Saturday, September 20, 2014

Facts & Figures

Route - Pacific Crest Trail

Where - USA from the Mexican border to the Canadian border

When - April 25th - September 15th, 2014

Why - In a quest to become Triple Crowners ( thru-hiking the AT, PCT, & the CDT )

States Hiked Through - California, Oregon, & Washington

Hiking Days - 139

Rest Days - 5 ( Idyllwild, CA, - Kennedy Meadows, CA - Mammoth Lakes, CA
                                             Packwood, WA - Snoqualmie, WA )

Total Days - 144

Total Miles - 2,660

Average Miles Per Day - 19.1

Motels - 15

Camped - 127

Houses - 2

Highest Elevation - Forester Pass, CA at 13,200' ( side trail Mt. Whitney, CA at 14,505' )

Lowest Elevation - Cascade Locks, OR at 147'

Highest Temperature - 105 degrees ( Mojave, CA )

Lowest Temperature - 25 degrees ( just before Big Bear Lake, CA )

Friday, September 19, 2014

Summary - Balance

I didn't have any epic concluding thoughts at the border monument, probably because at that point I had stomach pains and diarrhea and was mostly concerned about making the final 8 miles to Manning Park. (Note: filtering water 99.8% of the time is apparently not enough, despite hiker claims to the contrary).

But I did try to stop at moments during the hike to reflect on the journey, and mainly to appreciate the fact that I was out here on the Pacific Crest Trail, not sitting at my computer at work or stuck in traffic on my commute, or even just cleaning the house on a weekend. We were fortunate to get the time off to complete the hike. It didn't just happen, of course, we worked for it, saved for it, planned for it, and made it happen.  So I wanted the hike to be about the actual trail, not the excitement of getting to town and being able to shower, get real food, etc. I didn't take headphones or electronic gadgets with me, because I always wanted to be aware of the sounds and sights around me (easy to do in the beautiful Sierras and Washington, less so in the dry scrubby desert and other nondescript areas). Sometimes I would just stop and listen. The only sound would be the wind and an occasional bird call. Remarkable, considering the noisy world we live in.

I hike for wilderness and solitude. (Family and spouse still count as solitude) This year saw a record number of hikers on the PCT, almost quadruple the number of just a few years ago. I wonder what it would have been like with less people on trail. Still, I liked my fellow thru-hikers, and you can hardly complain about all the trail traffic when you're part of it yourself.

As for wilderness, the West Coast has an abundance of it. I'm always grateful to the John Muirs of the world, people who saw the value in preserving wilderness for itself, and who fought to create parks and wilderness areas. There are always those who want to develop and exploit every natural resource, and those of us who are environmentally aware need to continually fight to protect it. I don't see the need to justify wilderness preservation in terms of human benefit: tourist dollars to local communities, health benefits from clean air and water. Wilderness should be protected because it has intrinsic value. Because animals live there. Because future generations need to see it. Because 'beauty is it's own excuse for being.'

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Canada (Manning Park)

Yesterday we hiked half of the 8 miles to Manning Park, leaving us just a short downhill stroll this morning. We shared a campsite with a local section hiker named Richard. He is retired from the Forest Service but owns an organic farm. Richard was very talkative and interesting. Balance was not feeling well and went to sleep as Richard and I stayed up talking by a small campfire. Believe it or not, my first campfire of the trip. Thru-hikers are much too tired by days end to even think about making a fire. 
We had another visitor last night. Our friend the mouse took a run up and over our tent around midnight as Balance watched and wacked at it.
This is our very last morning on the trail. We packed up as Richard made breakfast. Down the trail we went. 4 miles to be done hiking. We popped out on a small back road in Manning Park in search of Rosemary. We decided to walk towards the lodge on the road, and within a minute Rosemary drove up from behind, beeping the horn. We threw our arms in the air not believing that we met up so fast. Rosemary pulled out a congrats sign she made for us, and now we can finally say we are through with hiking. Our journey is officially over. Like I wrote in the register at the monument yesterday: "Happy and Sad". 
Rosemary had another surprise for us. She brought us cupcakes, and lots of them. We all thought the best thing to do would be to drive to the lodge where all the hikers were waiting for the bus and do some last minute trail magic by giving everyone cupcakes. It ended up being a great idea. The hikers were outside waiting and were excited to see treats coming their way. Plus Balance and I got to say goodbye to all of our hiking friends and Rosemary got to meet Sizzler. She always wanted to meet Sizzler because we posted about him so much that she felt like she knew him. We waved goodbye a final time as the bus drove away with our hiking companions.
We then drove to the campground Rosemary stayed in the night before and got a hot shower before making the 4 hour car ride back to the United States. Many thanks again to Rosemary for her amazing help and support. We are forever grateful. 
Balance will wrap this blog up with her final thoughts.
Thank you for viewing and commenting on our blog - it's been fun and entertaining for me to do at night before bed. This journey may be over, but not forgotten. These memories will never fade. Remember life is short, and there are no guarantees. So I'm going to keep living life like there is no tomorrow, with no regrets. That to me is a happy, healthy life. 
- The End

Rosemary holds her handmade sign and Balance holds the cupcakes in Manning Park, British Columbia.

