Day 160 17.08.18 Zero
Making the most of a kitchen Wifey made a huge breakfast cook up and we feasted again as the boys tried to re-gain some weight. As a thank you I volunteered to do the dishes which seemed a novelty since it’d been so long since I’d even been able to use a sink and running water.
Glamourpuss tinkers with one of the arms of his broken stove, then eventually gives up saying “screw it, I only need use to use it nine more times anyway”. Wow, that brought the finish home. 9 days left of the trail and then he’s finished this journey. Granted I had a little longer since Glamourpuss hikes faster than I do. But to now be able to to count down to the end seemed profound. I was both excited and sad. I was so tired, I desperately needed a real rest. I missed my family and friends, and the practically of a home. But with all that in mind I was still sad that the joy, freedom and curiosity of the last five months was coming to an end.
In two car loads we convoyed down to Cascade Locks, a four hour drive with Wifey, Glamourpus, Ranger and myself. We were buzzing in anticipation of the annual event, PCT Days. We arrive and I set up my tent amongst the sea of other ultralight thru hiking tents. I didn’t bother finding anyone I knew to set up near since it seemed like such an impossible task. It wasn’t long until I found Bigfoot, Peter Pan, Hot lips and Caveman. Two older couples who I’d met while we were Southbound through Northern California. Of all the people who I’d met along this journey they were amongst the most memorable and supportive, so I was beyond happy to see them again. They were all section hiking and finishing the last sections of trail which they’d started years before. We updated each other and exchanged congratulations and pride for each other. These women and men felt like my trail godparents for which I’m incredibly grateful.
Bones and I shared a beer and chatted about how he feels now he’s finished. He wishes he walked slower to drag it out. We were both overwhelmed by how many people were there, most are in the bubble which had arrived here for the well timed event. I’m comforted they are still two weeks behind me.
I explored the exhibitors then spent the rest of the afternoon eating ice cream with Spiceman who admits he’d been hoping to catch up since we first met in Agua Dulce only a month into the trail.
I met with with hikers Anvil and Piney, along with many others who were part of the journey. It was a fantastic opportunity to start the reflection and process of preparing myself to complete the trail. I got closure and a proper goodbye to the friends I realise I may never see again.
Day 161 181.08.18 Zero
After a sleep in I turn my focus onto chores. I do a quick resupply and pick up my new fifth and final pair of shoes that Salomon had posted to the Ale House. I was thrilled! The last pair were beyond dead after almost 1000km (700miles).
I’d looked around for replacement socks but somehow Darn Tough were nowhere to be found at a hiking expo. Luckily I eventually found the missing pair in my sleeping bag liner which must have got tangled in the wash. I’m relieved.
Myself and a few of the other P3 hikers met at the Osprey tent and were briefed for our Q&A panel session on the main stage. We gave advice to next years hikers, talked about our favourite sections, best hitching stories and more. A post will be dedicated to the Q&A once the blog is up to date. I loved the experience and finished buzzing.
With my official duties done I went to say hi to Airborn who’d arrived on his way Yo-yoing the trail (he’d finished and is now walking back to Mexico). He’d become mildly trail famous with people asking for photos with him. Happy to see a familiar face he joined me for dinner giving me insight on the trail ahead, and the details of his journey. I paid for our shared pizza and enjoyed the feeling of doing something for someone else. When he challenged me on it I told him “consider it trail magic, I’m happy to contribute to your journey….plus you have the whole rest of the trail to pay for”. He accepted. I walk with the exhausted Airbone back to our tentsite and later spot him fast asleep curled up in the grass outside Bones’s tent. They had hiked for hundreds of miles together and experienced the worst of the snowy Sierras together. It was the perfect demonstration of a trail family.
Day 162 19.08.18 5miles/8km
I wake up and pack up the mess in my tent created from staying somewhere for more than one night. Spiceman and I join Lady Bruce for some pancakes she was making for everyone, and Spiceman points out my limp is getting worse. I was hoping the few days rest would help my quad injury but instead it’s getting worse. I felt like my body was falling apart in anticipation of the end. A hiker named Taco is a physiotherapist in his home life so offers to check it out. He says: “I’ve got good news, you get to keep the leg”. I’d strained the inner abductor and should find the pain dulls once I’ve properly warmed up.
