Day 145: Victorious

Started: Boundary Trail Tentsite (2648.9)

QEnded: Northern Terminus (2652.6)

Total Miles: 3.6 Remaining: 0.0

Achievements: ***Northern Terminus***

It rained all night. My tent was soaked. My sleeping quilt was soaked. It didn’t matter. I can dry my gear in my hotel room in Vancouver.

It rained the whole way down, too.

Doesn’t matter. At this point I would crawl the whole way.

We reached the Terminus just before ten. We toasted our victory.

We took our victory photos.

Your reward for completing the PCT is an eight mile hike to Manning Park. We reached the car and drove to Vancouver.

We stopped at a brewpub for lunch and a toast. We dropped Honeybunny and Stakes at the hostel. Packman and his girlfriend, Erika, drove to their hotel. I got a room at the same place.

I pulled out my wet gear to dry, did the laundry, called home, and made flight arrangements for the next day.

The night was completed with root beer floats from A&W.

It will be good to get back home.

Day 144: Three Point Six Miles From Canada!

Started: Tentsite (Unknown)

Ended: Boundary Trail Tentsite (2648.9)

Total Miles: ~14.0 Miles Remaining: 3.6

Achievements: It’s All Down Hill From Here. Seriously. I Really Mean It This Time.

I’m just 3.6 miles from Canada, but I will go no further today. We’re on Packman’s schedule, and he wants to be there at 10:30 tomorrow, when he will meet his girlfriend. It is cold and rainy, so I’m extra good with that.

We got up late this morning as we had only 14 or so miles to go. The last part of the alternate was all uphill and muddy. I was pretty motivated to get it done, so I pounded the miles. When we reached the PCT, the views were back.

The remaining seven or so miles included my very last climb. It was a small one. Eight hundred feet over a mile and a half. I took it slowly and somberly.

We managed to set up camp before the rain started. We are all complaining that our last dinner on trail is alone in our tents.

Tomorrow I make the Northern Terminus. My hike will be successfully completed. A new adventure begins. How do I get home?

I’m ready to be home.

Day 143: I Think The Trail Is Trying To Tell Me Something

Started: Tentsite (2616.3)

Ended: Tentsite (Unknown)

Total Miles: 20.5 Remaining: ~21.0

Just so we’re on the same page, I woke up to this.

It started at four in the morning. It wasn’t the sound of rain hitting my tent. It snowed the entire morning.

We reached Hart’s Pass, the last road before Canada. We talked with the ranger there. The weather is going to be like this the rest of the week.

The PCT is closed at Hart’s Pass due to a fire. We have to take an alternate set of trails. The good news is that the trail is well marked and well maintained. It will add four miles to my hike.

About half way through the day, the clouds broke and the sun came out. Honeybuns, Stakes, Packman and I took an extended lunch and dried out our gear.

The rest of the day was mostly even graded hiking. We did most of the hike of the alternate. We will have our last climb tomorrow. The alternate rises up to meet the PCT. Once there, it is all downhill the rest of the way to Canada.

We’re going to stop about four miles from the Terminus for the night. It will be about a 15 mile day. That will leave us with a four mile hike in the morning with plenty of time for pictures and to read the log book. I have written what I will write there.

It is hard to believe that this is almost done. I have mixed emotions. On the one hand, I deeply miss home. On the other hand, there is the beauty of nature and being at one with that.

However, the weather this morning tells me that the trail is telling me it is time to go home.

Day 142: Almost Needed A Good Excuse

Started: Tentsite (2600.8)

Ended: Tentsite (2616.3)

Total Miles: 15.5 Remaining: 36.3

We continue to follow Packman’s schedule. His ride doesn’t arrive until the 22nd, so there is no sense in rushing.

After a quick eight mile jaunt, we stopped to dry our gear. The sun was out and I was only wearing a t-shirt and shorts. We are in no rush.

We then had a rather steep six mile climb. We believe that is the second last long steep climb. Rumors on the fire alternate is that it is mostly flat or downhill except for a climb back up to the PCT.

I was rather grumpy about the climb. There was a good reason. I seemed to have lost my wedding ring. We looked at photos to see when I last had it.

I weigh less than when I got married, so my wedding ring no longer fits.

So, I hike up this big climb mostly thinking how I’m going to explain this. Needless to say I was in a bad mood.

The good news is that I found it. It came off in the morning when I put the battery and cable I use to charge the phone in it’s stuff sack. So, it fell off, but I was carrying it the whole time.

With a short day, we talked trail stories. The people we met. The animals we encountered. The places we saw.

