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.

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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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Day 133, Goodbye Stehekin, Hello Mountains

Daily mileage: 25 (plus 2 much needed bakery miles)
Mile 2580-2605

I couldn't very well leave Stehekin without one more stop at the bakery so Caveman and I walked over when they opened at 7 am. That way I had an hour to drink some coffee, eat too much, and enjoy the atmosphere before hopping on the morning shuttle and heading out. What a great start to the morning.
Waved goodbye to Caveman and Wrong Way and off I went. I chatted with folks on the shuttle and by the time I actually started hiking around 9:30 I found I had picked up a section hiker named Dan. That's okay, company isn't always a terrible thing.
So away we went, towards the old washed out road (okay okay it's not the official PCT route but it mirrors the trail, just next to the river and I wanted to see it). First bit was beautiful and easy, then we hit the unmaintained bit, some interesting rock scrambling and climbing but I stayed dry.

The rock climbing and overgrown trail started to get old so about 4 miles in we found a side trail that took us back to the PCT. At which point I lost Dan because I decided as nice as company is I really prefer mostly hiking alone, particularly this section. Not that I think I will come to any mind blowing epiphanies hiking alone, I just wanted the time to think, reflect, and just zone out without feeling the need to entertain anyone with small talk.

Then it was 12 or so miles of a rolling climb, following rivers up valleys and staring at clouds. Pretty sweet.

First cache I've seen in ages right before Rainy Pass. Regardless of what's in them you gotta love a trail cache, they always make me smile.

Crossed the highway at the pass and then it was time for one more 2000 ft climb up towards Cutthroat Pass. Man this has been a crowded section, but it's fun talking gear and trail, especially with people who are so excited about it.
This area is so beautiful, mountains and clouds are hard to beat as far as I'm concerned, throw in a sunset and you're golden.

Up and over cutthroat pass, the wind was whipping and the scenery was outstanding.

I could have kept going but it gets dark so early lately and it was such a great view I figured why not. Plus it was so cold. 42 degrees with wind when I started setting up the tent and 39 by the time I was done. Maybe those extra 1 or 2 miles would have been nice but right now snug in my sleeping bag warming my numb fingers I don't mind that it's still light out and only 8. Now to make dinner and not freeze my fingers off in the process.

55 miles to the border...

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