August 26 – 23.8 miles
My shoes, rain pants, and rain jacket are all soaked.
So exhausted, I can’t keep my eyes open.
Passed over the Bridge of the Gods this morning, the border of Oregon and Washington. Looked just like it did in Wild.
It was indescribably breathtaking to see the dark and misty mountains rise above the bridge and around the river below. It’s so dark and dully colored, yet vibrant at the same time.
My mom says my dog, Dakota, used to wait by my bed in the mornings when I first left, but that she must’ve given up in expecting to find me there because she doesn’t do it anymore. That breaks my heart a little.
August 27 – 26.9 miles
I am sitting in my tent. I just woke up. I can hear the rain outside drizzling down my tent walls. It is oddly peaceful all the while ominous of the day to come. I mentally prepare myself for a day of limited breaks as we cannot stand still for very long in order to avoid getting too cold. I pack out my snacks, so they’re ready to go.
By the afternoon, it was an absolutely gorgeous day in Washington. The sky was a brilliant blue, and the clouds were pressed up against both Mount Adams and Mount Hood in the distance. We aired out our drenched tent flys on a wooden bridge during lunch.
August 28 – 30.8 miles
I look at a calendar, and we are roughly twenty days from finishing. But it feels like an eternity, like a tunnel with no light. I don’t want to see it end, and yet I so badly need it to at the same time.
Trout Lake is tomorrow, yay! Where I get Adam and Tara’s package.
Woke up this morning, rolled over, and was greeted by a spider directly next to my face. It was lovely. Killed him with my waterbottle.
August 29 – 15.2 miles
August 30 – 33.3 miles
Did not think with the difficult climbs we’d be able to do thirties in Washington, but here we are! We keep moving toward Canada!!!
Last night, a mouse chewed a hole in my food bag, and as I write this, another ran right across the outside of my tent, the tent that doesn’t zip …..
The Cascades of Washington are steeper and much more colorful than the hills of Oregon. When you glance around the landscape, these giants – Mount Rainier, Mount Adams and Mount Saint Helens – all rise above their lesser kind.
What a blessing it is to be uncomfortable enough to know what true comfort is.
August 31 – ? miles
This morning, we walked for a few miles in what Katie believes was a mid-thirties or low forties windy and drizzling rain. Most of the path for that distance was wet rocks along a ridge where there were yards-long patches of snow that probably never melted from the year before.
Today we also took a detour around an active fire burning close to the PCT. It was most certainly longer than we’d been led to believe from the map.
It’d been a rough day of less than ideal surprises, so we agreed to get a room for the night. Turned out to be one of my favorite stops. The room looked like a New York studio apartment, kitchen and a couple of beds. Much to my delight, we watched Moana as we prepared our packs for the following days.
Sept 1 – 19.7 miles
I definitely don’t remember being this cold at night until now. Even in wearing all my layers to bed, I’m usually not warm. I started putting my pack underneath my feet at the base of my tent to protect from the cold ground.
As we’re leaving Snoqualmie Pass, it feels a little more real. The end. It didn’t feel real when we reached Washington, it didn’t feel real when we hit 2,000 miles. But now, now it does.
Someone said we only have three town stops left until Manning Park. The Northern Terminus (finish line at the Canadian border) was closed due to an active fire, until now that is. It’s officially reopened! We could be done in two weeks.
Saw an elk today! And as we ascended, I could still see it below Mount Rainier’s silhouette pressed against the setting pink sun.
Sept 2 – 29.8 miles
Woke up to the pattering of rain.
Sept 3 – 30.5 miles
I felt this incredibly painful needle pinch on my ankle. Looked down, and it was a yellow jacket, fumbling to get off of the sock it stung me through.
I don’t remember bee stings ever hurting this bad, and whoever said bees are going extinct – I beg to differ.
Not even dead after getting me, I kicked him off with my hand, looked for the stinger and kept going uphill. Not more than five minutes later did it start swelling.
Much to our luck, we decided to push to a further campsite by a road where we ended up running into friends of Katie’s from the AT who were doing a little trail magic – beers, hot dogs and good company in the nighttime light of their SUV.
It was one of our colder nights, I’d say. I was wearing most of my layers though by morning it’d warmed up quite a bit.
Sept 4 – 18 miles
Woke up, and my ankle HURTS. It is very swollen, can hardly walk on it. Guess that’s beside the point, since we have 18 miles into town.
Lots of steep ups and downs. As the day went on, my leg just got more and more swollen. Now it’s not just my ankle, but swollen from the middle of my calf down. On the upside, I’ve memorized half of the words to Billy Joel’s “We Didn’t Start the Fire” in an effort to distract myself.
We finally got into town, and I just laid outside the gas station in such considerable discomfort, pain and discouragement, more pain than I’ve had all trail. They didn’t have the medicine I needed. No non-drowsy Benedryl at this tiny non-actual town. How the heck am I supposed to hike out tomorrow without that with this much pain and swelling?
