearing their sleeping bags you know its cold. Sitting around eating cold trail breakfast, no thanks. Today is the first day of September and it really feels like fall.
I dragged myself out of bed and decided not to hang about. There was no rush but if I'm not moving I become frozen and I really just wanted to hike.

Across a bridge and onto some genuine Canadian trail. Definitely not PCT grade, rocks and roots and pointless ups and downs. Is this a taste of my future? (thats an AT reference by the decision made yet). But the excitement is still there and as I climb I just look at the mountains and grin.

The rest of the group passes me but I decide I want to stay hiking alone. I'm not in the mood for talking or rushing and just wander alone up the trail. A few miles later I hit the top and as the trail becomes a fire road it starts to drop down into the valley. The descent feels long, but so short too. Every time I glance at a sign or a mileage marker I realize how truly close this all is to ending. So many thoughts are running through my head. I'm happy and thinking about food (as usual) but really I'm thinking about other trails and other adventures. The Appalachian Trail and the Continental Divide Trail are debated thoroughly as I head down the mountain and no decisions are made but it's hard not to dream. The trail levels out, follows a river and there are people all over the place. Then I'm walking down a road and there it is. A giant bustling parking lot, Manning Park Canada. Talk about overwhelming. But I'm still laughing and happy and there are Caveman and the cousins and Pika. And we are all really here and have actually finished this thing.

The place seems like a giant fancy rest area and we camp out on some picnic tables, celebrating by devouring a box of peaches.

Caveman has some friends near Vancouver BC who have offered to let us stay with them and show us around but it's hours until they are picking us up. Pika gets a room at the hostel and we all shower and eat and mostly just look sort of dazed. Or maybe that's just me, it's hard to tell. We finally head back to the parking lot and an hour or so later are crammed into a car speeding away from the PCT.

What a drive. I do pretty well but about 15 minutes before our destination I start to panic a bit. I've never been one to get car sick but it's been a bit too much and I feel dizzy and jittery and all cramped up. We pile out of the car somewhere in suburbia and I breathe a deep sigh of relief. I do not like sitting in cars right now, I do know that. It's dark and past my bedtime but our hosts are so excited that we stay awake eating and talking until far too late before completely crashing.

Tonight I'm sleeping in a house in a bed. It feels amazing but so alien. Let's see how the next few days go.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Day 135, CANADA!!!

Daily mileage: 24
Mile 2636-2660
Today I was like a little kid on christmas. I kept waking up and thinking border, border, border! And then making myself go back to sleep because honestly excitement is one thing, hiking at 3 am another. I finally decided I had waited long enough and hit the trail.
I feel like fate helped with last nights camping spot decision. This morning started with a small climb. Cresting the hill, I turned from one side to see the giant moon hanging and fog swirling into a valley while to my other side was fog, mountains and the sunrise. I wish the camera could capture the smell of the air or the feeling of the chill. It was the perfect start to the day, such luck.

The trail descended into the fog and the giant moon (it's full tonight!) and sunrise was gone. Only a quiet mystical landscape of fog and forest. A few miles of rolling trail then a nice descent before heading towards Woody Pass.
Okay question of the day, if on your second to last day of a thruhike you took a break to take your jacket off and while opening your bag you watched your pot (with stove and windscreen in it) fall out of your pack and bounce down at least a hundred feet of rocky mountainside would you climb down and fetch it. I'll admit it, I came very close to just leaving the silly thing but couldn't do it. At least I got the reward of ripe huckleberries a few minutes after starting back up the trail.

Caught up with Kombucha,
Hawkeye, and his parents who are out to hike the last miles from Harts Pass to the border with them. Then it was a split as some of the guys went on the old unmaintained trail across a scree field while the rest of us took the real route which maddeningly switchbacks you down 1000 ft and then right back up to the pass. Still ended up on the other side at basically the same time, then to the top. My very last real climb on the PCT. We even hung out with some border patrol at the top, couldn't help but stop. With that view you had to stop. Side note, never thought we'd see US border patrol out here. I envy this part of their job big time. This is some amazing wilderness we are in.

