[NB: This last section of my blog is unfortunately rather late due to the sudden tragic death of my iPhone on Day 152.. as a consequence I’ve had to rewrite a large part of the initial blog through memory.. as well as the latter part due to a sudden lack of enthusiasm due to the aforementioned death of the phone and subsequent loss of all pictures and information?!
I am unable to remember much at all of what happened on both Day 151 and Day 153 so my account has been kept short on these two days as they were the last I wrote.. and felt the need to finish and get this posted!
Presently the pictures throughout these last days have been borrowed from the internet.. and will hopefully be substituted with my actual pictures if and when I am able to retrieve them from the chip at some time in the future?!)
(NB: All pictures with a black border to the left and right are kind curtesy of Bennet Murch.. also known as ‘Strider’.. Thank you!)
PCT DAY 147.. August 30th Mile 2405.3 4800 feet 14.8 miles
Departed the little town of Snoqualmie just after mid day climbing the nearby mountains and traversing the far side with spectacular views to the horizon due to a cold front that came through last night clearing the lingering smoke of the fires that were plainly visible to the east in the distance!
Today was all about traversing enormous tracts drawn into the surrounding mountains and distant peaks! I was able to see my path for many miles and hours ahead.. so very different from much of the past weeks where the trail has been cloaked in the greenery of the encompassing forest.. As the sun was setting.. I stopped for the night and set up my tent by a small pond at the edge of yet another magical forest..
PCT DAY 148.. August 31st Mile 2432.1 4300 feet 26.8 miles
YAHOO! Huckleberries are in season!! For the last month as I hike.. huckleberries and blueberries have been so plentiful that I.. like most hikers have been supplementing our daily intake with copious amounts of fresh berries picked on the trail! For those that have never tasted a huckleberry.. they are very similar in appearance to blueberries.. but the flavor is uniquely full bodied and sweet.. they are absolutely delicious!
Getting closer to that line that defines the border to the north! I know I’ll be over the moon to arrive.. however at the same time I am mindful that I will greatly miss this trail.. and all the amazing people on it.. Together they have defined the path and direction of my life for the last 5 months!!
PCT DAY 149.. September 1st Mile 2454.2 4600 feet 22.1 miles
Today I met a group of 4 amazing young individuals.. Julianna.. Everett.. Jackson and Thomas.. who represent some of Americas youth that have an interest in discovering and experiencing the incredible beauty of the outdoors and all that it has to offer! They are seniors in High School and amongst their busy schedules.. their greatest pleasure is living and hiking the numerous trails that abound in this gorgeously picturesque state!
I had hiked the day over breathtaking mountains and pristine turquoise lakes..to finish in a valley at a place called Mig Lake.. It was here I met the group.. all of whom were to individually inspire me as the evening progressed! Full of the fun and laughter of life.. we swapped stories and chatted over dinner and throughout the evening.. Amongst other things.. they had created a hikers club at school with over 50 members.. and since this was their final year together.. had undertaken this 4 day hike creating memories that would last a lifetime.. Each will go on to colleges of their choice next year and though life will temporarily though inevitably separate them.. each from the other.. the union they share in friendship will remain.. forever unbroken!
“From youths seeds of friendship propagated.. evolve enduring bonds of love sustained!”
PCT DAY 150.. September 2nd Mile 2476.1 5500 feet 21.9 miles
In the early morning as the group still slept.. I packed up my tent and continued on my way.. a solitary figure in the early morning mists through to Stevens Pass and from there on to the summit of a solitary mountain curiously named ‘Grizzly Peak’!
At Stevens Pass.. a ski resort.. I bought additional food to supplement my resupply and instead of hitching a lift into the small town of Skykomish.. decided to continue through the mountains and on into valleys abundant in lakes and clear water springs.. I arrived in the early evening at Grizzly Peak where I set up camp somewhat reassured in the knowledge that a family of section hikers were similarly camped nearby!
The night was uneventful and I was never able to fully understand the origin of this unusually named peak?!
PCT DAY 151.. September 3rd Mile 2504.0 5400 feet 27.9 miles
The day began as it ended.. cloaked in the mists of oncoming winter and chilled by the winds at elevation! Time appeared to stand still as I waded through steps bogged down in imaginary treacle and the day seemed never to end! It was not until late afternoon that the trail dried and the sun made it’s all to brief appearance.. Night descended early no doubt assisted by the blanket of cloud above.. and I retired once again for an early nights sleep!
