We left Stehekin in the company of new and old friends, and all of a sudden, it was summer again! After two weeks of cold, wet hiking, the sun reemerged, and we got 80-90 degree weather for the rest of the trek. A strange and welcome change for our soggy band of hikers!
On the shuttle back from town to the High Bridge Ranger Station, our friend IceAxe (a two-time AT thru-hiker and the fittest 68-year-old you’ll ever meet) looked up at the mountains above us and said, “They’re waiting for us.” The sun was shining, and we had only 89 miles left to go.
Our last days on the trail were filled with trail magic, an enormous porcupine, snow-capped peaks, sweeping vistas and a few more tough climbs for good measure.
We experienced just about every emotion as the miles wound down: sadness for all that was ending, gratitude for what we’d been through and for our health and safety, eagerness for a chance to rest our weary bodies, and excitement for the sense of accomplishment that would come from crossing the border into Canada. But it wasn’t over ’til it was over, and it always seemed that there would be more miles to hike.
Our last night on the trail was so windy that we weren’t sure if our tent would hold up, or if we’d be able to sleep. We had to laugh, though; it seemed that there was always a new challenge for us on this trail, even at the last possible moment.
On little sleep and pure adrenaline, we woke up at sunrise to hike the last 11 miles to the US/Canada border. By late morning, the pull was strong.
At 10:00am, we turned a corner and saw the famous monument marking the northern terminus of the PCT. With a deep breath, a bit of reverence and some nervous giggles, we ran to it. It was a strange and surreal moment, though it still didn’t seem like it could really be the end.
We tried to soak it all in among some of our fellow hikers, but we still had 8 miles left to hike to Manning Park (back to civilization) that loomed over us. So, once again, we packed up and started walking.
As we hiked into Canada, we decompressed. It was really over, and somehow we had managed to hike every mile of the PCT in a year when that had seemed impossible. Plus, we were still in one piece, and we hadn’t gone crazy. We had just kept going until we ran out of miles. In the end, it all felt like a gift, pure and simple.
It’s been over a week now since our 2,650-mile journey came to an end, and there’s still a lot we haven’t processed. Being back in the “real world” — first, Seattle, now Atlanta — seems fine, and we’re taking it in small doses. We’ve adjusted to using computers and calendars again, and it’s been wonderful to spend time with friends and family who we have missed.
But, already there’s some grief that comes along with leaving the trail behind. After all, it was our home for nearly five months, and, though it wasn’t always comfortable, it was the most stunning place to call home. We miss the quiet and the beauty, and the surprises around each turn. I miss the humility that comes with staring down a huge volcano, and the peace I felt from walking through every obstacle and every joy.
It was simply amazing, and we tried to savor as much of it as we could take in.
Thank you for coming along for the ride.