Rosemary's congratulations sign she made for us. We love it!

Our hiking friends at the lodge in Manning Park as they await the bus to take them into Vancouver.

Our favorite hiking friend "Sizzler". We met him on day two of the trip and somehow finished on the same day as him, although he did finish earlier and was gone by the time we arrived in the afternoon. So we were excited to see him a last time at the lodge. Thanks for the memories Sizzler! 

Hikers loading the bus to Vancouver.

This is a photo taken of Y-Knot on April 23rd leaving our house heading for the airport to begin the trip.

This is Balance on the same morning.

This is Y-Knot and Balance today, September 16th, after thru-hiking the Pacific Crest Trail 2,660 miles. 

Mile 2,646.6 - 2,660.1 ( Canadian Border )

Our last night on the PCT was at an epic campsite high on a ridge just before Woody Pass. We woke up to an incredible sunrise, which lit up the mountains all around us. Another beautiful day here in Northern Washington. How lucky are we? Still Balance is feeling sick, real sick.
We packed up as always, but this time it's the last time we break down camp on the official PCT. We will finish the trail today. We both know what today means to each other and how much time and effort went into getting here. We will embrace this day. It's only 13 miles to the border. Hard to comprehend after all we have been through. We are both very excited to reach Canada.
Just so happens that many other Thru-Hikers are finishing today too. Hikers seem to be coming out of nowhere, none more surprising than a couple of hikers who flew by our camp at 5am. I think everyone has Canadian fever and are just pushing for the border. We, on the other hand, will have to go at a slower pace due to Balance's illness.
After packing up camp we had a steep climb up Woody Pass, which has outstanding views of the Cascades. We were joined by Pillsbury, JerryMatt, James, and Whistle. 
With the miles to the border winding down, Balance and I had a few conversations about what we had experienced over the past 5 months and congratulated each other. Close to the border we could hear hikers celebrating at Monument 78. We rounded the last corner and threw our hands in the air like we just won a prize fight by knockout. Instead we had just walked across the entire United States south to north, 2,660 miles. We got a standing ovation by 20 hikers who had just finished before us. 
WE DID IT! We're done. No more miles to hike, mountains to climb, water to filter, tents to set up, and towns to resupply in. Handshakes, high-fives, and fist pumps to everyone at the monument with congratulations to all. We took photos at the border and joined the hiker party until people started dispersing. Those who don't have passports had to backtrack 30 miles to Harts Pass where they can hitch a ride to Seattle or wherever they need to go. Others, including us, still had to continue another 8 miles north into Manning Park. That's the closest roadway where people can catch a bus to Vancouver and go from there.
We were the last ones to leave the border, as we planned on only hiking halfway to Manning Park and camping one last time before meeting with Rosemary tomorrow.
We said sad goodbyes one by one as our hiker friends started leaving, most likely never to be seen again by us.That's sad since we became friends, all with one common goal in mind, and now we have reached that goal. Everyone goes back to a normal life to whatever part of the globe they are from.
After several hours at the border it was all starting to sink in. Balance and I were alone half in the United States and half in Canada. 144 days ago we stood at mile 0 at the US - Mexican border with nothing but a good attitude and a pack full of gear. 
It was time for us too to wave goodbye to the USA and find a camp for the night. These last 8 miles don't count but that's fine with us. We know tomorrow we will be met by Rosemary and brought back to reality slowly. We can't thank  Rosemary enough for all of her support.
Balance started off into Canada as I just stood for a few minutes thinking to myself at the border all alone and quiet.
In those minutes alone I reflected back on different parts of the trip and the people I met. More importantly I thought of everyone who played a part In us being successful, including all the trail angels and trail magic. All the trail volunteers who keep this trail open and the hard work it takes. It would be impossible to do this without them and we thank everyone who helped us and all hikers in the class of 2014. The last thing I thought about was how fortunate we are to have our health and not to take it for granted but instead appreciate it. I walked back over to the monument for one last look. Said goodbye and thank you to America before walking into Canada and catching up with Balance.

Our last night of camping on the PCT on the ridge before Woody Pass.

Looking into the amazing North Cascades.

Still happy after all these miles.

Balance staring out at the Cascades.

A little early to celebrate. The Canadian border in just 10 more miles.

Our very last step on the Pacific Crest Trail. We made it to Canada!

We made it! The US / Canadian border at Monument 78. We hiked 2,660 miles from Mexico to Canada in 144 days, taking more than six million steps to do it.

Balance - you are now an offical 2014 PCT thru-hiker. Congratulations!

Y-Knot - you are now an official 2014 PCT thru-hiker. Congratulations!

This is just a part of the group of hikers who finished today. Congratulations to the PCT Class of 2014. You are Thru-Hikers!

