PCT 2015 – Last Days


A long way to go

Walking towards Steven’s Pass, WA, the rain was still falling throughout the day as sunshine snuck through the clouds from time to time. Team Gnar Gnar had resigned to accept the trail closure, due to wild fires, and the requisite detour and break in a continuous footpath.

Rumors trickled through the telephone game like news system of the trail, that people were walking through the closure and it might actually open. During one of the brief sunny moments, I passed a ranger who verified that the trail would open soon. We (Team Gnar Gnar) all knew that we couldn’t rightfully skip a section if it was open. We also knew that this would throw a wrench in the plan developed a week prior when the thought of an opened trail was out of the question. Some had hard deadlines to make. I descended into Steven’s Pass on an ankle that felt like walking with a brick for a foot. Rest in Skykomish sounded nice, pushing big miles to finish did not sound so nice.

Recently, each stop in a town felt more and more comfortable. I instantly fell in love with the towns, the food, the chairs, the warm showers, the beds, the clean clothes or maybe just the feeling of not walking and getting some rest. I think to myself, “If I was forced to stop hiking here, for some factor out of my control, I don’t think I’d be all that sad.” I’ve had the conversation several times about just wanting to stop walking for a little while. I don’t want to leave the trail, still love sleeping out and the community but just want to stop walking for a little while. These should be blatant signs that I am exhausted.

We spend a night at the Dinsmores and a night at the Cascadia Inn. The Dinsmores was packed with hikers, some that had been waiting out the closure and weather for many days. The log book revealed that several hikers had already cut their hike short due to the closure. The “8 pack” Team Gnar Gnar is reunited briefly before quickly disbanding to carry out each others personal schedule to the trail’s end.

The feet feel even more swollen and useless with inactivity. But with the news of an opened trail, we leave the comfortable town and are dropped off back at Steven’s Pass with the surrounding mountains covered in snow.

Two and a half more days of rain but beautiful big mountains and trail, I’m so glad to have not missed, lead to sunshine and “manic” blazed ideas from the other team members. With talk of pushing big days to the end, I thought I might still have enough for a big push but started to grasp the idea that I would finish alone.

As Desert Hang and I reached the Suiattle River, and start of the old fire closure section, we find ourselves shedding rain and warm layers as the sun beats down on us. We acknowledge the warm sensation in slight distrust but can tell it’s gonna stick around for a while. Over the next couple days we pass through some of the biggest and most lush forest of the trail,  past peaks soaked in evening “God Light” and nights of clear skies with voices and lights of hikers in the dark, enjoyment and reflection of all that has been the Pacific Crest Trail.

Dry, crispy trail, forest and smoldering wild fire welcome us into Stehekin on a warm, Fall day. This little town is beyond what any description or assumption could provide. The only access to this little town is by boat, float plane or foot. I took the latter. I was excited to see some of the Gnar Gnars in town but they were packing up to hit the trail again, I had just missed the Euro Faction and Leopardsauce earlier in the morning. My friends tried hard to drag me back out on their manic blazing mission but the calm relaxation of this little haven and a stronger energy I didn’t quite comprehend kept me well seated on the porch, overlooking a beautiful view of Lake Chelan.

Sunset, sunrise, dinner, coffee, visiting with other hikers, good sleep and two stops to the delicious and aromatic Stehekin bakery left me with an energy I had not felt in a long time, if ever before. As I rode the big, red bus back to the trailhead, I thought maybe I would hike big miles and finish with my friends. Although the reason wasn’t necessarily to finish with others but because I felt a strong, calm presence within myself and an indescribable energy from an outside force pulling me down the trail. I couldn’t not walk and walk and walk, northward to the finish. This time wasn’t to catch others but because I felt like I had no choice but to follow this wave of energy for as long as I could. Everything about these last days felt exactly the way they should be.

I hiked in a very natural state of mind. Sometimes this was with others, still getting to know new faces and reminiscing about the last 2,600 miles. Then we would just as naturally part ways and others would come along. I stopped to visit and talk with others, giving the opportunity as much time as needed. The trail magic was still very strong with some “divine inspiration” and chocolate from SoBo Hobo, spaghetti and hilarity from Legend and a chance in encounter with Devilfish, an angel from way back in the desert. I was in no rush to do miles for mileage sake but still knowing the energy was gonna take me well down the trail and into the night, possibly all the way to Canada without stopping. I still had some thought of catching up with the others.