Got a hostel and planned to wait it out. Surely, it’d get somewhat better by morning. But when ten o’clock that evening rolled around, my leg was swollen from my knee down to my foot, it was incredibly tight from all the liquid, and hot to the touch. My calf was bigger than my thigh and twice as big as the other leg. Not to mention, I had a large blister ballooning where the bee had stung me, with little ones bubbling around it. It was clearly getting worse.
Within a few minutes of some snap decision-making, a guy at the hostel was driving Katie and I to Urgent Care after my insurance nurse urged I seek medical attention within the hour.
I filled out paperwork, while Katie threw her sleeping bag on the floor, preparing to make camp for the duration of our visit. A woman at the front desk came out to yell at us.
“Ma’am, you can’t do that.” The guy signing me in added, “ I wouldn’t put your sleeping bag on that gross floor.” And I’m thinking, ‘I don’t think you want that floor touching our gross sleeping bags.’
Immediately, the doctor confirmed it was infected and prescribed two antibiotics. But she was still curious as to why it had gotten that swollen. She told us we needed to go to the ER to rule out a blood cot.
Off we went again to the hospital to get an ultrasound of my bloated peg leg. It came back negative, but both the ER doctor and the nurse urged I stop hiking. The nurse actually got mad when I told her I would continue on.
We didn’t get back till 2 a.m. Shortly after, Katie and I decided that with my blister being open, there was no way I could go back out and successfully avoid reinfection between the rain, mud and river crossings. If we went out and I got a fever … I would be in the middle of the woods and shit out of luck since the farther North we went, the further we traveled from medical access. We decided I would heal for five days, Katie would head out in two, and I would meet her in the next town North seventy miles ahead.
Sept 5 – 0 miles
Today we got the news that a day hiker fell off the trail of the next section we were to hike, and died. The PCT was temporarily closed and the hostel was overflowing with fellow hikers stuck in limbo.
Sept 6 – 0 miles
Sept 7 – 0 miles
Katie reluctantly left this morning, me still in bed sleeping on a downward slant elevating my leg back to an acceptable size.
The same guy who’d driven us to the ER was coming back through town and offered to drive me up to the next town.
It ended up being a three hour endeavor where we stopped in the popular, Bavarian-styled town of Leavenworth for dinner. I ordered a beer forgetting the fact that I shouldn’t given my antibiotics.
Sept 8 – 0 miles
Made it to a mountaineers cabin at Steven’s Pass where I stayed until Sunday waiting for Katie to get in. I watched hikers come in who I had watched go out at the previous town, and each time they’d come through was like another tooth being pulled from the section of the trail I couldn’t complete.
Sept 9 – 0 miles
Despite the doctors’ wishes, I’m heading back out. My blister has mostly healed, my leg is back to normal, and it’s time to go.
Being in town, ever since starting the trail, makes me sick. It’s over-stimulating to step back into a world of loud horns, fast driving cars, and constantly moving people. It’s like going straight from a quiet stroll in a cornfield to a circular roller-coaster. After resting in town for five days, I can only just stare at my breakfast each morning, forcing myself to eat the calories I know my body needs but the bites I don’t want to take.
Sept 10 – 18.5 miles
I am inside my tent.
Most everything inside and out is wet.
I’m very cold.
I’m wearing every dry layer I have, including three pairs of socks.
We pitched our tents between mud puddles.
It’s still raining outside in the dark.
Sept 11 – 26.1 miles
It rained most the day. Got a few half hour breaks of some limited sun.
Sept 12 – 26.1 miles
It snowed on us today and it rained most of the remainder of the day.
Sept 13 – 27.4 miles
It is amazing to experience first hand the seasons changing. As we walk farther north, more and more leaves are turning colors.
Today’s detour was pretty incredible. How funny it is to hate the extra miles and uncertainty that often come with detours only to be pleasantly surprised by hidden views the PCT doesn’t offer.
Four and a half days left? I did a lot of reminiscing on my favorite moments, towns, and milestones throughout the trail. There were a few hours of significant rainfall, but most of the day was rewarding and dry. Forgotten what it’s like to be able to sit down during a break and get off your feet, it’s been so long.
There is nothing quite like a blue sky in Washington. I think what makes me love this dramatic section of the trail so much is how unexpectedly beautiful or treacherous the weather can be. Often the best days are hiking between shifts of fog, when all of a sudden the whispy clouds clear for only a moment, and a huge mountain is revealed – one that was there the whole time but you couldn’t see.
Yesterday, Katie found a bleeding baby mouse in the middle of the trail. She picked it up, wrapped it in her bandana, and put it in her pocket after giving it some cheese, hoping it would recover.
After some time, the mouse got more and more still, and we decided it wasn’t going to make it. Katie had to kill it so it wouldn’t suffer anymore.
