We have walked from Mexico to Canada!
After just a little more than a hundred and seventy-two days, and after two thousand, six hundred fifty miles…we are here! I can’t even explain how amazing it felt to get to Monument 78, the northern terminus of the Pacific Crest Trail, just before 10 AM this morning. A little over six miles of hiking, all downhill…we came down a ridge under a cold, clear sky, and…there it was. The end. The completion of this epic journey.
I’d thought it might be a little anticlimactic, getting there, after so much anticipation. I’d been looking forward to this moment for — well, for the past six months, but for the past three weeks or so especially intensely. But it was every bit as elating as I’d hoped. You can actually see the border from a little ways off (because the U.S., I presume, has chopped a twenty-foot-wide path through them, all along the border), and so we knew we were close. You can glimpse the monument as you’re coming down the hill. And then you’re there, in the clearing, at the very monument you’ve seen pictures of — and nearly dreamed about — for so long. You’re done, and the feeling is unlike quite anything I’ve done before. When was the last time I undertook something this big? When was the last time I had this sense of accomplishment? I don’t know, but the feeling is pretty awesome.
We stood there for a while, bundled up against the cold. (It was 28° when we woke up this morning — close to, if not tied for, a record for our entire PCT hike.) We touched the monument. We took pictures. We signed the logbook. We laughed and couldn’t believe it was real.
We talked to a couple of women who were there, having hiked in from the trailhead at Manning Park, in Canada, about nine miles away, awaiting a group of three hikers. We’re pretty sure we camped with them last night — there were fully seven tents at our campsite when we left this morning — but we also got up and left before anybody else had even woken up, so they must’ve been a ways behind us.
We scanned the logbook for people we know. Treeman had finished several days before us — no surprise; he was hiking on his own, and was incredibly fast that way. Lots of other names we recognized were in there, although he was really the only person we knew really well who’d finished already. So many others had gone off-trail somewhere along the way, and Sarge and Stump, the lone good friends who were still on the trail, were a couple days behind us. It made us feel even fiercer to know that we’d persisted through every bit of this trail.
It was with delight that we eventually headed north once more, this time heading for Manning Park, the nearest outpost of civilization, just nine miles north. The signs were different (and, to them, it was 13 km, not 9 mi, to Manning Park). Even just that little difference made me so happy as a reminder that we’d done it!
Our first encounter with a Canadian in Canada was kind of incredible. We met a middle-aged couple heading south, and assumed they were going to meet someone at the border — but they were just out for a day hike. They introduced themselves as Ivan and Jana, and were amazed when they found out what we were doing. It was great to feel that amazement, and, as Ivan fished around in his backpack, I assumed he was going to offer us a cookie or a little bit of food. To my great surprise, what he came out with wasn’t food at all — but a bright-pink Canadian $50 bill. What?!? We tried to refuse, but he was insistent: he wanted us to have a meal, on him, for hiking this insane trail. Eventually, we accepted. Of all the things we’ve been given on the trail, a completely unexpected $50 is by far the largest. Amazing. We joked on our way further along that if this is what all Canadians were like, we were going to love this country.
Nine miles really isn’t all that far when you’re used to hiking twenty or more in a day, yet, when you’re suddenly incredibly eager to get to civilization, it can seem like a really long ways. The day warmed up, and we were no longer freezing; we cruised along, but the miles passed slowly. We ate lunch atop a ridge — our very last climb of the whole trip. Then we got going, heading north for the last time as the trail merged with a dirt road and we started descending.
We were in our groove, heading downhill at a good clip, when we came around a corner, and…there they were — Bucket’s parents, walking uphill, straight towards us. We’d been planning to meet them at the end since before we even started, and let them know a date and time over a week ago. We’d managed to stay almost exactly on schedule, and they’d hiked in to meet us.
I can’t tell you what it’s like to see — not only someone you know and like, but someone who you know represents your complete return to civilization, after all this time. It was joyous! Here were people we know, who we knew were staying in a house just a little ways away in Vancouver, coming to meet us. Hooray! Hugs were exchanged, and they gave us apples — so delicious after all that trail food! — as we started walking out with them.
We got to the trailhead and saw a group of eight or ten people, friends of the women we’d seen at the border, waiting for the same three hikers to come out. What a cheering section — they had great big signs, balloons, hats, the whole shebang. They applauded us as we came out…yet again, the support we got from nearly the whole world for doing this was wonderful.
Lunch, dinner, I’m not sure what to call it, but we went to the Manning Park Lodge and devoured burgers and drank beer. Riding back to Vancouver was both great and really weird — the three hours it took was easily the longest we’d spent in a car in six months, and sitting in traffic definitely wasn’t something we were used to at all. And after moving at about 2.5 miles per hour — and that’s a high speed — for six months, sixty miles an hour feels really fast. I can tell my body isn’t used to this; I felt a little carsick on the way back, and I never feel carsick. I think it’s just my body being completely unused to anything like this.
Back here in Vancouver, we’re at a wonderful Airbnb house in a perfect part of town, next to the University of British Columbia. Showers. Laundry. (Well, the first of quite a few loads. This time, we’re actually trying to get the smells out, not just reduced.) And…sleep. In a real bed. Not just for tonight, but from now on. This…this is awesome.
We did it. We really, truly did it. That’s going to last my entire life. I’m not sure anything feels much better than this.