Back to the studio

On Monday, I drove down to my yoga studio in Boston and took my first two public yoga classes since before I started the trail. I was surprised at how well I did! I thought I was going to have to take a different spot in the room than my usual front row, in front of the teacher one, but I decided to set up in the same place as always and I had no problem fitting right in! It felt really good to be back in the same space as one of my strongest role models. At the end of the first class, I sat quietly with a little smile on my face and proudly thought, “I did it!”- “I successfully made it through my first class…And… I did it!…I walked from Mexico to Canada!”. I am surprised at how quickly my body has adapted within the course of one month from being barely able to do chaturunga or urdhva dhanurasana (lacking both strength and flexibility) to somehow not being so far off from where I left off six or so months ago!

At the end of my second class, my teacher read some words that he wanted us to repeat as a meditation:

I let go of other people’s stories about me
I let go of my stories about other people
I let go of my stories about myself
In letting go …I am free…to be who I actually am

He asked us who we would be without these stories?

I realized (well before this class) that my long hike allowed me a reprieve from being labeled by anyone and put into a box that is hard to escape. The trail provides a space for those who hike it to shed layers of anything that has been imposed on us. I feel fortunate that I was able to spend five months in a place where no one cared about anything other than who I was at that very moment that I was interacting with them. I don’t think there was a single person on the trail that wanted to know what my back story or my history was. No one wanted an explanation for any of my behavior or any of my characteristics. I met many people who accepted me upon meeting me and complimented me for my open-heartedness and easy laugh. I didn’t have to hide myself or pretend to be anything that I am not. As my hike progressed and I moved into new states with different weather, I reflected on the metaphor of the change in clothing as a dropping of the masks we often wear to hide our true selves. In the desert, we were all covered up in clothing to protect our skin, wide-brimmed hats, and sunglasses. In the Sierras, we allowed our skin to be exposed to the sun a little more. By the time we made it to Oregon and Washington, I found it interesting that I no longer needed to wear anything on my head at all. It felt like I was exposing myself and being more accepting of who I really was.

My teacher’s words seemed to have met a much greater need within the other students in the class. In life away from the trail, it is so easy to label and classify each other, to feel as if you know everything about someone, and to feel separate from them, just as it is easy to feel a certain way about yourself based on what other people know and have known about you. It’s hard to get out of the patterns that we find ourselves in- doing the same kind job and the same activities and interacting with the same people again and again.

Yesterday, I returned to the studio for another class, with the understanding that I will do as much as I am capable of at this time, with the strength and flexibility that I currently possess, knowing that this has to be built upon gradually. (My yoga injuries have already quickly returned!). Before class started, I saw a fellow student and friend for the first time since being back and she remarked about how strong I looked. I didn’t really believe her… I felt happy the first week I was back, but then fell into a very lonely and depressed state and assumed that what I had gained from my hike had already left me. But after class, my teacher said, “You changed so much!” Really? She said that I seemed much stronger! I found this so fascinating. They must see an energetic shift in me. I guess it wouldn’t be possible to come back from such an experience without more confidence and self-acceptance. Right now, it is my task to stay in an open space that is filled with hope for my future. It’s time to get to work on creating a life for myself that I want to live- one in which I am productive and living my purpose and sharing what I have to offer with others.

In November, I will return to my one yoga teaching job a week that I had before my hike. I offered the job to one of my favorite yoga teachers while I was away- someone who is very experienced, very skilled, and very confident. She is about to embark on her own traveling journey for three months and said that the students were asking if I was back. They want me back after having had her for a teacher? Wow…


A Lesson for each Trail…

A lot of people hike the same trail in any given year, but we all have different experiences doing it. We go through the terrain at different times of day or under different weather windows, allowing what we see or experience to be wildly different from one another. One person may be lucky enough to hike a high pass in good weather, while another has a frightening and life endangering experience in a storm. One might walk through a certain landscape in the heat of mid-day, while another is treated to a spectacular array of colors at sunrise. We also have different encounters with other people and animals, depending on our timing. I never saw a mountain lion on the PCT, for example, while several other hikers had frightening encounters with them. Timing determines whether you encounter a kind person who offers you a piece of fruit or is open to giving you a ride into town. We also make different choices along the trail, such as how many miles to hike each day and how much weight we carry, which can greatly alter one person’s experience from another.

I think that many of us learn similar things from hiking long trails, but I also believe that, since we are all unique, have different personality characteristics, and make different choices, that each person will be presented with similar challenges again and again until the person has been shown they they have accepted that particular lesson. My journey on the PCT this year was definitely made a lot smoother from my previous experiences on both the Appalachian Trail and the Colorado Trail. The lessons that I learned on these trails served me well on the PCT. I thought I would share the most significant lessons I learned from each of the trails I have hiked.

On the Appalachian Trail, I learned that human beings are the most dangerous animal on the trail. This lesson was presented to me over and over again, from the very beginning of the trail, to well after it was over. I was a magnet for the most psychotic people on the trail. Although I loved the life of a thru-hiker, these bad people experiences ruined the trail for me. I wondered over and over about why these experiences happened to me and seemingly not to others and finally concluded that it was a lesson I was meant to learn. I had to learn about keeping boundaries and not so easily allowing others into my energy field where they could easily manipulate me.

On the Colorado Trail, I learned to be happy wherever I was and not to look forward to being anywhere else (town while I was on the trail, or the trail while I was in town), because my happiness was not waiting for me in a different place.

On the PCT, I learned that there is no need to worry about anything. I learned that if you stick to your path and your boundaries and not grip and try to control things too much, but allow and open instead, that everything will naturally fall into place. Things will always break and you will never not be in need of something, but help is always out there somewhere. It may not come in the form that you wished for or from a person you hoped would provide, but it will come from somewhere. The trail provides. The universe provides. We are all connected.

What I would do differently…

I was asked by my friend who picked me up at the airport what I would do differently if I were to do this hike again (and right now, I am really hoping that I do get to undertake this journey again!!). I thought I would share a few things that come to mind (and will add to this as I think of more things).

The biggest mistake that I made was not filtering the cache water! I am almost 100% sure that I got giardia from one of the desert caches. These days, trail angels stock bottled water for PCT hikers in certain places that have no water sources for long (25-35 mile) stretches. Whenever I saw these plastic water containers, I thought that I didn’t need to filter the water since it was spring or town water (as did every other hiker I was around at the time). What I didn’t realize is that the trail angels are refilling the same bottles over and over again, and that means that many, many dirty hiker hands are opening and closing the caps to these containers… In our guidebooks and on our maps, we were warned that in the last section of the desert, many hikers get sick. Now I understand why…

The next time I do this hike, I will make sure that I filter all water that I drink outside- no matter the source.

