Good Morning from Vancouver! As promised, I am writing to you from Canada. But did we make it? Well, I will tell you at the end.
After a kind of relaxing doublezero in Leavenworth, we were ready to hitch back to Steven’s Pass. I say kind of because, at this stage of the trail, we were always tired. In the morning, during lunch, basically the whole day. 2 zeros could not change this. We would have to finally finish this, to make the exhaustion stop.Follow our journey on Instagram!
Stevens Pass – Stehekin
Fairly easy, we could catch a hitch and hike into the grand finale. With 5 days’ worth of food, our packs were unusually heavy. Before this, we always tried to get the stretches done within 4 days and we could feel the weight. The trail in this stretch is infamously known for being tough and it just took it two hours to show us it’s difficulty. Big, long climbs combined with heavy weight made us feel destroyed on the first night.
The next day was nothing better, with the airplane lake fire going in the distance, it became smokey (but picturesque) and even though we planned on taking it slow on our last days and relaxing more, we had to cover 27 miles that day. For many other hikers, this may sound low, but we did not enjoy big days anymore, so we were very done after we scrambled across the last pass at 10 p.m.
Everything hurt when we started on our third day on this stretch. We started late and had a big descent to Kennedy Creek and this piece of trail was more of a climb, than a hike. Big downed trees everywhere, a lot of bushwacking, and then finally the last big river crossing before the border needed to be done. It was fun, but it took a lot of time.
The rest of the trail that day stayed the same. At 1:30 pm, we had just covered 9 miles and we knew that this day was gonna be a lowmiler. All the way to Mica Lake, we could cover 16 miles until 7 p.m. and we called it a day a little bit lower. The place was adorable, the views were magnificent.
Washington wanted to keep us
Majestic Glacier Peak, cute Pikas, lazy Marmots, and the smell of fire were our constant companions on our way north. The views on this stretch were unreal. It seemed, that the closer we came to the border the more the trail wanted us to keep, revealing more and more of it’s beauty to us.
Every night from Stevens Pass on, I was laying in my bed, thinking about the approaching end. We knew that we would finish mid-September and it was a very long season for us, but still it went by so fast.
With a low-mile day before, the following two days were fairly easier. Even though we had climbs of 3000 feet in one go (46 switchbacks) and the same downhill on the other side, we kinda flew along, also because of lighter backpacks. We did the whole stretch together with “Ok” and “Chainsaw”. “Oldspice” and” Starr” were always a few miles ahead of us, but we already agreed on finishing together after Stehekin.
A Birthday in Stehekin
The Dome Peak Fire closure had just been reopened and we could take the bus to Stehekin. The to me mysterious last resupply “town” on trail. I never understood the tumors like “taking a bus from the woods and they stop at the bakery and then there is nothing in town”, so I was curious how it would turn out. But Farout-comments provided us with the Bus schedule and it was an easy ride to the bakery and town.
And yes, the bakery is that good, and yes, there is nothing to resupply in town. We sent ourselves a package, but back in Ashland, when we sent it, we did not eat much for lunch, because it was so hot, so we had to upgrade our supplies with a lot of Couscous from the hiker box.
That day was Chainsaw’s birthday and we celebrated with many beers, including a long swim session in Lake Chelan.
Back on trail, when we were about to hike to Rainy Pass, we met “Eleven” and “Poopy Fartface” from the Netherlands, close Sierra-friends of Chainsaw, Starr, and Old Spice. They immediately joined our finisher crew and we hiked together til the end. When I thought about my ideal PCT, I always dreamed about finishing this with a big group of people, that you get around well with. The trail provides, I guess.
Comments already warned us, that the trail north of Rainy Pass is one of the most beautiful sections and it is! Within 5 miles, we were above the tree line, with sunny weather all the way to Canada. Blue skies, wide views, snowy mountain peaks, and a very dry climate, reminded us of our first days in Southern California. We talked about our first days on trail a lot, when we were still little babies and no one was sure how far we could make it. When the Sierra and San Jacinto felt like giant snowy monsters, awaiting us in the distance.
I had a big frog in my throat, thinking about the overwhelming feelings this trail had given me on our 6 months journey (and I still have the frog while typing this).