I walked the ridges at night under a dark, starry sky. The sun set again and I soaked it up knowing it was one of my last out here. The air was warm and clear and I felt so full of energy. On top of Methow Pass, I stared up at the Milky Way and stars, out into the dark expanse of the Cascades and no one was around. I felt like I had the whole world to myself! Late into the night I slept trailside to be rested for a possible big day.

I awoke to the same strong energy pulling me out of bed and down the trail with a rapid pace, smile and gratitude for all that is. More chats and longer waterless stretches. I thought for sure I would push on to Canada and have breakfast with my friends in the morning. The psyche was there until it wasn’t. The thought of my last night really set in and I felt tired, stumbling up the trail in the low light of dusk. This would be my last night on the trail and I wanted to spend it camped out not slogging my way through the dark. Startled by many sets of blue eyes from a herd of deer, I crept into the woods past another hiker and made my last camp. Ladies Man reemphasized the importance of being thoughtful about one’s experience in these last days, adding “sometimes we have to slow down for what we love.”

One last lazy morning and I moseyed down the trail. The end of todays hike would be the last. I had no desire to rush it or catch anyone or anything. “It’s okay to finish alone,” Sobo Hobo.

Fall colors, yellow, red and green paint the steep slopes and forest and set aglow as the sun crests the ridges and peaks through the canopy. Quiet, slow and contemplative I walk on. In reflection, it seems as if we all finished the trail in own way and the way it should be.

I had some cheap bourbon and a snickers to celebrate at the monument with Lucky and some day hikers. I dumped some oatmeal and dehydrated beans and rice into the monument as an offering of thanks to the trail. Then quickly moved over the last eight miles to the highway and Manning Park where the emotions and reality really set in. I almost cried when I reached the black top and walked towards the lodge. This really felt like the end. There was no Kennedy Meadows welcome (as I expected and hoped for) into  Manning Park. All the other trail towns had treated us hikers like heroes but here no one really acknowledged us. I found two other hikers with a look on their face that reflected my emotions. We have a silent nod and smile as we took in our new situation. The rest of the evening was spent together with other hikers. We didn’t really party but celebrated by enjoying each others company late into the night.

I’m really glad that I was able and lucky enough to finish the Pacific Crest Trail in one continuous foot path, south to north. This was a big, physical goal of the trip. However, as the trail grew longer, continuity less certain and friendships stronger, I realized that the physical element is but a small part of this journey. The community, relationships, emotions  and changes one experiences are so much greater. The exhaustion and pain in my feet and legs fade but the warmth and love of others is still so strong.  If nothing else, this trail and journey will renew the faith in humanity.


One last sunset

PCT 2015 – Week 19

10 Sept – Day 126 – mi. 2569 – easy, cool morning with coffee – feeling great and energized – there is an indescribable energy pulling me along the trail – loving life and hiking – “It’s okay to finish alone.” – inspiration over material things – chef Legend makes canned chili spaghetti – porcupine sighting by Porcupine Creek – magic and stars fill the mountains and night – random forest camp –  mile 2602

Fading light in the last days

11 Sept – Day 127 – mi. 2602 – the magic energy is still there – these last days are phenomenal, personal, reflective, emotional, energetic and fun – everything finally clicks – long dry section – no love from the campground caretaker – fun, long ridge traverses – huge valley surrounded by steep choosy, bare ridges, punctuated by rock and water fall lines – nice talks with Ladies Man – compromise for what/who you love – Devilfish lives! – last night camping on the PCT – looking for Wrong Way – deer herd camp – mile 2635

Devilfish, a familiar trail angel from the desert, 2300 miles ago

12 Sept – Day 128 – mi. 2635 – Autumn/drought colors: yellow, red and green color the steep slopes and forest are aglow as the sun crests the ridges and peeks through the canopy – quiet and contemplative – slow morning with coffee and hot breakfast – no rush to finish – border clear cut – run to the voices of others – monument is anti-climatic as an object but huge in symbolism – day hikers don’t get it – whiskey and snickers celebration with Lucky – dehydrated food offering to the trail –  Canadian trail magic with Molson and Cheezies – quick pace for the 8 miles to Manning Park – overcome with emotion at the road – not a warm welcome into Manning Park lodge – hikers are in a daze – celebratory meal, beer and companionship – Canadians – Congratulations to all who finished today: Pounder, Twist, Sweeper, Popsicle, Lucky and Ladies Man and to all those before and after us – mile 2659 – Finish and Canada!

