Thursday, August 24, 2023

Day 12. Farewell PCT

Day 12. Last 3 miles into Harts Pass
Washington section of the Pacific Crest Trail

The night was wind-free! What luck! 

Jan and I enjoyed a most colorful light show and we could see it all happening right from camp above the trail!

The stars were new-moon bright and it felt like we could reach out and touch the milky way. And the warblers provided the soundtrack for a sweet sunrise. What fun to watch it all from our larch-perch!

 The last miles were uneventful. We arrived at Jan's car which was safely waiting for us. 

In town, Jan and I met up as planned with my parents. Of course we couldn't miss out on a chance to be goofy and enjoy all that town had to offer.

Dad, Mom, and me. PCO Jan

 I'm not sure when I'll write again on this blog, if at all. Writing has been helpful for me in understanding this PCT journey and I'm glad I could share it with others.

Wednesday, August 23, 2023

Day 11. Even more bonus miles

7/19/23 Day 11
South of Rock Pass to 3 miles from Harts Pass
Washington Pacific Crest Trail bonus

Another bonus day on the Pacific Crest Trail after finishing the PCT. Just wandering around and enjoying our time out here. Until I have to return.

We listened to the melodic song of the hermit thrush as we descent through rich forest. The day is all clear sunshiny.

We run into two friendly interesting couples who we’ve been leapfrogging with the whole trip and finally make time to chat more with them. We also talk to a few more hikers - several other section hikers. Yay! Everyone is friendly and I get lots of high fives for finishing. In pervious years, I’ve gotten bad attitudes from thruhikers who look down on section hikers but this trip there hasn’t been any of that.

Wow! Three different friends on this one blossom!
Jan and I are camped three miles from Jan’s car at Harts Pass but I’m so glad to have another evening enjoying the trail. Like all of my PCT hikes, I am not eager to leave this beloved trail. But I’m so glad I’ll be meeting my parents in two days so there is that to look forward to!
Last hang on the PCT.

Jan and I are camped on a saddle with views in both directions. It’s normally a place I’d avoid since it could get windy up here, but so far I’m in the lee side out of any wind. The only other sheltered option had a resident mouse that greeted me as I was setting up, so I quickly packed up and left her alone. Hopefully the wind doesn’t shift direction during the night.

Tuesday, August 22, 2023

Day 10. Still hiking

7/18/23 Day 10
Hopkins Lake to about 1 mile south of Rock Pass
Washington section of the Pacific Crest Trail

Even though I've finished the PCT, there are still more miles to hike to return to Harts Pass, where Jan's car is waiting. We are in no rush since we've got a few more day's of food and my parents don't meet us for a while.

Last night was our coldest yet- 38 degrees - and was a good reminder for why I always take my down booties and puffy jacket. It was nice to stay toasty!


Today was a fantastic day on the PCT with outstanding scenery! I know we saw this terrain before but this time we took our time and stopped even morw than usual. Lakeview Ridge had crystal clear views off to the North Cascades and down to the lakes. Mags had told me that this is one of the most memorable parts of the PCT and he was totally right on! The section between Woody Pass and Rock Pass was also filled with butterflies and flowers. I chased them up and down the trail (but thankfully not off any cliffs) to snap photos for iNaturalist.

There were so many butterflies, including some alpine favorites like this one.

Our big plan for the day was to check out a lake that we spotted on the map. Win! It was lovely enough for a swim and plenty of relaxing on the shore. The butterflies were puddling along the shore and also swooping over the water. 

Fantastic lake off the PCT. This was one that we found using our maps (i.e. it's not on guthooks).
What a sweet bonus lake!

Then we found a campsite above the lake just a short walk to the open meadows views for dinner. We basked in the sun and looked at plants and spent the long evening relaxing. Time well spent, without any mileage goals.

Monday, August 21, 2023

Day 9. Finishing the Pacific Crest Trail

7/17/23 Day 9
Hopkins Lake to Canada (and back to Hopkins Lake)
Washington section of the Pacific Crest Trail

Jan and I made it to Canada today. As of today, I have hiked the entire PCT, some of it multiple times because of all my out-and-backs.