Everyone was hanging out but with my gimpy foot I headed out a bit sooner than the rest. Besides, only 10 miles to the border!

Caveman caught up with me and for the rest of the day we hiked together, seeing Wrong Way on and off along the way. It was a good way to end, reflecting with friends.

Only 4 miles to go!

The glare is terrible but I wasn't waiting around for a good photo. That right there is the clear cut marking the border. We were so close, those last few switchbacks were killer. Giddy with excitement desperately looking for the monument.

And then we were done. Just like that, Wrong Way, Caveman and I were there. Yelling and jumping, climbing on the monument, and then waiting hours for the others to arrive. Just sitting there in the cold staring at that wood monument in awe, holy Moses I walked from Mexico to Canada!

Pika had been waiting there for us and within an hour Toast arrived. Then it was Cheese and the border patrol guys and finally like true champs right at dark were Hawkeye, Kombucha and Hawkeye's parents (amazing job Doll!).

We heading into Manning Park and a campsite a short distance away, made a campfire and celebrated. I can't believe I did this thing and I'm so happy I got to share the ending with so many friends. What an experience.

Fun side note: didn't count exactly but we are within the top 50 at least (probably closer to 30 but without counting I'm not sure) to finish a complete thruhike this year and I'm within the top 5 women. Not too shabby eh?

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Day 134, The last full day

Daily mileage: 31
Mile 2605-2636

This is it, my last real day on the PCT. Tomorrow I'll be at the border and officially finished with this trip. It all just seems so unreal.
Well it's chilly out this morning but no where near as cold as last night. Up walking with the sun and the mountains today. Contoured my way down and around to granite pass and then a slow climb to Methow Pass. In the shadows with everything covered in frost, it's definitely getting more like fall out here. I was lazy last night about water and have none this morning. There's nothing like passing a ton of small trickles to feel like the trail is taunting you just a bit. No worries though, I knew a real creek was 4 miles from where I camped, not far in the cold morning air. Although that icy cold water did taste good when I got there. You'd think i would have all this stuff dialed in by now. I'm going to miss drinking from streams like this, although that whole running water whenever I would like it will be pretty thrilling.

And then it was time to descend, 7 miles watching mountains and sitting in the forest. I keep catching myself just grinning at nothing. Someone told me that once you hit that Washington border you fly and this last stretch has been pretty euphoric. It doesn't hurt that it's beyond gorgeous.

Then it was back to climbing, 6 miles and 3000 ft. It was pretty exposed and about halfway up I had to stop and take a breather. My foot started bothering me pretty badly yesterday and I have no clue why. Feels a bit line a deep bruise but it's making walking a bit trickier than usual. As I'm sitting there feeling sorry for myself who should pop up but Wrong Way and Caveman. I knew they couldn't be far behind me. As usual they cheered me up and I was able to fly up the last 3 miles. Look at those views.

The flats and the downs seem to bug my foot more so after the climb I slowed a bit but it was really just a lot of contouring. Not to hard, but surprisingly crowded. Always funny how you can tell you are near a trail head.

Found the guys taking a lunch break and stopped to sit for a bit. Longest break I've taken in awhile, dried gear and just hung out. What a mellow and enjoyable afternoon.

Back to hiking, only 4 miles left until Harts Pass. That's the last official road crossing on the PCT and I'll admit I was hoping for some trail magic. Alas it was not to be. Some contouring through a burn and then a small dirt parking lot, hmm okay then. Kept going and after a bit of climbing it was back to gorgeous contouring.

I wasn't sure how far I really wanted to go but at 7 something I ran into Caveman and Wrong Way who had decided to stop early. I figured an early night would be a treat and so here I am camped 24 miles from the border and the end of this insane journey. Well okay, an end to this part of the journey.

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