Made it to Canada!

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:p1000281The 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 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.

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Another 100 miles 

Things have been going well. Since shortly after entertaining Washington, the temperature has dropped and the rain, clouds and mist have made themselves known. At first, it was a shock, seeing as how in the past 4 months I could only remember perhaps 3 or 4 occasions when it was necessary to set up a shelter, but it’s become common and even expected to get wet at some point during the day now. But the forecast has changed and it appears we’re likely to get at least a full week of very decent weather with only a minimal chance of rain. I’ll still be setting up my tarp every night, though. Speaking about my tarp, I’ve been very happy with it. I originally got it for winter camping but never had a chance to use it and it definitely offers more room and protection than the light green tarp I was using earlier. Plus, it’s bright yellow and even in crappy weather it offers a bright, cheery atmosphere inside. That other tarp is really sweet, though. I was super happy with it. So light, and great for sleeping under but not so much headroom when pitched low.
At this point, it’s looking like I’ll have about another 2 weeks on trail. Every day I think about that and every day I’m not sure how I feel about it. I definitely want to be done hiking. I’ve been doing about 25 miles each day and even though my body feels pretty good, I’m really ready for rest and getting my other life back in order. The fact that my closest trail friends have either quit, finished, are way ahead (not many), or are too far behind to wait up for, makes it a little easier I guess. But they won’t be there at the terminus or Manning Park or Vancouver, BC to celebrate with which is a bit of a bummer.
I’m in Seattle right now and actually in my old neighborhood, Ballard. This place has changed SO MUCH. It’s way too much of a contrast to living in the woods. I don’t think I can live in a city like this anymore. The little trail towns that we’ve come through seem way more my speed. Wrightwood and Idyllwild are two that come to mind.

Goat Rocks Wilderness is a really beautiful area. Too bad about the cloudy weather

the cairns in this area were pretty impressive

I dont know how this rock formation ended up this way. Aliens?

because of the mice in the cabin, and the proximity to other stinkier hikers, i opted to sleep outside that night.

bugs found this dead tree especially tasty

camped at an abandoned weather station. One of these tents is not like the others


just at the summit of snoqualmie pass

finally here. Snoqualmie pass, where i headed into Seattle for a zero

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My home state: Washington 

Finally in Washington! I feel like it’s taken so long to get this far and with 500+ trail miles in this state, you’d think it might take a long time to finish, but I’ll actually be done pretty soon. The end is close. Maybe too close. When I first started the trail, it would have taken probably 35 to 40 days to hike Washington. Now, my guess is that I could do it in about 24. At this moment, I’m 3 days in, which means that it might only be three weeks before I finish! On one hand, I’d like to finish soon because I know September in Washington can be cold and wet but on the other hand, going back to “the real world” doesn’t sound so appealing. As physically challenging as thru-hiking can be, it’s also very easy because you really only have to think about yourself. And for me, that doesn’t amount to a whole lot; stay warm and dry, make sure I have food to eat, remember to stretch and massage my feet and legs and make friends with people around me so I have someone to talk to.
After heading into Portland for a couple days, I met back up with Sugar Rush in Cascade Locks and we’ve been hiking together for a few days. We’re taking an unplanned day off in Trout Lake, WA. The plan is to head out in the morning and make our way to White Pass. There’s rain in the forecast, which is a bummer but while in Portland, I switched tarps and I’m now using a yellow pyramid shaped tarp which is much more spacious and offers way more wind and rain protection. Even though it’s just a tarp, it feels so luxurious. So much room under there!
The Columbia River is the border for much of Washington and Oregon, and it’s crazy how the landscape changes so quickly from one state to the next. Almost immediately, it got cloudy and greener. And now it’s about to rain. The really fast hikers who finish the trail in August are lucky that they can go through Washington in August which, in my opinion, is the best month for backpacking in the Cascades. Even if it’s not raining, it’s likely that the cloud cover will obscure many of the very impressive views.

Oh yeah, my knee feels much better. Not perfect, but close 😄

Timberline Lodge on Mt Hood:

The tarp just switched to:

Sugar Rush in the underground hobbit house at Shrek’s house in Cascade Locks:
About to cross into WA:
Saw this a little off trail:looking back at Mt Hood:Mt Adams:

The old logo. There are still a few of these around:

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So close to Washington 

My knee is feeling a little better and I’ve been hiking just fine this past week.  I’m still gonna take a couple days off in Portland to relax and switch some gear over for September in the Washington cascades.  My plan is still to finish while it’s still September before the weather really gets nasty.  

Oregon has been a wonderful hike so far.  Easy hiking, usually enough shade, and this late in the season the mosquitos have really started to not be an issue.  I haven’t had to set up the bug net the past handful of nights. 

