Mile 2577.0 to mile 2591.1 (14.1 miles, 22.3 km)
Settle in – it’s a long one.
This is it my friends. The final 14 miles to Rainy Pass where I will end the official PCT and make my way to Manning Park to tag the monument from the Canadian side – or so I thought.
From camp the trail lead smoothly up all the way to Rainy Pass. The distance would only take around 6 hours and I had all day to do it. A nice sleep in and slow start to the day was in order, enjoying Stehekin bakery goods and coffee for breakfast.
With mixed emotions I got packed up and headed out at a slow pace. On the one hand I was so excited that this long trip is finally coming to an end and that I can finally rest this tired body of mine, at least for a day or two. 2600 miles is a massive journey to undertake on foot and I’m wary. One the other hand, I love doing this, long distance hiking is a true passion and I don’t want it to end so suddenly. It would be great to continue onto a new journey but sadly that can’t happen right now.
Shortly it will be back to ‘reality’, back to work (after a few weeks rest) and back to ‘normal’ life. I wish I could make this my normal life and go on continuously from hike to hike. I love living outdoors and I’m going to deeply miss the simplicity of it all. Carrying what you need in one small pack and really only worrying about where to find water and where to camp puts into perspective all the material things we normally surround ourselves with. Houses, cars, possessions…At times I feel these are more of an anchor than anything else, holding us back from following our hearts and fully exploring alternative ways of structuring life around our dreams.
In no rush at all I took my time, pacing slowly and taking lots of breaks to absorb the final miles. The sky is clear again today and peaks poke above the trees, finally being able see what Washington is all about leads me to conclude that I’ll be back to walk it again.
Using my inReach I was able contact my friends in Winthrop and confirm a pick up at Rainy Pass in the afternoon. I haven’t seen Vicky since hiking the Te Araroa, more than 2 years and was excited to catch up with her and family. We’ve maintained contact since NZ on social media but nothing can beat a face to face catch up. So much has happened in the intervening time. Vicky and husband Peter have been a part of my PCT journey from way early on, even before I had a permit to walk the PCT; providing a base address for all my resupply boxes sent through the US Post Service, looking after me with snow/ice gear for the Sierras, and providing advice on travel through the Sierra from first hand experience.
Although walking slow, my head was spinning with thoughts and I soon found myself with 1 mile left to travel. Wow!! Where did those miles go?
My thinking was that the finish at Rainy Pass would be uneventful. I mean it’s just a picnic area and trail head in the middle of nowhere on the Hwy. No monument, no markers, no anything really to provide that tangible, concrete ending point. I expected to reach the pass and that would be it.
To my surprise and utter joy I rounded a corner to see that a local trail angel had constructed a miniature monument 78 and placed it on a rock, complete with a Canadian flag. My heart skipped beat and I almost broke down in tears. This was it. This was the end of the trail for many of the Class of 2018. I collapsed on the trail next to the monument in a mix of relief and sadness, pausing for a moment to reflect on this journey.
Prior to leaving the Mexican border at Campo all the hikers starting that cold drizzly morning on May 2nd were handed notes of encouragement written by the local primary school children. That morning I resolved to keep the message secured and unread, only opening it on a really tough day if I was at breaking point; or opening it at the border if it remained unread. The power of an encouraging word can not be underestimated when the chips are down and it seems the universe is conspiring against you. Sure there have been some really tough days on trail but I never felt like I was broken. The note remained unread and now was the opportunity to open it. It was the full Dylan Thomas poem “Do not go gentle into that good night… Rage, rage against the dying of the light…” It was awesome and resonated perfectly with me. That poem is a strong message for us all to live boldly and to fight, not give up and die but to rage and fight through. The primary school student who chose the poem is an intelligent one for sure.
So that was it. 118 Days, May 2nd to Aug 28, just under four months, the end of the trail for me, although still aspiring to reach the monument on the border after a days rest. All I had to do now was wait for my ride. There was another hiker there and we excitedly relived our adventures from the past four months.
Vicky and Peter arrived to collect me and it was great to see them. A short car ride to Winthrop and we came into cell service. This was awesome as I could share my success with the world but it quickly turned my focus onto a new mission that needed urgent attention, right now! My partner who had come over to Canada for a mountain bike trip had broken two bones in her leg and was in the Banff hospital about to have surgery to screw her bones back together. OMG! Holy fuckballs! My mind was going crazy. Initially I couldn’t contact her and I had no idea of what was going on. I had to get to Banff. All thoughts of reaching the PCT monument we’re on hold for now.
Not much could be done from my end at the moment other than make contact with Jacinta when out of surgery. We headed out for dinner at a local brewery to sample the beer, eat some food and celebrate completing the PCT. There is nothing like sharing stories with good company.
I was able to make a phone call and reach a groggy, drug induced Jac, relieved to find her in the best of care and a successful surgery. Timing couldn’t have been better. If this was even a week ago I would have been out of contact with no way to assist at all. At least with the PCT just complete I could travel straight from the US to reach her in Banff. The question remained how?
Back at the house with full bellies and full wifi we all went into planning mode, assessing all the options available to get me to Banff – hitching, hire cars, flights, possible drives etc…
My zero day, end of trail rest day was on hold for now.
Reaching Penticton was looking like it was the best option for travel further into Canada and Vicky, whom I’m sincerely grateful to, offered to drive me across. From there I would grab a flight to Calgary and catch a bus onto Banff. Vicky, your a legend – thank you so, so much.
And that my friends is the end of the Pacific Crest Trail for me (unless of course an opportunity is there to reach Manning Park and do that day trip out to the border).
I joked with Jacinta that I’ll have to stop doing long distance thru hikes as on the last day one of us always ends up in hospital.
Addio for now.
(Once back home I post a few round up blogs on things like gear I ended up with with, a comparison of the PCT and TA, and of course I will be developing a video of some kind with all the GoPro footage I captured along the way. Watch this space.)
A big thank you to all of you out there who followed along with me on this journey, got in contact and left encouraging comments – it makes maintains a daily blog all worth it. Special shoutouts to Emma, Nigel, Bruce and Maggie – you know who you are – I’m pretty sure you read every post. I cannot forget the 9/10 Outdoor Ed class from Orbost Secondary who followed along and asked lots of questions along the way – I hope this has provided some inspiration to follow your passions and enjoy wild places.