The One About Washington
“We walked together. Slept together. Lived together. Jumped in a frozen lake in the night just because every bit, every second was so very precious now”
Many places are never as beautiful and grand as they are in pictures or in your imagination. The Bridge of the Gods were an exemption.
Walking on top of it, as I’ve seen hundreds of hikers doing before me, felt unreal. Like a dream. It was sunset and the river beneath us laid calm. We cheered and hugged and ate the biggest ice cream on the face of the earth. Celebrated with fireball and kissed Oregon goodbye. I even imagined that the air and the trees and the sky looked different on this side of the bridge. Maybe it did. Because now we found ourselves in Washington. The last state of the PCT. The last miles. The last weeks. The last everything.
My hair was now as pink as pink can be. I matched with Guardian and Bear who had also colored a piece of hair in the hotel room we had shared in Cascade Locks. I changed my green hippie dress to shorts and a shirt to prepare for the rainy state in front of us. I ate as many blueberries I could get my hands on and felt grateful every time the sky was clear which meant another day we could hike dry.
We came into Trout Lake, one of the last few stops before Canada. We met so many hikers, I got my last pair of shoes, and we all slept on the lawn behind a shop together with ducks and cows.
Washington was beautiful. I wanted to soak up every last bit of it, swim in every lake, smell all the flowers and never ever forget this life. We were now a close hiking group, a trail family, consisting of me, Guardian, Snooze, Bear, Steamy and Sunflower (plus all the other people we were leapfrogging with). We skinny-dipped in lakes, packed out beers and met amazing people that gave us more food and more love than we ever deserved.
We promised holy, each day, to never night-hike again, only to do so again and again. We petted lamas and played baseball. We howled like wolves to every view, every sunset, each more magnificent than the next. Our bodies hurt, but with the help of Ibuprofen and snickers, we felt invincible. We were. And at night if the weather allowed it – we slept close, like a litter of puppies, to keep warm. But also, mostly, because the sound of my sleeping friends had become the most comforting sight in the night.
Entering Goat Rocks Wilderness, we decided to camp on top of Old Snowy. An outpost overlooking the mountain range beneath us. We reached the peak in the dark and made our way scrambling up the rocks before coming upon a small flat spot next to the summit. Curled up like dogs, four of us shared that teeny tiny spot under the stars. We awoke before the sunrise and saw Mount Rainier, Mount Adams, and Mount Saint Helens, three volcanos rising in the distance. It was a spectacular view. The rise of the new day was red and golden, and we sat on top of the summit, inside our sleeping bags, sharing pine needle tea. We spent the remaining day slowly making our way down the mountain towards White Pass and its fancy indoor shower.
Fall was here
We were blessed with so many clear days in Washington. The nights started to get colder and autumn was here by full force. The colors were intense, and berries were growing everywhere. And even the burnt zones were beautiful, with the blueberry shrub mimicking the color of the fires that had once raged there.
The night before coming into Snoqualmie Pass, which marked the halfway point in the state, we cowboy-camped on an island. We woke up early, our sleeping bags covered in frost, to reach town before noon. Our goal was to get to the all-you-can-eat sushi restaurant, that we had heard rumours about on trail. We had talked about it for days. Betting how many sushi’s we were going to be able to devour. I bet that I could eat 50 pieces, and 50 I ate. Very bad decision. I felt sick afterwards and we all had to lay down outside the poor restaurant that probably went bankrupt after our visit. Bears record to eat 83 pieces of sushi that day stood undefeated.
What happened next turned out to be one of my most beautiful trail angel experiences. Snooze and Sunny had a few days earlier met an old couple on top of a mountain that invited them to the woman’s 80-year-old party. By pure luck the birthday was on the same day we came into Snoqualmie Pass. Our stomachs sick with sushi we awkwardly made our way over to the house and knocked on the door late at night. They welcomed our sweaty and tired bodies inside with open arms, fed us and offered us a bed to sleep in. It was more than we could ever imagine. Even though I’m not religious at all they felt like angels who had answered our prayers. Sunny played his ukulele and we all sang Happy Birthday for Ellie. We were up late playing board games with the family and the next day hide and seek in the big, old house.
