We did it!

yipee

Day 161 & 162 Our last few days were rainy and blah. In a way it was good because it made us glad we were finishing. Plus we were lucky enough to have the rain stop just before we reached Monument 78 on the US-Canadian border on September 5th. As we approached the boarder all I could think of was that we still had another miserable 8 miles to do to make it back to civilization! But we ended up having a great time at the finish. Two Brits who hiked the AT last year and were hoping to hike the PCT in ’10 were there and as soon as we rounded the bend, snap, flash – we had a little paparazzi capturing our final steps of a journey that had taken us over 2,650 miles. It was so surreal that it was over.

How can we summarize the 5 months we’d been on the PCT?

It was one of the most

marvellous, miserable,

exhilarating, exhausting,

beautiful, boring,

difficult, delightful,

stressful, serene,

challenging, cheery,

bi-polar adventures of our lives.

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… And we’re thinking of hiking the Continental Divide Trail in 2010!

Coundown to Canada

team

Day 159 & 160 After loading up our bellies & packs with more bakery deliciousness, we headed off – Double Barrel & Frank the Tank, DnA (that’s us), and Wyatt. Reddy hadn’t gotten his passport in the mail so he’d stayed on in Stehekin. So sad! We chatted it up on the trail and the miles flew by… we always say that when it comes to friendships, 1 day on the trail is equivalent to 1 month off the trail. At break I ate my brownie from the bakery and it was simply gorgeous. I spent another hour licking every molecule off the wax paper bag it came in after I finished eating it.

We had a great evening chatting and telling jokes with DB & FtT and Wyatt (Solid Uncle Chester 5 dolla holla). Since it was a clear night we almost camped out under the stars but in the end we decided to set up our tent… And it’s a good thing we did because it POURED it down that evening! Unfortunately camp spots had been limited and we’d camped in a depression… in the morning we kept hoping the rain would clear, but in the meantime our tent was filling with water from below! At last, by around 9am we got on the road – it was still raining and almost all our gear was soaked. UGG! Thankfully it began to clear a bit at Rainy Pass and we managed to dry out our stuff. There we were sad to say goodbye to Frank & Double Barrel, who were headed into the Olympics before flying back to Rhode Island. They wanted to save the border crossing for when they would be finishing the whole PCT. A New England roadtrip reunion is in order!

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Silver Fox, Joker & Heather caught us up & we hiked a bit with them (but they are FAST!) The weather soon became miserable and frigid again, though we did see a spectacular rainbow.

Frog it

September 1st Day 158 – We arrived at the High Bridge Ranger Station and waited by the frothy aquamarine Stehekin river dotted with miniature frogs for the bus that would take us to into town. The night before we’d met up with Double Barrel & Frank the Tank again and before noon Silver Fox & Joker, thru-hikers we’d met briefly in Ashland, arrived. Heather, a Triple Crowner  who met Joker through the PCT community in Bellingham, Washington, had also joined them at Steven’s Pass. En route to Stehekin we stopped at a marvellous bakery where we consumed bountiful baked goodies. Ahh! We’d fantasized about this moment for weeks!

f0501651Stehekin is a remote village on the edge of Lake Chelan accessible only by foot, boat or plane.  We dealt with some blah blah logistics and then proceeded to lounge about on the grass with the others. I was hoping to go for a swim but it became cloudy and eventually even began to rain. Thankfully there was a little shelter complete with picnic tables & fireplace right beside the lake. Here we were joined by even more hikers and enjoyed a lovely evening of merriment.

One of the biggest things I’ll miss about the trail is the great variety of fun people and the instant community that develops amongst thru-hikers.  Where else can you meet a wealthy businessman, country farmer, Marine,  tech whiz, academic, personal trainer and biologist all in the same place?  However, at least for the PCT front runers, there’ve been very few women. So it was fantastic to FINALLY have my first chance to hike with another women (even if she’s called Frank 😉 )

* A Triple Crowner is someone who has hiked all 3 of the National Scenic Trails in the US: the Appalachian Trail, the Pacific Crest Trail and the Continental Divide Trail

Glacier Peak

Day 155 – 157 Back to the trail! Rafiki left us since he needed to do big miles to make it to his job on time. But the good news is Wyatt, Dan’s friend from Georgetown Outdoor Ed who lives near Wenatchee, was joining us. We hiked through the Glacier Peak Wilderness as Wyatt caught us up on news from the outside world and his travels around Southern Africa. A 45 mile stretch of the PCT was closed ever since a huge storm in 2003 caused many trees to blow down, wiped out numerous bridges and even washed away parts of the trail. However we talked to many SoBos (southbounders) who said the trail was manageable so we decided to skip the detour.

