The Hoppy Okapi

A 2012 Pacific Crest Trail Adventure

PCT Thru-Hike: 1 Year Later October 3, 2013

Filed under: hiking,outdoors,PCT,Washington — Amanda @ 14:00
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I hiked for five months to earn this picture!

I hiked for five months to earn this picture!

I finished my PCT thru-hike one year ago today. Since then, I’ve found a new job, (more or less) run a half-marathon, moved to Seattle, hiked Rim-to-Rim-to-Rim in the Grand Canyon, and day-hiked on the slopes of Mt Rainier. I’ve taken Chuck on two mini-PCT backpacking adventures – one in the Southern California desert of our old San Diego home, one in the magnificent Northern Cascades close to Seattle – to entice him into hiking the next long trail with me. The PCT has affected my everyday life in so many ways – it’s given me a willingness to take on more adventurous pursuits and confidence to attempt them, it’s introduced me to many trail friends whose adventures continue to inspire me and trail angels whose generosity is even more inspiring, and it’s given me a sense of place – a knowledge of the trail, of the geography and the landscape it passes, and of the state of mind of being on the trail. I retrace my journey in reverse every time I fly from Seattle to San Diego for work, watching out the window as the familiar mountains of Washington, Oregon, and California drift in and out of view, remembering the scenery and the people I hiked with in those places.

After the trail, I believe that there’s no better way to understand a place than to walk through it, and I’m looking forward to many more foot-powered, M&M-fueled journeys.

I haven’t let myself read any PCT Trail memoirs until I finished my end-of-trail blog post, and my to-read shelf is getting full, so it’s time to tell the end of the story, one year later:

The last 10 days of my hike, from Stevens Pass to Manning Park BC, were some of my favorite of the trail. I loved the mountainous landscapes of the Northern Cascades, with snowy peaks in every direction, glacial streams raging through the valleys, and fall colors covering the hillsides. Walking along those remote ridges, I came within a few yards of a golden eagle, and saw too many marmots and pikas to count.  I spent the last zero of my hike in Stehekin, a tiny town only accessible by lake or trail but renowned for its incredible bakery, enjoying a perfect fall day before the final few days of the trail. The days were getting shorter and colder as I made my way to Canada, and threatening clouds would roll in over the mountains for a few hours almost every afternoon, but by then I knew that I would finish, and that I had been lucky to hike in a year with an extended summer – almost perfect weather for the whole five months of my trip.

A Mysterious Present...

A Mysterious Present…

The journal entry from my final day:

October 3, 2012
Mile 2668.8
Manning Park, B.C., Canada

I did it!

I can’t believe that my PCT thru-hike is over. I guess it will start to feel real tomorrow, when I’m on the bus to the city instead of sorting through a resupply box and planning my next water source and camping site.

It was cold last night, but my liner and sleeping bag mostly kept me warm (everything but my feet – I should have used one of those hand-warmer packs that i was carrying…or worn socks!) I got up early, and thanks to my sleeping-in-clothes strategy, was on the trail by 6:45. Th climb out of my forested valley was still in shadow, and it got colder and windier as I climbed higher – I saw icicles in a few of the streams along the trail, and my water tube, which was fine when I started out, actually froze while I was hiking! The climbs were a bit challenging, but nothing too bad, and I was having fun reaching the saddles & seeing how the passes developed – I really liked Woody Pass. I could see a whole ridge full of glacier-covered mountains, and wondered if they were all grey and craggy, or if they were vegetated like the one I was climbing and just obscured by the distance.

Time to Celebrate!

Time to Celebrate!

Before long I had started the 7-mile descent to the border, and except for taking my time on a few sketchy bits of trail, I flew downhill, singing and trying not to cry too much before I got there. Finally I could see the clear-cut marking the border that some section-hikers had told me about, and I I knew I was getting close.A few minutes later I could see the Manning Park Welcome sign in a clearing, and the, the Monument! It was amazing! It felt smaller and more intimate than I expected, and the monument was oriented perpendicular to the border, while I’d always pictured it facing south. I took my pictures; cried a bit; checked out the register – a bit of a disappointment because it only started yesterday – Log and Tank were the only entries, so I didn’t get to see what many of my friends had written; opened my present & note from Chuck (a Canadian whiskey sampler & note with a hand-drawn Canadian flag); and then took some more pictures and video.

