I finished! It’s hard to believe I made it as far as I did, but at the same time, it was a goal of mine for years and I never felt like completely quitting before getting to the end of the trail.
I still feel like it’s odd that I was able to take a personal leave of absence from my job for 6 months to do this. I feel like it should be an option that everyone should have but the truth is that I don’t think many people would be able to take so much unpaid time off work to pursue a dream that would take as long. Most hikers were in their 20’s and between jobs. I also feel like it’s odd that I could hike so many miles per day. In Washington, I started hiking 25 miles per day and the Washington section of the PCT is not an easy part to do miles like that. Basically, I was walking all day long and taking very few breaks. The nice thing is that the weather was cool so I didn’t have to deal with getting too hot. But it sure was hard to get out of bed in the morning! There were definitely nights and mornings where the temperature was right around freezing. I think I did an awesome job deciding what gear to have for each section of the trail. I was able to carry a pretty light pack but still be prepared for whatever the weather had in store. I always slept warm, comfortable and dry. I did a lot of research on gear and spent a ton of money in the process, and I think it was all worth it. A big part of the reason I was able to switch gear back and forth throughout the trail was because my mom was sending out all my resupply packages and if I ever wanted something else, she was able to send it to me. Huge thanks to her for supporting me like that for the whole trip. It made things so much easier to have someone willing to help out like that.
I should be up front though – I didn’t hike the entire 2650+ miles of PCT trail. Doing that would qualify me for being called a thru-hiker. There were about 300 miles of trail that I skipped due to various injuries that were really bothering me, and I think maybe 50 miles of trail that were closed due to a past forest fire. I think the number of miles that I hiked puts me around 87%. I call that a B+ and I’ve always been completely happy with a B+. So, I can say I hiked the PCT, but technically, I can’t call myself a thru-hiker unless I go and hike all those missed miles, which I probably won’t ever do because it would be too much of a pain to get to those 3 areas. Whatever. I’m pretty sure that I am in the 25% of hikers that actually end up hiking for the whole season and not quitting prematurely. Most of my closest hiker friends all quit. That definitely bummed me out. It would have been nice to finish with another friend that I’d been hiking with all along.
Do I have any regrets? Sort of. I didn’t feel this way while hiking, but after finishing, I feel like it would have been nice to find some new best friend hikers to hike with after my other friends quit. It’s tough because after making it through the high Sierra around mile 1,000 a lot of people start thinking about hiking big miles to finish Washington while the weather’s still nice. The major obstacle, the high Sierra, is done with and now it’s a race to beat winter in Washington. I spent a lot of time focusing on miles, and now I feel like it would have been nice to slow down a bit but take less zeros. The trail is so long. It really is a big challenge to get it done in 5 months. I also wish I took more pictures of people and towns and all the other stuff besides nature shots. I saw SO MANY incredible landscapes, but my crappy camera phone couldn’t capture what they really looked like. I’d like to have more photos of the day to day life on trail and in towns.
These pictures start as I left Snoqualmie Pass in Washington. As you’ll be able to tell, there are lots of clouds in Washington in September. Yes, this is a very boring video, but this is the third time in probably over 10 years that I’ve been at this specific spot on the trail, and it’s one of my favorite parts. It’s just water dripping down a mossy section of rock but to me, it’s a perfect fountain. It really is WAY better in person. If I ever build or have a fountain, I want it to be like this.
