Woody Pass mile 2649 to US/Canada Border mile 2660 (+9 to Manning Park)
The ground crunches below our feet. The frost heave ice towers crumble under our giant-like strength. Nothing can stop us now. It’s not even a consideration. We savor the morning and the sun, knowing this is really it. The last morning on the PCT. The last PCT climb. We sit aside the glistening Hopkins Lake for our last PCT break.
Excitement is in the air. What I thought would be anticlimactic is not. We are pumped, with monument legs engaged. Powering down the hill, wading through the brush at an unstoppable 3+ mph. And then it is there. The line cut through the trees swings down to the valley floor. We round the turn and lay our eyes on the northern terminus and monument 78. There is cheer but there is quiet too. Introspective moments as we tap into all that was. 13 years after the events of 9/11 this group of 13ers have arrived at a random global pinpoint where dreams come true.
Yeah for the last 60 miles!
After celebration and pictures, we reluctantly start the trudge to Manning Park Lodge. The longest 9 miles ever. It simply would not end and all I wanted was a burger and beer.
Until next time, PCT (2017?). It’s been real.
Harts Pass 2630 to Woody Pass 2649
It’s before dawn and Meander is working to set up his little wood fired stove. Despite the cold we emerge. Frozen hands make the packing up slow. After at least a 3 lb. crap, I finally join the group at the wood stove where Meander asks “Have you had your sticky bun?”
Dang, this trail magic just doesn’t stop. The group, looking out for my best interests, knows I haven’t waited the required hour after my synthroid pill. But I say fuck it and eat my sticky bun immediately. Remember, Life is short.
We relish the climb out from Harts Pass so that we can warm up. A perfect dusting of snow glitters along the trail. Now we’re talking, I can handle this. Commence cruising. And then I cross paths with my pals Dutchess and Artic Fox. I met them in Etna and they are the dearest of soles. A big congrats to them and crew for reaching the border!
Over 4500 ft. of climbing today which seems a challenge. Dragging ass. It couldn’t be that I’m hung over or dehydrated. Temperature extremes. Sweaty climbs, freezing breaks. We meet the hiker that took our romance book, who has already reached the monument and is backtracking to Harts Pass. He hands it over, claiming that it was the worst book he’d ever read. And yet somehow he managed to read the whole thing. I wonder if deep down he was glad to have something to read. The washouts have been transformed into awesome trail. Otherwise, you risk skidding miles downslope to your death. Backtrack for water. Clasts in rocks, pikas calling, more climbing. I finally arrive at our destination and there is a tiny little tent spot for me. But that means that Tree Killer is cowboy camping. 25 degrees. Yep, he’s the shit and lives big. We huddle in our tents where it’s 28 degrees and I imagine that I can hear the frost heave. Or maybe it’s just my neighbors crunching their food. We try to get Tree Killer to read to us but he’s already lightly snoring. Sunshine reads us a chapter from THE book with all the appropriate voices. We laugh. Yep, it’s bad.
Woody Pass Camp
Mile 2617 to Harts Pass 2630
We’d heard there was going to be trail magic at Harts Pass. Perhaps we were getting a little hungry or the fond memories of trail magic were moving our legs fast. But before all that we had to climb. Switchbacks. To. Hell. No really, I love the hell out of switchbacks. Over 2,600 ft. of climbing over 5 miles. No biggie, but my lungs let me know about it. You guessed it, Epic views.
The switchback reward
Commence crushing. Almost 7 miles to Harts Pass and mostly down hill. And we’re trying to outrun the rain. I almost make it but I finally breakout my pack cover and umbrella. Harts Pass arrival is met with cheers and the bubbling energy of Shrek. Soon Meander arrives with more magic supplies. It appears we’re having Brats, chili and salad for dinner. Damn yeah. And then there are the Shrekeritas that are not for the weak of heart. PBRs, m&ms, warm fire. Everyone knocks off except for me and Tree Killer. Why, as the oldest of our group, are we the only ones still standing? We’re just that fucking tough and committed to making the most out of every moment. Thy sky with bright moon and clouds soon turns to rain. Which turns to sleet. Which turns to snow. Tree Killer and I abort our cowboy camping ideas and setup my tent. Commence crushing. Into a tiny we go about 1 am shivering and knowing this is Life.
Mile 2601 to Brush Creek 2617
I again leave first but I haven’t had my breakfast yet so I stop after a mile and chow down. Ok, chow down is an overstatement since my hiker hunger in nonexistent. I eat a bar and and a dried pineapple slice. I’m soon on my way up and up and up. 1500 ft. in 3 miles. No biggie really. But I can feel it in my lungs. I crest at Cutthroat Pass (6836 ft.) where the group in taking a break.