It is cold, so we retired to our tents to watch the movies or read the books that we brought on our phones, but never had time to enjoy.

Tomorrow will be a longer day as we’ll hike most of the alternate. Camping and water are unknown, so we want to find a good spot to camp after 19 miles or so.

Day 141: It’s All Coming Together

Started: North Fork Bridge Creek (2579.7)

Ended: Tentsite (2000.8)

Total Miles: 21.1 Remaining: 51.6

Achievements: 2,600 Miles, Momma And Two Cubs

I had a good, dry sleep. It has been a while since I wasn’t rained on. The hike was warm when the sun was on me and cold when it was not. I struggled a bit to figure out what combination of clothes was just right. Either I was sweating when the sun was out or shivering when it was not.

The first important piece of news is that I have a new hiking partner with just two full days left. I’ve leapfrogged Packman since White Pass. We’ve talked a bit, mostly hiking stuff.

We were both up late doing laundry at Holden Village. He noticed that I was wearing a Brewers cap with the old logo. Because of all the dirt, fading, and sweat stains, he didn’t realize what it was. He told me he is from Oshkosh.

We talked about life before the trail. He said he just retired from the Navy. I was in the Navy.

I said that I was concerned about getting to Vancouver once this hike is done. He told me his girlfriend is meeting him at Manning Park, she has a rental, and there is a seat in the back if I want it.

The only issue is that his hike has to end the morning of the 22nd. I’m going to have to hike some shorter days. Not a problem.

Joining us is Honeybunny and Stakes. I have a whole new trail family. Weird, huh? A new trail family with just 51.6 miles to go.

Coming from Stehekin, this first part of the hike was a 20 mile climb. I still had 16 miles of that to finish. I ran into some trail magic. The Mad Baker had biscuits and gravy and a generator to make fresh hot coffee.

At the top, the view was amazing.

I continued on. Packman and I reached the 2,600 mile marker together.

The four of us camped together. Get this, we have a 15 mile day planned together. It does have a significant climb. We’re doing this to position ourselves for the fire detour. There is camping in the first part of the detour, so there is no sense going too far.

The second day of the detour, we will hike to four miles short of the Northern Terminus. The last day will be just a four mile hike. We will sleep in. We’ll take our time taking pictures and reading and writing in the log book. I’ve finished what I’m going to write.

So, my hiking is ending on a high note.

Day 140: First Steps On Victory Road

Started: Holden Village (~2562.8)

Ended: North Fork Bridge Creek (2579.7)

Total Miles: 16.9 Remaining: 72.9

Achievements: The Stehekin Bakery

Last night I was sitting with Packman. We have leapfrogged many times before, but this was the first time we really talked. We were doing laundry late. Turns out he is from Wisconsin and is a Navy veteran like me. An instant friendship was made.

All my gear is clean and dry. I had breakfast with with a group of thru-hikers in the cafeteria. It is hard to believe that this is coming to an end.

Holden Village had a school bus ready to take us to the dock. The ferry was on time. Unfortunately, I had one hour to get everything ready. It was still enough time to get to the famous Stehekin Bakery and get my cinnamon roll.

Here it is in all its glory. My very last resupply box.

The bus ride to the trail head was strange. This is it. My last section. I have a 17 mile climb, but it is gradual. I should reach Canada on the 21st.

The weather was sunny and warm. It was an easy eight miles. After all the terrible weather, today was a blessing.

Day 139: The Rain Breaks (Before I Did)

Started: Vista Creek Tentsite (2535.1)

Ended: Holden Village (~2562.8)

Total Miles: 16.7 + ~11.0 Fire Detour

Achievements: Marathon (7)

I woke to a heavy rain. It was early, and I wanted to get a jump on the beast I needed to climb. It was a ten mile, 5,000 foot climb in the rain and mud. As this part of the trail is so remote, there is plants overrunning the trail. My feet would be soaked all day again. I am constantly climbing over blown down trees.

We had seven tents in a site made for three. I was the first one up. Everyone else was struggling to get out of their warm sleeping bags and face reality.

Let me tell you that I truly earned my thru-hiking stripes when I put on my 35 degree, wet socks and shoes.

I was off by 6:30 a.m. It was terrible the whole way. The rain was cold and hard. The trail was a puddle the whole way. As I stared to climb, the rain turned to snow. Keep in mind that I’m wearing just a medium base layer and an outer shell and shorts.

