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.
The journal entry from my final day:
October 3, 2012
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.
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!