I would also do my best to acquire some antibiotics for giardia before the hike (hopefully Tinidazole and not flagyl, which caused a host of other problems for me, which I am still not over). I went through the first section of the Sierras, including Mt. Whitney with a lot of stomach pain and no antibiotics. At Kennedy Meadows, I was in severe pain, and several hikers tried to tell me that it was either psychosomatic (??!! really?!), that the food I was eating was too acidic and that I should drink water with a lot of baking soda in it, or told me to listen to my body- that it was telling me something. I told them I think it’s telling me I have giardia! (I got giardia after the AT, so I know what it feels like in my body!). I messaged a couple of people from home and asked them if they could call Dr. Sole, who I knew was arriving the next day, and ask him if he could bring me a watermelon with seeds. When I was at Little Jimmy Spring, a weekend hiker was telling a group of PCT hikers that the seeds in watermelon are a natural cure for giardia. However, he said, these days, it is extremely hard to find watermelon with seeds in them because the drug companies want you dependent on them! (I thought it was significant that I was in that place at that time to hear this advice…) Sure enough, Dr. Sole wasn’t able to find a watermelon with seeds in it, so he went to Home Depot and bought two packets of watermelon seeds for planting! I ate all of them! (Other hikers said, “You ate watermelon seeds that are meant for planting?!). However, they didn’t help my problem. 😦

About 10 days later, a nurse thru-hiker (who was at Kennedy Meadows with me and knew of my symptoms and pain then) camped near me. In the morning, he told me he was carrying 2 prescriptions of flagyl and asked me if I wanted one. Yes! He told me it was only one dose! Perfect! However, it had no effect, either. The next night, he asked me if I wanted another dose. I took it. The following evening, I ran into another hiker who also got giardia, took antibiotics, and was now feeling much better. I asked him how long it took him to feel better. He told me that you need to take the antibiotics twice a day for five days!! What?!

(Later, the hiker who gave me the flagyl told me it was an extra strong dose! A dose high enough to kill all of the good bacteria in my stomach and intestines, make me lactose intolerant, and give me a second, even more awful, infection!!!)  So mistake number two was not having antibiotics with me.

I also left my fleece jacket back in my apartment (instead of leaving it with my resupply people) and regretted this decision, as I was not warm enough in all of my layers when a storm hit in the desert. I knew I would freeze in the Sierras, so I had to contact a friend and ask him if he could buy me a fleece jacket and send it to Kennedy Meadows. What he bought was not what I was hoping for! I really wish I had my hooded, zip-up jacket with thumb holes!

I regret not giving people more hugs- especially towards the end when the chances were high that I would not see them again!

Next time, I would ask more people to take photos of me along the way (I have very few pictures of myself), and I would take more photos of the other hikers. Some of the best memories of the trail are often of fellow hikers.

I would also take videos along the way. I didn’t take any video on this hike because I was worried it would take up too much memory on my memory card. (It turns out I had plenty left over!).

I would not have a strict deadline, which caused a lot of stress! I wasn’t able to stop and enjoy things like swimming in the heat, and taking rest days because I needed to finish by a certain date and simply had no time to do those things. I would have loved to take zero days in Etna, CA and Stehekin, WA especially. I also had to press through all storm systems that came my way, which didn’t allow me to see such beautiful landscapes as Goat Rocks.

If I were not sick, I would have enjoyed hiking with others a bit more. I love to laugh and it gives your brain a break from the same monotonous thoughts that you think over and over while alone when hiking and talking with someone else, and you realize how similar their experiences have been to yours!

I would have forced myself to at least have written down how many miles I hiked each day, where I camped, and a few notes about each day. On the days I did write something, I find it so interesting to read how I was feeling and what was noteworthy to me. A lot of this can never be recollected…

Yoga and the Trail

I ran into a man that attended at least one of the yoga sessions I lead at kick-off one day in the Sierras. He had abandoned the idea of a thru-hike and was doing a section of the Sierras southbound instead. He recognized me and asked me if I was doing yoga along the trail. When I replied no, he scoffed at me as if I were a hypocrite. I had a similar encounter with another man in Washington (who also was only hiking parts of the trail). I knew before I ever set foot on the PCT that I would not be attempting to keep up my physical yoga practice, just as I knew I would not be able to keep up a journal during this hike. Hiking over 2,700 miles in five months is an extremely intense physical and mental endeavor and I only have so much energy. Every bit of it was used to get myself to Canada.

However, I realized some time after the first encounter, that walking 12-13 hours every day and living in nature for five months WAS my yoga. The meaning of the word ‘yoga’ is to yolk, bind, or unite. The practice (and there are many different ways to practice yoga) seeks to unite the practitioner with his or her true self- the part that is always whole and peaceful and content. It seeks to strip the masks we wear when we think we need to be something other than we are, as well as the chains we often feel that hold us back from achieving our true potential. There are many branches of yoga (karmic yoga, devotional yoga) and many different ways to practice yoga. The physical practice of yoga is only one part of it. There aren’t many ways to hide while walking this trail. People see you for who you are. It is also hard not to be living in the moment out there.  There is also ample time to practice letting go and surrendering on these long hikes. It is easy to see that we only have so much control over our lives, and that when you stop gripping and allow, things begin to happen for you without any strain. I applaud anyone who is able to maintain a regular stretching routine while hiking one of these long trails, just as I applaud anyone who is able to keep a regular journal. (They have much more energy than I do!).

While I now have a lot of stretching and physical recovering to do (my entire body is extremely tight and parts are inflamed), I feel that I have received the benefits of 5 months of full-time yoga on the trail! I was able to move my body for most of the day, freeing myself of extra weight and burdens from life in society and of working for others. And while my body is far from able to do the backbends and other postures I was regularly doing before this hike, it has given me the chance to look at and feel the physical practice of yoga through a beginner’s eye which will be invaluable for teaching those new to yoga when I eventually do go back to teaching. It is so easy to get caught up in the progression of more and more advanced postures, which I realize can be extremely intimidating to those new to the practice and are just looking for some gentle stretching. For these beginner eyes, I am grateful.

My long hike has left me feeling extremely peaceful and happy with myself, as well as feeling excited about new challenges and possibilities for my future. (Thru- hikes have the effect of pressing a re-set button on oneself!)   I am happy that I now have some time to devote to writing about the PCT and I have already ordered a copy of the guidebook for the Continental Divide Trail!

(However, I still need to figure out a way to fund this writing…)



Yesterday morning, I stepped over the US border into Canada after having hiked a continuous path over the mountains from the US/Mexican border.

It has been a dream of mine to hike this trail for the past 4 years and I am so happy that I have now successfully completed this goal.
It was a much more stressful and difficult journey than I could have imagined, but I feel happy and at peace right now.