We pack the car, I say goodbye to friends and we drive the four hours back to the Snoqualmie Pass. Here I ate too much pizza and then slowly made my way back up the hill to meet Four Eyes who was waiting at a tentsite ahead. With Ray, Speedy and Spiceman now only a few days behind we playfully sent back and fourth video messages taunting each other to slow down/catch up. Deciding I want us to finish together I’ve agreed to wait in the next town for them.
Eventually I found Four Eyes and we reunited after a week apart. I immediately climbed into her tent with her to gossip and marvel at how clean and recharged she looked. We spoke until dark when I remembered I still needed to set up my own tent. Once settled we continued talking and catching up well into the night. I’m going to miss not having her back home.
Day 163 20.08.18 11miles/ 18km
After our late night we slept in until 8:30am. I sat up to eat breakfast and discovered a small puddle. A mouse had chewed a small hole through my tent and into the ziplock that my oats were overnight soaking in. Goldilocks style the mouse tasted the bland boring oats and disliked them so moved on, leaving the water to leak out of the bag and through my tent. Unimpressed I ate my mousey oats and carried on with my day.
Four Eyes quickly got ahead leaving me to be alone for the first time in days to process the devastating news I got in town that a fire had closed the end of the trail.
My world was falling apart. Both Four Eyes and Ray were speaking of getting off trail and completing it later once it reopened. Not only could I not finish, but I might be doing an off trail reroute on my own. This was scary and sad. The official PCT had become our safety blanket and Guthooks GPS map was a luxury I’d become all too reliant on.
I had hiked for 5months to get to this point. Spent weeks visualising what it looked like and how it felt to reach the monument in just a few weeks time, and now this chance to finish what I started had been snatched out from under me. I was devastated. I broke down and cried. I recorded an emotional video log explaining to friends and family that I won’t be able to finish the journey, and tried convincing myself that not reaching the end didn’t take away from the 4000km I’d just walked. Re-watching this video now still makes me cry. I walked aimlessly for the rest of the day, slow and depressed that all the views had been stolen by the thick smoke of the fire, leaving my world as grey as I felt.
I only made it 6.5km (4miles) when I stopped for lunch where I mopely ate my bacon and nutella wraps then had a sulky snickers to try and eat down my pack weight. Feeling sad I laid down on my mat and ate my wraps while looking at the smokey sky.
Feeling defeated I slowly walk towards camp. It’s hard to feel motivated to keep going when the trip feels incomplete without walking into Canada. My perfectionism is ruining this for me. I ask myself why I’m doing this. Is it just to say that I did? To finish what I started? No. I realise I still get joy out of the simplicity of this. And I enjoy the people out here and lifestyle of camping and being outdoors. The closed border had me so upset about the trail finishing early and without closure that I couldn’t seem to enjoy the last of it. I didn’t want to let it ruin everything so I commit to a day of being sad telling myself tomorrow it will be out of my system and better again.
Day 164 21.08.18 20miles/ 32km
After such a short mopey day yesterday we plan a bigger day to catch up today. It was an extremely slow first 3.5km (2miles) to start with as my strained quad hated the hills before it warmed up properly.
Once warmed up I came across the familiar sight of a deer uptrail coaxing me to follow him and took it as the sign I needed to keep going. I reflect on something Kyle had frustratingly said to me during our second month on trail. “You don’t even realise the pull you have on people. They follow you, so when you’re tired and lazy, they slow down too.” This sung loud and clear today. I decided to lead the charge on committing to a rerouted trail to Canada. I have the navigation skills, and now the confidence to make it happen. I told myself to be a leader “If I plan it, they will follow”. A weight lifted as I accepted my new mission and finish line.
Lunch was so peaceful at a pond after climbing all morning. I ate my wraps quickly and laid in the sun for 10mins before moving on hoping I hadn’t cooled back down enough for my quad to hurt again. The rest of the day flew, with no sights through the smoke I could keep my head down and hike. Stopping only to eat the raspberries along the last mile to camp.
At camp Four Eyes has made friends with a section Hiker named Walker. She took pity on him so helped treat some blisters and repair a hole in his air mattress. He had a great sense of humour and kept us entertained all evening.
