Day 173: CANADA!

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.

Day 172: A Last Cold, Snowy Day

Since before we even began, I’d heard and remembered tales of hikers coming over the last hill before getting to Canada, and seeing their destination stretching out before them. I’d wanted to experience the same thing myself, and really looked forward to doing that today. Except today, when we got there…you couldn’t see a thing. The clouds and snow meant that all we saw was one giant mass of white.

It was 35 degrees when we woke up this morning, with a stiff wind going — cold. It didn’t even break

Day 171: One (Hopefully) Last Rainy Day

Yup — Washington is at it again. We woke up to a light rain, and it continued on and off all day long, sometimes becoming a legitimate rain, other times just misting. A couple of times, we thought we might get lucky and have it entirely stop, but, of course, no such luck. Glimpses of blue sky were really just teases, as it clouded over again.

I suppose this is to be expected;

Day 170: Last Days of Beauty

We’re getting incredibly close to Canada. We passed the 2,600-mile mark midday today, which meant there were only 50 miles left until the border. Tonight, we’re camped just 43 miles from the border. That…doesn’t even sound like much to us at all. That’s just a couple of days. This is getting really close!

We’re lucky that, at least so far,

Day 169: Counting Down

In the last few days, other hikers we’ve met on the trail — not through-hikers, but folks out for the weekend or a shorter trip — have started greeting us by saying “Congratulations!”. Only on a trip as long as the PCT could five days and roughly a hundred miles count as “almost there”, but it is almost there. As of tomorrow, we only have four more days of hiking. That’s crazy!

Genuinely and truly, it’s hard to know what to make of it. We’ve been doing this for so long that

Day 168: Stehekin!

I can’t believe we’re finally in Stehekin. Ever since our very first explorations into maybe-possibly hiking the PCT, Stehekin has loomed large in my mind as the very last town stop on the PCT before you get to Canada. Not only that, but it’s both incredibly inaccessible — the only ways into it are the PCT, a two-hour ferry ride, or by seaplane — and extremely well-loved by through-hikers. Now, I see why…and it’s amazing that we’re finally here!

The Big Red Bus picks you up from the trail to take you into Stehekin. This is

Day 167: So, So Much Better

It’s incredible how much better your mood is when you get the first day of sunshine after a rainy spell. We went to bed last night listening to the rain still falling on our tarp, but, this morning, it was completely gone. After a couple of hours, the clouds even cleared off, and we had blue sky. And sun! Real sun! It felt amazing. After fighting through two days of serious rain, it was wonderful to walk in the sun. (Well, as much as we could, anyway. Some of these woods are thick, and stay quite dark even on the sunniest of days.)

Setting up camp tonight was,

Day 166: …And More Misery

It’s as if the Pacific Crest Trail wants to make sure we remember there were hard times, as well as good times, before we go. Yesterday and today have been two of the hardest days of our entire trip.


Before I even get into the weather, let’s start with the terrain. The trail here climbs straight up a (very steep, and very tall) mountain ridge, spends a brief moment at the top, and then plunges back down the (very steep, and very tall) other side. When it gets to the bottom of the valley, it bounces off like a ping-pong ball, climbing back up the other side immediately after hitting the bottom. It’s incredibly tiring, and both much more difficult and not as rewarding as the passes of the High Sierra, where there’s nearly always really beautiful stuff both at the bottom and the top.

Then, biggest of all,

Day 165: Misery

It’s been raining on and off all day long, so the tall, omnipresent underbrush is completely wet — which means your pants get soaking wet as you push past it. The trail’s overgrown, so you have to fight your way through said underbrush all the time. It’s warm enough out that putting on your raingear will just make you equally wet with sweat, so you leave it off…but this means your shirt gets wet as you brush past all the foliage, too. It apparently has been five years since a trail crew came through here, and there are trees down across the trail with increasing frequency — sometimes meaning you have to step over them carefully, but sometimes causing a dangerous detour up or down a steep slope. The slopes are really steep, and the trail’s impressively narrow — sometimes barely wide enough for your two feet if they’re pressed tight together. Of course, you’re also always either ascending or descending sharply, making you hard at work no matter what. Also, your toes are in blistering pain because your feet are soaking wet, and this makes your toes chafe hard against your shoes.

Oh, yeah: it’s getting dark, really dark, and the rain has come back.

