Weeks 9/10: Washington Part 3
The End That Came Too Soon
Excited for the next 188 miles, my body sufficiently recovered, and my clothes washed it was time to begin the walk towards the last northbound resupply— Stehekin. A town that gave me a massive blue lake to swim in and soak in the last of Washington. A town that fed me cinnamon rolls coated in a heart burn inducing, white icing that shimmered with every bite. A town that provided a happy ending to the heartbreak many experienced there. The monument would not be reached, but I only remain grateful.
Steven’s Pass to Stehekin
One. Hundred. Seven. Miles.
Miles I knew were as beautiful as they were tough— locals, day hikers, and backpackers I talked with leading up to Steven’s Pass were my guides. A nero led me only 3.5 miles out of Steven’s and as my well-trained body quickly set up camp I watched the stillness of the breeze as the trees swayed to a tune I could only wish to hear. Out of that stillness — disturbed only by the white noise hum of swarming mosquitoes coating my tent — I started to come to the realization that this would be the hardest section mentally and physically; however, my spirits would never dampen. The next stretch of days would provide a part of the trail I feel I have been slightly resistant leaning in to: the people.
Many hikers populated this section as PCT Trail Days came to its end and the norovirus slowed its terror through the middle of Washington. With more people to hike with and surrounded by views of Glacier Peak, morale remained high.
Each day I made it a point to talk to as many hikers as I could. These were the final miles before flipping back to California and I wanted to revel in each passing second. Bouncing in between the many trail families I landed upon a few groups that I seemed to match pace with— most of who I had brief encounters with in Oregon. I enjoyed that the majority of these 107 miles were occupied with the smiles and the conversations with others while gliding along the trail in Glacier Peak Wilderness. Washington was giving us what felt like the perfect goodbye.
We all had this rare opportunity to gaze up at Glacier Peak. An isolated volcano that most have only seen from a distance and we could share our last moments on trail getting know all its details. As each climb became more severe and my legs twitching at the end of each day I still, only was grateful.
Grateful that I felt the compassion from all those I met on trail. Grateful for the bright greens meeting the deep grays and whites of the volcano and accompanying glaciers. Grateful of the love I felt shared among the multitude of trail families and solo-hikers.
As the air grew more hazy and nearing Stehekin we started to notice smoke billowing west and north of the trail. I received GPS updates about the encroaching fires from my “Man in the Chair” AKA my mom, and gratitude would continue. The group I finished with would simply be grateful to be able to hike and move through this pain-in-the-ass, enchanting landscape. As I raced 15 miles down a mountain to catch the 12:30 bus to Stehekin I smiled not knowing I would be receiving some heart breaking news. The smell I thought was of Douglas fir coming from the northern monument was, in fact, smoke from fires surrounding the trail up ahead.
Stehekin to Rainy Pass
Hiking solo for the last month I found the solitude brought me solace. Each night had offered another opportunity to dive deep into my own mind as the mountains accompanied my isolated being. Yet, as I passed the genuine smiles of multiple groups and heard the bellows of laughter drifting through the mountain side I wanted to completely fall in to this social atmosphere.
For my last 20 miles of Washington and the northbound portion of my own PCT trek, I decided I did not want to finish alone— something I had contemplated for the last 500 miles. I wanted to be with the hikers.
I wanted to be a part of the people that were remaining positive after the news had broken: the PCTA had released an official closure of the border and the 17 miles leading to it. News I saw had brought tears to some and for others a chance to once again persevere through hardship.
Jumping off the 8AM Stehekin bus to The Bakery I planned to grab a quick sandwich and a coffee and be at Rainy Pass in the early afternoon. Peering out the window, however, I noticed a group taking their packs off the bus— they were staying and I was not ready to say goodbye. They were The Fancy Pants Fam. At least that’s what I remembered of them during the brief encounters I had in Oregon. As someone who loves a good pair of fancy, short shorts (it is literally all I own) I liked them from the start. I left my spot in-line and ran to grab my pack off the bus.
“I like your idea I think I’m going to stay too! Mind if I set my pack near yours?”
“No not at all!”
The day would be spent with laughter and conversations to convince each other Rainy Pass would be just as good of an ending. With the border closed they would make their own “new Canada.” New Canada being twenty miles away at Rainy Pass. Twenty miles that I am incredibly grateful for. They resounded with the laughter and filled with reminiscing the trail together. Days I will miss when I start over in Burney to head south.
The miles towards the pass were slowed as I could tell from the faces of the group they did not want this to end, but they were happy they were together. We finished the last mile walking in a line as a group— the first time I had hiked along side people since my partner left trail. My final day as a northbounder was not how I had imagined it and I will return to complete the final 60 miles; however, I am beyond grateful this partial ending was with the people.
I will miss my northbound miles. It would be a lie if I tried to say I didn’t want a true northbound thru-hike. I did. It was my original dream, but as with all things in my life and as cliche as it fucking sounds, I have to just go with the flow. The flow of the trail brought me from a NOBO to a SOBO to Flip-Flop to essentially a LASHer (long ass section hiker).
I mentioned in my second blog The Decision to Flop— life and the trail, that this was about “jumping head first into nature and rolling with whatever came my way.” Through active fire closures and burn scars I have flopped all around. Washington gave me an abrupt ending, but an ending that refueled my drive to flip back south and finish the miles toward Mexico.
Washington— my memories are with me forever and I hope to never forget all the joy, anger, tears, pain, and excitement you provided.
To The People that made these last miles special:
- Sound Box
- Touch Tunes
- Nordic Jam
- Garbage Woman
- Bus Driver
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