It’s been over a week since we flew home. The days seem to fly by and all without the pressure of the trail to get miles in and get to camp. I’ve been enjoying this break but I also miss the sense of accomplishment that comes with the routine on trail. I feel so lazy sitting around resting and napping, but not bad enough that I dare do much to change it. My days now consist of getting little things checked off my to do list, running errands, and getting my things in order since we moved right before we left for the PCT.
After we all finished the next morning we hiked the 8 miles to Manning Park. Another glorious sunny day and our first hike in Canada! Niv, Goulet and I arrived at the Manning Park lodge around 12 and went straight for a sub par breakfast. We were all numb in a sense. No one had much to say and we continuously ran to the bus stop and said goodbye to friends who we saw lining up for the Greyhound to Vancouver. Par 3’s parents offered to drive us to Vancouver saving us a huge chunk of change on a bus ticket, and a ride with friends which we couldn’t turn down! Vancouver! It took just over 2 hours to get there and what a great city it was. We didn’t have too much time there since we had a bus ticket the next morning to Seattle, but we all made do and met up at an Irish pub for stories and one last hiker trash gathering.
The next day Niv and Knight Shift walked with Goulet and I to the bus stop where we waited to say goodbye. As soon as it arrived I just couldn’t stop the tears. I had the most unbelievable heartfelt conversation with Niv and was so thankful to tell him how much I love and adore him. We also had amazing moments with Knight Shift and we gave what felt like a million hugs, and still didn’t feel like enough. Once on the bus we both cried and they ran on the bus to hug again. They kept yelling hysterical family jokes on the bus while even the driver laughed and I cracked up in between tears. After 4 hours we reached Seattle and checked into our final hotel of the trail. Tomorrow we will be home. This entire journey would be over and all that’s left is to try to feel the emotions we are meant to feel after a hike if this magnitude. We’ve heard a lot about painful reentry into the real world and are hoping ours won’t be too exhausting and the excitement for comfort is more exciting then the end if the trail is off putting.
The flight home flew by and next thing we knew we were both at our homes and I had my cats by my side and family nearby. I can see why so many stay in Vancouver for a while, taking time to decompress but we were both so excited to get home and relax. Paul and I separated for the first time since April 3. What a weird feeling. I couldn’t have done this without him and am so thankful to him for quitting his job and doing this with me. I don’t know how people do this alone and I am so blessed to have had such a wonderful boyfriend to do this with. One week later I’m still lying in bed too much and watching too much tv. Hopefully next week I can get up the energy to get a gym membership and start looking for a part time job. I have zero motivation and my body is still sore and begging for rest. Somehow the weather is still between 60-70 and maybe I’ll just start by getting out of bed a bit more, like I loved to say on the trail, baby steps.
It’s hard to even write about the last couple days. We decided as a family to keep the miles lower so we could spend time together in longer breaks and enjoy camp much earlier. First day we camped 15.8 miles in at a beautiful spot in a wooded trees on a big open hill with giant mountains and views in every direction. Tonight is our last night before the monument. We made a big fire and all sat around after another difficult day of climbing. We took long breaks today and although we are dreading the end, we are also exhausted. More exhausted every day. Of course nine of us slept off and on knowing we’d be at the monument around noon the next day but still woke up at 6:00 groggy and tired of course!!! Sleep or no sleep, you’re groggy regardless. Packing up felt rather surreal and we headed out for our last 14 miles around 7:15. We agreed to meet up at the .9 miles from the border creek crossing so all of us could hike in together. The only climb of the day was long and tiring but at the top we all met up for a long mountain top break with unbelievable views. I kept crying off and on all day and so did Cool Whip. This is emotional! This group can pick you up so quickly though, such a support system it’s wonderful.
At 1:30 Paul and I walked up to the final creek and sat down to wait for everyone to arrive. By 2:30 we were all in a line cheering and yelling and started the final mile to the finish. It went by faster than desired but the feeling was oh so sweet when we saw it! From above you look down a couple switch backs and see a clearing and we knew this was it. Some people had costumes, some didn’t, but as a family we were emotional and excited!!! Within seconds we were staring at the old wooden monument with sun shining down, wondering how we made it here, how the last six months went by so fast and how we had such unbelievable weather this long.
We laughed, we cried, we danced, and we posed for what felt like a million pictures. It felt like we gave a million hugs to one another while we opened our champagne and some smoked cigars. Our camp was only .2 from the monument so we stayed as late as we could that afternoon soaking in the last six months and wandering around lost trying to figure out what the heck we were all going to do next. It feels too soon. It feels like we reached it a tad bit too early, like another week would be right. The days were flying by and physically we needed it to be over but mentally and emotionally it left most of us feeling lost. One more night together then tomorrow we say goodbye. Were all in the twilight zone!