Thank you to everyone who offered me support along this journey! I will begin writing about some of the things that happened along the way and what I learned when I return home and get Internet connection again.

(Washington has been quite remote… We didn’t have any cell service for the past 300 miles).

Day 152: The End!

Day 152
September 17
12.2 miles

As on most nights on the trail, I woke up every hour or so, checked the time, saw that it was still the middle of the night, and changed my sleeping position. Around 5:30 in the morning, I fell asleep hard (also as usual). This morning, I awoke at 6:33 to the sound of my breathing. It was 6:30 already? I looked out and saw Gumby and Double-It packing up their tent. There was no way I could be ready in time to leave with them. Although I was worried that there would be no one to take my picture at the border, I reminded myself to stay calm and stick to my own rhythm. Everything would work out, I told myself. I ate my half serving of granola and started a boil for my coffee, which I ate with a single poptart. Double-It called out another “Congratulations” to me, which made me smile. Gumby said that if they didn’t see me at the border, they would see me in Manning Park. “Okay”. They took off at 7am. It was still rainy and dark out. I figured that my slower start would give the clouds more of a chance to break up. Slowly, I packed up my things- stuffing my long underwear and sleeping socks into my extra clothing stuff sack for the last time, squishing my sleeping bag into its own sack, and throwing each little bag outside my tent in order to fold up my sleeping pad and groundcloth.
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I realized that it was best if I took a few extra minutes to myself on this last morning. A few tears flowed out as I thought about the magnitude of what I had just undertaken and what I had gone through over these past few months. In only a few miles, it would all be over. It was time. It’s not fun to hike and camp in cold rain every day, and now that my tent was completely blown apart, I didn’t even have a useful shelter anymore. I needed to give my body a chance to rest and heal, as well. I had been sick for far too long. A month into this hike, I remember feeling so sad that I only had four months left out here. In Oregon, I felt traumatized by the thought of being alone in Vancouver, going through security and waiting in long lines at the airport, and being cramped up in an airplane for hours on my way to a city in which I really had no one to greet me. I wanted to keep living this trail life, even though I was sick and in pain. Now, it had come to its natural end and I was finally ready for it to be over.
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I headed onto the trail for the last time. The bushes along it transferred the rain water that had settled on them onto my rain pants as I walked. I thought I had slept in too late and had missed Joat on his return, but suddenly, I saw him in front of me! I congratulated him again, and just like last night, he reminded me that what we had done was a very impressive thing. He said there are a lot of people who will never be able to comprehend why anyone would ever want to walk more than 10 miles. Very few people would be able to even begin to understand what we did. The emotions that I had felt while I was packing up quickly returned. My face contorted and I could not hold back the tears. Joat stood calmly in front of me, allowing me to release what needed to be released. I realized how much pain and suffering I had gone through for most of the duration of the hike, knowing that it had made my hike so much tougher than it would have been otherwise. Despite everything, I had made it and now stood two miles from the finish line. I asked Joat what his name meant and he said “Jack of all Trades”. He listed all of the occupations that he had tried out during his life. Now, the thing that he wanted the most was to be back with his wife. He asked me if I needed someone to take my picture at the border. I told him that I wasn’t worried- that someone would come along. “It always works out.” He agreed. Then he looked up, and said, “Here comes someone now!”. I smiled and looked back to see who it was. Purple Haze! I waved to him but he didn’t seem to recognize me until he got close. “Wendy! How did you get ahead of me?”. I was wondering the same thing! “How did you get behind me?”. Joat said, “You two can take pictures of each other at the border!”. Purple Haze said his wife was coming to meet him, so he didn’t need anyone, but I knew I now had someone to take my picture. Joat let me know that when I hit the S-curves in the trail, I was close. Part of me wished he hadn’t said anything so it could be more of a surprise. We said our goodbyes and let Joat continue on his way, and then I took the lead, happy to exchange my tears for smiles and chit-chat. Purple Haze talked about his early night last night and the feast of snacks that he had allowed himself to eat. He also told me the story about meeting Story Time one night in the dark. After he had gotten into his tent, he heard a noise, which he thought was an animal. “Go away!” he shouted at it. In the morning, he awoke to find that another camper that had slept nearby. He introduced himself as Story Time, and Purple Haze realized that he was the one he had shouted at last night. He actually did move away!
I saw a grouse in front of me and stopped to take a picture. “It’s a male”, I told Purple Haze. My camera was not capturing it in the darkness, but for some reason, the grouse was not frightened off. It was the first one on my hike that let me take its picture over and over again until I finally got a good one!
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Purple Haze was pleased as well. We finally both got good images and felt like we could continue on. After awhile, Purple Haze fell behind a bit.
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And then, before I knew it, I came to the first S-curve! My heart started to beat a little faster. Still, I had to be patient. The monument was not within sight.
On the final curve, I saw a clearing through the trees and could make out part of the wooden monument and a sign. “I see it!” I called back to Purple Haze. And then, I was suddenly there in front of it. Just a quiet little wooden monument in the middle of a clearing in the woods.
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I yelled out a “whoo-hoo” and lifted my hands into the air. Purple Haze gave me a hug and I set my pack near the obelisk and tried to lift it off its base, as I knew the register was inside. I also knew I wanted to have my picture taken with me lifting it up, as I had a seen a picture of my friend doing it last year. I did not, however, realize how extraordinarily heavy it was! I could not get the top part off the base! Purple Haze and I had to rock it back and forth several times and then he was finally able to get it off. If I was alone, I don’t know how I would have managed! As I was flipping through the pages of the registry, I heard a noise in the woods. I looked up to see Beads heading towards us. “Beads! Congratulations!”. I tried to give her a hug, but she wasn’t as receptive as she was in Stehekin. She said that she had something in mind. “Something in mind?”. I wondered if she had some party horns or champagne or something similar in her pack. It turned out that she wanted to have her picture taken naked! She had been doing this on all of the high passes throughout the hike. I told her she better hurry up and do it before Mrs. Haze came along, as I was pretty sure she would not appreciate that! Purple Haze gladly accepted the job of photographer. After she was done, it was my turn to have my picture taken.
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I told them that I wanted to lift up the monument and somehow was able to gather up enough strength to do so!
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They wanted to try it, too, but neither managed to lift it up. The rain started coming down again and we scrambled to put back on our rain layers and tuck our packs under some branches. Beads said she wanted to get going, but I wanted to stay and read through the registry and hang out a bit longer. I huddled underneath a tree, shivering in the wet, while I read the previous comments.
At last, Mrs. Haze arrived! After her celebratory hugs, kisses, and photographs with her husband, and the gift of a matching Purple Haze T-shirt, I was invited to share the bottle of champagne and snacks that she had hiked in. The champagne began to affect me and I had to do my best to hold myself together while I answered Mrs. Haze’s questions. Purple Haze told her about his role of photographer to Beads, and she was not pleased! She said that if she had seen that when she arrived, she would have turned right around and hiked the 8 miles back!
I still had to sign the register so I walked back to the notebook in its plastic bag on the base of the monument. My hand almost couldn’t write and my brain was not able to think properly by that point. I scribbled something illegible.
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I took one more look at the clear-cut separating the border between the two countries, and then put on my backpack once again.
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I thought it would be nice to have some company for the remaining 9 miles, but they urged me to go on ahead, as I would be faster. I figured that they needed some catching up time, as well. During the first mile or so, I thought about all of the lessons that I had learned on my journey and felt like I was having a lot of profound thoughts that I would have to share with people later. Then, the effect of the champagne wore off and I suddenly felt very, very tired and I quickly forgot all of my fascinating thoughts! How many miles did I have left? I wanted to get my heavy pack of my back! The trail climbed and still, the grey clouds hung low.
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I walked over a little stream, which just a day ago, was so meaningful and life-saving to me, but now, I just wanted to be done with it all.
The remaining miles dragged on and on. Mrs. Haze had directed me on which way to turn, but I hadn’t really taken it in. Maybe I would get lost on my own. I followed the signs to the best of my ability, and when I got tired, found a little rock to sit on and eat another Snickers bar and take a sip of water from my dirty water bottle. The trail opened up to a wider path and then dropped down to wetter terrain. I had to step to the sides of the trail to avoid getting my feet wet. At last, I reached the road. After figuring out which way to turn, I hoped someone would offer to drive me the last mile to the lodge. No one did. Ever so slowly, and with all of the remaining energy I had, I finally reached Manning Park. I tried to figure out which building was the lodge, but chose incorrectly. A van driver said, “You look like you just walked a long way.” I nodded. He pointed me over to the lodge. Then, I saw Beads outside a white van. And before I knew it, TrackMeat was making his way over! Everyone was still here! They were all waiting to get a ride to Vancouver on the floor of Story Time’s converted van. I still hadn’t taken my pack off because it was raining and I just wanted to get inside. They invited me to go with them, but I said I was going to spend the night here and take the bus to Vancouver in the morning.
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We posed for a group picture, said goodbye, and I finally headed into the lodge to get a room.
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My fingers were so cold that I could not even manage to use the pen to sign my name!
I made my way to my room, and for the last time, stripped off my dirty, smelly clothes and jumped into the warm shower. I let the water fall off my body, and with it, all of the stress that had accumulated within me to make it here. I turned on the coffee maker, jumped under the bedsheets to warm up, and for the first time on this endeavor, did not worry about cleaning or re-organizing anything. After months of preparation and five months of constantly being on the go, I finally had nothing to do. It was a very good feeling.

