Mile 2,345. September 22nd, 2016. Journal Excerpt: “By the end of the day tomorrow, I will be able to start the 200 mile countdown. It’s getting surreal, the reality of being so close to the finish with only two more resupply/town days. At a certain point, it’s just a short walk into Canada. If the weather weren’t a concern, I would stretch this out even longer. It’s getting more and more beautiful”. I rememer how I suffered through Oregon, how what kept me going, largely, was the promise of the beauty of Washington. Here it is. Every day seems to get better, the scenery is alpine and hovering around the 6,000-8,000 foot range, but by the looks of these mountains you would guess the elevation is much higher. There is a lot of rock here, granite and limestone oredominantly, yet it’s still lush, and very colorful. The trees have weight to their needles, they are dense. The dramatic rocks and slopes curve, bend, jut up or out and the waterfalls can be spotted in the distance, in crevices, as they rush into pools of sapphire blue and emerald green. Every day there is mist, clouds, rain, and sometimes even the sun comes out. When it does, the sky and the water are gloriously crystal clear.
Mile 2,451. September 23rd, 2016 Journal Excerpt: “The stars are amazing tonight, the big dipper looks so enormous somehow, and the Milky Way is like white paint splatterd across a black ceiling. The whole day today had a sense of silence, calm and mystery”. I remember this day. It rained on and off all day and I was determined to stay dry. I awoke at 5:30am, and layed there in the dark, in the cold, knowing it had been a wet night. As we were packing up that morning a hail storm came in and our hands were freezing trying to fold up tents, pulling the cold metal stakes out of the frozen wet earth, and my nose was running profusely, with snot dripping down my face. I layered up and also used plastic grocery bags on my feet, over my socks and inside my boots, in an attempt to keep my feet dry. It was a painful day for some reason. We had been pretty consistent about 20’s (not always) but the increasing elevation gains and losses made everything hurt from the knees down, and it always became a fight by lunch. I was tired, too, yet all of this was fixable with drugs. Vitamin “I” and Coffee, perfect combination for the mid-day break. I was determined to savor every last second of this journey with the “end” looming now so close and these two things gave me both relief and energy, allowing me to truly savor it all.
We danced through fields and slopes of blueberry and huckleberry bushes. All the hikers were guilty of massive consumption and wore the color on their lips and teeth like a scarlet letter. It was leapfrog for miles as each time someone would stop to gorge, others would pass. The red leaves glowed in the overcast foggy world, and the mist would literally billow over giagantic rocks and fall down onto low spots below, settling momentarily.
At one particuar lake, it might have been Glacier Lake but now I don’t quite recall, Crush and I just stopped to watch the swirling of mist hover and twirl over the still surface of azure water that also reflected the clouds. It was like a looking glass, Am I looking in or am I looking out? You really could have argued that the sky was indeed below us and in the mesmerizing gaze, I froze in that place, seeing with my heart the moment so perfect, so pure. Am I going forward or am I going backward? Time stood still indeed and eventually I began to move my feet one in front of the other again.
This is what I do. I place one foot in front of the other, and as this happens, the landscape changes. Look how far I had come in doing this! Look how many landscapes I had passed through. I was officially at the 200 mile countdown to the border. Remember hitting the 200 mile marker all the way back at Mt. San Jacinto? It was an actual mile marker, like a little monument with the number 200 carved into it and they were painted black.
I looked tired then, too! Then the thoughts go like this: When I do this trail Southbound, the 200 mile marker will actually be 2,450, I wonder how that’s gonna feel? Yes, you heard me correctly. I had been already starting to daydream about doing this thing again. Now, in this stunning scenery, as I stretched out each breathtaking view, I just kept thinking I have to come back.
We crossed a large drainage where the entire creek was minature cascades, pools overflowing all over the rocks, and plenty opportunities to slip, requiring concentraion and balance, especially since I also had my umbrella in hand. The trail itself became a big, massive cascade about 75 feet across, reminding me of places I walked straight through with my shoes on in the Sierras. There, I would tromp along, sinking into the cool water without a care. Back then, it was Summer, my shoes would dry and the water felt refreshing. Now, it was like life and death. I had plastic bags on my feet, and every inch of me was covered in some kind of waterproof shell, not to mention my umbrella. This was the challenge, how to keep dry. The trail was not helping!
That was then:
We pushed to make more miles, and hiked until just about dusk. Once again, when we got to camp, there were so few sites available and they were all taken. It did not help that the sites were already muddy, the wetness had gotten to me, and I was getting hangry. I scouted around for a different tent site for almost 20 minutes, convinced there would be something “better” and found nothing. Finally I gave in and pitched my tent literally inches from Crush’s tent. Good thing we like each other! It was one of those nights when everything is wet, setting up your tent starts out wet anyway, and then putting all your wet gear inside is a task, trying to at least keep my sleep clothes and my sleeping bag dry. You know, I think I am starting to get used to this!
