After reaching the border, we doubled back about 3.5 miles and camped. This left us with 27 miles to reach Hart’s Pass the next day, and the weather was only slated to deteriorate from this point onward, for the foreseeable future.
It rained for a good chunk of the night, but the morning looked misleadingly clear. We hit it hard, wanting only to be as close to potential civilization as possible before things got worse.
Ironic that my final day on the trail, a day that didn’t contribute to the reaching of Canada, would be my longest day in bad weather to date.
After the first 4 miles headed back, gaining elevation as we went, it was either snowing, hale-ing, or raining for the rest of the day. Everything above 6 thousand feet was already covered in a few inches of snow from the night before.
So that’s how this final day went; battling the elements one last time. Nothing crazy, but I was very happy to have my umbrella once again.
The best part of back tracking south that far, was getting to see all the people heading north that were just behind you. I got to see maybe 15 people in the span of that 27 miles. Some new faces, but most of them recognizeable. People I hadn’t seen since Oregon, northern California, and even the desert. Congratulating them on their soon to be accomplishment, and in turn being congratulated for reaching ours.
When we arrived back at Hart’s Pass, a most welcomed sight awaited us. A trail angel named Roger had set up a very elaborate camp filled with tents, tarps, drinks, food, and a homemade burn barrel/furnace. The fire was the cherry on top. It snowed several more inches during the night, but the morning was absolutely gorgeous.
There were a handful of other thru hikers that had back tracked and were now looking for a ride back to civilization, and Roger informed us that if no one came by Hart’s Pass before noon, he’d give as many people as he could a ride into the towns of Mazama or Winthrop. Not a soul showed up all morning, so at 11:30, we began loading up the old Volkswagen Van Roger had drove up in. All in all, we crammed 11 hikers and their packs into that old van. Out of that eleven, six had finished their thru hikes, and five were quitting. Five people were quitting their thru hike a mere 30 miles from the finish line. Yes the weather was slated to get much, much worse, but I couldn’t fathom bowing out that close, no matter what the obstacle. At the very least I would have waited out any weather in a town, then came back; whatever it takes!
Sadly, a great deal of people had to quit the trail over the next week or so. I don’t know an exact figure, but I’m guessing well over a hundred. Bad storms were rolling in, the winds were high, and the snow getting deeper; it simply wasn’t safe. Katana and I had made it by the skin of our teeth, and I wouldn’t change a thing.
We ended up in the novelty western town of Winthrop, over 30 miles away. While walking around downtown, a man named Ryan who’d read my book and followed my blog recognized me (probably Katana actually) and stopped to talk. This was the first time someone other than a fellow hiker had recognized myself and Katana in a town; what an interesting new experience. After chatting about the hike and some contrasts between the PCT and the AT, Ryan gave me $40 to have lunch on him. This was extremely kind and overly generous, so I let him know I’d also put it towards some other hiker’s meals that I was meeting for lunch. We took a picture together before departing; great guy.
I’m going to summarize the rest of this day and the following days fairly quickly, as there were a ton of logistics and driving. I made the decision to drive home instead of fly. I didn’t want to step onto a plane in northern Washington, then step off one in Florida. Finishing this hike had been a little harder than I thought, and I really didn’t want to rush home, as homesick as I was. I needed a transition period to decompress. The thought of diving straight back into society and facing the questions and congratulations of friends and family back home felt overwhelming, even to think about. I wanted to put it off.
So in short (I’ll go into more detail at a later date) I paid for a rental car from Seattle to Winthrop, then back to Seattle. The hikers Ledge and Twang had gone into Canada on the same day I finished, then got a ride almost right away to Seattle. I bought the rental, then they drove about 4 hours to pick up myself, and two other hikers named Blaze and Dart. Blaze, Twang, and Ledge had become like family to me in the last stretch of the trail. I spent more time hiking and camping with them in final 180 miles than I did with anyone else since Kennedy Meadows south. So first we went from Winthrop to Seattle where we spent the night at a the house of another thru hiker named Focus. The next day I rented a truck and in the evening, drove myself, CatFox, Blaze, and Twang down to Salem, Oregon where Twang’s parents lived, and where Blaze had parked her car for the hike. We spent the night there before departing in the late morning the next day. Blaze was from Delaware, and planned to drive straight home from Oregon. One of my best friends from the AT, named DSOH, lived in Washington D.C., so I made arrangements to be dropped off there on the way. So Blaze and I split the cost of the drive across country. It took 4 long days of driving through Oregon, Idaho, Utah, Wyoming, Nebraska, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Maryland before finally reaching D.C.
I spent three days staying with DSOH, his roommate Luke, and his girlfriend Laura. This pit stop was exactly what I needed. Over those several days, we went out downtown to eat, drink, go to a Bill Burr comedy show at the national theater, do Brazilian Jujitsu, and generally have a good time enjoying each other’s company and relaxing. Spending time with other hikers post trail helps to make the transition a little smoother. DSOH knew what it was like to assimilate back into society after a thru hike, so being around someone who understood what you were going through, that you could talk to, was very calming and healing.
On the morning of my 4th day in D.C., I climbed into my final rental car, then made the nearly 1,000 mile drive back to Navarre in a little over 15 hours. As I write this, I’m 17 days post trail, and I’ve been home 5 days. I have to admit, this transition hasn’t been easy; much more difficult than coming home from the AT. I think it’s the solitude I experienced on this hike that’s making it difficult. I can truly say that I don’t want anything to do with pretty much anyone. That sounds so bad to admit, but it’s how I feel. Since returning, I feel scatterbrained, as well as a major lack of focus. I’m happy, but at the same time I feel incredibly morose. Every time I come back, the world seems just a little more bat shit crazy than when I left it; or is it just me?
Katana is doing well, sleeping a lot. She seems to be a little more subdued after this hike than after the AT. She could be taking ques from my energy, or maybe it’s just because she’s older. Either way, I can’t help but notice some post trail depression in her. She really, really loved Washington.
My body feels great. Not having to dive straight into surgery like I did after the AT has been a huge plus. I went on a run the other day, the first physical activity I’ve done since the trail, and I felt fantastic. My knees hurt at first, but once they warmed up, no issues. My lungs still felt strong, and I ended my run early, when I probably could have gone several more miles.
It’s still very early being back, but I’m already planning for the next excursions; I have a A LOT of irons in the fire. One that’s for sureis my southbound thru hike of the Continental Divide Trail next June. In the short term, I may do the Florida trail this winter, but that’s up in the air, pending some other projects. I do plan to begin writing a book of this most recent adventure on the PCT. I still have a lot to share with you all that never made it into the blog; people, stories, side adventures, as well as little details that make all the difference.
I suppose I do have more to say, but I want to save the good stuff for the book. So for now I’ll just say “thank YOU.” Thank you everyone for following along in spirit throughout this adventure, supporting me with your kind words of encouragement, and helping me to fulfill what I consider my new calling; inspiring and empowering people to pursue their own definition of happiness.
This will not be my final blog entry. I do plan to keep writing in between adventures and keeping any followers in the loop. Also, I do plan to create an official website for a new blog, instead of using the WordPress platform. I don’t have a timeline on it, but I’ll certainly share it on here when I do.
Please feel free to share any questions, comments, or concerns regarding ANYTHING. Now that I’m finished with the hike, I have nothing but time on my hands to respond to you all, so please, don’t be shy.
Remember, the journey is the destination…