Day 151: Perfect Timing

Day 151
September 16
mile 2635.2-2656.5 (Castle Pass)
21.3 miles

Thunder boomed, lightning flashed for a couple of hours, and the rain fell consistently all night long. Although my sleeping bag was damp, I was happy that no rivers of water had run through my tent. Everything was okay. At 6 in the morning, it was still raining. I had no incentive to get up. There were only 35 miles left for me to hike between here and Manning Park. My only concern was how long it would take me to get through the wash-outs. I figured I needed to add an extra hour’s worth of time for that. I finally sat up around 7, even though the rain continued to come down. I at least had to start getting ready. After eating my breakfast and doing my morning chores, I finally threw my stuff sacks and backpack onto the wet ground and began breaking down my tent. I would have to go through this routine only one more time.
As I walked back up to the PCT, I looked at my watch and saw that it was now 8:40! It was almost my latest start on this entire hike. I looked behind me to see a hiker bent over his pack, taking off some layers, and realized from the color of his shirt that it was Joat. He had obviously gotten up much earlier than I had! I started up the climb in the light rain and fog.
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About an hour later, on my first tiny break, Joat caught up and we greeted each other. He seemed relaxed about the number of miles we had left until the border. I reminded him about the 9 additional ones to Manning Park and he told me that he wouldn’t be doing those, as he had discovered in Stehekin that his passport was expired. He would have to hike back to Hart’s Pass. I noticed a little animal moving around next to the trail. Joat thought it was a Pika, but I knew it was not. It looked more like a little prairie dog. Fortunately, it wasn’t at all scared by us and let us take some pictures.
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Joat told me I should go on ahead because I hike faster than him. The rain continued to fall.
Several miles later, I found a rock to sit on underneath a tree, which protected me a bit from the rain. I had my hood up and was facing the direction from which I had just come, expecting to see Joat come down the trail. Instead, I was startled by someone coming the opposite way! He apologized several times for scaring me and told me that the same thing had recently happened to him. You can’t see or hear anything with a hood on!
I continued downhill until the terrain leveled out in the woods and started to climb again. Shortly after, I found a nice flat area along the trail to take a break and enjoy some coffee. The sun had finally poked out from the clouds and provided a bit of warmth. Joat came by and commented on my spot and then asked me about my stomach. I was still having problems, but hoped the rest after the hike would allow it to start healing. Again, he said that we were nearly there, but I informed him that we still had a tricky part to get through and told him how long it had taken Nurse Betty. He hadn’t heard anyone else talk about this and seemed surprised.
The climb took us out of the woods and into another open landscape.
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I could see Joat’s yellow shirt on the path in front of me. At times, he would stop and look around, and sometimes, I would stop in the same places to see what he was looking at. We passed by a large canvas tent with a propane tank and lots of other items outside of it. No one seemed to be in there at the time. The trail continued to loop and climb. The grey clouds remained heavy and low, obscuring the views and threatening to rain again at any time.
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Once I reached the top of the pass, I saw a blocked off trail in front of me and followed the switchbacks down. I could still see Joat, who seemed to be easily making his way along. Every so often, I would come upon a mound of gravel over a rivulet of eroded trail and very carefully make my way over it in order not to slip off the mountainside! I thought these must be the wash-outs and felt like I was managing them quite well.
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Near the bottom of these switchbacks, on the trail ahead of me, I saw Joat stopped once again. His body was turned towards the mountain and I wondered what he was doing. When I reached the spot he was in after he had moved away, I saw that he had been talking to a person. This guy said hello and asked me how the washouts I had just crossed were. He was wondering if he needed to go back and check them out. When I said they weren’t too bad, he turned around and started following me back. I told him he should go ahead of me. He had no weight on his back and it was easy to see that he could move a lot more quickly than I could. I learned that he was working with the forest service to assess the damage from the wash-outs on the trail and figure out how best to repair them. He informed me that the bigger ones were coming up. There were about 8 trenches of approximately 10-15 feet across and 8-10 feet deep. My eyes got big. I hadn’t yet come to the real wash-outs! Up ahead, I could see Joat stopped again. “Are you stuck?” I asked.
He said he was fine. He just wanted to make sure I could get through it. I stared at the deep trench in front of me, without a clue of how to get through it. The PCT was not going to let me off easily! It had one more big hurdle to test me. “Follow the tracks down that way,” Joat called out to me. I didn’t see what he was talking about.
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The forest service guy leapt down like a nimble mountain goat and scurried back up the other side. Joat took a picture of me as I stood there pondering what to do. Slowly, and unsurely, I made my way down into the trench, following the directions of the forest service guy. I felt so lucky that he was there to help me! “Is your pack secure on your back?” Joat called down to me. “It looks like it’s swinging to your left.” I told him it was fine and that he should go on. I didn’t want to hold him back. I tried to follow the general path that the forest service guy was taking, and once back onto the PCT, started asking him questions. I learned that on the night of the storm that caused these wash-outs, 36,000 bolts of lightning had struck the area. “How do they even know that?” I asked. He said he wasn’t sure, but they measured it somehow. I said it was good that it had rained last night because it made the gravel a bit more sticky. Every time I took a step into a trench, big rocks would careen down the slope below! In terms of repairing the trail, he said that they could either bring 2,000 tons of explosives up here or re-route the trail so it would descend all the way to the valley and climb back up. I thought they would have to do the second method and he agreed. I tried to take some pictures of the trenches, but found them nearly impossible to capture at close range. He said that is why he had to come check them out for himself. As I tried stepping down into one of the wash-outs, I found myself stuck. My entire body weight was pitching forward, but I couldn’t find a place to step! The nice guy reached out his hand for me to grab onto. How wonderful that he was here at the exact same time that I was to help me out!
