Location- Side of mountain
Elevation- 5,951 ft
Distance Traveled Today- 23.6 miles
Distance Traveled Total- 2,630.5 miles
Weather/Temp- foggy, clear, rain, snow, hale, 50s, 40s, 30s
Pain level- none
Spirits/Morale- excited yet somber
Days without shower- 9
Hunger/craving- grandmother’s cooking
Today is the last full day and night of my journey from Mexico to Canada. As I lay in my hammock tonight, the Canadian border sits 19.6 miles away. Tomorrow, the trek to Canada will end, but my hike and journey home will not. Katana and I will hit the border tomorrow, but will not be going any further north. I do not have the necessary permits for her to enter and leave the country, so I’m simply going to avoid those logistics and headaches all together. Instead, we’ll be hiking back south for 31 miles until we hit the last road we crossed. I have no other plans on how to get home from there. I will take the first ride offered to us, to wherever it’s going, then figure it out from there. I don’t think we’re going to fly, bus, or train home; I’ll probably rent a car, or buy a beater. A beater will probably cost as much as a one way rental across the country, but at least I’ll have equity in a beater. I can’t speak for the reliability though; that’ll come down to luck.
Had a funny thing happen late last night. I sleep with my food in a pocket beneath my hammock, but I’ve never had a single issue with wildlife until last night. It was maybe 2 am when I was awoken by the hammock moving, as well as the sound of tugging and tearing of fabric. I happened to have my face laid right up against the pocket that my food was in, so the noise and movement was literally right against my head. When I first awoke, I was a little disoriented. I heard the noises and felt the ruckus, but my first instinct was that it was Katana readjusting somewhere in the hammock. I reached out in the dark to feel for her, and when my hand found her, she was stock still, but I could feel her sitting up at alert. At that moment I instantly realized something was trying to pull my food bag out of my hammock pocket and immediately smashed my hand against the pocket to scare whatever it was. The creature disappeared before I saw what it was, but I assume it was a racoon. It didn’t get my food out, but it did manage to put two good tears in my thick food bag. It was more comical than scary.
Our last full day of hiking the Pacific Crest Trail was quite possibly one of the most uniquely beautiful days so far, and despite the very cold conditions, I wouldn’t change a thing. We – had – it – ALL! Rain, sleet, hale, snow flurries of every size, clear skies, clouds, white outs, snow on the ground, mud, ice, rock, loam, gorgeous views, shrouded non existent views, ridge walks, green tunnels, EVERYTHING! It was like a snap shot of the entire trail squeezed into one day; minus unbearable heat and lack of water.
Everything about today revolved around the constantly changing weather, and it was a marvel in and of itself. It was too impressive to let the cold and wet conditions get you down. I will say this however, my umbrella was the line in the sand between painful, chilly misery, and an incredibly comfortable day hiking in uncomfortable conditions. I will never hike without a good umbrella ever again.
Katana was a monster in her element today; unstoppable. This little animal has eaten Washington alive, kicking and screaming the whole way down. I’ve hardly kept up with her for this entire state. I can’t wait to come back and hike Oregon with her; I have no desire to do northern California though; too much heat, too much rock, not enough water. We could do it like we did the desert, but anything we do together in regards to this trail from now on, will be fun and pleasant.
Aside from the weather, the terrain was not hard, but quite enjoyable. Extremely open most of the time, affording spectacular views (fog permitting) of the northern cascades, now peppered with snow and ice.
As I lay in my hammock tonight, knowing the journey concludes tomorrow, I can’t quite describe my feelings. Excitement, sure; but nothing like the excitement I felt on the night before summitting Katahdin and finishing the AT. I find myself trying to reflect on the journey as a whole; to put it all together in my head before the final steps. I cannot. The entire trek is a blur, and although this hike has not lasted as long as my AT hike, the passage of time out here has felt dramatically slower; lifetimes. I have seen so many mind numbingly beautiful things, I don’t know how I’ll ever recall them all in their own pristine moments.
While I would consider this hike to be much less eventful than my AT hike in terms of colorful characters, crazy misadventures, and relationships/friendships with my fellow man; this journey held different experiences and lessons that contributed to my personal growth in ways that the AT did not. The AT opened my eyes to a new perspective and approach to life, and the PCT gave me the chance to further apply and expand upon those learnings.
Something I’ve found/observed in myself and others since the AT, is that a great deal of the personal growth and lessons you learn out here do not fully manifest until a short while after the hike. Once you’ve had time to decompress and look back on everything from the now alien and confusing world of modern society that you’ve rejoined for the time being; everything that happened to you during your “time away,” begins to make more sense. You become more observant of contrasts between the person you were, and the person you’ve become; as well as the actions and tendencies of those around you. Some things you’re going to love, others, you’re going to despise. As you make more observations within yourself and the modern society you’ve come back to, the more sense your hike is going to make in hindsight as you put the pieces of your new life back together.
I can’t make complete sense of this most current adventure at this precise moment, or even put it into words that would make sense to you or myself for that matter, but I will…soon.
I’m very anxious for what emotions tomorrow will have in store for me.
Canadia; Day 173
19.6 + 3.6 miles
This entire day passed in a sort of quiet slow motion. The weather held out; there were sunny skies, cloudy skies, and overcast skies, but no rain or snow until the late evening.
The final 20 miles had its beautiful ups and downs, but the final 8 miles to the border were all down hill. A very leisurely, gradual descent filled with a handful of blow downs that provided the only obstacles. Very anticlimactic compared to Katahdin, but anxiety inducing nonetheless as you draw closer. I can’t describe to you my feelings for the situation other than the words “calm acceptance.” I wish I had more to say about today, but descriptions escape me.
You descend a gentle slope through the pines, dodging blow downs here and there for several miles. You walk over a number of small creeks cascading across the trail, then switch back several short times, turn sharply to the right… and there it is, you see it; the wooden monolith on the border you’ve seen in countless photographs. Your enormous investment of time, energy, and emotion. Just. Paid. Off. Now what?
If you’d like to read about my PCT trek in more detail you can get a copy of my book at the following link; “Racing Winter on the Pacific Crest Trail” @ Amazon.com.