PCT DAY 152.. September 4th Mile 2526.8 5900 feet 22.8 miles
Milk Creek!! Milk Creek will always have particular significance as a water crossing for me on the PCT?! Hidden in a forested valley between two enormous mountains requiring countless switchbacks.. the creek itself is a raging torrent of whitewater with a slightly milky hue due to its glacial origins only a mile or so upstream! Boulders worn smooth by natures incessant flow.. river beds and the rocks therein have all been shaped through the ravages of time.. and their likes are seen constantly throughout the PCT.. this one however stands out as it had quite a substantial footbridge seemingly locking the two mountains together! A footbridge that by all counts should have prevented me from plunging headlong into the icy waters of this wild torrent!
That I almost drowned in this innocuous creek is a constant reminder of the need to always consider the perils surrounding us.. and the need to always be mindful of hidden dangers lurking unsuspected.. at any moment in time?
I needed water before the next climb.. the last of a spectacular day of switchbacks.. both up and down.. a testament in themselves to the severity of the gradient in Washington’s jumble of mountains! The bridge above the creek was too high to collect water so I climbed down the slope and ended up perched on two of the aforementioned boulders.. With the aid of a ‘seemingly substantial’ branch which I grabbed for support in one hand.. I reached down to collect a bottle’s worth of water! Unfortunately the now.. ‘not so substantial’ branch abruptly snapped off and launched me headfirst into the middle of Milk Creek!!
The breath was instantly knocked out of me due to the extreme cold.. and still under the seething whitewater.. I knew instantly I had to grasp hold of a boulder.. any boulder to prevent myself being dragged downstream and over the near falls?! I had already narrowly missed cracking my head on several boulders as they’d rushed by.. and as I surfaced I found myself clinging to yet another.. midstream! Hauling myself to the side and subsequently out of the turgidly frigid waters I suddenly realized my iPhone.. (literally my right arm!) was in my pocket.. and had therefore suffered similarly! Reaching my pack I instantly surrounded my understandably ailing phone with rice in a zip lock bag.. and then to warm my own ‘shaking’ body.. I took off up the switchback totally drenched.. my trail runners and socks soaked.. but feeling justifiably lucky to be alive.. and once again on the trail?!
Unfortunately my phone never did recover.. but rather suffered a tragic end.. and as a consequence I lost most of my Washington pictures for the last few weeks.. all contacts and information.. and all my notes for this blog?! (They had yet to be backed up..) I am.. and have therefore been rewriting as much as can be remembered.. and will be substituting my ‘lost’ pictures taken of the PCT in Washington.. for ones curtesy of ‘www’ (the worldwide web)!
PCT DAY 153.. September 5th Mile 2557.0 3500 feet 30.2 miles
As I come back to this day.. the day after Milk Creek.. I find I am unable to remember anything of significance that defines this from a myriad of similar days over the past weeks? Still frustrated and saddened at the loss of so much information and the associated pictures since my arrival in Washington.. I have unfortunately let too much time lapse between the actual hike and the writing of this days events!
The scenery was certainly spectacular but without any means to record such magnificence I temporarily lost the incentive to physically write an account of the day! By evening I had once again camped by a river.. refilled my bottles and ate hastily before retiring for the night with the promise of redemption at Stehekin tomorrow!
PCT DAY 154.. September 6th Mile 2574.3 2100 feet 17.3 miles
This morning hiked the 12 miles through to the ranger station upriver from Stehekin (a little settlement in the middle of a reserve) and caught the shuttle bus down to the town itself.. initially with the intent of camping and staying the night there.. get some laundry done and clean up in a shower?! In the end however I settled for a small resupply at the one tiny store and decided to catch the next bus back up to the ranger station to continue the hike for a few miles before making camp for the night!
Unfortunately I stubbed my big toe on a piece of granite that ‘apparently’ happened to be the top of some enormous mountain buried right beneath the trail with only the slightest hint protruding through the middle of the PCT.. presumably to catch unsuspecting hikers like me??!! I’ve managed to miss countless rocks.. stones.. roots and all the debris the trail has thrown at me.. generally only lightly stubbing my toes 4 or 5 times a day.. (something every other hiker does too..) but nothing too serious.. this time however it was eye wateringly painful!! It instantly tore the nail from the top of my big toe (Double ‘OUCH’ and #=>*!) I didn’t even want to stop for an examination as I knew exactly what it would look like.. so continued on down the trail cursing everything the PCT stood for.. before setting up camp for the night.. a few hours later?!!
Once settled.. I peeled back my sock and washed the rather mutilated and particularly bloody area around my big toe! It had throbbed throughout the day.. and was at the same time.. a sharp pain that was with me throughout the afternoon.. but in the end.. is just another foot problem to add to countless others accrued on this awesomely beautiful trail littered with innumerable.. constantly unexpected hidden perils?!
PCT DAY 155.. September 7th Mile 2604.1 4400 feet 29.8 miles
Today I felt more like a goat as I traversed the sheer ledges that formed most of the trail for miles at a time as I crossed the mountains.. from one to the next! The tread was almost solely one of rocks and shale.. a particularly treacherous combination whilst ascending and descending!