Hiking the PCT is not always all beautiful views and

Day 164: The Cascades Are Coming Alive

Even before we started this crazy trip, I’d heard that northern Washington was supposed to be one of the most beautiful parts of the entire trail. Today, I believe it. We’ve entered the North Cascades, and the mountains around here are astounding. I feel like I’m far from any place I’ve ever known, and it’s kind of amazing.

Above all, it’s the

Day 163: Wet Washington, Yet Again

As we begin what feels like the last major push of this hike, Washington has decided to once again…be Washington. It drizzled on and off for the first few hours of our hike this afternoon, only to gear up and start raining with serious intent just as we got to camp. As I write this, there’s a steady rain outside on our tarp, my hiking pants are wet from the calf down, and it’s just generally wet everywhere. Sigh.

I suppose I should be grateful that

Day 162: The Homestretch

It really is starting to feel like we might actually do this thing. I know that might seem like a funny thing to say, especially after a hundred and sixty-two days on the trail, but I’m not one to claim premature victory. Yet, tonight, we only have eleven days of hiking left to go, and the weather reports for that period say we’ll still have relatively clear skies and decent temperatures. Might we actually, truly make it the entire way?

We’re in Skykomish, Washington this evening, tucked away

Day 161: It’s Getting Cold!

Last night, it was 35° overnight. Today, it was in the mid–40s all day long. In other words, it’s getting cold out there!

Now, this doesn’t meant it’s already the middle of winter up here in Washington. Some significant proportion of the cold is because we’re at altitude; the elevation where we’re camped tonight is just over 5,000′, and it’s much noticeably colder up here than it was down in the valleys. But the cold is also a sign that, yup, it’s starting to be fall, and the seasons are changing.

I’m glad that we have

Day 160: Showers in the Mountains

No, I’m not talking about rain. Today, we saw one of the strangest things I’ve seen along the entire PCT. Walking through the forest, really in the middle of nowhere, we came upon…a shower, attached to a tree. There was a pipe coming out of the ground, clear tubing attached to it with plumbing equipment, and a showerhead, at appropriate height, attached to a tree. And there it was, flowing, even with decent water pressure — a shower in the middle of the forest. Wat?

I even would’ve taken a shower, right there,

Day 158: A Long-Awaited Reunion

We were trying to figure out today just how long it’d been since we’d seen our close trail friends Dilly and Dally. We’re both pretty sure that it was at Vermillion Valley Resort…which was officially 87 days and 1,516.10 miles ago. That’s a long time, no matter how you slice it, especially out here on the trail. But it’s also a sign of how close the trail can make you feel to someone that we’ve never stopped trying to meet up with them again, even when we weren’t sure where they were or knew we were far behind or ahead of them.

Only today, we know where they are,

Day 157: Ski Resorts in the Summer

Of our five resupply stops in Washington, three are at ski resorts. I suppose that’s because resupplies happen where the trail crosses roads; the trail is often on steep mountains, and people want ski resorts on roads. No matter what, it’s kind of funny to end up stopping at these ski resorts at the end of summer, when nobody is around and these vast resorts have empty parking lots.

That’s how it was today,

Day 155: Beautiful Washington

Now that we finally can see this state, I have to say — it’s kind of amazing. Seeing Mount Rainier yesterday was its own kind of spectacular, but today was filled with lots and lots of everyday beauty. The mountains up here afford so many good views, and the slowly-changing seasons mean that the plants are displaying a gorgeous spectrum of yellows and reds. It’s really quite something, and I’m so glad we’re here.

This segment of hiking, from White Pass to Snoqualmie Pass, is

Day 154: Hello, Mount Rainier!

After so many days when we couldn’t see a thing because of all the rain, today we got a real treat: Mount Rainier! At 14,411 feet high, Mount Rainier is within a hundred feet of Mt. Whitney, the highest mountain in the continental U.S. (and which we climbed a few months ago). But Mt. Whitney is surrounded by scads of other mountains in the 13,000–14,000-foot range, while Mount Rainier is surrounded by mountains that might be 7,000 or 8,000 foot high. It utterly dominates the landscape around it, and is completely breathtaking to see. Not only that, but the recent rains left a broad, fresh coat of pure-white snow on top of Mount Rainier, making it even more beautiful. It’s incredible.

The PCT took us through Mount Rainier National Park for a little while today. Mostly, this just meant