Alright I hope you’re sitting down. This is a long post and I encourage you to take 10 minutes and read it. My 2015 thru hike of the PCT is complete but my adventure continues. Of course it didn’t go as planned but I never had much of a plan in the first place. I hiked 2461 continuous miles from the Mexican border to Steven’s Pass in Washington. Northern Washington is currently plagued by wildfires and multiple trail closures forced me to forego the last 188 miles to the Canadian border. After a series of rides I got to Manning Park in BC, Canada and hiked the 15 mile round trip to the monument to officially finish my hike.
In a perfect world I would have hiked straight through to the Northern Terminus but I’m happy with the way it ended and everything worked out quite nicely for me. Not being able to finish the remaining miles is really no big deal for me, a bigger issue is these fires that have burned down people’s homes and currently took the lives of 3 firefighters. It would have been nice but I have to put it in perspective.
The final couple of weeks of my hike were some of the most enjoyable I had. Let me elaborate. On August 9th I flew back to Portland from Boston and was greeted at the airport by old friend Jeff Lyle who not only drove me to Cascade Locks but also brought me breakfast. I was back on trail at 12:30 pm and put in a strong 30 mile effort that afternoon and evening. My friend Schemes had returned to the trail a day earlier and linked up with old friend Tami and Diatom who all of us had only heard of until Washington. I figured I would catch them as soon as I could so I hiked 47 miles the following day and camped with them that night.
For the next two weeks the four of us became a pretty tight knit group and had a really nice time through Washington. We slowed down to about 25 miles a day and it was a very relaxing change of pace. I started getting on trail around 7, took more breaks, reduced my hustle and got into camp earlier every night. Washington is beautiful, but everybody knows that. The smoke from the fires gave the sky a hazy look and some days it appeared to be dusk all day long. We passed through Goat Rocks Wilderness, one of the prettiest sections of trail, and I saw at least 50 mountain goats one evening #realtalk. Equally impressive was hiking over the Knife’s Edge with an awesome view of Ranier.
After a stop in White Pass, where I resupplyed and spent the night, I was back on trail for one of the coldest and rainiest days of my trip. To top it off the hiking was tough. As uncomfortable as I was physically, I remained in a good mood and knew once I got through the day I would be inside a dry tent and my cozy sleeping bag. The following day was also super cold but we had quite a treat in store for us. Mt Ranier National Park was enjoyable even though the views were subdued because of clouds and smoke. At the end of a long cold raw day we came across Ulrich Cabin. This place was incredible! It’s primarily used as a snowmobile cabin in winter and besides the woodstove, it’s completely barebones. But it was sound and the stove kept us all warm and dry. The four of us were joined there by Playa and Patriot and we had a great night. Spirits were high and it was exactly what we all needed.
The weather turned in our favor and the sun was all business for the next two days as we hiked into Snoqualmie Pass. This was a cool little stop. We spent the night here, ate copious amounts of food and relaxed in the hot tub. We got back on trail the following day for what would be our final section. It was a good one and maybe it was because of the cumulative effort but it also seemed like one of the most difficult stretches. The ups and downs were pretty extreme, but I’m not complaining, just making an observation. The scenery was spectacular however and I had a great final 3 days.
Okay this is where things start to get complicated. Bear with me, I know this is a long post but you’ve come this far so you might as well get to the end. About 3 miles out of Steven’s Pass Schemes got a message from our friend S+M who had got back on trail and we were planning to finish up with her. Apparently the last 188 miles of trail, everything north of Steven’s Pass, was closed. We were kind of stunned and took our time getting through those last miles. Tami’s friend Martha aka Sidecar picked us up at the trailhead and drove us first to the town of Skykomish, where we reunited with S+M , and then to the Dinsmores house(trail angels who let us crash in their yard and use all their amenities).
The following morning ‘Collector’ drove me and Schemes back to Skykomish to eat tons of breakfast. After a little while Diatom, Tami, and S+M joined us and we also ate with Daybreaker and were rejoined by old friend Aloha. We all ate lots of food and unbeknownst to any of us, fellow hiker ’30 Pack’ footed the bill and took off before we could thank him. So if you read this, thanks dude, that was cool. After hours of brainstorming we came up with something of a plan to get us to Canada but we’d be relying on others and it would take a little luck. Our first step was to get to Seattle. Before we even got our thumbs out, 2011 thru hiker Honey Bee pulled over and asked us if we needed a ride. We piled into her little rental car and she brought us to Lynnwood, WA. S+M took a bus south to get back on trail elsewhere and the rest of us regrouped at a coffee shop. Sidecar drove up from Seattle to scoop up Schemes, Tami, Diatom and myself and bring us back to the city. It was great, Sidecar got us a church to sleep in for the night and we spent the evening checking out Seattle. Diatom secured us a car from a friend for the next morning and all of a sudden things were going really smoothly, too smoothly. The next day we ran a few errands, got all our chores accomplished and were super excited to be driving up to Canada.