Me at the border monument. PCO Jan
The rain starts and is on again off again all morning. The scenery is mostly for forest with views through the trees and sweet, kind PCT-grade trail. It's good terrain for rain.
Umbrella time!
The monument itself is sort of like I'd expect from seeing other peoples' photos. But it also feels surreal like being on a movie set or peaking behind the scenes of a famous place. I know there will be the cut of trees, because that's the classic backdrop I've seen in other peoples' finishing photos. But I didn't expect the flowers or the rooty bare ground that so many have sat upon.
Jan and Joan.
When we arrive at the border monument, there is already a couple from Maryland (snow-bos) who we’ve been leapfrogging with there. We chat with them and we do a photo shoot.

Jan asks me how I’m feeling but I’m feeling so much it's hard to explain! First, I'm happy. I mean, I did it! But there is also a feeling of disbelief. I've still been thinking it might not happen. I also feel some sadness at finishing. I love the PCT so much and its a part of this chapter of my life. And now I wonder how I'm going to find something as good. Certainly no trail can possibly be as kind, reliable, joyful, and gentle as the PCT!

There is also freedom in knowing this chapter is over. I know that no other trail will be like this trail has been for me … because it has been a constant for the past 10 summers. While I’ve done section hikes 5 of those summers, not being on the PCT for the other 5 summers was still full of anticipating and knowing I’d return. Now that this is over, anything is possible.

I am also overwhelmed with gratitude for the many people that have helped me and showed incredible kindness, and especially for the wisdom imparted along the way.

Holding my PCT Class of 2014 bandana.

I think about how back in April 2014 when I started, I hadn't even met Jan! And how we met in 2014 during my stress fracture and how we ended up being bestie hiking buddies. And now we’ve hiked so many miles together and been through so much.

Look at this! Jan surprises me with a tasty treat! WOW!

I send an inreach message to my parents. They've been incredibly supportive my whole life and I feel so lucky to have them close to me! I also inreach Mags who truly understand how to integrate hiking and life.

A lot of people that have been important for my PCT hike, I've lost touch with over the years. But I send out my thoughts to them. I think about those I've hiked many PCT miles with- Susan, MeToo, Arizona, and Coach. I think of Renee who helped me get started with long-distance hiking, and with whom offered much support and PCT smiles. I think of Steph who helped me transform my stress fracture into a success and got me back out to the trail and saw me through such a dark time. I think of Still Waters who always believed in me. (Still Waters- if you ever read this, I want you to know that I carried your note the whole way and read it countless times and it gave me strength and wisdom to get me through so much. Thank you for everything, Still Waters.)

I am also grateful to my right foot especially for healing after the stress fracture, for turning my thru hike into a section hike, which has given me almost a decade of the PCT woven into my life.

One the return trip, Jan and I have fun chatting. I return to inaturalizing and finally seeing the pika that we've been hearing out frolicing.

That's me frolicing too. PCO Jan

Evening winds increase and I have bad memories too of many horribly windy PCT nights. So we climb away from the lake and amazingly there is less wind here and I am pitched between trees that are at the absolute limit of the length of my tarp. The temperature is dropping fast but so far I am cozy and Jan found a good spot close by so yay what a day!

Hardly any wind up here away from the lake.
As I fall asleep, I have more thoughts about finishing. Before I started the PCT, I remember spending so much time planning for the PCT and wondering how it would change me and wondering what I'd learn. Now I know that I can absolutely do and finish anything. I am persistant. And I can find all the joy in doing it too. I am also grateful that my PCT experience has been my own. That it was on my own timeframe. That I hiked my own direction. That I hiked my own way.

Sunday, August 20, 2023

Day 8 Holman Pass to Hopkins Lake

7/16/23 Day 8

Holman Pass to Hopkins Lake
Washington section of the Pacific Crest Trail

Last night’s sleep was made possible by the wonders of ear plugs. I always keep ear plugs in my first aid kit- it's one of those emergency items that I'm always glad I have for situiations when other people camp nearby. I got solid sleep and was ready for the day!

Jan and I were up and on the trail by 6:15 like always. Today started out witha climb but the reqards were outstanding. We enjoyed views practically all day. The stretch over Rock Pass then over Woody Pass was amazing. There were even clear sky views off to the west of stunning glacier capped peaks including Mt Baker! 

I know that the Canadian border is a rather arbritrary end to this hike. But the scenery in these north Cascades is absolutely stunning and finishing here doesn't seem like a let down at all. It's truly one of my favorite sections (though of course I say that about all the sections LOL).

Jan and I can't pass up an opportunity to make snow angels!

These are the types of views that make me glad I waited to hike this section for a smoke-free window! It was worth the wait!