Mile 2,623.2 - 2,646.6

First the bad news. Balance is very sick. Not sure what it is but she is feeling horrible this morning. She wasn't feeling good the last few days, but this morning it got worse. She has aches and pains all over as well as a fever. Despite all this, she still managed to get up and hike today, and a big day at that. I was very sick early in this trip and know just how miserable it is to hike while sick. Just goes to show you how tough Balance is. I feel helpless when she is sick because there's nothing I can do. I just left her to hike at her own pace and she did great.
The good news is that we will be at the Canadian border tomorrow. We have just 14 miles left to hike. Just sad that Balance is not well to enjoy it. After 5 months of pain and suffering day in and day out she may not be able to celebrate an amazing feat because she is sick. We are still hoping that she gets well overnight.
It looks like a lot of hikers will be finishing tomorrow as well. We know most of them and it should be a big party at the border. 
We still have 14 miles left, so no congratulating ourselves yet. Hard to believe that we will be back in everyday life soon. Will we like it or miss trail life? I get the feeling we will make a smooth transition.

Balance on the move early this morning despite not feeling well.

We camped in the forested area just behind Balance.

Just two days of hiking left before we hit the border.

Mt. Baker in the distance.

Water break at the stream. Buck Thirty, Sizzler, Slacker, and Ball Buster talking about finishing the trail tomorrow.

Balance not feeling well.

On the right is "Legend", a 2013 PCT thru-hiker who is just out doing a section this year. I told him Balance was not feeling well and he gave her a snickers bar and sang a song to help cheer her up. Not sure it worked, but it was a great effort. Nice to meet you, Legend.

Mile 2,599.6 - 2,623.2

We had a visitor again last night at our Rainy Pass campsite. A mouse ran up and over our tent. I didn't see it but Balance did. The other hikers camping here also had mice problems.
In the morning we heard loud calls from some kind of animal. Two of us say they were owls calling back and forth and two say it was a pack of coyotes. I say owls. They were loud calls and ones I haven't heard before. I have heard coyotes howl and it didn't sound like that to me. (Note from Balance- I vote coyote....when do owls ever fly around in packs calling to each other?)

What a day it was. From Rainy Pass we climbed to Cutthroat Pass and it was so much easier this time. Of course we are in our best hiking shape now, and we just flew up this pass in the beautiful cool morning weather. Another amazing day we are getting here. How lucky are we?
After Cutthroat Pass it was back to new territory for me. Each corner was better than the next, with outstanding views of snowy mountains and deep valleys. This is why we love the North Cascades- they always seem to amaze.

Hiking up Cutthroat Pass.

We love the beauty of the North Cascades.

Balance hiking from Cutthroat Pass.

This was a first for me. We ran into a goat train. 4 goats were carting gear up the pass for hikers who didn't want to carry it themselves. Guess money can buy you anything. I have seen horses and mule trains but never a goat train.

Just doesn't get any better than this. Balance in front of what we think is called the Golden Horn.

Today was one of our favorite hiking days of the trip. The Cascades can rival any mountain range out there.

More goosebumps. Just 50 miles to Canada. We've come so far, and so little to go. What an amazing experience this has been. Two more days until we reach Canada. Incredible!

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Mile 2.580.0 - 2,599.6

We packed up our gear and headed to the Landing at Stehekin around 7:30 this morning. We and about 20 other hikers are heading back to the trail. On a good note, the shuttle did stop again at the amazing bakery, where everyone loaded up on sticky buns, cinnamon rolls, and other pastries.
It was past 9am by the time we were ready to hike. Today is a day that both Balance and I have been waiting for since the start of our trip. We spend the entire day hiking through the North Cascades National Park. A favorite park of ours, one that we have visited many times,  because Rosemary is a ranger in the park (Balance's sister).
We did have to climb 2600', but it was gradual and the trail was in good condition. Best of all, the weather was perfect. The next few days look to be nice. We know firsthand how rainy the weather can be here, so we feel lucky to have a nice stretch of weather now.
After close to a 20 mile day, we crossed highway 20 at Rainy Pass. We have been here many times as well. We even biked over this pass during our 2008 Northern Tier cross country bicycle tour. What a feeling, being at Rainy Pass. 60 more miles to the Canadian border. I can feel goosebumps at the sound of that.
Just last year Stef (Balance's dad), Balance, and I hiked this next section from Rainy Pass to Cutthroat Pass and it had amazing scenery. We are excited about tomorrow.

Hikers loading on the shuttle from Stehekin to High Bridge (PCT).

Balance showing off her name crossing the ford.

We had to detour around this mangled bridge that got damaged in a flood.

Even more Balance.

Rainy Pass at sunset.

The PCT crosses Highway 20 at Rainy Pass.

We camped just past the Rainy Pass trailhead parking lot, in a horse camp. It was getting dark and cold so we wanted to set up camp. Other hikers we know are also camping here.