Time to take a seat

PCT 2015 – Week 18

3 Sept – Day 119 – Goldmeyer alt. mi. 11 – psyched on big trees, lush forest, mushrooms and ferns – rumors of the fire closure opening –  more rain and lunch under an umbrella – waterfalls forever and more lakes – sunshine and warmth – Icy Hot is alive! – the trail is never what you expect – nightfall coming early – night hike – clear night sky – Cathedral Pass camp –  mile 2435

Lake along the alternate route

4 Sept – Day 120 – mi. 2435 – first sunny morning in more than a week – climbing and intermittent rain – sweat soaked under rain gear – rain clouds, fog and mist fill the canyons where smoke filled a couple weeks ago – WA is equally beautiful as it is challenging – The trail is open! – in the flow – ski lifts, lakes and passes – Stevens Pass – hitch with Index Lauren – chili, fried chicken, jojos and beer – full house at the Dinsmores – Hiker Heaven – mile 2462

Snack break with Leopardsauce, Hundo & Desert-hang

5 Sept – Day 121 – rest day – no miles – Skykomish, WA – Trail magic and family from Louisiana – stuffed with town food – frisbee in the street – serious hiker hobble – WA apples – trail angels here are awesome – Team Gnar Gnar is all together and then disbands – “can’t loose a Gnar Gnar by speeding up” – sad and tired – Cascadia Inn

the Complete Team Gnar Gnar: Middle, Leopardsauce, HoHo, Chicory, Backwise, Alpaca, Possum, Sneezl

6 Sept – Day 122 – mi. 2462 – hard to leave the warmth of town – I’m loving every town now – deserted trail – snow covered mountains – foggy, soggy, dripping forest – hiking in snow in a t-shirt – all day with Alpaca – fog covered lakes – dogs – large groups can be dramatic – ankles are wrecked – Sally Ann Lake camp – mile 2491

Leaving town for snow

7 Sept – Day 123 – mi. 2491 – 4 months on the trail – stars in the night – misty morning and fast moving clouds – Llama packing bear hunters – bandana ankle brace – blueberries and mountaineers – Glacier Peak Wilderness – new faces: Hawaii, Marathon John, Just Drew and Logan – these mountains feel huge and wild – Desert Hang camp – mile 2522

Colors & weather of Fall

8 Sept – Day 124 – mi. 2522 – mice scurried around all night – good morning switchbacks – very clumsy, foggy, drizzling morning – older hikers and a neurotic heeler – huge hemlocks – great rest stops – Sunshine! – forest floor carpeted with moss and shrooms – hot lunch with Desert Hang – spectacular golden hour views – night hike with Desert Hang – Chill Hards hiding in the woods – night hiking is one of the coolest parts of thru hiking -night time rock slides – stars and clouds – solo, established camp – mile 2553

Evening sun & God light

9 Sept – Day 125 – mi. 2553 – 5:15 AM wakeup – dawn patrol with stars and moon – damp bag and tent – soaked and cold from wet, overgrown trail – was a cold night – wildfire smoke still smoldering – hot and dry – big red shuttle bus to Stehekin – mandatory stop at the bakery with a cinnamon roll to die for! – Lake Chelan and Stehekin are more beautiful and magical than ever expected – get to see the Gnar Gnars – burger and sunset with hikers – much needed relaxing and healing – probably the best Post Office in the country – resupply – chillin with the Chill Hard Tribe – Veggie, Square, Popsicle and Easy – mile 2569

Lake Chelan

PCT 2015 – Week 17

27 Aug – Day 114 – mi. 2273 – 4:30 AM start – dawn patrol – rock and ice – the Knife’s Edge! – coffee and breakfast on the rocky, exposed ridge – wildfire viewing – to the north, Mt. Ranier, to the west, Mt. St. Helens, to the south, Mt. Adams and to the east, sunrise – one of the best moments of the whole trail!, I love this trip, trail and these people. –  missed goat sightings – single track, ridge trail inspires me to run – temptation by a chair lift – Whites Pass and Kracker Barrel store – town food – resupply – pace deliberation – indecisive waitress – cookies and the Tao from Peter – fricket – River Jelly & Chopsticks – highway horse camp – mile 2293

