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 6

11 June – day 36 – trail mile 766 – Crabtree Meadow – “early” start – Leopardsauce & Molly surprise – fresh snow and morning light – fresh legs – clouds over Mt. Whitney – snowy, slick, treacherous trail – walk above and in the clouds – storm hut dance party and snacks – bomb Whitney trail – Guitar Lake sunshine – frisbee! – Alpaca homemaker – Bighorn Plateau, JMT memory – double rainbow – Tyndell creek camp – mile 774


Mt. Whitney summit

12 June – day 37 – mi 774 – mist covered sun shining through clouds over mountains, glistening white granite boulders, ice covered lakes, fresh swollen streams, improbable dynamited route, ethereal morning daze, on the trail up Forrester Pass -feeling small in the big mountains – rain in the forest – wilderness trail magic from Sherpa & Smiley – 8 mi over Kearsarge Pass – LDS ride – Bishop! – Susan! – hikers roaming the streets – brewery – Thunderbird Hotel – mile 789


Icy lakes, snow and rain

13 June – day 38 – Bishop, CA – Rest Day – big breakfast – shopping stress – North American Marsupial Association – park relaxing – late night groceries and herding cats – pizza – Pit camp 


Relaxing in the Bishop Park

14 June – day 40 – Bishop – Schatz – Black Sheep – Town Goats – $6 OJ – too cool, non-attentive coffee shop staff – indecisive deliberation – pick up hikers – lakeside picnic, very nice – Kearsarge again – Glen Pass – frogs chirping, fish jumping – trail or stream? – buck deer on the trail – mosquitoes – sunset! – Rae Lakes – solo camp – mi. 794


Buck deer at Rae Lakes

15 June – day 41 – mi 794 – chilly, damp morning – JMT memories – mile 800 – missing friends – embracing solo hike – dwell, dwell, dwell – Pinchot Pass – Moccasin, Iron Husk, Rebel Biscuit – Mather Pass – sunset supper on the pass – long 2 pass day -inspired by Peter Croft stories – One Shot on the JMT – Palisades Lake camp – mi. 819


mile 800

16 June – day 42 – mi. 819 – slow morning – hot Yerba Mate treat – stove envy – trout everywhere – trail crew – Golden Staircase, knee crusher, trail engineering – Sarge – Sasha is alive – rock monster – Meadow – Kings Canyon, Muir Pass, Evolution basin, the heart of the Sierras – Muir Hut at sunset – hike down in the dark – magical god light and views – alone and moved – glowing snow on white granite, reflecting in alpine lakes with stars emerging as last light slips down canyon – exhaustion – Sarge camp – Evolution lake – mi. 844


Powerful day

17 June – day 43 – mi. 844 – late 9am start feels great – McClure Ranger, Dario and common friend – Evolution Lake swim – flowery, nauseating, fragrant hikers – taking it easy – catch up already friends! – Bagley Hot Springs – evening forest ridge hike – Sallie Keyes Lake – supper under a head net – ruthless mosquitos – JMT memory – old log cabin – bug camp – mi. 864

evening forest

PCT 2015 – Week 5

4 June – day 29 – mi 626 – red, glowing band across the sunrise horizon – windy – Devilfish cache saves us again! – PACK OUT YOUR TRASH! – first sight of the Sierras granite, moved – no place I’d rather be – Walker Pass – Dutch hitch – Lake Isabella – Pizza and NBA finals – motel – mile 652


Clean and checking in with “the world”

5 June – day 30 – mi 652 – Lake Isabella – truck be hitch and nap with Sarah – McD’s $5 deluxe breakfast platter – many different configurations of corn syrup – living the life I’ve dreamed about – radioactive water – quarter of trail mark – ridge camp – mile 673



6 June – Day 31 – mi 673 – 1 month on trail – sleepy hike – rattler #3 – south fork of kern river – rain showers – water welcome to the mountains – sagebrush in the air – abandoned house shelter – mile 700 – wet willows – applause cheer welcome to Kennedy Meadows – familiar faces and satisfaction – porch camp – mile 703


Gateway to the Sierras

7 June – day 32  – pancake breakfast – comfort crushin, chillin – frisbee – Grumpy Bears – cheering in hikers – jailhouse tattoos – bear can carry – Molly & Leopard Sauce – KM vortex – fricket – Shades, Pogo & brother – KM campground – mile 705

Slow down

8 June -day 33 – mi 705 – varmint alarm – sleep in – cruiser trail through burned forest and meadows – S. Fork Kern River – swallows under bridge – riverside siesta – hiker bottleneck released – bears can suck peanut butter through urcsack – steady long climb, altitude effects – first view of Mt. Whitney at sunset – mysterious whirring noise – bear psychology – duff camp a la carte – mile 726

Chewy down at the river

9 June – day 34 – mi 726 – golden brown  bristle cone pine, twisted and gnarled by weather and fire, white granite boulders and gravel – jets buzz and roar – sunny siesta adventure nap -overcast sky – dry Owens Lake – evening to night rain and hail – poncho tarp shelter works! – pine and rock camp – mile 749


Bristle Cone stump

10 June – day 35 – mi 749 – woke dry in the tarp! – Chicken Spring Lake, 1st alpine lake – dry alpine lakes – snow on ridges – Hooter – sunny rain – water, streams for miles – meadow deer – pastoral – bear box raid – stormy alpine hail, rain and snow – 17lb treehouse shelter – Whitney trail – wilderness ranger – Crabtree Meadow camp – HoHo’s riddles – mile 766

Stormy alpine