I really didn’t want to leave the next day, but every mile and every hour counted at this stage to be able to reach Canada before October. So we headed out. With heavy hearts we hugged goodbye to the family and hit the trail again.
Now the real countdown began
Two more weeks on trail. The beginning of every last time. Last time making a campfire. Last time swimming. Last hitchhike. Last burger. Last sunny day. Last last last. I wanted everything to last. But it didn’t. And the only thing we could do was to enjoy the shit out of it. To soak up every moment and pray that we never, ever forget this life. These people and these mountains.
Sunny played his ukulele on every mountain top. We ate so many berries that our tongues and fingers were permanently blue. Played cards late at night in the tent, our bodies tightly squeezed together. We walked together. Slept together. Lived together. Jumped in a frozen lake in the night just because every bit, every second was so precious now. So very precious.
We reached the town of Stehekin
The last stop before Canada. The only town in the whole of Washington that I had actually heard about from before. It was raining the day we got in, we snagged the last hotel room in the desolate lake town, and we sneaked all of us inside the tiny room. We picked apples from an orchard and packed out the entire bakery to trail. I ate pizza for breakfast the next morning in the rain. And we laughed about how beautiful life could be.
We got snowed on the last remaining days. Which felt a bit metaphorical considering the record snow year on the PCT. It all began in snow so what better way to end it in. But we were cold. So very, very cold. If I didn’t share a tent at night I suffered a lot, and my shoes were constantly wet. We awoke covered in frost and my water bottles were frozen solid. The last full day the sky was clear and the air crisp. It was as beautiful as an autumn day can get. Sometimes it feels like a place knows when you’re going to leave it. And this trail knew.
We had planned to sleep under the stars on our last night on the PCT, regardless of the weather. It was the highest point in Washington and when we arrived after sunset the weather was still good. We fell asleep close together but a few hours later I awoke by snow falling on my face. It was all white around us and my friends looked like husky dogs, buried in the snow in their sleeping bags. I decided to bail on the plan, and me and Guardian pitched a tent as the rest of the group slept the whole night outside.
Then came Canada
We hiked the last few miles towards the border. We hiked alone because we had started alone. In my head I went through the beginning. Everything that had happened since. That I came here. Further than I had dared to ever imagine. I couldn’t believe it.
I arrived last in the group. And seeing the terminus for the first time, all I could think about was how small it looked. I had seen countless of pictures of this monument, but it looked so different in real life. I didn’t cry. I didn’t laugh. I just smiled and hugged my people. We got naked and an embarrassed man took our group photo in front of the terminus. After popping our champagne that we had carried for over 100 miles, we had not much else to do, than to start the last few steps into Canada.
Those last miles towards Canada were some of the longest on trail. For some reason I thought we would be done reaching the terminus, but I had somehow missed that it was 8 more miles to the actual road. We were a little bit drunk, the adrenaline from before had worn off and we just wanted to be done.
Eventually we reached the road, the biggest anticlimax of the year, and we finally stood on Canadian soil. A bit confused and overwhelmed we got some food at the resort and started hitchhiking to Vancouver. It was Saturday night and we wanted to party. To celebrate. Not to worry that we had woken up on top of a mountain – covered in snow, finished the journey of a lifetime and hiked 15 miles. We were going clubbing.
Said and done
After some lucky hitches we came into Vancouver late at night. Got food, got showered and got wine. We danced and drank until early morning. The next day I woke up in our hotel bed. I called my mom and I cried.
“We have just finished the PCT,” I told her.
April 9th – September 30th
Class of 2023
This website contains affiliate links, which means The Trek may receive a percentage of any product or service you purchase using the links in the articles or advertisements. The buyer pays the same price as they would otherwise, and your purchase helps to support The Trek's ongoing goal to serve you quality backpacking advice and information. Thanks for your support!
To learn more, please visit the About This Site page.