Mt. Adams & wildfire at sunrise

28 Aug – Day 115 – rainy morning = perfect sleeping weather – cricked neck – rainy, cloudy day = perfect hiking weather – quick pace – Lakes forever – Ginormous church/Russian youth group blasting horrible techno music! – lunch break to dry out, nap and wait – alone time and visiting with new hikers – more views of Mt. Ranier – reunite with Highwater going Sobo – emaciated, mountain man comment – Canada fever and exhaustion among the team – Dewey Lakes camp – mile 2318

Highwater reunion!

29 Aug – Day 114 – mi. 2318 – more great sleep -warm, rainy morning to Chinook Pass – Mt. Ranier National Park – beautiful, cloud filled morning with rain soaked views – Outhouses but no TP! – super nice father & son – climbs with rain and wind – broken umbrella – mountain goats – floating rainbows – lunch in a broken down shack – shadows of clouds racing across scree and ridges, dashes of sunshine – controlling, powerful wind – mushrooms – hints of Fall – the brunch club runs to catch up, Chicory passes us to BW’s frustration – No Trace & Unbreakable going SoBo – hot fire to dry out – 2nd coldest, wet day of the trail – Ulrich Ski Cabin – mile 2345

Above Chinook Pass

30 Aug – Day 115 – difficult to leave the warm cabin – trash bag trail fashion – elk sighting in a fog covered Government Meadows – Daybreaker and friend’s trail magic: coffee, pancakes, fruit, eggs, burgers and more – car cuddle – feel unprepared for constant cold, wet weather – sunshine and another Legend sighting – rain covered firs with clouds and dam light look like snow – early nightfall – dry layers, tent and warm food feel so good – Old road bed, cold & wet camp – mile 2368

German Homesteaders at the Ulrich Cabin

31 Aug – Day 116 – mi. 2368 – Snoqualmie Pass – rain all day – running with an umbrella in the rain – loud hiss and crackle of rain on the power lines – soaked to the bone – run for warmth and town food – cold & wet hikers – Hundo comes to the rescue, again – decision to dry out and wait out the rain in town – Dr. Drei going SoBo – Pancake Inn and pizza – crazy, unorganized hiker box room – Seattle, WA – Hundo apartment camp – mi. 2391

Dig for your box at Snoqualmie Pass

1 Sept – Day 117 – big city day – Seattle, WA – sleep in with big breakfast, Ali Cakes -resupply on cold, wet weather gear – Mario Kart – Fremont Coffee trail magic – Pho and ice cream – Fremont Brewing Co. – REI, hipster look of downtown Seattle men – Josh B. from Las Cruces – late night, delicious Mexican food – no trail miles

the City of Seattle

2 Sept – Day 118 – mi. 2391 – sleep in again – Silence Heart Nest breakfast – resupply – Hundo returns to the trail – Goldmeyer Hot Springs alternate – spectacular scenery: Snow Lake, waterfalls, craggy towers, ferns, Chicken of the Woods, huge trees, lush everything – land slides – slip, slide, fall and scrape – hiking alone, reflections on the trail, idea of the end setting in – space cakes – Goldmeyer Hot Springs and wilderness preserve is magical – mine shaft hot springs source – hot pool and cold plunge – hot soaking in the rain – cozy warm clothes after the soak – tough day with great ending –  Goldmeyer Hot Springs camp – mile 11 of Goldmeyer alt. route

Town days are hard

PCT 2015 – Week 16

20 Aug – Day 107 – Portland rest day – Screen Door soul food – Salt & Straw – Stumptown roasters – crash with Wizard & Brooke – loving Portland

Good food and friends turn a day around

21 Aug – Day 108 – mi. 2144 – perfect morning coffee drinking weather – don’t want to leave – ride back to trail – cool start with Leopardsauce – salmon hatchery – bike path – blackberries – Cascade Locks – smoked salmon magic – huge brunch for hiker hunger – Starfish, Desert Hang, Puzzler, Nomad, Eli, Corey, Hoots – Bridge of the Gods & strong feelings crossing to WA – Washington, 4th state of the PCT – Columbia River Gorge –  yellow jacket sting attack – moss, ferns and lush forest – Mt Adams, Hood & St. Helens – old fire ring camp – mi. 2164

