So we're back in Boston... but there's 1 more trail entry that I must write, for all you readers out there who have enjoyed the last 5 months.
Before I start though, I have to say that I just uploaded all of the Washington pictures (while watching Game 2 of the Sox-Angels ALDS), and am already starting to get emotional about the walk. It's so strange to be back in the real world.
That being said, here's a recap of the last section, between Stehekin and the border of Canada:
We caught the last bus out of Stehekin Saturday evening. As the only patrons on the bus, we got a personal tour of the area, and even got to ask questions along the way. Getting back on the Trail just before sunset, we didn't get very far, and camped a mile in, just up from the banks of Coon Lake.
In the morning, with 90 miles to go, we got up early and started the day as we had the last 4+ months... coffee, breaking down the tent, filling our packs with our stuff, and taking that first step of the day. It was cold. Cold enough that I wore hiking pants, rain pants, 4 layers on my torso, 2 sets of gloves, and a toque on my noggin. Eventually I warmed up, and after we put in over 12 miles, we had lunch at a creekside campsite, soaking in the sun.
Moving north, we left North Cascades National Park, and came to Hwy 20 / Rainy Pass. There, we found a 'magic' cooler with fruit in it, and had a pear each. After progressing to Porcupine Creek to fill up our water bottles, we decided that I'd push on by myself the next 3 1/2 miles to Cutthroat Pass and set up camp, making both of us happy... I get to up my heart rate while Emily gets to arrive with camp set up.
Unfortunately though, due to my fault, she passed camp without me realizing it, and the next 2 hours were spent trying to find each other. Funny how, after almost 5 months, we lost each other for the very first time with only 3 days to go. While she was hollering my name on the north side of the ridge, I was screaming bloody murder on the south side. After I got no response numerous times, I couldn't help but have thoughts of very bad things happening to her. She was either 1-attacked by a bear, 2-off the trail after slipping, maybe with a broken ankle, or 3-a rape victim. It was a very difficult couple hours for me, and after almost panicking, coming close to hitting the 911 button on the SPOT, and muttering things to myself like "Oh my god what have I done?", I collected myself, took a deep breath, and broke down camp to go find her. While walking up to the pass, we found each other, and embraced in a sobbing hug. That night, we appreciated the tight confines of our tent, sleeping as close to each other as possible.
The next day, we decided it best to stay together. We walked, walked some more, and walked some more after that. 25 miles down, up, down, up, and finally down under a moonlit sky to Harts Pass, where we were pleasantly surprised to find a campground with a pit toilet that was actually clean and pretty nice!
In the morning we awoke to find it had snowed. Only a dusting, but a definite reality check for us that winter was right around the corner. It was another cold day, and I found it hard at first to get warm, even with all my layers on and walking. Emily started the day with her down jacket on, but quickly warmed up, and had to shed it. All day actually we were putting on and taking off layers, having a hard time thermoregulating with the varied terrain, clouds, and whether the trail was under a tree canopy or not. One minute we'd be cold, the next boiling lava hot and sweating. During lunch we ran into 3 fellow thru-hikers: Bubble Party, Hungry, and Hemlock. They were on their way back to Harts Pass, after having reached Canada the day before and deciding to stay in the States. After congratulating them on their accomplishment, we parted ways, vowing to stay in touch in cyber space. Snow began to fall off and on in the afternoon. We had wanted to camp before dark, but because of the gray skies, and that we were left with little flat ground when we started looking for a campsite, that didn't work out so well. We finally found a flat spot, up on a ridge at 7000 feet, and pitched our tent while it got dark and snowed on us. While staying in the tent, we cooked just outside the vestibule, and stayed warm inside our sleeping bags. Sleep came shortly after dinner.
With only 8 1/2 miles to the border, we set the alarm for 6:00 and enjoyed a lazy morning, eating breakfast and drinking coffee while still inside our bags. We reminisced a bit, talked about what we were feeling, and what the hell we were about to do: finish this walk we started 5 months and 1 day ago. We emerged from the tent to find about an inch of fresh snow on the ground, which was just enough to make the surrounding scenery absolutely beautiful without hindering our progress. Needless to say we were on a high that morning as we walked north.
We arrived at the northern terminus just before noon. It was in a small clearing in the middle of nowhere, and had the same style monument as the one at the Mexican border. What does one do when finishing a journey of this length? Well, we hugged, we congratulated each other, Emily cried, I smoked a cigar, we drank some champagne, we took pictures, we broke out the Canadian flag, we sighed. Now what? 8 more miles to the closest civilization: Manning Park, BC. It was there that my parents, George and Sally, met us, which was only fitting since they saw us off at the start. Time to celebrate!
Wow, I can't believe it... we really did it. We hiked the entire length of the PCT.