After we got back to Stevens Pass we decided to order lunch and watch the 49ers get demolished before heading back to the trail. Par 3 is from San Francisco so we are constantly trying to watch Giants or Niner games if we get the chance. It had been raining all morning in Seattle but still was an occasional mist at Stevens Pass and with a goal of 11 miles that day we weren’t in a hurry. Everyone started trickling out around 1:00-2:00 and within 25 minutes the rain came in. I keep all my stuff inside my pack in a black trash bag and then put my ducks back cover over the outside for double protection. Regardless I was soaked and so was everyone else but at least my gear wasn’t! No matter how great your rain jacket is, it will soak through after enough time. The great thing is for us so far is when it’s raining it’s typically pretty a manageable temperature so although wet and uncomfortable we weren’t cold which makes a huge difference. Kid and I have been hiking together a lot and hiked into camp around 5:30. Since neither her nor I carry the tent she set up her giant rain poncho on a log and made the coolest little makeshift lean to and her and I say in there laughing waiting for everyone to show up. Finally everyone rolled in and it was so funny to see how big our group has gotten. People really want company in this stretch and we have turned into a group of 11 which makes finding tent spots at the end of the day a little difficult, but it’s worth it! No one sat around for dinner, it was raining so everyone pretty much dove inside and ate in their tents. 10 days left!!!
The next morning Knight Shift woke us up by singing What’s Going On by Three Non Blonds at the top of his lungs, which isn’t an unusual occurrence. It’s absolutely hilarious! Much better than an alarm. This section is the hardest of the trail for me yet. It’s up a huge hill, down to water. Up a bigger hill, so on. It’s only getting worse the next few days also and really going to test us all to the finish. At the end of the day we came to a creek crossing and as I went to go across I fell. I fell so stinking hard! As I fell I heard everyone do the ohhhhhhhh! And it felt like slow motion trying to comprehend what just happened. When I looked down at my throbbing shin I really banged it good and could see a couple spots with bone showing. I’ve never seen my own bones before! It was creepy but I knew it was just the kind of pain from a cut or bad scrape and is so different from serious injury pain. Then that kicked in. As I started walking I could feel my ankle start getting looser and tighter and the feeling of electric bolts being sent through my joint. I haven’t felt this pain since right after my ankle injury 13 years ago so I kept asking myself as I hiked the last 4 miles, is this as bad as I think it is or is this just because I haven’t had this bad of pain in so long and I don’t remember how bad it is? By camp I could hardly put pressure on it and by bedtime I couldn’t walk at all as it swelled up. I decided to pool all the KT tape we had left and leukotape and do a hardcore tape job which would nearly double as a cast. I fell asleep stressed big time. I woke up at 1:00 and laid there wondering if this was my end and if I’d have to get a helicopter ride out. How could this happen 150 miles from the end?! I decided to get up, hobble to my pack, take some ibuprofen, elevate it on my clothes bag and pray. I finally fell back asleep and woke up early so I could try to hike slower if at all. As I first got up I realized how much the tape had helped in combination with everything else and I was able to put a little pressure on it!! It was then I knew I’d be able to hike and it must’ve just been a minor re injury and would hopefully feel better everyday! That was a close one. Too close for me to be honest. That night wondering what I would do was one of the most mentally traumatic nights for me in a long time. It did really make me realize how thankful I am to still be out here able to complete this unlike so many others.
The next few days were a blur. 6 days. To Stehekin and we’re just getting more and more exhausted. The scenery however is getting more and more beautiful and intense with the fall colors! One day we decided to take a section of the old PCT instead of the new section so we could see what it was like and pretty much everyone voted it was one of the most fun days of hiking on trail yet. It was lush green forest with tall old growth trees, and the river crossing involved using a fallen tree over a rushing Siuttle River. That was one of the scariest things on trail for all of us. It was only about 6 feet above the water but if you fell you were breaking something on the rocks in the river below you. But we all safe crossed and were at to safely make it to camp.
Today we will make it to Stehekin. The last town on the trail. There’s a bakery and a store and we’ve been anticipating seeing this town the entire trail! Hopefully there we can shower and do laundry, maybe even charge our phones! After that we are only 80 miles from the Canadian Monument. It’s so mixed for all of us. The reality of his hard re entry into the regular world will be is starting to hit us already. Our family won’t be together everyday like we have been out here for so many miles. Although exhausted, none of us are complaining anymore about anything. At camp we talk for hours and spend as much time as we possibly can on breaks talking and laughing. The next chapter is exciting but adjusting to something of this magnitude being over is hard to wrap your head around. I’m just going to enjoy these last 80 miles and cross that bridge when I come to it NEXT WEEK!!