Crossing Bridge of Gods and into Washington

22 Aug – Day 109 – mi. 2164 – camped so close to others and didn’t even know it – smokey day – hot smokey taste and feel in the air – Panther Creek lunch and nap – long, long climb – no views – tall, tall trees – fire closure commotion begins – circle up the tents – Reliable spring camp – mile 2191

Lush forest

23 Aug – Day 110 – mi. 2191 – morning trail magic vortex – trail devils – Masshole and Rob – coffee, eggs, bacon, potatoes, pancakes, beer, curry, frisbee and hacky sack – stuffed, slow walking – the game of Murder begins – Blue Lake swim -Fir & Hemlock forest – BW and LS are soul playmates – parking lot crest – Legend and mom, Nutella, Johnny Walker & Puzzler – pink striped sunset – Twin Buttes Road camp – mile 2212

First trail magicin WA

24 Aug – Day 111 – mi. 2212 – dew soaked bag in the morning – “Trail’s closed! Hike is over!” – commotion over the closures grows – road walk – broken honda hitch with Nomad – Trout Lake – Station Cafe – everyone appears exhausted – Trout Lake Abbey, the tide of the trail changes – fancy mac dinner – gifted fresh veggies, a Buddhist tradition – alpacas, gardens, orchards, retreat, peaceful dwellings, Ty Kozen – mile 2226

“Trail’s closed!”

25 Aug – Day 112 – awake in peace and chilled morning air – morning meditation service – quietened minds and team bonding – simple breakfast with retreat visitors – long walks are a service and inspiration to others – meditation and prayer farewell from Ty –  “May you be happy, May you be well, May you know love, May you know peace.”  party of a road walk: frisbee, songs, lots of laughing, games (Murder and Code) – trail magic from Sletty Betty and Duck – Pizza wishes come true – more yellow jacket stings – one of the best days of the trail – return to the PCT camp in woods – mile 2251

Mt. Adams from Trout Lake Abbey

26 Aug – Day 113 – mi,. 2251 – great sleep – Thai instant coffee – raining ash, hot air and smoke fill the sky – Sheep Lake lunch and swim – Goat Rocks Wilderness – Sierra quality views – Team viewing of the sunset – nighttime viewing of wildfires around Mt. Adams – Chicory wins Murder – lost Nomad – Split boulder camp – mile 2273

A renewed Team Gnar Gnar

PCT 2015 – Week 15

13 Aug – Day 100 –  mi. 1981 – hangovers – Sparrow Bakery – feel like we are being banished to the lava fields – sharp, treacherous tread – Carnival night at Big Lake Youth Camp: pizza, cookies, pretzels and kids – sickness among the team – awesome camp director – comet with a long tail – great stars and great sleep – Jukebox, Rabbit, Sky Pilot & Canyon – pond camp – mi. 1997

Trail to Big Lake Youth Camp

14 Aug – Day 101 – mi. 1997 – 2000 mile mark! – awake to a light mist falling – start with a trail magic Mountain Dew – low visibility at Santiam Pass – parking lot toilet! – Northwest weather – foggy, misty, chilly, damp day – sun shirt is soaked through and worthless, wool is the way – practice in layering systems – clouds and mist roll over ridges as we traverse – burned trees from old wildfire – Mordor-esque views – curious and suspicious hikers – Russell Creek crossing in the dark – Clawhammer, Bear snack, Julien – Russell Creek camp – mile 2030

I just walked 2000 miles!

15 Aug – Day 102 – mi. 2030 – Jefferson Park – view of Mt. Jefferson – clouds and morning dew – break for coffee – surprise to see Pretzel and Roadrunner – Olallie Lake resort – powerlines and clear cuts – wildfire mushroom cloud – hiker name game and the Stick game – night hike – forest snuggle camp – hallucination of Leaopardsauce hiking by in the night? –  Nomad – mile 2067

Jefferson Park

16 Aug – Day 103 – mi. 2067 – exhausted – visit from Brooke – Leopardsauce lives and did a 24 hour 60 miler! – Ice Axe, again! -view of Mt. Hood – Government Camp, OR – AT caretakers and trail angels  – song sharing and relaxing – Mazama Lodge – mile 2084