That would be short lived, just a couple minutes on I-5 N we wrecked. Thankfully nobody was hurt but it appeared our hike once again ended too soon. We waited hours for a tow and at this point had pretty much decided to go our own ways. This is when Sidecar stepped up big time. Again. She moved her shifts around and volunteered to drive us up to Manning Park. What a sweet deal. We arrived at our site shortly before midnight and the following day hiked south to the monument. It was really cool and I’m so glad I got there.
We spent about an hour taking pictures, high fiving, eating s’mores and just chilling out. When we got back to Manning Park we played in the pool for a couple hours like little kids then Tami’s parents, who had driven up from Idaho, had a big feast for us. It was a great night. I cowboy camped and had one of my best nights of sleep in recent memory. Dennis and Susan fed us again in the morning and all of a sudden it felt like the last scene of the ‘Breakfast Club’. We said goodbye first to Tami because she stayed with her folks to continue her trip before she returns to Portland. Sidecar drove the rest of us back to Seattle and next we dropped Diatom off for a bus that would eventually get him back to Santa Cruz. The last one to see go was Schemes, my hiking partner for roughly 1700 miles. I got off at the airport with her, said our goodbyes, and she was headed home to Kansas via Colorado before starting a doctorate program in Santa Barbara this fall.
As for me I returned to Seattle and my friend Carol is putting me up for a couple nights in her beautiful house in Queen Anne. I spent today enjoying Seattle. I caught up with my buddy Malibu, who I hadn’t seen since the Sierras, when his train came in this afternoon. I got some brand new used clothes at the same thrift shop Macklemore shops at, then did the most cliche thing possible which was type my blog in a Starbucks in Seattle while wearing flannel and listening to Pearl Jam. Just kidding about the flannel.
I’ll enjoy the city for awhile and check out a Mariners game tonight. I’ve got a few things planned for the near future but I finished my hike a month ahead of schedule so I guess I’ll just slowly make my way back East and do whatever I want for awhile. If you’ve got any suggestions I’m all ears, or if you’d like to put me up I’d love to visit. I’m not quite ready to re-enter society but when I do I’ve got a nice little life to return to. I will definitely miss the trail and I’ll never forget it but more than that I’ll happily remember the time I had and the people I enjoyed it with.
I should probably do a whole post on acknowledgements but in case I don’t get to that I just want to say thank you to everybody that helped me. Hiking the trail would be impossible without all the angels in all different capacities who give up their time and money to help strangers. Thank you. And to my number one trail angel my mother who was at my beckon call the past 4 months, tracking stuff down, and sending me my resupply packages and all kinds of helpful information. Thanks Ma!
Endless P. Summer PCT 2015
L to R me, Tami, Schemes, Diatom
Diatom, Schemes, S+M, Me, Tami
Diatom, Schemes and Tami eyeing the mighty Puget Sound
Reunited and it feels so good. Two idols eyeballing each other. Schemes and S+M
For more pictures follow me on the gram @endlesspsummer or figure out my real name and add me on Facebook.
Sitting here at my computer as I have done for 4 months following you and others I begin to tear up for all of the parting with trail friends. I can feel the bonds that have developed over the hike in my own way. Thanks for walking on and taking time to post about your terrific walk.
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I am always intrigued by the stories that the PCT brings to peoples lives. We live in Eugene Oregon and go on short backpacking trips. We often cross or walk along parts of the PCT. I just stumbled upon your post after curiosity from our last trip to the Three Sister Wilderness. We hiked into South Matthieu Lake and stayed just one night with our 6 and 12 year old children. We have to take advantage of mini trips due to work obligations. I do have a dream to hike the Oregon portion of the trail someday. Thank you for the inspiration and for keeping this crazy little dream of mine alive. Nice job on your accomplishment. Someday…
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Thanks for this! I’m just getting back to my natural self after having lost my way for a very long time so reading the stories of others reminds me that the things I THINK I’ve wanted to do are things I can actually do. Time to get my ass into gear… Quick question: how did you know you were ready?
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Quick answer: I’m always ready for anything.
Just kidding, I think if you can carve out the time, a little bit of money and are in decent shape then you’re ready. Just go for it, keep an open mind, stay positive and it should all work out. You’ll figure the rest out as you go.