Stehekin to Canada(!)
August 21, 2014
Start: Halfmile 2580.0
End: Halfmile 2607.0
Distance: 27.0 Mi
Cumulative: 2,638.5 Mi
Staying in Stehekin last night was an excellent decision. I was only planning to go a mile anyways, and I would’ve stumbled that. Better to enjoy quality time with friends. Plus I got to hit the Stehekin Bakery this morning on the way out. Best-bakery-ever. I believe Bearclaw did her full resupply out of that bakery. Wise lady.
Had originally planned to shoot for about 24 miles out of Stehekin. Started hiking a little before 9a. Made ok time. The forecast called for a 50% chance of precipitation. It rained pretty convincingly for a few minutes this evening, enough so that I stopped and threw on my rain gear. Then, about as suddenly as it had started, it stopped. I kept moving, hard and fast. Topped out on Cutthroat Pass just in time to watch the clouds sweep down into the basin below. They were thick. I could almost see the incredible view laid out before me, then it disappeared. I reached for my camera, but by the time I raised it to capture a photo, there was nothing to see. It was grey. I could barely see the trail in front of me, nevermind the adjacent peaks. It was impressive, if a bit disappointing.
I considered camping at the pass. There were some sites, but they were all exposed and weather seemed a certainty up there. For a moment, I considered backtracking to camp in the basin south of the pass. I wanted so badly to see the view in the morning. Then I realized that the view would be back-lit and a nice photo would be extremely unlikely. Instead, I pushed forward. (I imagine it's difficult for some of y'all to understand that.) The fog was shifting in the basin and sometimes seemed like it was clearing. I’d stop and watch, only to have it fill back in right as I started to see a patchwork of distant terrain. It was teasing me.
As I worked my way along the ridge, I took every opportunity to capture a photo, however unimpressive it seemed in the moment. Sometimes it’s hard to know the quality of your photos until you review them later. Looking back, I got some really great ones tonight. In fact, I couldn’t believe how gorgeous the next two and a half miles were. Part of me was dying inside, wishing the conditions were better. The fog absolutely ruined some shots, but it complimented others in such a way that I couldn’t stay mad. Stunning, especially as the sun hung low in the sky.
I thought the weather was settling in for the long haul, but looking up tonight as I arrived in camp, I could see clear sky making a case. Lots of user trails here at Granite Pass, many leading to campsites, most of those not great. Exposed, uneven, rooty or rocky. There was one that was wicked-sweet, except that a gnarly half-fallen snag was hung up right overhead. I gave it a shove, and it was loose. Oh, c’mon! I spent 20 minutes of the rapidly-fading twilight hour trying to jostle it free. It seemed so close, but I couldn’t make it go. In the end, it was just too risky to set up there. It’s like Sid said in Ice Age, “No thanks, I choose life.” But boy it was tempting, especially given the unlikelihood that the tree will fall tonight. That’s a bad habit, though – assuming that nothing awful will ever happen to me.
I’m camped a stone’s throw from that nearly ideal site and in a low spot on damp vegetation. Looking forward to a sopping wet tent tomorrow morning. You could call it sub-optimal, but being after 9p, I’d simply run out of time and had to choose something. Ah well, this’ll do. Beggars can’t be choosers.
August 22, 2014
Start: Halfmile 2607.0
End: Halfmile 2636.0
Distance: 29.0 Mi
Cumulative: 2,667.5 Mi
Tons of condensation this morning, but I knew there would be. I woke up to my rainfly dripping on me. Ugh. At least it didn’t rain. And even better, I awoke to a sorta blue sky. Decided to dry out my gear first thing in case I didn’t get the chance later. Ended up being a good call. The clouds moved in so early, I wasn’t even able to get everything dry this morning, but at least I got close.
Pretty easy day. Even the climbs were mellow by Washington standards. Like the last few days, some great shots never opened up, some did but were socked in, and still others were made even better by the thick clouds. It’s a game of luck, and ya never know how it’s gonna go.
When I arrived at Hart’s Pass, I checked the register. Saw lots of familiar names and just stood there thinking of all the wonderful folks with whom I’ve shared the trail. It’s been a privilege. A few miles north, I first ran into Mac and then NotaChance headed south. They finished yesterday and are exiting at Hart’s Pass, rather than Manning Park. So glad they are. It was a wonderful surprise to see some familiar faces coming my way.
Being so close to the end is – of course – bittersweet. Tonight, I’m thinking about how it felt to finish my first day in SoCal and how it feels now to have only one left. The feelings contrast sharply: determination at the start, and now a sense of accomplishment. I’m so close, I’ll crawl if it comes to that. I’ll reach the border tomorrow. This whole time, I’ve never experienced a feeling of “what have I gotten myself into,” because I understood the task when I chose to undertake it. Now I’m not feeling awe and disbelief so much as I am happiness and pride. I always knew in my heart I’d make it. The thought that I wouldn’t see this thing through never crossed my mind. I understood that I might get hurt, but barring that, nothing could distract me from this goal, my dream. Tomorrow my thru-hike ends, and all that’s left is my hike out with Cass on Sunday. It’s surreal. You pursue something for so long, then it’s like “Cool, now what?” I’m lucky to know my next step. Hoping that Open Sky training turns into something long-term. But for now, eye on the prize. Twenty-four miles to Monument 78; twenty-four miles to home.
August 23, 2014
Start: Halfmile 2636.0
End: Halfmile 2660.0
Distance: 24.0 Mi
Cumulative: 2,691.5 Mi
Emerged from my tent this morning to another beautiful blue sky. Oh, please stay today! But before long, the clouds rolled in once more as if to say “no one finishes Washington on a clear, blue day!” At least it didn’t rain. That would’ve put a real damper on the mood. Got a few views today, though not quite what I had hoped for. Spent a lot of miles in the trees, but I can’t complain. I’ve seen incredible things this summer.
I chose to wear my full Bike & Build cycling kit all day (the jersey is tucked away safely under my shirt). Hiking in chamois is every bit as uncomfortable as it sounds, but I wanted to finish this trip the same way I had last summer’s. It helped me feel connected to my team again. Two traverses of our amazing country in as many years. One, an east-west traverse by road bike with a team of 27 other young people as part of the non-profit organization, Bike & Build; the other, a solo south-north traverse on foot as part of my personal on-going journey of self-discovery. Both so different. Both so challenging. Both so incredible.
And now I’m here, camped in Canada just beyond the US border. It hasn’t really sunk in that I walked here from Mexico. Wow- I walked here…from Mexico. How am I supposed to sleep, filled as I am with pride, excitement, and gratitude? There is so much I wanna say, but I’m struggling with words tonight. This is not my final post. Cassie is hiking in tomorrow to meet me with a bottle of champagne. We’ll celebrate proper at the Monument, then head out and back to Portland. It will take some time to process this summer, this trek, this achievement. And I’ll be posting updates as I work my way through that process. Don’t worry, none without photos!