I am a PCT thru-hiker!

I really am one of *those* people, who have completed the whole PCT in one year – amazing!

The 8.8 miles into Manning Park were tough, especially the first 4 1/2 miles, which were up & down, narrow, sketchily-maintained trail – not up to my PCT standards! The remaining bit was mostly flat & downhill, but my feet were entirely ready to be done. I finally reached Manning Park Lodge around 6:30 & am staying at the hostel. Dinner at the restaurant was a tasty Salmon sandwich, and I finished off my Canadian Whisky and PB Cups for dessert.

After catching up with other hikers at so many places along the way, it feels really strange to be “in town” without them. And even stranger to give my name as “Amanda” instead of “Lava Goat”!

It still hasn’t sunk in that I don’t have to walk tomorrow!

What I wrote: Register at the End of the Trail

What I wrote: Register at the End of the Trail

 

Walking through Washington September 24, 2012

Filed under: hiking,PCT — Amanda @ 10:30
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I’m less than 200 miles from completing my PCT thru hike! I arrived at Stevens Pass yesterday, following the three toughest days of hiking in Washington so far: the terrain was steeper and rockier, the air oppressively smoky from forest fires to the east, and I had to navigate a “potentially hazardous ford” of a creek which was raging down a ravine with rocks and boulders making even getting to the water to cross it a challenge. After averaging 25 miles per day with relative ease for the first two sections in Washington, struggling for 20-22 miles per day the last few days was mentally tough, and has made these last two hundred miles seem much longer and harder in my head. I spent many hours working through finishing-date scenarios while walking: what if I get to Stehekin before the last shuttle on Friday, or after the post office closes for the weekend on Saturday, or…and it began to stress me out a lot! As amazing as it is that I can turn any patch of flat-enough ground into “home” for the evening, I am longing for the comforts of my real home, and my reunion with Chuck (and the cats!) even more as I finally get close to finishing the hike.
Once I stepped off the trail at Stevens Pass, all of the worries magically lessened. I met a few trail friends who are a day ahead, getting ready to start hiking again; got a burger and beer at the ski resort cafe – a welcome respite from my trail diet of chocolate bars, salty crackers, and instant potatoes; and got a ride to Baring, where trail angels the Dinsmores have provided me with a bed, shower, and laundry before I head out into the wilds for my final 10 days of hiking. Canda, here I come!

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Oregon Update August 29, 2012

Filed under: hiking,PCT — Amanda @ 8:27
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After crossing the California/Oregon border two weeks ago, I’ve hiked about 300 miles, and have 150 left until I meet Chuck in Portland next week! I visited Crater Lake for the first time, enjoyed swimming in some of oregon’s fantastic lakes (warmer than the ones in the Sierras!), seen a herd of elk, and walked through fields of wildflowers and incredible volcanic landscapes. It’s hard to believe I only have about five weeks of hiking left!

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Tahoe to Belden: approaching halfway July 23, 2012