Late in the afternoon I came across a note left on the trail by ‘Harry’ and ‘Brown’ warning of a possible closure of the trail from a place called Harts Pass through to the Canadian border and ‘Terminus’.. all due to a new forest fire here in Washington?!!! Damn.. not again!! *#!*
I knew this would be bound to stress and fire up the guys behind me!! On my end though I will hike this hike.. hopefully all the way through to the end.. as long as the trail doesn’t close.. without the need to rush and the associated stress involved!!
Camping with two other wonderful section hikers.. Jan and Nancy.. with whom I shared a deliciously cooked dinner prepared by Nancy! Fell into bed around 7pm with the prospect of a big day tomorrow?! With these fires now starting up here in Washington I don’t want to delay my arrival in Canada.. I won’t stress.. but at the same time it really would be a devastating blow if after all these miles.. the Forestry Department was to close the trail and I am unable to finish due to similar fires that closed Oregon?!! This really is turning out to be a ‘nail biting’.. will I.. won’t I finish ‘hike’.. right through to the bitter end when that very last step is taken!!
PCT DAY 156.. September 8th Mile 2630.5 5900 feet 26.4 miles
I woke this morning at 5am after having heard the guys ‘Mike’.. ‘A.M.’ and ‘Gator’ fly by in an attempt to catch the rest of the crowd at.. or near the ‘Terminus’.. the border between the USA and Canada?! ‘Spider Bite’ quickly joined the former three on this rather stressful ‘run’ for the border on the pretense that the ongoing Diamond Creek Fire might yet close the trail.. ordering the evacuation of those still hiking.. and preventing us all from attaining our goal of reaching the ‘Terminus’?! If that is the case.. it would without doubt be a devastating blow.. but so be it?! I packed up and continued on my way.. at my usual pace.. I will not let the stress of the unknown affect my growing mood of excitement!!
As I climbed through the mountain passes.. the mists and fog of the lowering clouds formed droplets of water on my skin.. soon soaking me as surely as if it had rained.. then later.. as I was traversing the subsequent mountains.. the sun appeared and though the wind was still bitterly cold.. the two slowly but surely managed to dry me out.. Around mid day I cruised through Harts Pass.. the last place the Forestry Service would close the trail if fire or smoke had threatened.. and continued on to camp solo on a mountainside slightly protected from the still howling wind and inevitable rain yet to come?!
The border and ‘Terminus’ is now less than 20 miles to the north along a trail well over a hundred times that length winding away to the south behind me! Tomorrow I will have completed a personal dream of crossing this enormous country on foot.. and though I had a trail on which to walk.. resupply options and GPS.. through continuity and immersion.. I am in the tiniest way possible.. able to feel a sense of what it must have been like for the pioneers and early settlers of this then emerging country! They risked the lives of themselves and that of their families.. in a climate of adversity and danger the likes of which we will never fully contemplate.. all for the goal of a better life! In the face of their accomplishments and reaching out towards the myriad goals I have yet to come.. I am truly humbled!
PCT DAY 157.. September 9th Mile 2658.9 3900 feet 28.4 miles (Manning Park Lodge.. Canada!)
GOOD MORNING WORLD!! Today I have a very exciting announcement.. today is my very LAST day hiking this incredibly awesome.. frustratingly challenging trail called the PCT or Pacific Crest Trail! Today I will reach the ‘Terminus’ (the border between the US of A and Canada) which is officially the end of the PCT.. and from there I will continue on into Canada with my ‘special entry visa’ in hand.. and finish as mentioned at the rather remote but poignantly significant Manning Park Resort!
Through the early morning mists that eventually turned to rain.. over the tops of the mountains and down through the forested valleys.. much the same as had been done throughout most of this trip.. but today.. today nothing.. not the rain.. the snow or howling wind could dampen or eclipse the anticipation of my arrival at firstly the ‘Terminus’ and thereafter Manning Park! The excitement amongst those I passed was palpable! We were approaching the end of this breathtaking odyssey that had completely absorbed us throughout the last months.. the best part of half a year.. of our lives!
YAHOO!!!! I did it.. the hike is now over and I find myself 2658 miles or 4277 kilometers from my start point on the Mexican border! 156 days ago on the 6th April I set out and have since battled the rains of Washington.. the snows of the Sierra and the merciless sun of the deserts in Southern California! I’ve endured touches of heat stroke and dehydration.. trench foot and hypothermia.. sprains and strains.. and other minor ailments?! I’ve negotiated snow covered granite peaked mountains.. forested valleys.. lakes of ice.. raging rivers and swampy marshland! In summary I’ve experienced a great deal! A fantastical adventure of epic personal proportions.. and apart from a few microseconds.. I’ve LOVED every moment! 😊