When sorting through our food bags, Jan and I discovered that we’d both brought an extra dinner and breakfast. Normally I'd be frustrated that I hadn't calculated my food properly and was carrying extra weight. But because it's Jan, and we both did it, we decided that it means that can stay out another night! This is another reason I am grateful to Jan for her awesome, relaxed hiking style. I'm excited about maximizing our time on the trail instead of having to rush back.

We passed Jans friend Nick who started his FKT attempt today. We also saw him yesterday on his way to the boarder — luckily since he had more time to talk then.

View of Hopkins Lake from above

In the evening, we had a hard time finding a campsite with two hammock-spaced trees for me and a flat spot for Jan. But finally we did it! We are camped near Hopkins Lake, which is surrounded by steep cliffs and the water is clear and colorful. We had a "long" swim in the lake- maybe 5 whole minutes- the water was THAT warm. Haha!

Hanging out after swimming in Hopkins Lake

Tomorrow, if all goes as planned, we will get to Canada! You can tell that I'm still not taking it for granted that I'll actually make it. Even though it's just a few miles away. But I've had so many things happen over the years, that I'm not confident that there won't be problems. Just have to see how it goes.

With the end being near, I’ve been wondering if I am one of the last Class of 2014 finishers, or if there are others from my starting year who are still going section by section. I also wonder if most Class of 2014 finishers completed in 2014 or if more people who started that year AND who complete the trail were section hikers and completed over multiple years. There are only a few section hikers that we’ve met. But no one else that we’ve met is completing the PCT. I wonder if I will be the only person who completes the PCT tomorrow.

I’m grateful to Jan for being here for this finale with me. She has been so supportive and genuinely happy for me and it fills me with joy to share this with her.

In the evening, I notice I've got a hole in my shirt, so I take the time to patch it up. You might think that because I am a section hiker that I have all new gear, but quite the opposite is true. My clothes and gear are worn from many, many trips. But I did restock my thread and repair tape before this trip, thankfully.

Saturday, August 19, 2023

Day 7. Harts Pass to Holman Pass


Harts Pass to Holman Pass

Pacific Crest Trail in Washington state

Good thing I had that nap on our zero day! Last night was loud in the campground until hiker-2AM (ie 11 PM). Folks were driving in after dark, making stinky campfires (ugh I hate campfires because they burn my throat and make my eyes red and puffy), and talking late into the night. Really, nothing more than you’d expect at a campground. Only Jan and I are on hiker time- meaning waking at dawn (5:30) and going to sleep at dusk (or earlier!).

Today our packs were heavy with 5 days of food but I felt so refreshed after a full zero day and was full of energy. And ready to see what this last section of my PCT hike has in store!

Filling out our self-issued wilderness permit

We could see many of the peaks we’d identified on yesterday's visit to Slate Peak lookout. And we could see the lookout tower several times as we wound around on PCT-grade trails below.

We set up camp at a large campsite where we figured other hikers would join us but couldn’t find a smaller site. And sure enough three people are set up nearby. Hopefully they wont stay up too late!

Friday, August 18, 2023

Day 6. Rest day at Harts Pass


Jan and I have a fun and restful zero day at Harts Pass.

Slate Peak Lookout

Jan suggests that we head up to Slate Peak lookout and it is totally incredible! We take a morning drive to the parking lot and then climb a short ways up to the lookout. It gives us incredible views and we luck out with clear bluebird skies. Signs identify the surrounding peaks- including our past and future trail. Jan talks about previous trips she's made to the nearby mountains and I learn to identify their distinct shapes. It makes the rest of the trip more meaningful to be oriented this way. I feel so lucky that Jan suggested this diversion!

We sit enjoying views for a long time.
We’d thought there might be cell service at the lookout and I was both looking forward to seeing if I could get email and download more books from the library but also hoping there was no service since I’m enjoying the break so much. There was no service which was kind of a relief- and I used my inreach to check in with my folks who are meeting Jan and I in a few days. But besides that, I enjoyed the silence.

We spent the afternoon napping and avoiding the mosquitoes with various methods. My favorite was using my map as a mosquito barrier-- plus I could use the map to dream about future trips!

While relaxing, Jan finds her trail journal that she has saved from our 2016 Washington PCT section hike. She treats me to a read alound and we relive the memories together and share more laughter.

Jan cooks up a feast of delicious chili mac
Plus more butterflies and inaturalizing