Filed under: hiking,PCT — Amanda @ 11:29
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Getting back on the trail after spending a weekend with Chuck at Lake Tahoe was hard – I really wanted to stay with him and return to the comforts of home (and the kitties!) in San Diego. But alas, the only way to justify the massive resupply trip to REI was to start hiking again, so I headed north on the morning of the 17th, knowing that Sierra City was only 2 days away, and my next visit with Chuck would be in Portland, OR in early September. I hiked about 18 miles the first day, and saw and chatted with lots of day-hikers and weekenders (i think i intimidated a couple who were out for a 15 mile weekend trip when I told them I was going “only” 38 miles in two days – oops!), but no other Pct hikers. I visited the Peter Grubb hut, built to shelter hikers and skiers from winter storms – it had the first two-story outhouse I’ve seen on the trail! I also impressed myself with my topo map reading skills – I found a perfect campsite, sheltered from the wind, in the exact spot that I had identified as a candidate from the contour pattern.
The next day was a quick twenty miles into the Red Moose Inn in Sierra City. On the descent into town I came across a bush of purple flowers that was full of dozens of orange butterflies – a beautiful sight! I enjoyed hiking through the Tahoe National Forest, which had lots of trail signs with mileage markers and an informational sign about the reservoir on the way into town. I met up with several other hikers, including GipC Girl and Action Pack, at the Red Moose, and being around them all again made me feel better about being back on the trail again, and a little less homesick.
I had a fabulous breakfast at the Red Moose the next morning, and set off to tackle the climb out of town under a beautifully overcast sky. The cool weather helped me power up the hill, where i passed the 1200 mile mark, and then I hiked with Action Pack for the rest of the day – chatting with her definitely helped the miles fly by. We hiked past Sierra Buttes, an impressive rock formation north of town; parts of the trail were a bit precarious on a rocky ledge, but it was a beautiful place to hike.
The next day was a tough one – I’d planned 27 miles and was actually hoping to do 29, but was really tired toward the end of the day and ended up camped with a few other hikers near the Fowler Peak trailhead after a 26 mile day. The day’s scenery was mostly pine forests and flowered hillsides, with a few expansive views of more pine-covered valleys. The trade-off for hiking among all of these lush plants is a much higher humidity level than I’ve previously hiked in, and the sticky heat is a bit tough to adjust to. I spent most of the afternoon listening to music, trying to crank out the miles and ignore how tired my feet were.
For some reason, the next day was much better. I got a decently early start and sped through the first few flat miles, walked over a fantastic bridge at the Feather River, and climbed for seven miles in the heat of the afternoon before finishing up with a few flat miles to my campsite – I walked for almost 28 miles that day, my longest day yet! I was pleased with how good I felt on the long uphill section, and eased some of my getting-to-Canada anxiety by giving myself permission to take a little more rest than I had planned along the way instead of pushing to finish by the (not really) magic date of October 1 no matter what mileage it takes to get there.
My long day left me with only twenty miles to go into the town of Belden – a short uphill followed by a long descent into town. I had great views of lakes and flower covered rides in the morning, then walked through more pine forests before emerging onto an exposed ridge with sandy switchbacks. The first few miles of the descent flew by, but the last six miles into town seemed to take forever, and my feet were very tired of the pounding descent. The poison oak that the trail into Belden is famous for had luckily been trimmed back to an easily-avoidable level, and just before I emerged for the final road walk I found some much-welcomed trail magic – an assortment of drinks had been left in a nest of ice on a trailside boulder; I picked up a cold can of guava nectar and gulped it down to energize me for the final mile. I’ll be back on the trail this afternoon after getting my fill of town food at Belden Town Resort and Caribou Crossroads diner, ad enjoying the hospitality of the Braatens, who host hikers here in town. The switchbacks out of town look intimidating, but I’m almost to the halfway point on the trail and am heading into Lassen National Park soon, so I’m excited about the week ahead!

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I made it through The Sierras! July 17, 2012

Filed under: hiking,PCT — Amanda @ 6:40
Tags: ,

My high-mountain adventure lasted almost a month, from June 15, when I walked out of Kennedy Meadows and the landscape started transforming into granite hills and hidden alpine meadows, until July 14th, when I walked over Donner Pass (without being eaten!) and met Chuck for a weekend of resupply and relaxation on the shores of Lake Tahoe. 1160 miles down, 1500 to go! The Sierras deserve a much longer write-up, but I have to get back on trail about two hours, so here are a few highlights:

  • A surprise meeting of friends from San Diego on my descent from Mt Whitney
  • Climbing 14,500-foot Mt Whitney and 13,000-foot Forrester Pass on consecutive days
  • Lots of deer and marmots (high-elevation groundhogs)!
  • More waterfalls and pristine alpine lakes than I ever would have imagined
  • Camping above 10,000 feet, and waking up to a tent covered in ice
  • Seeing the dramatic changes in rock formations through King’s Canyon and Yosemite National Parks and the National Forests in the Sonora Pass area and north to Lake Tahoe
  • Many mountain wildflowers – from tiny little plants hugging the ground above 12,000 feet to meadows full of flowers taller than me! I even got to walk through a field of wild irises.

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