“Are we all done with those?” I asked after we had walked on solid trail for a few minutes.
“Yup! That was it!”. I made it! We stood and watched a marmot on a rock for a few minutes and he asked me what other animal life I had seen on the PCT.
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He told me that he wants to hike the trail someday, as well. I told him that I could tell it would take him about 3 months to do it! He was much more confident and agile than I was, but he understood that my body was extremely tight from everything I had put it through during the last five months and knew that would happen to him, as well. I felt like an old person. We continued to chat as we started to climb and I told him that one of the best parts about these long distance hikes was the realization that whenever you are truly in need of something, help always appears. “How could it be that you were out here at the exact same time that I was starting the wash-outs and was there to help me out?”. He said he was glad that I had experiences like that and I told him that it wasn’t just me that those things happened to- it was all of us. I said that I thought it was necessary to get out of your comfort zone to experience it- to be in a place where you are not so protected. He agreed.
Soon, it was time for him to head off in a different direction and for me to continue climbing on the PCT. I asked him what his name was and he said Morgan. He hoped the end of the journey would go well for me, and I told him I had just under 12 miles to get to the border and that everything should be all right. I thanked him for helping me out and then headed back up into the clouds. It was getting cold! I stopped for a snack break and had to layer up again.
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I crested the ridge and followed the open trail. The clouds looked more and more threatening and I hoped the lightning would hold off until I was on the descent. For the last time on the PCT, I had to climb to just over 7,000 feet.
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Once I reached the top, I looked out across the mountains as rain started to fall, knowing this would be one of my last views of the trail. My hands were freezing and I had to put on my rain gloves again.
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Once I made my way into the woods, I found Joat in his green rain suit huddled underneath a tree, eating a tortilla. He told me that he was planning on reaching the border tonight. “But who is going to take your picture?” I asked. He said he had a mount on one of his hiking poles for his camera. I was planning on camping at Castle Pass tonight and hiking the final 3.5 miles to the border in the morning. As I continued down the mountain, I wondered who would take my picture.
Further ahead, I ran into a man hiking the opposite way. He asked if I was hiking the PCT and congratulated me. I asked him if there was any water on the trail in the next few miles, as I did not want to take the side trip to Hopkins Lake. He said there were several streams, which brought me great relief. He also said that there was plenty of tenting space at Castle Pass. “There’s a party there now”.
“A party?!”. Suddenly, I didn’t want to camp there anymore.
“I mean people- a couple,” he said. I wondered if it was Gumby and Double-It. Joat came along and stopped as well. We learned that the other guy was a grouse hunter and he gave us a lesson on the species and how to tell if one was a male or female. He had no hat or hood, and while it was raining on him the entire time that we stood there talking, he seemed as happy as could be. Joat finally excused himself and headed on and I followed. When we reached a stream across the trail, I stopped to collect water. Joat also stopped and remarked on what an amazing thing we had just done. He said that he had read that fewer hikers hike the PCT than climb Mt. Everest each year. “I heard that too!” I said. Before he turned away, I congratulated him on his finish and told him I might see him in the morning on his way back if I was up by then.
I sat and filtered my water in the cold and dampness and then continued on to Castle Pass. I saw only one tent. “Hi guys!” I said.
“Who’s that?”.
“Are you going to keep going to the border?” one of them asked.
“Nope! I’m stopping right here.”
They both exclaimed “Yay” in unison, which I thought was really sweet, especially given the fact that they had met me only for a moment in Stehekin. They asked who the other person was that walked by before me.
They said there was plenty of space to camp here. I walked to the area behind them and found a spot to start setting up. Part of me had been hoping that maybe they could give me a hand, but when I found out they were already ensconced in their tent, warm and dry, I knew I was on my own once again. The dark clouds blocked out the last rays of daylight even more quickly. It started to sprinkle again, so I moved as fast as I could in order to get my stuff sacks inside the tent and out of the rain. Once everything was in, including myself, I zipped up the tent, and as usual, found that it was too tight to close. I really didn’t want to go back outside and re-stake everything again. I pulled the zipper a little harder and suddenly the mesh ripped into a gigantic hole. I almost couldn’t believe it. My tent was now completely blown apart and there was nothing I could do about it. Luckily, it was my last night out here. As long as the rain didn’t come into the gaping holes, I would survive. As I cooked my dinner, Double-It yelled out to me, “Hey Wendy… Congratulations!”. I smiled, thanked him, and congratulated them, as well. “When do you think you guys will get up in the morning?”. They didn’t know. I told them I wasn’t a morning person and wasn’t going to get up early. Gumby said they weren’t either, but tomorrow was an exciting day. I didn’t feel so much excitement, myself.
I tried stuffing an extra shirt and a bandana into the gaping holes, but they fell right out. Oh, well. All I could do now was get inside my sleeping back and try to go to sleep.