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river crossingMost of the trail was in fairly good condition and they’d even put in some new bridges, but we did have about 100 blow downs to cross and some scary log/boulder crossings of gushing glacial rivers.  Poor Wyatt was forced to jump right into to hiking about 25 miles a day in tough terrain but he handled it well.

And the gorgeous sites, especially Glacier Peak, made the difficult trail conditions and crazy ups and downs completely worth it. Plus the good weather was holding up – quite rare in Washington!

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The Dinsmores

Jerry & Dan

Jerry & Dan

Day 153 – August 26 we arrived at Steven’s Pass where we hitched into Skykomish and met the lovely Dinsmores – the lone Trail Angels of Washington. We met Jerry Dinsomore at the Post Office and rode with them to shower & do laundry at their riverside home. Unfortunately, though, the Skykomish river is changing course so they have to move. But the good news is they’re building a whole Hiker Hostel down the road in Baring. Jerry has a round figure and a cigar permanently afixed to his mouth (except, of course, when we took his photo). He definitely fits the bill of the logging trucker he once was.  Angela Dinsmore is charming woman who insisted on hugging me even though I was filthy.  I even got to wear her grandmother’s fantastic purple dress.

At the Dinsmores we met some other hikers: Batman, who had a nasty infected spider bite, and Double Barrel & Frank the Tank (a girl), a couple from Rhode Island. DB & Frank had skipped up to Washington from NoCal and were a lot of fun so we were sad to hear they were getting back on the trail the day we arrived. Burning Daylight also arrived and told us Jean Micheal, the Frenchmen we’d hiked with in the Sierras, was getting off trail. We were surprised to hear it but apparently his knee had been bothering him and I think he just wasn’t enjoying himself. Crazy, though, to quit only 200 miles from Canada! We also met Big Foot, an older section hiker and saw Foxtrot again. We took a zero on Day 154 and enjoyed chilaxin’ and watching videos in the garage/hostel. But goodness was it HOT!

water & fire

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Day 151 – 153 Our greedy eyes devoured the scenery from our ridge-topped trail as we traveled through the Alpine Lakes Wilderness. And our stomachs devoured food we yogi-ed from city slicking backpackers. The term YOGI comes from the picnic basket-stealing Yogi bear and refers to whenever thru-hikers obtain free food, supplies, etc from others they meet along the trail. Yogi-ed food is the YUMMIEST because a) you didn’t have to carry it  b) it’s usually extra so you don’t have to ration it and c) it adds variety to what can become a tedious diet of dried everything d) it’s free!

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There was a little fire we had to go around but it wasn’t bad at all, just a few miles on another trail.  Afterwords we faced a hot ascent though a burnt area ablaze with the pink blossoms of fireweed. It was like experiencing some strange “circle of life” to be seeing dead trees ravaged by a previous fire, a fire currently smoldering and then the new growth of a flower that thrives in ashy soil all at once.

We also had a cool experience of seeing 2 young bucks together – and then again as we went up a switchback. Hiking with Rafiki was great because as a Wildlife Technician he knew so many interesting tidbits about the flora, fauna and animals we encountered along the trail. It was like having a guided tour through a living museum.  And then there was Reddy who’d explain complex computer capacities and play games on his cell phone at breaks. Get Reddy & Rafiki together and they bickered more than an old married couple… they even argued about things they both agreed on (but it a totally playful manner).  Good times.

Eagle Creek

Day 138

We left the PCT to take the Eagle Creek Trail. The trail goes through lush forests of oak and conifers. The plentiful rain is evident from the thick layer of moss covering tree, rock and trail like 70s shag green carpet. It was drizzling as we walked, but even if it hadn’t been, brushing against the wet vegetation would have soaked us. Still the trail was magnificent…. cut into a steep cliff above raging water, then leading us across wobbly bridges and alongside crashing waterfalls… and even behind Tunnel Falls.

Can you find Dan?

Can you find Dan?