The next morning, poor Crush, went out to go to the “toilet” and slipped mid-calf deep (in her sandals and socks mind you) into the watery, slushy mud. Argh! I felt so bad for her and she took it in stride. The good thing was we were destined to arrive at Steven’s Pass later that day where we would (hopefully) hitch a ride to the Dinsmore’s, aka Hiker Haven, in a tiny little town called Baring. The morning started out cloudy again, but as it had rained through the night, the sunrise brought parting storm clouds and gorgeous colors. Rays of sunlight tried to sneak their way through the thinning layer of fog and eventually the sun made it’s way to us. As we made the last of the climbs for the day, near the top of the Ski lift, we found ourselves in masses of little white flowers all over the hilltop, and with grand views of the mountains in the distance, to boot. What a welcome surprise!
We made it down to Steven’s Pass, unsure what to expect. Crush hoped she had a package going there and mine was going to the Dinsmore’s. I had also learned in the past week that the Dinsmore’s were no longer accepting hiker packages and thought I was going to be SOL, but one phone call to Andrea was all it took. She was so lovely and said she got my package and would hold it for me, phew! First and foremost, as soon as we arrived at Steven’s Pass, we hit the coffee shop and the reataurant. They even had a fireplace! Cue the song “hot food cooked by other people and it doesn’t come from a pouch”…..I enjoyed a delicious latte, a salad and fries that filled my belly so wonderfully!
Eventually we made it back out to the road, where we hitched a ride to Baring. It was not the easiest hitch, but we got one, from a woman who was out there just to pick up her car, and she had a soft cast on her leg. She had been out on the trails for a week-long hike and injred herself, cutting her trip short. She had compassion for us, and took us all the way to Baring. Bless her! Baring was a super small yet, I thought, adorable little town set right on the rail road tracks, and with a single little store with a teeny tiny restaurant where people can sit at the counter only, maybe 5 seats. Classic!
Hiker Haven is one of the most well known and welcoming Trail Angel stays on the entire PCT and has been there for 20 years! Everyone there was awesome and Crush and I stayed the night (thankfully out of the rain I must add) in their hiker bunk house. It was such a great whirlwind stay over, with laundry, showers, re-supply, and lots of hikers to visit with. They had several bunk beds, a TV where hikers were watching movies and eating pizza, a giant fire pit in the backyard where hikers were playing guitars and singing, and I was in “heaven” because upon my arrival I found out that my friend “Arrow” (whom I had hiked with earlier on the trail, in the desert) was going to come meet us in the morning, have breakfast with us and …..drumroll….even take us back to Steven’s Pass to get back on the trail! God Bless you Arrow! He agreed to be at Hiker Haven by 8am the next morning, as I was eager to get right back on the trail. But, I clearly remember this thought: Next time I hike the PCT I will definitely take a zero day here.
I was anxious to stay on track for an October 5th arrival to Canada, as my Dad made plans to fly up and meet me in Manning Park, and another friend “Wildfire” (also from back in the desert and Norcal) was planning to meet me at the Monument! She lives in Vancouver and had finished her hike at the end of August, speey hiker she was. I could never keep up with her!
Well, Arrow arrived as promised, the next morning at 8am, carting a couple dozen delicious donuts and a couple gallons of OJ. What a sweetheart he is! All the hikers were so happy and grateful for the early morning sustenance and just after that we took off to the Cacadia Inn where they had an actual restaurant with a breakfast AYCE buffet. Basically all the hikers who were at Hiker Haven turned up here, too, it was a breakfast hiker trash party!
Arrow and I enjoyed reminiscing over breakfast, he, too, had finished his hike only about a week prior and was missing the trail. He lives in Bellingham, WA so it was not too long of a trek for him to come out. It was during our ride back to Steven’s Pass that he told me he, too, was planning to come to meet me at the Monument along with Wildfire. Seriously!? I was absolutely delighted to know this. So now I had two friends coming to meet me and my Dad waiting at Manning Park. All of this was motivating to be sure, Canada felt palpable. This is really going to happen, I am really going to be there…..
Arrow walked Crush and I all the way to the trail that day, and we lingered saying hearfelt goodbyes and “see you soon’s” and Crush and I had a quick Star Wars Life Saber fight with our trekking poles. As we ducked back into the forest canopy, hearts so full, packs so full too, I realized it was my six month trail anniversary. Six Months! I had amassed so many amazing trail memories on this journey, and looking forward I knew for certain, some of the best were still yet to come. “May the Forest Be with You”.