Day 150: No trail magic at Hart’s Pass

Day 150
September 15
mile 2610- 2635.2
25.2 miles

The landscape was revealed in an entirely different light in the morning, but was just as beautiful as last night. I was glad that I chose to camp up high. The wind was still active, but no rain had fallen during the night. I knew it was on its way, though!
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After packing up and taking several more photos, I began the long descent down. For awhile, I could see gigantic granite walls and peaks off to my left before reentering the forest.
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After a few miles, I encountered a man heading the opposite way. He greeted me briefly and kept going until I asked if he happened to have a weather report. He said that someone at Hart’s Pass had told him that a storm was coming today and that it would linger for the next couple of days. He also said that there was still trail magic at Hart’s Pass. After today, the guy planned on leaving, but this man informed him that most of the hikers were still on their way and he seemed to think he would stay. It seemed he was guaranteed to be there tonight, in any case. Then, he told me that it was good that I had beaten the stormy weather in Washington. He said he thru-hiked the PCT in 1981, but was prevented from finishing when he reached Rainy Pass because the snow came early that year. When I gave him a disappointed reaction, he said it was fine. He was able to finish it up another year. Although I hadn’t encountered any snow in Washington, I definitely didn’t feel like I had arrived before the stormy weather! I wasn’t able to see half the state because of all the rain!
I passed by the Methow River and campsites and then, a couple of miles later, found a nice little spot off the trail that had a bench to take a break at. Soon after, I reached Brush Creek, where I stopped to collect water before starting up the next 2500 foot pass.
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As I traversed the switchbacks, nearing the top, a man coming down informed me that there was a woman ahead who wasn’t doing so well. She was hiking with a big poodle and she seemed sick. She told him that she was going to try to make it to Hart’s Pass. He was sure I would catch up to her and wanted me to help her out. I wasn’t sure what I was supposed to do…
Once I arrived at the top, I found a little alcove to take a break and eat a snack. A man headed by in the opposite direction and waved.
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I could see the line of the trail traversing the ridge as it descended slightly. Once I found myself along it, I had to carefully make my way around little washouts every so often. At each one, there was a mound of gravel that I had to slowly step over and try to avoid slipping. I wondered if these were the washouts everyone had been talking about.
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Once I reached another highpoint, I stopped to take a break. I had a little extra time if I wanted to wait for the trail magic at Hart’s Pass, so I unstrapped my folded up sleeping pad and rested on it for a few minutes. It felt like a luxury! When I got up, the wind suddenly blew it away! Oh, no! Not yet! I still had two more nights where I needed that thing! It had tumbled off the ridge, but was still on the slope. Carefully, I stepped down onto the silty clay-colored gravel and reached my hand for it. The wind blew it further away. At last, I was able to grab it! Second sleeping pad disaster averted!
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I continued on my way, feeling quite tired. Soon, I saw a woman heading my way. She introduced herself as Nurse Betty and told me that she was trying to hike the Washington section of the PCT this year. We talked about the oncoming storm and she told me to take my time with the washouts. I guess the ones I had just crossed weren’t the real ones. She told me that they were extremely frustrating and slow going, but that they were do-able. It had taken her 45 minutes to get through a 200 yard section of the trail! I was not looking forward to this…
The next few miles took all of the energy out of me. I tried to hold off from taking a break until I reached Hart’s Pass, where I imagined there would be a hamburger, but had to sit down along the trail and eat another snack for a bit of energy.
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I could see some pavement through the bare trees below me and wondered if the trail would loop back around to it. I thought that was Hart’s Pass and looked for people hanging out. However, I saw no one and found that the trail turned away from it and headed in another direction. Soon, I saw a ranger, walking her dog, heading towards me. The dog wouldn’t stop barking at me! She struggled to pull it off to the side of the trail and quiet it down. Then, she asked me if I was expecting trail magic at Hart’s Pass. “I guess,” I said. She said the guy had left this morning and that there was nothing there. Part of me thought she might not know what she was talking about. Maybe he drove off to get something, but would be coming back. The man I talked to this morning said he would be there for sure today! As I walked on, any remaining energy I had left deflated out of me.
I finally reached Hart’s Pass and found nothing there but a man sitting in a rocking chair on the porch of the ranger’s house. “If you’re looking for trail magic, there’s nothing here,” he said. Great. I looked over and saw the outhouse and headed over to a picnic table. Maybe I would just cook some dinner here and take a break like I had planned and then get in a few more miles. Part of me didn’t want to be watched by that man, however. After I used the restroom, I decided to head out. “Do you know where the trail goes?”.
“No.” He explained the route and then warned me about the impending storm. “You don’t want to be caught up on the ridge in that. There are places to camp here.”
It was 4:30 in the afternoon. I am a thru-hiker… I wasn’t going to spend the night here. I thanked him and headed down the road. I found the path back into the woods and then came upon a little stream. I decided to sit down and take my break here where no one was watching me. I picked the most sugary things I could find out of my food bag and as I ate them, felt my energy increase enough to get moving again. The trail climbed from about 6,200 feet up to nearly 7,000 feet. I could see a bunch of horses above me near the road before I headed out into more open land. As I continued to climb, a couple who were out for an evening stroll passed by, headed back to their car and the safety of their home. I felt a bit envious. To my left, I could see the mountains that I had just crossed, and I could also see black clouds hovering in the sky above them. Although the sky was still blue above me, I knew I had to hurry. I started to sing the words to the Sesame Street song to help keep the stormy clouds away and the sky bright. “Sunny day, keeping the clouds away, On my way to where the air is sweet… Can you tell me how to get, how to get to Can-aaa-da?” So, the last word didn’t really fit. I tried different variations, but at least I was in a good enough mood to sing!
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My goal was to get to the campsite at mile 2635.9.
As I headed downhill and came to a flat area, I saw a tent set up a bit off the trail. I continued past it and soon saw a little side path. I figured there must be a place to camp down there, as well. I could either stop here or continue to climb. I decided it was wiser to stop here and headed down to find a nice flat spot in front of a tree. I began the process of setting up my tent- staking it and re-staking it over and over. Somehow, it was much lower to the ground than it normally was! I continued to work at it and then couldn’t believe what it looked like when I walked around to the front! I realized my hiking pole that was being used as the support had collapsed and I needed to start the set-up from the beginning! It had to be set up properly as the rain was imminent! It was dark before I got inside and cooked my pasta dinner. By nine o’clock, lightning was flashing all around and the rain started to pound my tent.
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Day 149: Rainy Pass