One big celebration
Behind Harts Pass, the Trail becomes something very special. Just 30 Miles to the Canadian Border are left and this year you are allowed again to go into Canada. But still, many people walk 30 miles back from the border and do the so-called “victory loop”. Every time we met a hiker going back, we congratulated and they – did the same to us! Imagine this, you meet old friends, some we haven’t seen since Bishop, or also just Leavenworth, and we all congratulate ourselves, for finishing this and then remember our moments on trail together and what we plan to do after this. The whole last stretch was like a party. Now and then you could hear pretty screams and “woohoo’s” throughout the valleys.
After this… Yeah right, there is a life after this and it is pretty much set for us. 6 months ago, going back to the office felt like an eternity away, but it is coming closer now and I have no idea if I like the feeling to sit for 8 hours straight. Well, I guess I’ll have to figure it out later…
The last day
On the last day, we had just 14 miles to cover and we took our time. Like in a meditation, we enjoyed every last moment. The last packing, the last morning coffee, the last breakfast, even the last swim on the trail. It was bittersweet.
All of us met 1 mile before the border and as we hiked in, we became more and more excited, unresty, and nervous. We were a long snake of 8 hikers and on Sunday, the 17th of September at 3 PM, after 177 days on trail, we touched the Northern Terminus.
Shouting, laughing, hugging, kissing, crying, shocked staring, all these emotions breaking above us like waves. After 5 minutes, we realized a couple sitting on chairs DOING TRAILMAGIC?! On one of the most special days of our lives, we find these two being there for us, serving us food and drinks, playing emotional music for us, while we stared at the monument, took first pictures, ate, partied with drinks and reviewed our past life on this simple path of dirt, that meant everything to us.
The music, played by our trailangels made this moment even more special, the quiet relaxing songs made us feel like we were at a wedding and a funeral at the same moment. Very ceremonial, with everyone being for themselves or together.
Something ends, something Beginns
After 2,5 hours, we had to face our first goodbyes. The Americans went back to Harts Pass, while the Europeans headed into Canada. Tears were shed, when we said goodbye again to OK, who now hiked with us for 90 days all in all and became a very close friend.
Here I realized, that it was over. Years of dreaming and 2 years of preparing and planning ended faster than I thought. How lucky were we, to be able to live our PCT like I always wished for. To do it Nobo, with every Mile hiked in one continuous footpath. The people who finished with us were: OK from Ohio, Chainsaw from Slovenia, Oldspice and Starr from Washington, Eleven and Farty Poopface from the Netherlands.
1 day later, in Vancouver, when I was awake at night, grieving from Post Trail Depression, I wrote down the following words for our finisher post on Instagram, and I would like to quote them here for you as well.
“They say that thru-hiking will break your heart and I did not understand it until I reached the northern terminus.
For 177 days this trail was our home, our kitchen, our toilet, our pure hate, our love, our everything.
Coming closer to the border of Canada every day, was like moving towards an end of a wonderful relationship, that couldn’t be saved. You know it has to end, but you don’t want it and you are afraid of what happens afterward, but it has to happen to give you free again.
The moment we reached and touched the terminus, was one of the happiest and also worst moments of my life.
The PCT gave us everything we could have wished for and so much more. I am writing this with tears in my eyes and a big frog in my throat, overwhelmed by the feelings one day later.
Thanks to every single one of you. To all the lovely people who shared a thousand or just a few miles with us. To all the Angels on the way, who made this walk easier for us, to everyone at home or online who was supporting us mentally. And finally to the PCT for opening its gates as soon as we were coming through”
With these words, I would love to say goodbye for now, because like hiking the trail, my posting job here is done. Thank you all for following us on our journey, and also for all your nice comments (I’ve been bad in replying lately, sorry!). You kept us going with every cheering sentence. I might return again to talk about Post Trail Depression, or maybe upcoming projects, and there might be a little takeover on Instagram coming up ;).
There is a life after the PCT (?)
Our journey does not end here completely. We will take some time off in Mexico and before that, we’ll stay with other hikers in Vancouver to celebrate and help each other fight the depression by being our trail selves for one last week. From Mexico on, we will return to our old selves and will be called Björn and Annika again.
I wish you all a pleasant rest of the year, an awesome finish to all the remaining hikers out there, a big “love you all” to all the people we’ve met on our journey and best of luck to everyone from the class of 2024. You can achieve whatever you want, if you believe in your goals!
Refill & Nasty Cheese
PCT Class of 2023 Nobo
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