The alternate after Snoqualmie was beautiful but difficult. It was 25 miles total so the next morning we wanted to do 21 miles to get us back on the PCT. The trail lead us by a river most of the day and continued slowly uphill gradually until the last 5 miles. We then jumped up nearly 1,000 feet to get over Dutchmens Gap and then down the other side by glorious emerald green alpine lakes, down more and eventually back onto the PCT by the Waptus River. We made it to camp just before 7:00 and recognized a few hikers but our group was still behind. Hmm. This late in the game we both really love having everyone around to keep our spirits up but we hiked by ourselves so much before we will survive just the two of us. We made dinner in a great campsite and just as we finished we felt a few raindrops. It was freezing. Absolutely ice cold. So we both got into bed at 8:00 and listened to the rain which stopped shortly after it started. I got up to use the bathroom at 5:00am and the sky was full of stars! Hopefully this will hold all day and we can somehow miss this rain storm that was in the forecast.
We woke up much later again due to the changing seasons and freezing temperatures. 7:25am seems way too late but we’ve been doing a great job hiking to make up for it and also to get to camp earlier since the sunlight is nearly gone by 7:30 now, and earlier if we camp in the trees. It was still bone chilling cold so we worked as fast as we could with numb fingers to break down camp and eventually hit the trail at 8:45. Today we want to get as far as we can so tomorrow we have as quick of a walk into Skykomish as possible. Skykomish is our last town stop with amenities on the trail. I can’t believe it. Last hotel, last grocery store… We have one more stop in Stehekin but it’s only a post office and bakery so we have to send food ahead. Seems so strange that we only have 10 hiking days left. After tomorrow we will be 190 miles away from Canada. Although we are close, we are getting more sore and tired everyday. We’ve come to such a great balance of picking each other up and never being down at the same time but it’s still the hardest thing I’ve ever done trying to finish this. And it’s not even snowing and I’m not alone!!! My hiking idol Muk Muk finished this trail in the snow by herself. I tell Paul that everytime I don’t know how to get up and move after a break in the mornings. We constantly talk about what that must of been like. Muk Muk thank you for giving me the energy and inspiration to keep going, you are AMAZING!
The terrain wasn’t too bad, only two climbs. One was 2,000 feet broken up over 6 miles and the other a 1,000 pass over a mile and a half. Thankfully unlike the alternate both had perfectly graded switchbacks and we breezed over them and into camp at 6:15. Still no sign of the group but we will meet up with them soon I’m sure! Once again the rain started after we got the tent set up thankfully, and the rain is no worry if we get to dry off tomorrow. Only 14 miles and a 13 mile hitch to town in the morning. Skykomish here we come!
8 miles to Snoqualmie. Yes. Food and a shower!!! These 8 miles seemed long and were actually kind of rough in the rain that rolled in as we left camp. In town we got a room and I got in the shower faster than you could believe! The hotel here is very nice but a little strange. We were looking to share a room with another couple but they refused and said only 2 people a room no matter what. Hmm. Ok, well that seems a little strange but I guess it’s their rules? The hikers were super annoyed and well I can’t imagine this place does too well as most hikers just left to not deal with this place. The town had what I needed though and we picked up our packages and lounged around all day. Our friend Tricia mailed us two more unbelievable packages and once again we were spoiled. Thank you Tricia!!! So many goodies, our packs are so heavy with food and love!! My parents also mailed us a few things in boxes including amazing cartoons from my dad which the hikers all love, and treats only a mother would know to send. My heart and belly will be full all the way to Skykomish!
I’ve tried to relax today but i don’t recall the last time I’ve taken a nap. There’s so much to do in town. Today we showered, then did laundry, got resupply packages, reorganized our packs, got lunch, then it was dinner time. We got another amazing resupply box from Tricia, two actually, and another from my mom. These are like Christmas!!! Thank you Tricia and mom! Amazing goodies and boy we needed the lift in spirits. Paul got us pizza and Wild happened to be on the hotel TV so we all watched trying to name different spots in the movie that we have hiked. After that it was 10:00 and everyone was hitting the hot tub but we were so exhausted we headed to bed.
