September 4 – 2641 to 2660 (19 miles)
September 5 – 2660 to 2669 (9 miles)
September 4 – 19 miles
This morning is like no other morning on the trail. Unlike all the other mornings, we don’t check the elevation charts and maps and plan our day. Our day is simple. Walk 19 miles to Canada. Don’t rush…don’t plan…just walk.
There’s a lightness in my heart like no other…I’m going to do this thing! No more “maybes” and “probably’s” and “man, I sure hope so’s.” Just a definite, sweet, glorious FOR SURE. No doubt about it Lorax! We’re gonna finish this “never-ending” hike, and we’re gonna do it today.
We are so laid back, that we ignore our alarm in the morning and sleep for another hour. The day is perfect – dare I say the most perfect day yet? Blue skies, amazing conversation, a chill hiking speed, no hurry, and even an extended lunch.
We lounge in the sun atop the last big ascent, eating our tuna wraps and cookies. Lorax comments on all the distant mountains…Canadian mountains. Home.
After lunch, the trail descends a few hundred feet, just to come right back onto the ridge we are standing on. There’s an alternate trail that has been closed because it is impassable, and it loses less elevation by traversing along the shale bowl of the ridge. One guidebook describes the route as only necessary if you want to die on your last day on the PCT. Sounds fun.
Lorax begs me to allow him to do it. It only saves a mile, but he’s drawn to it “just for fun.” I know my man well, and I know that he has a higher than average sense of adventure. While I’m just happy to hike the well managed trails, he likes more of a challenge, and the PCT has not really presented much challenge for him. So…what’s the harm…?
He starts his sketchy traverse, while I begin my long switch-backing descent into the valley. He promises me that if the trail gets ridiculous he will turn back and join me. I lose sight of him early on, and assume he got across early, but as I approach the beginning of my climb, I spot him walking along the loosest shale, with no trail whatsoever. It turns out the trail literally drops off into a shale field with no way across but down. He looks like he is managing well though, so I keep climbing. At the top he tells me that he wouldn’t need to do that again, but if he hadn’t, he’d always wonder “what if.” No harm done.
The afternoon is surreal. Did we seriously walk all the way to Canada? Is that even possible? Who does that anyway?! I am honestly in disbelief. What an accomplishment. What an adventure. What a character builder!
As we get within a few miles of the Northern Terminus, I get butterflies in my stomach – the same nervous feeling I had standing at the Southern Terminus at the Mexican border. It’s weird really, that one would feel nervous upon ending a hike. I have to pee more than usual (nervous energy!), and find myself getting a lot quieter. Lorax is his usual, chipper self, cracking jokes and keeping the mood light. I feel so heavy though…so introverted and somber. I’m excited and happy too…just feeling a lot of confusion over my emotions. This is a good thing to be ending….right?
We see the strip of cut trees that mark the border line – it’s so close! I beginning to run, and let out a nervous squeal. Running to the monument. Running to the end. I want it so baldly all of a sudden that walking seems inappropriate.
And there she is, in all her glory: The Northern Terminus, looking nearly identical to her southern counterpart. I drop my hiking poles on the ground and throw my hands to my face…tears welling in my eyes. “Wow,” is all I can say. Lorax takes a good look at the monument, and comes over for a great, big, celebratory hug.
“We did it T-Fox. We’re thru-hikers.”
We did make it. We ARE thru-hikers! Despite the numerous announcements of my quitting, and against several odds (as roughly 30% of hikers make it), we did it. The moment is like no other moment we have ever experienced, and we’re not likely to feel it again. We have stepped from a hopeful thru-hiker to a thru-hiker: all 2660 miles done in one continuous hike. We feel proud…and lucky that everything worked out.
We take several pictures at the monument, faces beaming with joy. WHAT A FEELING!
Lorax cracks open a mini bottle of champagne that he carried out from our last town stop in Stehekin. He sets the camera up for a picture, and the iPad to video mode. He times everything just right, giving the bottle a good shake, and releases the spray…all over me!! I let out a stunned scream just as the camera clicks, and we are left with the best monument picture of all time (in our biased view of course).
After signing the register, we reluctantly leave the monument, as two other hikers, Tim and Scott, are there as well and we want to give them some space to soak it in. We are in Canada…our home sweet home. We walk the 0.2 miles to camp, holding hands, all smiles. What a great moment to share with one’s spouse, partner, and best friend.
The evening grows cold, and Lorax builds a campfire. We invite Tim and Scott over, and the four of us talk about the trail for hours. We eat our final camp dinners…nothing fancy, but oh so familiar and comfortable. We retire to our tent, feeling awfully at peace.
September 5 – 9 miles
Sleep until seven. Toss around in my warm down sleeping bag, savouring her comfort and security.
Time to get up. While we have completed our thru-hike from Mexico to Canada, there are still 9 more miles to “civilization” that is Manning Park BC. They are not technically PCT miles, but they are part of this hike.
We’re happy today. I savour the last uphill climbs, feeling the burn in my chiseled calves and thighs. We talk of how we will maintain our bodies in the near future, but also how nothing will ever compare to walking all the time. The conversation even turns to future thru-hikes that we may want to do. Maybe the CDT that follows the same border to border idea, but does so through the Rocky Mountains. And then maybe the Great Divide Trail, Canada’s extension of the CDT. Maybe. Just maybe.
And then…the trail ends. It literally JUST STOPS. No more.
We stand there, looking back at the trail that we have called home for so long, and ahead at the paved road that leads to the rest of our lives. I feel so sad! It’s so final. So abrupt. But I guess there’s no easy way to rip away the best experience in one’s life.
We eat lunch where the trail ends, sharing a Corona (for Mexico, of course!) and try to keep things light, while both of our hearts are sinking.
We hike to the lodge, have showers, do laundry, and sit in deliciously comfortable couches.
“You don’t have to walk tomorrow T-Fox.” Wow. That’s so strange.
We hitch to the campground, which is 4 km away, and wait for our friends to arrive. Kyle, Mere, Ryan, and Barb all made the long drive to Manning Park, just to celebrate with us! Our BC friends! We feel so special, and very appreciative of their support. They arrive just after dark, and hoot and holler out their windows upon seeing us sitting at the picnic table. There are plenty of hugs going around, and Kyle quickly gets to cooking us the most delicious vegetable curry rice meal EVER. We all wear party hats…like children. Man I love my friends.
It’s the perfect ending to a perfect adventure. It feels good to be among familiar, loving faces…to transition back to society with the help of some really great folks. I’m not sure if they realize how helpful they were in reminding me that there is ALWAYS great people in my life – that I don’t need to hike the PCT forever to feel connected to something that matters. The PCT is incredible, but so is my life and the constants within my life – great friends and family, who love and support me.
And who didn’t think I would make it. 🙂