Day 165 22.08.18 22miles/ 35km
I woke up in the early hours of the morning to a scurrying sound and opened my eyes to see a mouse running around on the outside mesh of my tent. I flick it off and fall back asleep noting rodents are a pest in Washington.
Once awake I again start the morning super slow due to the pain of putting any weight through my left quad. My hiking poles become crutches for the first hour and then thankfully I warm up enough for the pain to go away.
When passing a resting couple I get a surprised shock by a protective dog on the trail and blurted out possibly the most offensive thing you can say to a dog owner “Please just control your dog”. They were as unimpressed as I was, and took off ahead of me leaving me to dread another encounter (Which never happened).
I stopped for another peaceful lunch at the top of a hill at the 16km (10mile) mark. I took a moment to take in the peaceful scenery which I’ll soon miss so much. There’s nothing like knowing it’s coming to an end to make you appreciate what you’ve got.
Walking the final leg into town I get nervous in anticipation of fire updates and trail reroute information. I’m stressed about only having two weeks left in my visa, an injury and a damaged passport from the storm on day three. I’d been relying on being able to walk (with pre-arranged permission) across the border into Canada and then fly home from Vancouver with said damaged passport. I push it all aside and marvel at the scenery which again resembles the Sierras.
Day 166 23.08.18 12 Miles / 19km
Four Eyes and I walk together for the day since we’re close to town and will be hitch hiking. It’s a nice change and chance to voice the emotional week we’d both just had.
Not far from town we get phone service so Four Eyes takes her time picking blueberries while I message friends and family back home, and take a sneak peak at the complicated trail reroute coming up. Overwhelmed we move on to town. Arriving at the ski lodge we check out the Hiker box then get an immediate hitch hike from a lady leaving the car park to head back into town.
Getting dropped off at the post office I learn my resupply box never arrived so leave a note giving permission for it to be opened when found and left in a hiker box. Luckily the care package from a friend in Canada, Goat, was there so I had a huge huge supply of chocolate to keep me going. Just wow – thankyou!
Learning of a library in town I go in and jump on a computer to understand and create my “operation walk to Canada” itinerary. It was complicated, and to a tight deadline, but possible. It involved walking one more detour to Steheikin, obtaining another hike permit and prebooking two campsites, hitching 16miles down a highway, walking two days to the border and NOT allowed to cross, then catching a water ferry back to save the walk out, hitching to Seattle then catching a greyhound bus to Vancouver and hoping they let me in on the water damaged passport, all with two days left in my Visa. Stressed was an understatement. I had a call with a good friend back home who reminded me I can do it, and sent the plan out to Ray, Four Eyes and hikers behind me to help them figure out their plan. It felt amazing to get some productive work done at a computer, something I didn’t even realised I’d missed.
We then hitched another ride to a trail angels place, Jerry Dinsmore. He had been a long standing trail angel for 20 years though sadly lost his wife to cancer the year prior. Hikers now stay, keep him company and drive him into town since he can no longer drive. It again feels great to brighten someone’s life.
Day 167 24.08.18 Zero
After a huge sleep in I got up at 10am and joined Jerry for breakfast in town. Since we were waiting for the others to arrive we were in no rush which was a nice change. Four Eyes and I did our laundry then swapped outfits for a laugh. It was so weird to see her in my clothes and we immediately swapped back feeling weirdly possessive of our only outfits.
Spiceman made great time and arrived in town with the news the others were due the next morning. Slowly all of us were reuniting ready to finish the trail.
Four Eyes picked enough blackberries to bake a pie and that night we all joined Jerry in his kitchen for dessert together, something he said he doesn’t done since his wife passed.
Day 168 25.08.18 Zero
Ray and Speedy finally arrived not long after my sleep in so we spent the day catching up. I hadn’t seen Ray for months though we chatted every time we got reception. We shared stories, songs that reminded us of each other (he played Big Jet Plane by Angus & Julia Stone) and firmed up plans for Operation walk to Canada. Everyone was onboard so I booked the water taxi and my greyhound bus. I couldn’t believe it. We are going to finish, together. Everything will be alright.