The next morning my one track mind was focused on pancakes at the pancake house. After sleeping in and taking another long shower we strolled in at 11:00 after check out and ate a big breakfast before getting ready to go. After breakfast we still hadn’t seen anybody and it seemed everyone had already left! Wow, what a bunch of go getters! So we thought. One by one everyone appeared and was struggling as much as we were to get hiking. Theres more rain in the forecast and it is cooold outside today, much colder than yesterday. After sitting around for much longer than expected, Paul and I decided to get our packs on and just get moving. There are two options out of town this time, the PCT and an alternate which takes you by a river with hot springs and a bunch of beautiful lakes called the Goldmeyer Alternate. Everyone else wanted to stay on the PCT but the alternate sounded beautiful so we split from the group and headed out on our own for a few nights. The lake we decided to camp at was only 5 miles in but absolutely gorgeous. The clouds were also moving in and even though it was only 6:00 at this point the 5 miles so far were a bit rough, much more of a scramble than the PCT so we camped early. I have been feeling very uneasy and anxious all day so I wanted to get to bed as soon as possible too. This hike brings out such strange emotions. Only 12 hiking days left and in anxious about getting there in time and anxious about leaving these people as well. Anxious about snow, anxious about all this pain in my knee, and anxious about how we will get back home from Canada. Anxiety central!!! Being in town this late in the game does this often, it’s just time to go. Tomorrow we will finish the alternate and hopefully a good rest will help me feel better tomorrow.
All of us woke up fairly early, 6:48am to be exact. Our campsite wasn’t exactly an established campsite but we made do on slightly off level camping and enjoyed the fresh water. It was almost eerily dense forest too, the kind I could barely tell when the sun came up in. Didn’t take long to get packed up and headed out of camp and about 1/8 of a mile we run into a hunter in full camo while carrying his bow, and started almost instantly complaining about the loud PCT hikers up above. I had to laugh. Hunters using the PCT just after trail days and expecting the bubble of people to be quiet at 8:00 in the morning for the first day of hunting season. Oh dear. I think he was probably pretty bummed with how many people are out here. We don’t even know the day of the week let alone that it’s the first day of bow elk season!
Just past him I got to the bottom of the hill and on the road sign was a beautiful widdled wooden sign that said MAGIC with an arrow pointing to the left. Over under the trees next to a truck and trailer was two big white tents with chairs, ice chests, and a stove topped with coffee pots. The trail Angels name is Not Phils Dad and his son Not Phil hiked in 2009. I recognized his sons trail name from a past documentary and I think it’s so cool he still is surprising hikers for hot dogs, bananas, coffee and sodas even this long after his son hiked. This community is so giving! Slowly one by one hikers piled in as we ate our snacks and heard stories from Not Phils Dad. What a great guy. He told us he had 40 people two days ago and 20 the day before and said we were the end of the “bubble” headed north. That’s fine with me! I love seeing people we are around but all day everyday seeing a ton of people gets old. On trail having to pass people or step aside for people to pass, I’m just not used to it. It feels so crowded cramming 12 tents in a small area when we’ve been used to camping along or with another couple people. After leaving cascade locks and trail days we knew the amount of people but boy, I wasn’t expecting that many!
There was an abandoned weather station 10 miles in and we all wanted to see this place! We heard tons of rumors about a fridge, pool table and power to charge phones. I was feeling a good push up the first hill and quickly found myself separated from everyone else but Knight Shift who also was feeling the uphill push. At the top we ended up chatting and started hiking together and quickly got lost in one of the deepest conversations I’ve had on trail. Both of us struggle with anxiety so we talked about how we deal with it, yoga, our past and how we want to change our futures. This man is one of the most amazing people I’ve ever met. I think when you’ve had struggled with anxiety on a bigger level no matter what the triggers or stressors you have an understanding with people who are also on the same struggle. He and I powered through the ten miles to this weather station and it felt like 30 minutes. I love hiking with him. But the weather station wasn’t quite as amazing! Apparently on the way there we somehow both missed the water spring on the trail with hikers waving at us and ended up out of water with another 5 to the next creek. The house was full of mold and I had a horrible headache just walking in and looking around for 5 minutes. The place was trashed and dirty and the pool table was missing 1/3 of the balls so that wasn’t any fun. I just needed to not breath the horrible air! We decided to ditch the group and head further up trail to water to cook lunch. I’m almost out of lunch food so I need to cook up some of my extra top ramen that was saved as an extra dinner just to get some food. Knight shift convinced me I wasn’t eating enough and boy was he right. I started carrying accessibly snacks in my pockets and I’ve had more energy and spunky then I have in a long time! But it also puts a damper on my food supply. Oh well. I have plenty of goodies I just need more water than before so I needed to get up trail so I could cook. A few miles up we found an off trail lake and we decided to wait for the group to catch up while we cooked.