Sept 14 – 18.5 miles
Today we took another detour to a small village which was not unlike a cult.
Had to unwrap and rewrap my bee sting to ensure it stayed clean. I pitched myself in front of the registration desk, ripping off the medical tape from my inch long leg hair which was not far off from giving myself a painful wax.
Steheiken was one of my last true moments of bliss on the trail. We were finishing up another detour from another active fire in the area, trying to make the bus into town. As we were hustling down this lonely road, a man (beer in hand) driving an old blue Ford pickup came down the road and told us to hop in the bed. He’d take us to town.
Wind in face and pack in hand, we passed by the dozens of unique, wooden and intricate homes in this forgotten corner of the woods when out of nowhere we turned a bend and were exposed to the vast lake settled beneath these HUGE and dark mountains. Like nothing I’ve ever seen. This is first time I genuinely teared up at the beauty before me. It was incredible.
Between a six-pack and dinner, Katie and I spent the evening sitting by the lake talking with the other hikers. It was a well-deserved, serene moment to enjoy in our last few days on the trail. And to think, if we had skipped the detour like many other hikers did, we would’ve missed one of my favorite moments of the PCT.
Three and a half days left.
Sept 15 – 21.2 miles
As the bus took us out of town, I reflected on how much I’d miss seeing families living their everyday lives in these tiny towns completely unknown to the busy, outside world. These small, rusty neighborhoods built around the trees rather than on top of them, where I can’t imagine living but am thrilled to hike through.
Sept 16 – 28.9 miles
Despite our bit of blue, we got snowed on a lot today.
After climbing Rainy Pass, we got covered in frozen rain as we kept going downhill unable to warm up.
It was IMPOSSIBLE to avoid getting my ankle dirty. I was still cold, when I crossed a creek and fell in. I screamed out in frustration, immediately pissed and now only more cold.
We arrived at Harts Pass where we were camping, and it started snowing again, but this time gathering on top of our tents. This is the coldest night yet at 28 degrees. The ranger station was right next to this particular campground, so they allowed us to come in, warm up and made us scolding hot tea.
When it was time to make our way back, another hiker was getting picked up by his friends and family at this location after having completing the trail. They were screaming and hugging overcome with joy while Katie and I scurried back to our frozen, snow-covered tents hoping to not freeze overnight. Just one more full day on the PCT. One.
It is sad and it is exciting, but it is time. That much is for sure. The ranger said the frozen rain and snow we’d experienced was supposed to come in again the day after tomorrow but double. And that weather would not be hikable. A lot of hikers behind us would probably have to quit.
Sept 17 – 28.2 miles
What a beautiful day it was without rain, despite our frozen, burning hands that morning just trying to take down our tents.
I haven’t had service for eight days now.
Tonight is the last night we pitch our tents.
I have no idea how I got here, to the end.
I’m still in disbelief it will ever end.
We are 6.4 miles away from the Canadian border.
The past four and a half months, every day I have spent walking.
Today is the last full one.
Sept 18 – 6.4 miles (+7 to Manning Park)
Today we crossed the Canadian border, ending a journey I’ve been clawing my way through for four months and sixteen days. I could hear the laughter and cheers in the distance as we neared the terminus, but a silent inner joyous relief is what welled inside me when I could finally see it for myself.
I remember begging for the second the sun would finally go down and feeling sick to my stomach from the heat. I remember fighting through clouds of mosquitos and filtering water unable to feel my fingers. Tripping over rocks, fording rivers, pushing through the cold, the heat, the rain, the snow, the wind and the deep longing to be anywhere but here, I’ve powered through each day with an intentional level of mental endurance that will contrast the passive world I’m headed back to, one of distractions and endless noise. But in appreciating the simplicity of a few essential items or seeing the beauty in things unseen, I believe I will find ways to fight through those same overgrown paths of the forest in the busy suburbs back home.
It isn’t quite yet real that it’s over. I still feel just as attached to every hiking habit I’ve conditioned myself to repeat. I’m still linked to my pack like an appendage. And I still feel compelled to follow a path that has become second nature to my swollen feet. Hopping from car to bus and train to plane, city to city, bouncing my way back home, I’m excited to again feel a level of comfort I haven’t had for some time. But despite the joy I have to see the family and friends I left behind what feels like just yesterday, I can only laugh at how much I will miss ending my day in my wet tent wearing the same dirty clothes from the day before.
I’m on the landing strip listening to Suit and Jacket by Judah & the Lion, a song I listened to for the first time months ago in the desert. It reminds me of night hiking through Mojave, of being terrified of everything around me, of continuing to hike on in the darkness with the blind faith that it will be fine.
Our plane is picking up speed, taking off the ground, and we are headed home. And in the same way that the air rushes past the wings of the plane, I can feel every distant memory of the PCT flood past me too. And it feels real. What an undeniably real adventure it has been to experience such beauty and pain.