Day 149
September 14
mile 2587.9-2610 (Methow Pass)
22.1 miles

All remained quiet in the morning. I enjoyed another “thumb print” from the bakery with my morning coffee before packing up and heading out. Today, I would be climbing over 4,300 feet to an elevation of almost 7,000 feet.
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Shortly into my hike, I was surprised to see a hiker coming south and even more surprised when she called out my name. “Wendy! You made it!”. It was Skinny D with a big smile on her face. “Can I give you a hug?” she asked. Of course! I asked her what she was still doing hiking! She explained that her brother was picking her up in Stehekin and that she had gotten a ride from Hart’s Pass to Rainy Pass, so the extra hiking wasn’t too bad. I told her I couldn’t wait to give my body a chance to rest so my stomach could have a chance to start healing. I also told her I wanted to do this hike again when I was in a healthier state. This was Skinny D’s second thru-hike of the PCT and she agreed that it was much more enjoyable the second time around. She told me that the wash-outs coming up would slow me down, but they were really no big deal. She was wearing a red and white lei around her neck, and after we parted and I turned around to watch her leave, I saw that she had a little Canadian flag sticking out of her backpack. So festive! I still had several more days of work and many miles ahead of me before I could start celebrating.
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I soon reached a sign before the next creek crossing with one arrow pointing in the direction of the ford and one pointing towards the footbridge. I could not figure out how to follow the path to the footbridge, nor could I even see one, so I decided to ford the creek. Rocks were laid out where the water dropped off and I carefully stepped across those ones until my foot no longer had a rock to step on! I wasn’t able to manage to keep my feet dry, but it was of little matter. There was plenty of time for them to dry with all of the climbing I had ahead of me.
I passed by the side paths to two other designated camping areas and then, after several more miles, came to a broken bridge in front of me with pink caution tape wrapped around the end.
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It did not look possible to cross, so I made my way along the creek and found a thin tree laid out. I didn’t feel that I had enough balance to attempt that way, either, so I tried rock hopping, and once again, could not manage to keep my feet dry.
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Once I reached Rainy Lake Outlet, I decided it was time for my ice coffee break. I collected and filtered water here, looking at the wooden beam I would soon have to cross, hoping it was wide enough so that I wouldn’t lose my balance.
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As I snacked, I noticed tiny, cute mushrooms beside me that looked as if they belonged in a dollhouse world.
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The bridge turned out to be no problem, fortunately. Ahead, I reached an informational board and found a white paper plate with the words “Trail Magic at Hart’s Pass, Sat-Sun 5-7pm” on it. Seeking had told me that there trail magic there when I saw him after Steven’s Pass, but since I was so far away at that point, I knew I couldn’t expect it to still be there when I arrived. This sign made me think that it actually might be! The trail split and I followed it to the right and emerged onto the highway. I saw a little parking lot and outhouse, but was very confused, as it was too early to be at Rainy Pass.
Eventually, I figured out that I had veered off the PCT and went back to the intersection in the woods and took the left path.
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I crossed over another creek and headed up to the real Rainy Pass.
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No one else was around! I crossed the highway and followed the paved road to the parking lot, which was full of cars, but no people. At least there was another outhouse here. After a brief break, I started up the 2,000 foot climb to Cutthroat Pass.
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Several day hikers were making their way down the mountain. I began to grow tired and sat along the edge of the trail to snack as another group came down. The landscape changed from forest to sub-alpine. The higher I climbed, the more it opened up.
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As I made my way up the final weaving switchbacks, a family of three was slowly making their way down. One of the women said, “You’re almost there!”. I smiled. I was almost there in more ways than one. I was now well over 2,600 miles into my hike, with less than 70 remaining. I was almost there…
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The trail looped widely in surprising directions and then, I was in an expansive, dry, desert looking landscape at an alpine elevation.
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This was where I was happiest- in places in which I could look around me and see mountains from every side. I dropped my pack, took some photos, and tried to take it all in. I could see the trail following the ridge ahead and decided it was time to follow it. After less than a mile, I sat down for another energy boost to get me through the remaining miles of the day. Crows flew overhead. I wanted to save my remaining baked good for breakfast tomorrow, but couldn’t manage to hold off. I figured it would at least help lighten up my pack.
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Another group headed past me in the opposite direction. As the trail rounded a corner, I wondered if this was the spot where UB was airlifted out of WA. I looked down below to see if a helicopter would have room to land there. The trail headed downhill and in a dry area, I encountered another couple collecting water. I decided to wait to collect some for myself and moved past them. The trail crumbled underneath me in spots where it had been washed away. Eventually, I found my own little stream to collect ad filter water for my dinner and morning coffee. I walked past a little meadow area where a couple was camping. The woman was sitting on a log reading. When the man noticed me, he called out, “Are you a PCT hiker?”. They congratulated me as I headed up the next climb. I still had a mile to go before I would reach the next campsite. At the top, I saw a man resting. His clothes were hanging from a tree branch beside him. I realized it was Story Time and couldn’t believe it. Although it was only 6:30, I didn’t want to go any further. The next campsite was nearly five miles away, which was much too far for tonight. When I told Story Time that I was going to camp here, too, he said that he was only taking a dinner break, and would be heading on. I felt relieved. He invited me to join him for dinner, but I said I wanted to set up my tent first. I picked a spot and struggled a bit as usual. There were now holes in the cuben fiber material at the top of my tent and I knew a storm was coming in. The wind was already picking up. Since I had used almost all of my duct tape on repairing my broken pole, I had essentially none left. I had to muster up some courage to ask if Story Time had any he could spare. It turned out that he had a lot. He also wanted to follow me back to my tent and help me put the duct tape on, although it was a one person job. He asked me if my legs got cold in my skirt and if I had slowed my pace recently. He seemed to think that I was faster in the Sierras, or that maybe he had gotten faster as he dropped more weight. I really didn’t care. He also wanted to know if I planned on going to the trail magic tomorrow and started complaining about how it was holding him up. He wished it were around 2pm instead of 5. I didn’t think he should be complaining about the timing of free food…
He eventually headed off and I was left to watch the sky change extraordinary colors.
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Soon, it was all dark and I cooked my dinner, cleaned up, and drifted off to sleep for the third to last time on the trail. It was a good feeling.