The rest of the day went by pretty quickly with only wanting to do 21 miles to leave 8 for the morning into Snoqualmie. The hills here constantly climb up and down up and down. I feel as though the terrain is getting us ready for the next 250 miles which everyone says gets increasingly harder which supposedly gets much more difficult to the end. My body is getting tired and I’m not sure how exactly to do another 250 miles but I guess I’ll just keep on taking a walk and deal with that as it comes. I rolled my good ankle heading to a water source before bed tonight and although it’s not bad, it’s aching. I’ve been having pretty bad pain in my big toe on the same foot also. Not sure if it’s related or just another exhaustion pain. I’ll just keep walking, I have all the time in the world to heal after this journey and as mid September rolls around I’m finding myself longing to get further north!!
Ten miles out of White Pass on a nice mellow climb then fairly flat trail along ponds and trees all turning yellow and red. I passed a few hikers who were out for a weekend and asked if I was hiking to Canada then yelled how amazing we are as we headed down trail. That made me smile! Sometimes I forget how cool this whole long distance hiking thing is, typically too consumed with trying to hike 20 miles every single day keeps me distracted from some of the more typical common thoughts. The first few miles were great as I passed more beautiful lakes and listened to a podcast called This American Life. Very interesting topics ranging through all sorts of topics. I found Niv 6 miles in talking to another couple hikers who were setting up camp so we decided to hike the rest of the way together. We crossed mile 2300!!! The way up we talked all about his family and his amazing interest in extreme sports. He’s a repelling instructor in Israel and loves doing things like swinging off bridges on a giant rope with a harness or climbing into black caves with unknown depths. He’s an absolutely unbelievable person, we already can’t wait to visit him in Israel.
We decided to stay at a beautiful spot by the most quiet lake. The trees were perfectly reflecting in a mirror image as the rest of the group arrived. By 7:00 all of us had set up camp and sat down to eat dinner. This group laughs more than any group I’ve been around in my entire life and once again we all stayed up way later than hikers usually do. The temperature here is much warmer thankfully but we still keep putting the rain fly on after the traumatizing rainy couple days prior to White Pass. Talk about spoiled, we get two days of rain and we are still holding out rain jackets in arms reach. I started thinking today a lot about things I’ve learned out here and have been trying to really soak in these last few weeks. It’s hard to even comprehend how much of a completely different person I am after the last 5 months. How did I ever live without knowing these people? The people have made this worth it, every single blister, sore joint, tear and mile.
The stretch to Snoqualmie is just about 110 miles and every one of us is starting to realize how close we are to being finished. Crossing mile 2300?? I can’t believe it. The next couple of days we hiked to get closer to a cabin on trail. Coming to one pass we rain into trail Magic! Happy Tutu drives her RV out every year and cooks smacks and mochas for hikers at a pass. I arrived with Papa Smurf who was already there and got a mocha with chips and chili, it was delicious!! Then another hiker we loved named Paint Your Wagon showed up and we haven’t seen him since mile 300! We all sat around and talked enjoying our snacks seeing other hikers returning from their PCT side trip to the Wonderland Trail. That’s another hike on our list.
The next day we made it to the Urich Cabin on trail and once again arrived to a few friends who annually go there and provided trail magic while they are there. How is this happening AGAIN?! They made us all Beef Stroganoff fresh for everyone there, all 12 hikers. Another night spent staying up way too late, 12:00!!! For hikers that’s way past our bedtime, but once again we got up the next day, thanked our hosts and headed another day toward Snoqualmie.
The weather has been in the 70’s which feels like the most perfect hiking weather ever. It cools off at night just enough to get a perfect nights sleep. It was warm as we left the cabin and then we heard Knight Shift yell out of nowhere. We turned around to see him holding his face and yelling it stung me on the eye! This guy has the worst luck with bees ever!!! He kept on hiking but by lunch his eyes were almost swollen shut. So awful to see his horrible reaction to bees but he’s such a good sport and tough guy he hiked all day! We made it only 17 miles before we decided to camp at the last water source for a while. Par 3 wanted to check his phone for service so I let him use my charger and out of nowhere in this random forest, he had service. This meant we got to listen to the Giants game while we ate dinner. Do you know what that felt like? To hear a SF baseball game out here was also too much to bear!!! The best.
Tomorrow we will chip off more miles toward our next resupply in a small ski pass area. I sure hope they have a restaurant that we can get a burger at and watch some college football!! Only three towns left on trail and no matter how many we’ve been to it’s still exciting to get to another one.
This is me and Paint your Wagon