Well it’s been just over a month since finishing our hike of the CDT. Strangely, I was able to update the blog more regularly when we were hiking through the wilderness and had internet access only once a week at best. Now that I have daily access to the web, I can’t find the time.
On the trail I had only three concerns: 1) walk 2) eat 3) sleep. Yes, we did have to plan where we were going to walk (deciding our route) and do a fair bit of navigation at times, but life was simple. All we had we could carry on our backs. Life moved at a slower pace. We were walking for goodness sake! Think about where you’ve gone today (perhaps by car, train or bike) and now imagine doing the same activities but with only your 2 feet to carry you to and fro. I’ll be surprised if someone can report it wouldn’t significantly change their daily routine.
+ As winter approaches, I’m grateful for the roof over our heads and our warm (free on Craigslist) bed. I’m thankful I can eat lots of fresh fruit and veggies everyday, rather than the junk food we ate on the trail. It’s wonderful to be close to friends and family again. And I’m finally getting to live out some of my HGTV daydreams as we decorate our condo. I’m enjoying being a dog owner too! But…
– I miss the slower pace and simplicity of life on the trail. I miss the stellar community and instant connection with other thru-hikers. I miss being able to pig out with the knowledge that none of it would go straight to my thighs. I miss the mountains and the unexpected sights that each new mile brought.
Our last re-entry, after the PCT, was difficult but we also knew our time in civilization was temporary. We devoted ourselves completely to work so we could earn money for the CDT. Now, things are different. We definitely want to hike the Appalachian Trail sometime in the next few years, but for now we’re putting down roots after being nomads for over three years.
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
bi-polar adventures of our lives.
… And we’re thinking of hiking the Continental Divide Trail in 2010!
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!
Stehekin 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
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.
Most 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!
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!
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!
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.
Day 140 – Day 144 After a scary walk across the Bridge of the gods we entered WASHINGTON! We were back to hiking with Reddy & Rafiki and were also joined by Buckwheat & Princess (a guy) a few days later. We had great conversations on everything from Morman underware to aging to ecology. We also played a Hil-a-r-ious game of 3 Truths & a Lie and enjoyed gorgous alpine scenery around Mt. Adams and then the SPECTACULAR ridge walk on the Knife’s Edge in the Goat Rock Wilderness. It really did feel like we were walking on the edge of a knife at times… the path was just a thin strip that slipped away at a sharp angle on both sides. All around was a lunar lanscape of rock and snow and ice… and tucked deep into the cracks of the mountains below lay blue-green valleys. It was some of the most breath-taking scenery yet and we were so thankful that we’d enjoyed great weather too since Washington is notorious for crazy rainy weather.
- Goat Rocks Rock!
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
Day 125 – We arrived at Mazama village, ate an oatmeal breakfast and then sat and chatted with Joel, Ice Cap, Gingersnap & Highlander as they enjoyed the all-you-can-eat buffet. Actually we didn’t chat with them, we just drooled over their food until finally, when Joel was returning with his third plate of food heaped high with pancakes, sausage and eggs we broke down and paid for the buffet.
A, Gingersnap, Highlander & D
Hours later we rolled out and began discussing our options since our guidebook, the PCT Atlas, hadn’t arrived and wouldn’t be arriving until at least the afternoon. Plus we needed to go to the post office, a few miles walk. You may think a few miles would be no big deal to us since we were now regularly hiking 30 miles a day, but OFF TRAIL miles are completely different. Only food and a life or death emergency will motivate a thru-hiker to walk more than a mile off trail. No, really.
So, we were delighted to meet Chuck Norris, a PCT Trail Angel and hiker, who offered to drive us to the PO in his wonderful white van. We also met PCT hikers UnBreakable and Leave No Trace. Chuck Norris’ wife Tigger was in Ashland, where he was headed later on. And when he told us he could give us a lift to Ashland & then back up to Crater Lake the next day we thought “why not?”
It was great getting to know Chuck Norris, being back in Ashland, seeing Boomer again and meeting a whole slew of new thru-hikers. CN & Tigger totally spoilt us… and countless other hikers with their traveling trail magic!
The Chuck Wagon
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.
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.