But something drives me. Maybe it was the fact that I didn’t have enough food to stay there and wait out the weather. Maybe it was my deep desire to finish this hike and go home. Maybe I wanted to teach this trail that I will not be broken. I put one foot in front of the other. I did not stop, as moving was the only thing keeping me warm.

As I reached the top, the weather broke. The sun came out.

I stood at the top to a sign that said the trail was closed due to a fire. I had hiked 16 miles nonstop and I was exhausted. However, if I hiked another 11 miles I would get to Holden Village. I thought it was a town, and I could camp outside it.

The first two miles were sketchy. I was climbing from rock-to-rock rather than walk. Once that was done, it was downhill the whole way.

When I reached it, I realized that it wasn’t a town, it was a lodge. When I went to check in, I realized it wasn’t a lodge, it was a ELCA Lutheran retreat. The ELCA and my denomination, the PC(USA) are in full communion. They had a Sunday evening service in 15 minutes. I wasn’t going to go, because I had not showered in eight days and was covered in mud. As I walked to my cabin, I ran into Storyteller and he said that we should go. No one would care. So, I did.

After that I took a shower. I washed my clothes for free. I dried all my gear. I made a change of plans.

The retreat will shuttle me to the ferry to Stehekin. I will pick up my box, visit the bakery, and hit the trail after the fire closure. It keeps me on schedule.

So, this terrible day turned out to be not so bad after all.

Day 138: A Little Sun, Then Wind And Rain

Started: Tentsite (2514.6)

Ended: Vista Creek Tentsite (2535.1)

Total Miles: 20.5 Remaining: 117.4

Not much to say. I reached the top of a ridge with the sun out. I dried my tent. After that it pretty much rained all day.

On top of the second ridge, my thermometer said 38 degrees and the wind was blowing hard. Keep in mind that I wear shorts. With all the rain, I wouldn’t want to wear pants. They would be completely soaked. My legs dry very quickly.

I’m in quite a bubble. We have six tents in a campsite for two tents.

Just two days until I’m in Stehekin, my very last resupply. Then it is just a three and a half days to Canada.

Day 137: She’s Throwing All She’s Got At Me

Started: Lake Sally Ann (2493.6)

Ended: Tentsite (2514.6)

Total Miles: 21.0 Remaining: 138.2

Achievements: 2,500 Miles, Cross a Raging River On a Broken Bridge

As I wrote yesterday, I didn’t like where my tent was setup. I was concerned about rain. It turns out that it didn’t rain at all.

I decided to wear some warmer clothes. Normally, I keep my base layer packed in the dry section of my backpack. My legs are the engine that keeps me warm. However, with the combination of cold and wet, I’m constantly hungry. I no longer have that layer of whale blubber to keep me warm. The calories I’m using to say warm is costing me miles. So, I wore my base layer shirt, a wool hat and gloves.

As soon as I left camp, I could see that the low clouds had moved on and I could see what Washington was hiding.

I made good time in the morning. The sun was shining. I took that as an opportunity to take off my outer shell. As soon as I did, it started to rain.

I crossed the 2,500 mile mark.

After I finished a big climb, I sat down to eat lunch. It was then that it really started to rain. The rain was followed by sleet, snow and hail.

All this rain had turned the trail into a muddy swamp. My feet were wet all day.

I crossed the famous broken bridge.

As the day progressed, the soft part of my feet started to hurt like it had rug burn. Although it was only 5:30, I decided to call it a day. My feet have gotten me this far. If they say stop, I stop.

There is more rain in the forecast for tomorrow. I’m so looking forward to that.

Day 136: Cold And Wet Part III

Started: Lake Janus (2473.9)

Ended: Lake Sally Ann (2493.6)

Total Miles: 19.7 Remaining: 159.0

I got up as usual and ran into Storyteller. We were camped in two different spots at the same site.

My goal for the day was simple. I just needed to go a little over 19 miles. After that spot was a long ridge.

I was expecting a lot of cold rain and I wasn’t disappointed. The view looked like this for most of the day.

I was struggling to motivate myself being cold and wet. I found a dry rock overhang and ate a double lunch. I made my regular lunch, but also cooked one of my extra freeze dried meals. I have a few extra because I’ve cut days off my schedule.

After lunch I hiked with Dirt for a while. He gave me some good advice on adjusting to life after the trail. It was based on all the mistakes he had made.

With just two miles to go, the sun broke through the clouds. I could see all the amazing colors Washington has been hiding from me.

I reached Lake Sally Ann at five, but found it surprisingly crowded. I don’t like where my tent is if it starts to rain hard. I’ve propped up the bathtub. I hope I stay dry.