Day 148: The Last Stretch

Day 148
September 13
mile 2580.2-2587.9 (North Fork Camp)
7.7 miles

Although I wished I could keep sleeping, I got up well before 8. I had so many things to do! I headed over to the restaurant for breakfast, where I was surprised to find no other thru-hikers. Soon enough, Purple Haze came in to join me, however. We talked about our post-hike plans and I finally got some confirmation that the lodge and hostel in Manning Park was open! His wife had made a reservation! I now no longer had to worry about the bus to Vancouver and could pack one night’s less dinner! I thought I would need to camp out on my final night! This news brought me a lot of relief!
At 8:00, I ran out to wave goodbye to the boys as they boarded the bus, thinking this was definitely the last time I would be seeing them. Then, I returned to my table and ordered some yogurt with granola and fruit. This would be my last chance to eat a double breakfast!
Then, I headed back to my room to do my sorting and packing. The post office opened at 10, so I walked my box of extra things to send home back down the street.
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I ended up walking way past the building, however! I didn’t realize it was really only steps from my room! After that was taken care of, I headed over to the common area to see if I could get on the one common computer in the Landing. I found Purple Haze on it, however, typing up his latest Trail Journal entry, so I decided to head back to my room and finish packing. I needed to get on the next bus which left at 11am, and would hang out at the bakery until the afternoon bus came to bring me back to the trail. I wished the bakery was in this section of the town so I could look at the water while I ate. I felt like I didn’t have a chance to take in the beauty of this place, which was only accessible by hiking the PCT and taking the shuttle in, taking a ferry, or flying in on a water plane! I wished I could have gone swimming or at least watch the sun set over the gorge. With minutes to go, I managed to get on the computer to tell the friend I had asked if he could pick me up at the airport to please reply by e-mail, as I had no reception and couldn’t access text messages. The computer was unbelievably slow! I tried to send out a quick facebook update to let people I was in the final town and had only 90 miles to go, and then I had to run for the bus!
Several of the hikers that I had seen at the Dinsmores were now hanging out at The Landing. I loaded my pack into the crowded bus and told the driver I would be getting the 2:00 bus back to the trail from the bakery and gave him a tip for his efforts in getting me to the post office before it closed yesterday.
As I exited the bus at the bakery, the morning crowd got back on. “Now it’s my turn!”. Gumby told me that she and Double-It were on the five day plan to get to the border, so they would probably be seeing me. “Cool”.
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I headed over to the chairs on the lawn, set my pack down, and spread out my wet clothes. Then, I headed inside for a latte and scone. Unfortunately, they were completely out of the blueberry scones and weren’t making anymore! I scoured the case for something else, but was having a very hard time coming up with something that I wanted! I went back and forth between the day old shelf and the fresh baked goods, and at last decided on something called a thumbprint. The cashier told me he would make my latte after the hiker crowd got their fill and were all back on the bus. As I sat outside, the mosquitoes bit me, one after another. Shouldn’t they be gone by now? It was the middle of September!
Soon, Joat, his father, and several members of his fanclub (ladies from a hiking club just outside of Portland) arrived. It was nice to see some familiar faces. Joat’s father was very sweet to me and very concerned about my stomach illness. He told me not to push too hard. They were headed to the Landing to get Joat’s resupply box.
I decided to head inside to try to escape the mosquitoes. It turned out they were worse inside! I kept slapping my arms as they landed on me. Soon, the bus from the Ranger Station pulled in and another batch of thru-hikers got out. “Tumbleweed! How did you get behind me?!”. He told me that he had taken a couple days off to hang out with some friends. He didn’t think he was going to be able to finish by the 17th anymore. He told me Puma would probably be coming in on the next bus.
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I watched the frenzy at the counter and then went outside to watch the hikers re-board the bus. Beads got excited when she saw me and asked if she could give me a hug. Several of the Portland hiking group members also boarded the bus, leaving only a few behind. One of the ladies pointed me out to her husband and told him, “That’s Wendy! You should talk to her!”. He offered to buy me an ice cream in exchange for my life story. “Talk to her about her career!”, his wife shouted as she got on the bus. After we got our ice cream, we sat on one of the picnic tables outside and I told them why I hiked these long trails. The woman said it was very understandable. Unfortunately, the man wasn’t able to offer much advice in the way of a career because I told him that I didn’t want to work in biotech anymore. It was nice to have some friendly and interesting company for awhile. I had to jump up to order a sandwich to take with me as well as a couple of extra baked goods before the bus came back.
My companions sat near me on the bus as they returned to the ranch and then I was left with the few remaining section hikers on the way back to High Bridge. The man in front of me started talking to me and I learned that he had hiked the AT in the late 60s. He told me about all of the peaks he had subsequently climbed.
As we arrived at the ranger station, I saw Story Time sitting near the bus and thought he was headed into Stehekin. However, he was still there when it left! He was bypassing the last town and would be in the exact part of the trail as me in this final stretch! I couldn’t believe it…
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I decided to sit at the picnic table and eat half of my sandwich so I didn’t have to carry the weight. The friend of the man who had hiked the AT sat down across from me and chatted with me a bit before the AT guy came over. He had a very serious, straight-laced demeanor and never smiled! He asked me why I was hiking the trail and seemed to like my answer. They then headed off to start their hike, leaving me alone for a few minutes to take in the feeling of starting my final stretch and last 90 miles of this hike. There were so many tasks that I was hoping to get done in Skykomish or Stehekin, like call up my gas and internet companies to let them know when I was returning home and when I needed my service restarted, plans for an airport pick-up and possible wedding attendance, the purchase of a wedding gift, and other communication, none of which happened because I had no service. But part of me was just fine with the sense of peace of not having that outside connection to the world. I thought about everything I had dreamed this hike would be and everything that I went through, and felt very, very strong.
I packed up and headed back out to the trail, this time knowing exactly where it started because I had checked it out while I waited for the bus yesterday. I climbed up to Coon Lake and instead of feeling the strength and happiness that I usually feel upon leaving town, felt like I was dragging. My pack was much, much too heavy. And I thought I had lightened it up as best I could! I wondered if Geared Up and Captain Kiddo had put a stone in it when I left it in their sight while I checked out of my room! I guess it was the weight from the baked goods that was making it feel so heavy!
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After another stretch of climbing, I decided to sit down and eat the rest of the sandwich to try to lighten my load.
I hiked on to the Bridge Creek Camp area, which was extremely crowded, and then headed back into the solitary woods to climb again. I had read in my guidebook that special permits were needed to camp in this section, and that camping was only allowed in certain allotted campgrounds, each with a quota. Since none of the other thru-hikers I had talked to were concerned about the additional permit, I didn’t worry either.
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In the evening, I came across Story Time sprawled out along the trail, snacking. I had to talk to him for a couple of minutes and then continued on my way in the receding light.
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After crossing Bridge Creek, I followed the tent symbol on a wooden sign up the side trail to the North Fork Camp. Surprisingly, no one seemed to be there! I decided to set up in a spot away from the water so I could hear if someone came by, and when it got dark, figured no rangers would be bothering me now. I ate the last remnants of my sandwich for dinner and tucked myself into my sleeping bag, feeling peaceful about the last stretch ahead of me.