Looking back from near the top of Cutthroat Pass
Guess it’s time for another snack. And it’s cold. Down jacket goes on. Sunshine snaps a nice picture of me and his rock cairn. Then it’s time to take some glamor shots of Tree Killer in his Backcountry Ninjas T-shirt. Apparently he’s doing a whole dude section in their upcoming catalog. A man, his cotton T-shirt and wilderness. Epic! And because we have boundless energy we throw rocks at Sunshine’s rock cairn until Tree Killer victoriously kills it. Man, I really thought I was going to get it.
And off we go. Through the most amazing country you’ll ever climb. Mountains as far as the eye can see. After a leisurely lunch, we crest Methow Pass. 50 miles from the border! Commence crushing. Downhill forest miles skip by quickly. The 3 mph legs are working and we arrive at our Brush Creek camp just after 5 pm. We tuck into little campsites and then we’re just sitting around staring at each other. Now what? We didn’t learn to camp on the PCT. We only know how to walk. And sleep and walk. And eat and poop and walk some more. Camp time, what’s that? Somehow we survive this long evening and Tree Killer and I watch the full moon come up as it blasts us with light.
September 7, 2014
Bridge camp mile 2585 to Porcupine creek mile 2601
Was the first up and out of camp. Sunshine, Tree Killer, Bramble, Rotisserie and Brian were not too far behind and we met up at the bridge creek bridge. Basking in the sun, I enjoyed my entire Stehekin Bakery cinnamon roll. Damn that was good. Epic damn. Epic good. Simply Epic.
We rolled into the perfect lunch spot next to a cool river. The direction to head was clear because the trail junction was marked with a large arrow atop our recent acquisition, Cowboy Love. We stuffed the book in Bramble’s pack yesterday and then she found it this morning. When Bramble rolled in, about 5 minutes after me, she swore up and down that she didn’t have the book. I just figured she was shitting us and didn’t want to pick it up. Tree Killer couldn’t take the suspense and went back to look for it. Sure enough the book was gone. The only possible culprit was another thru hiker that we had just passed.
Bullets of sweat rained down on the approach to Rainy Pass trail magic. So maybe that’s where it gets its name. Not! Trail magic PBR from 2014er Sockpot. I had met him in Etna so it was fun to see him. Also there living the dream was Tracker who I met at Shroomer’s hiker party back in March. Turns out the hiker that got our romance book was telling them how he’d just finished his book when he happened upon this new one. He neglected to tell them off its lusty nature.
A few more miles, campfire, storytime with Tree Killer reading his journal from last year, since our Love book got stolen. But when all romance hopes were lost, Tree Killer pulled out his kindle with 50 shades of grey. More funny than the ridiculously corny romance was Tree Killer’s romance reading voice. Endless laughter ensued.
September 6, 2014
Stehekin mile 2580 to Bridge Creek Camp mile 2585
You know, you can’t have it all. The weather is perfect. Sunny, warm, sparkling lake, fresh mountain air, tall reaching mountains. And I have allergies? Whatever. Screw you Washington. But all that doesn’t even matter because today, a woman in her 40’s who was celebrating her wedding anniversary with her husband died of a heart attack in front of the Stehekin Bakery. I could make some lame joke that the bakery’s that good but I won’t. Bottom line here – life is short so don’t fucking waste it. I guess Stehekin wouldn’t be too bad a place to check out.
Despite the 4 hour ferry ride from Chelan to Stehekin, I really could have spent more time just lounging at the lakes edge. But in no time we rushed off to the bakery in search of sugary wonder. Glaze dripping cinnamon roles, cookies, muffins, pizza, croissants, pies, and what turned out to be my favorite, espresso almond ice cream with a shot of espresso on top. Dope. Except that the caffeine might kick in here any minute and I’ll lie awake all night. Like I said, life is short.
The Stehekin Bakery
Hit the trail at 6:30pm. Time to climb. Oh and let’s hike 5 miles. Never mind that were not in trail shape and that we haven’t hiked the previous 2,580 miles and that the sun sets just before 8 pm. Roll into camp after darkness falls because well, that’s how we roll. Because we’re PCT hikers and we’re the shit. We’re really not that egotistical but leaving a trailhead after 6 pm and hiking 5 miles doesn’t seem out of the ordinary or unrealistic. Averaging 2.5 mph in this fat body is not so bad I think to myself.
Rushing creek, bright moon, animal scampering through the brush next to my tent, the loo door creaking, rustling thru-hiker plastic, friends, laughter. This is Life.
See Instagram for pics.
Lake Morena Campground
Sunny Friday turned into torrential downpour and high winds. Many times during the night I awoke inside my tent and held up my hands with the hopes that my tent would not collapse. I awoke to a cold freezing day but at least me and my gear were dry. Others had not fared so well and there were trips planned for the laundry mat to dry out gear. I was having a Washington September flashback in the middle of California desert. The weather could not dampen our spirits and it was a great reunion!
Class of 2013!
Class of 2009!