Despite the beauty of the trail we were miserable popsicles by the time we arrived in Cascade Locks on the Colombian River on day 139, August 12th. We warmed up a bit over pancakes at Charburger… and also managed to nab some food others had left on their plates before the waitress cleared them. Yum! The waitress caught us in our desperate act, but must have just felt sorry for us because later she presented us with 2 free pieces of blackberry pie!

We also managed to get in touch w/Pacific Masai, Reddy & Rafiki, who had gotten there the day before. They’d rented a little RV across the street and said we could crash there. It was great to be re-united with our friends and our joy was complete when suddenly the rain stopped, the cloud parted and in about 10 minutes it was hot and sunny! This was brilliant since all our stuff was soaked but soon dried out in the sunshine.

In Cascade Locks we  re-united with Burning Daylight & Jean Micheal who we hadn’t seen since the Sierras. We also met up with Mike, a section hiker from Portland we’d ran into the day before at Indian Springs. And Slim showed up too. Sadly Pacific Masai was getting off trail because of time & money constraints. But the rest of us were headed on to Washington! Considering how long California was, I couldn’t believe we were already done with Oregon!

Jeff & Hood

 

Mt Jeff

Mt Jeff

 

Day 134– We had a very sad departure from Bend on August 7th… and to make matters worst horrible cold drizzly weather awaited us on the trail.  We met another thru-hiker, Pacific Masai, and hiked with him as we got progressively wetter and colder. Rafiki & Reddy took off flying and we didn’t see them again till Cascade Locks. Thankfully the rain dissipated and friendly weekend hikers shared their Giradelli chocolate with us. They even had a mini-keg but it was far too chilly to have a cold beer. The next morning Day 135 we were still in a damp cloud and I was beginning to think weeks of horrid weather awaited when the KABOOM the clouds cleared and we were greeted by great glacial Mt Jefferson.

 Day 136 More blue sky awaited as we approached Mt Hood. And by day 137 we were climbing the deep sand at its base up to arrive at Timberline Lodge, built with local materials by skilled artisans in the 1930s as part of Roosevelt’s WPA. The architecture and design of the lodge is beautiful, but towering Mt Hood – whose glaciers provide year-round skiing – was even more captivating.

Sandy & Snowy Mt Hood

Sandy & Snowy Mt Hood

:::ashland:::

Day 118 we arrived in Ashland in the midst of a heatwave. Forrest, the backpacker we’d met earlier, lived in Ashland and he & his family invited us to stay with them. His parents, Steve & Mary, were both doctors and shared 1 full time job at a low-income health clinic. They also had a daughter named Emma. The whole family was incredibly welcoming and we had a fabulous time chatting with them over a gourmet dinner that Dan whipped up. 

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The next day (day 119) Forrest & Emma gave us the grand tour of Ashland which lived up to its amazing rep. Beau-i-ti-ful park, good vibes, very green, hippie, laid back.  A gorgeous place to relax… and do all the awful logistical blah blah blah stuff and errands that zero days require. But great company, town food (including Moose Track’s ice cream & coconut chocolate chip cookies) and getting new shoes & a new pack (old pack was ripped to shreds and Gregory the great sent me a replacement) in the mail made it all worthwhile.

Magnificent Marbles

IMGP3811109 to Day 114 – We had a more leisurely week on the trail between Castella and Seiad since if we went our anticipated 25+ miles per day we’d arrive in Seiad on Sunday and the Post Office would be shut. The scenery was gorgeous with lost of crest walking, views of snowy Shasta and fields upon fields of wildflowers. The Marble Mountains were magnificent! And for the first time since Yosemite we had a functioning camera! Earlier we kept missing our bounce back box in the post and it contained our extra camera batteries & chargers. It was agonizing to walk for 100s of miles and not be able to capture any of it on film.  But this time we got a battery in the mail from my dad, though the new shoes we’d ordered online for Anna hadn’t arrived… this was a nightmere since my Meindl shoes had been bothering me ever since I’d gotten them in Kennedy Meadows. Grrr!

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It was a week long stretch between towns and what had seemed like an enormous amount of food at the beginning of the week soon dwindle dangerously low. But once again Big G provided… this time in the form of grandparents & their grandson Max who were headed back into civilization and generously gave us LOADS of their extra food. YUM!

We also ran into tons of teenagers from a camp at Etna who gave us granola bars & oranges! So good! Plus we met a friendly high school grad named Forrest at Paradise Lake who shared his Pita chips with us. Food is definitely the way to a thru-hiker’s heart!