Mt. Hood

17 Aug – Day 104 – mi. 2084 – cozy slow coffee morning in the lodge – the Mazama Lodge is the perfect place to relax – breakfast with Brooke – hiking with Leopardsauce – Timberline Lodge – delicious, free food – muddy, glacial runoff – Sandy River crossing – more of Mt. Hood -night climb – passing sleeping campers, Key Lime, in the dark –  Dirty, Clawhammer, Bearsnack, Frosty Cheeks, Ice Axe, Julien at the lodge – picnic table, powerline, road camp – mile 2112


Timberline Lodge

18 Aug – Day 105 – mi. 2112 – Chill Hard Tribe – climbs & ridges – hacky sack – Eagle Creek alternate – Tunnel Falls – weekenders & day hikers – swimming holes – Mikey &  Wendy from TorC – Chicory’s moms – Searge – Oscar Meyer Weiner Mobile – emotionless, possibly zombie Frank Sinatra impersonator – old people “happy” hour, appears dead – diner – blunt, funny, Chinese hostess – Portland, OR – hotel camp – mile 2144


Tunnel Falls

19 Aug – Day 106 – “rest” day – no trail miles – Portland, OR – food and gear re-supply – food trucks, gear shops and downtown – maps are hard to find – slow and frustrating public transportation – WinCo Foods – all night grocery shopping and urban hiking with 3 weeks worth of food! – resigned to eat at the diner again, :( – late night organize Washington resupply boxes – rough day – sleep please!

City bathing

PCT – Week 14

Aug. 6 – Day 93 – mi. 1819 – leep in and huge breakfast – Crater Lake alternate – tourist shock – slack pack – crewed by the Barratz – midday coffee break – Crater Lake! – Watchman tower – Chill Hard Tribe – parking lot feast – early camp at Grouse Hill Camp – mile 1837


Crater Lake

Aug. 7 – Day 94 – mi. 1837 – 3 months on trail – 11 hrs of sleep – duffy, sandy tread through forest – Mt. thielsen summit – stoked – steep scree gravel scrapes – more forest fires – bare honesty – spilled beans – the Inquisitor, Recon, Lonestar – OR/WA high point camp – mi. 1858

View from Mt. Thielsen

Aug. 8 – Day 95 – mi. 1858 – heavy dew and cold morning – hot coffee before others rise – sore quads but feeling good – lost gnar gnars – Oregon Skyline alternate – horse woman cold beer magic – picnic table, water, garbage can and toilet = heaven – Recovery tip: Eat more, sleep more, walk less! – Over Easy, Sweet Tango, Bush Tit & Tom Tit – Whitefish horse camp – mi. 1876 (+10 alt mi. )


Mossy woods

Aug. 9 – Day 96 – OST alt. – morning walk & chat with BW & Sneezl to pass the miles – Shelter Cove – Alpaca found – proud of my resupply box – 8 hr break: coffee, food, cold drinks, swim, yoga, hiker party – chocolate poems – German impersonation of a Texas accent! – welcome sight of glowing cabin lights – Maiden Peak ski hut – mi. 1912

Ladies man, Recon, D’lux at Shelter Cove resort

Aug. 10 – Day 97 – mi. 1912 – casual, cozy morning – some smoke – burned areas and lakes – Three Sisters Wilderness! – lush forest, lakes & ponds everywhere, boulders, birds, bear sighting and wild feeling –  Horseshoe Lake camp – mi. 1941


Flowers after a fire

Aug. 11 – Day 98 – mi. 1941 – quick miles to brunch at Elk Lake resort – sweet potato & pineapple burrito, coffee and good music – tubing on the lake – afternoon showers – crisp meadows and forest – sediment from runoff filled stream – mountain views – section in the Top 5 favorites of the trail – Avo & Nola – Hinton Creek camp – mi. 1964


Playing on tubes in Elk Lake

Aug. 12 – Day 99 – mi. 1964 – sleepless super windy night blowing down tents – Obsidian Cliffs – expansive lava fields – trail runner – town food and parks – frisbee in a tree and river – new shoes , Pearl Izumi N2s (pair 3) -birthday celebration with lots of beer – Mikey, Cabrita – Bend, OR – Rainbow Motel – mi. 1981

Lava fields before McKenzie Pass