Day 36. Last day on the PCT this year
Wasco Lake Junction 2011 to Santiam Pass 2001
I’m going to miss this— waking up and getting to hike everyday, all day. The difference this year is that I’m not dreading getting off the trail. I have a life I’m really looking forward to going back to. I have a job where I get paid to hike! Of course it’s hiking with kids so it’s not all day long hikes like this. But nevertheless, I do love it. I’ve been thinking a lot about my students. How much have they grown up over the summer?
I also love our home in Moab Utah. Surrounded by all sorts of public lands. Not just my park, but the forest service and BLM lands full of obscure and lonely places. More places to explore than I ever could in a lifetime. It doesn’t quite feel like home as deeply as Oregon does, but it is a good place to call home for now. And I miss Mags.
The return hike holds more surprises. I can finally see the top of Three Fingered Jack, which was shrouded in clouds and rain a few days ago. I spot a cluster of mountain goats on a far slope. I don’t know if I should be delighted or angry when I see them. If I were back in northwestern Montana, of course I’d be thrilled since they are native and part of a healthy ecosystem there. But in southeastern Utah, there is increasing evidence that the mountain goats (that were introduced in areas that they are NOT native for the purpose of trophy hunting) are harming native plants and damaging fragile alpine areas. So I do some quick google searches to see if I should be happy or sad to see these goats here in this habitat. It turns out that these goats are native and were reintroduced recently. Nice!
I get to last viewpoint. I can see all the way to the Three Sisters! I start to cry thinking of what an incredible hike this has been. Each day has been infused with joy and I’ve excelled in doing this hike my own way. So much swimming in lakes, visiting friends and family, going to Ranger Programs and learning natural history, chasing butterflies, iNaturalizing (over 94 species!), a bonus side trip to climb South Sister, and topping it all off with this out-and-back to give me well over 60 total “bonus” miles for this trip.
I’d intended to hike 540 miles but I ended up doing over 600 miles to cover basically the same distance on the PCT. That makes me happy and really reflects my hiking style.
My sister and her husband pick me up from Santiam Pass. We head over to a favorite childhood spot-- Belknap Hot Springs. Many family vacations were spent soaking in these hot springs after our "big" hikes. This is where I first learned how to section hike-- on the McKenzie River Trail. Though back then it was 3 mile and 5 mile sections at a time. But we would piece them together to eventually complete the entire 26 mile trail. Definitely a fitting place to end this trip!