All over the place was obsidian:

Beard shot:

I can has electric bike?

Mt Jefferson:

Mt Hood:

There were a few signs like this that were hand carved!

Jefferson again.  The pictures keep getting put in the wrong order


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Plan B: Hiking as Much as I Can

I’m hanging out, taking a zero at Big Lake Youth Camp in Oregon. It’s a really nice relaxing place and they’re very welcoming to hikers. I could probably happily hang out here for a week. But my plan is to head out in the morning for Timberline Lodge on Mt Hood.  
My knee has started bugging me again after 4 or 5 pain free days. I’m not at all sure what the cause is but I know that it goes away after not hiking and I’m pretty sure that it’s not getting permanently damaged and that’s a comforting thought. I’ve already skipped some miles in California for recovery and I think that I might end up skipping some more. The thought of not completing the entire 2660 miles during one hiking season is a bit of a bummer so the next priority is to hike as many as I can but to consider skipping a section in Washington that I previously hiked. I’m ok with that. Really, just backpacking for as long as possible was a big part of what I set out to do and I can keep doing that.  
The Oregon section of the trail I’ve done so far has been beautiful but the lava fields were a little unexpected. I think it was like a 15 mile long stretch.  
I’ll post photos later. Right here at Big Lake, the reception isn’t quite good enough for that.

Crater Lake

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It’s been over three months of backpacking. The major hurdles, the desert and the high Sierra, are out of the way. This is the point where people start thinking about finishing. Because Washingtons Cascade mountains can start getting snow and storms that can end everyone’s hike sometime in October, most people want to finish in September or basically as early as they can. Where once, it was common for hikers to form into groups and stick together, the trend is now much smaller groups or even just hiking alone and hoping your friends can keep up. By this point, almost everyone you started with is days ahead, behind or possibly off the trail because they quit. Where in the desert, most people were averaging 15-20 miles per hiking day, most people now seem to be hiking 20-30 miles per hiking day. I’ve been doing about 25 which seems to me my comfortable limit.  
But it’s not all that comfortable at the moment. My knee has been giving me problems and for the past few days, I’ve been hanging out in Ashland, Oregon. It’s sometimes tough to say where an injury came from and why it sometimes comes back to bug you when you thought it was gone for good, and that’s what’s happening now. I bumped it before hiking and after a month, the intermittent pain went away but maybe 2 weeks ago decided to come back. A few days ago, I learned that my hips/pelvis were out of alignment and since then, I’ve been doing exercises to realign them. It seems to be helping. Also, hanging out in Ashland and not walking 25 miles a day is helping too, I think.   
I’m anxious to get moving again. Gotta make it to Canada before the snow starts.  My Shasta back therestrange flowersshastasomeone gave us a ton of free barbecued ribsCoppertones truckAnt and Rat breaking the lawThis was a really foul smelling hot sulphur water spring in the middle of nowhere 

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Halfway There!

We’ve made it past the halfway point! The biggest milestone for me, by far. I know it means that the adventure is over halfway done but so much has happened since the beginning and now we have that much more to look forward to.   
Southern and central California have some really cool mountain trail towns. I know for sure that we won’t be seeing any places like that in Washington and probably not much in Orego either. Just little communities built around mountains, recreation and a slow pace with a little artwork thrown in.  They were great towns to hang out in after being in the woods. 
Physically, I’m still feeling well although even though the terrain is getting easier, I’m feeling a bit lazier. When I used to be hiking by 6, now it’s usually closer to 7.  Mile wise, I’m still doing a bit over 20 miles each day but I’d like to up it by a few more pretty soon.   
My longtime awesome hiking partner, Jedi, has been having knee trouble and has decided to go off-trail for a bit to try and recover. Out of the four of us that started hiking together from the start, he always seemed the strongest and the least likely to develop any physical issues. I’ve been hiking with/around the two girls in some of the pictures. Rat and Ant. Jedi and I first met them somewhere in the Sierra and by this point, we’re all good friends.  
I’m having an awesome summer. Every day, I wake up to birds singing and a sunrise in a new beautiful part of the country. Then I walk through the forest and hang out with friends all day and finish it off by finding a nice place to eat dinner and fall asleep under the stars. On one hand, I feel very lucky to be able to have this experience but on the other hand, I feel like luck has nothing to do with me being here. It was all a series of decisions I made that allowed me to be here. So maybe I’m just really grateful with my decision making abilities  ; )

Sith in one of the Tahoe hotel casinos:
I’m using my sunglasses as a filter in the yellow shots
One of the more famous trail angels: Coppertone (he’s super tan)

The moss line is the snow line

Thes guy didn’t get  out of the way fast enough, apparently.  Usually, they’re too fast to get a picture.  Look at those toes!

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