I’m approaching the back side of Stevens Pass Ski Area. The areas without trees are all ski runs.Heading down the front side. This is the Tye Mill chair:Here’s Coppertone’s trail magic setup. This would be the last time I’d see him. He hiked the trail a number of years back and now sometimes follows groups of hikers as they head north on the trail. This was probably the 10th time I’d seen him. I think he only made maybe 12 or 13 stops.Really odd looking mushrooms (if that’s what they are).That’s Glacier Peak up there.So mossy! I love it.Finally close to a big mountain without it being completely hidden behind clouds like Mt Adams and Rainier.Whatever lives in this hole is bigger than most things that live in the holes I’ve seen. This was right on trail. Like the trail was his sidewalk or somethingThere were a lot of big blowdowns in this section and some of them were a real pain to get by. I can’t imagine how horses get by. The hillside was also super steep. I don’t know what’s keeping those trees from falling down. It’s pretty much a vertical wall of dirt.It rained all day. Here’s an albino slug. Probably 4 or 5 inches long. Just hanging out in the trail.I guess slugs like horse poop. This is the last town stop before finishing in Canada. Stehekin. It’s accessible only by boat or plane (or hiking a whole lot of miles)For a rather large fee, the bus will drive tourists around town. Here’s the famous bakery:
I could have spent days hanging out here eating pizza and cinnamon rolls and drinking coffee and reading. I really didn’t want to leave, especially since the weather had been crappy. The day I arrived, it rained all day and I had my biggest mile day ever: 32.7 miles by 6:15pm. My knees really hurt the next day and I definitely had to take a zero mile day. Actually, I took two.There’s a guy who lives in Stehekin that has a pretty big garden. A lot of the locals buy their veggies there. Apparently, there are only 4 places to buy food (other than the two restaurants) in Stehekin: the mini snack/convenient store, the bakery, this place and somewhere else, I guess. The ferry that takes people 50 miles south to the other end of the lake to the town of Chelan, WA.After hiking maybe 17 miles out of Stehekin, I’ve come to highway 20 at Rainy Pass. Looks like it snowed recently.It really was pretty to walk through. I wouldn’t have wanted to camp here last night, but walking the day after was beautiful and actually kind of warm right here in the sunKind of a crappy weather day. The forecast was calling for better weather as we moved north but that definitely wasn’t happening.The GPS on my phone has been taking it’s sweet time in northern WA, so rather than wait for it to let me know where I was, I’d just walk until I got where I was going without caring how many miles were left. When I got to this point, I noticed the straight line of trees cut down and knew I was close to the border.Knowing I was close, I pulled out my lightweight comb and make sure my hair was going to look good for the border pic. I made it!!!Here I am almost 5 months ago at the CA/Mexico border:The monument is on the border, but it’s still 8 miles into Canada to the closest road where I’ll be able to make my way back home. Some people turn around at the monument and hike 30 miles back to Harts pass where they hope to hitchhike to highway 20 and then figure out a way to get to a bus terminal or Seattle. The weather was crappy and I was tired of waking up in a cold and wet forest. I wanted the shortest hike possible and that was to Manning Park, Canada.Somehow, after I crossed into Canada, the weather got really nice“YAY PCTRS! YOU ROCK!” It was almost dark and I had to use my headlamp to get enough light for a pic.While the Manning Park Resort isn’t all that awesome, they do have a lot of really cool wood carvings:After taking a 2:00am bus out of Manning Park to Vancouver, BC, a group of hikers and I decided to hit up Tim Hortons for some donuts. Knowing that my metabolism was going to slow down big time real soon, I gorged on donuts guilt-free. The two guys in the middle did a continuous footpath PCT thru hike. Their footpath literally went from border to border. Very impressive! My guess is that less than 5% of hikers that attempt a through hike actually reach that goal. After donuts, those guys planned to go to Chinatown for pedicures. I hope they gave a giant tip to whoever the unlucky person was to work on their feet.Oddly enough, the best view of Mt Rainier for the entire trip was on the train ride from Seattle to Portland:Back in Portland where the train dropped me off at Union Station and my mother was waiting to pick me up. It was this spot 5 months ago where I stood for a picture before getting on the train that would take me to southern California to begin this epic journey.my hair looks odd to me here. Maybe because it’s not greasy.I’ll probably make one more post to add some pictures I took early on with a different camera. I hiked with it for about a week or two before deciding to mail it home. The camera and all of the accessories (batteries, charger, case, filters) came to almost two pounds. I decided that two pounds was too much to carry since I rarely had enough time to spend trying to get nice pictures. My phone would have to be enough. If I ever did the hike again, I’d want to bring a nice camera and have more time to take pictures. Doing the hike over 2 seasons would probably be ideal I think.