a journey of 2,652 miles
THE PACIFIC CREST TRAIL 2018
starts with a single step.
Miles 2648.9 to 2652.6. (+8 Miles to Manning Park)
FINAL CAMPGROUND IN THE USA to Manning Park, BC, Canada
Today is the day. Unbelievable, the last day of our epic adventure has come!
We all wake up with the biggest smiles on our faces and huge excitement! From our campground to the border it is only 3.8 miles of hiking, which means it shouldn’t take longer than one hour, since it is all downhill as well.
So Maya, Poodlebee, Trooper, Badger, ChillBill and I hike out at about 8am. We all capture several videos and are so full of anticipation. We decided that we want to reach the monument together and therefore are mostly hiking in a straight line, Badger and Poodlebee leading the way maybe a 100 meters in front of us. We reach a marker saying “1 mile to go”. This all feels so surreal. I start filming, telling the story of our PCT adventure in fast forward when we hear several shouts from Poddlebee and Badger. Oh my god, they must have reached it, right after this curve!
We slowly hike around the corner and see a clearing in the forest and there it is! The monument! Only a couple of meters away! So crazy, we really did it! And then Maya touches the monument, smiling, incredulity and happiness radiating off her face. Then it’s my turn, I shout as well, smiling! Emotions running high. Wow, what an epic moment! After some seconds also Trooper and ChillBill arrive! Smiles everywhere. We really did it.
Now everyone starts taking pictures with the monument, which by the way (obviously) marks the end of the trail and is the official border between the United States and Canada. And the clear cut line between the trees going all the way up is literally the borderline.
People keep trickling in, Captain, Sriracha and Puddles among others. Badger has hiked all the way carrying a drone and is now taking some pictures and videos of all of us with his drone.
Everyone now „enjoys“ their last breakfast on trail and soon it is time to leave the monument behind and hike further on to Manning Park. Unfortunately this means another 8 miles of hiking and the first 3 miles is just uphill.
Some of our fellow hikers don’t have an entrance permit to Canada and now it is the time for them to hike back to Harts Pass. We say goodbye to them and start our last miles.
The weather now starts to get worse, it is raining and pretty chilly. But we don’t mind at all, our hearts are filled with happiness and the knowledge of staying in a warm room this afternoon gives us a lot of power.
And soon we arrive on top of the last fucker and start the descent towards Manning Park. After a couple of minutes we meet two Canadian day hikers, who speak definitely a different English and are questioning us a lot about the PCT. It is nice to talk to them but as for now, the only thing we want is to arrive in Manning Park. That’s why we still hike with a fast pace and soon the two Canadians are out of breath and behind us.
At last we arrive at a road and have to follow it for the last 0.5 miles to the resort when suddenly a car slows down and a man and a woman are asking us if we have just come off the PCT? We respond with ‚yes, we have‘! They ask us if we maybe know their son going by the name Chillbill? They have driven all the way from West Virginia to Manning Park, over 4’000, miles to pick up their son today! Yes, indeed we know him, we camped with him and arrived at the border with him this morning, he is just half an hour behind us. They say thank you and offer to drive us to the resort, which we thankfully decline because it is only 0.5 miles more.
And then we arrive in Manning Park! Wow! We are actually here, in Canada! it takes exactly 30 seconds until a Canadian family spots us and congratulates us, takes some pictures of and with us and invites us for a beer later!
And then we spot our friends Arms, Double D and Gourmet, which we last have seen before the California/Oregon border and who we knew had arrived one day earlier. What a surprise that they‘re still here! We all hug and congratulate each other and then finally check in at the hotel.
Tomorrow Kim will pick us up here in Manning Park and will take us to Vancouver Island!
This is where our PCT adventure ends. We feel happy and sad at the same time. Something great just happened, but it is going to take a while until we will be able to grasp the meaning of it all. But for now the happiness is predominant.
It has been the biggest adventure of both our lives (so far). There is really not much more to say at this point. We end this chapter with a saying we wrote in both the first and the final PCT trail registers:
If you want to go fast, go alone.
If you want to go far, go together.
The later we did, and we made it. :). - Bingo & Ratatouille OUT.
Miles 2622.0 to 2648.9. Harts Pass campground to FINAL CAMPGROUND IN THE USA!!!
The night was icy cold again. We‘re talking subzero temperatures here and while Dario is just fine (cold too but acting the hero) I am literally shaking in my sleeping bag, wearing every single layer of clothing I carry with me. Which might not be the way to do it as EarlyBird, an elderly German lady, told us yesterday. She sleeps almost naked in her sleeping bag and swears that this is the way to do it to stay warm. Last night we boiled two bottles of water to use as hot bed bottles, and did so again at 3am in the morning when the water had gone cold. We get up at 5am because sleeping is nearly impossible anyway and start hiking at 6am. More snow has fallen during the night and the snow cristals reflect in our flashlights as we make our way up the first mountain in the dark.
Today is reroute day and the second last day out here. The final terminus was actually closed a couple of weeks ago due to a fire, but has luckily reopened. However, the fire is still burning in some areas and there is a reroute around it. We should reach the PCT again by the end of the day, and do the last couple miles to the border tomorrow.
After the uphill comes the downhill, and it goes on for a long time. Fortunately the sun comes out eventually and we get to actually dry our tent. And soak up some sun ourselves! We don‘t stop for long though, too strong is our will to make it to Canada asap!
We walk in the snow a fair bit, through forests and meadows and quite enjoy our last day on trail. We are getting so excited now that the Canadian border is almost within reach and our minds are just filled with so many pleasant memories and positive thoughts.
All day we meet hikers hiking SOBO back from the Canadian border to Harts Pass, the first place where they can hitch out of to the nearby towns of Mazama or Winthrop. Once we reach the border we can either walk into Canada, provided we have the Canada entry permit, or turn around back to Harts Pass. That‘s why we keep meeting hikers, new faces and old friends like Flat Earth from the Netherlands. Luckily we applied and got the Canada entry permit approved many months ago and will only have to do 8 miles from the border to a place called Manning Park tomorrow. The NOBOs newly turned SOBOs all mention that there is another detour one can take by staying longer on the alternate and come back to the PCT a little later. This will cut some miles off the PCT, but since the detour is longer than the now closed PCT anyway, it evens out in the end. This detour is supposed to be a little easier but equally beautiful. So we decide to do it.
The day really gets more and more beautiful, we are so grateful that the PCT provided us with such a stunning last day! The ground is mostly covered in snow, but the sun is shining, mountain tops are glowing, our hearts are full. Pure happiness! We are sad that this life is about to end. But we have so many great things planned in the upcoming weeks and also can‘t wait to get started with the next chapter!
We reach our campsite just as the sun sets. We are back on the PCT now and only have 3 miles left to the Canadian border tomorrow. This is surreal! We set up our tent for the last time. It’s set up in no time, we’ve become pros at this. (Well, we did practice a lot.) Poodlebee, Trooper, Chillbill and the two of us share the campsite, exchange stories from inside the warmth of our sleeping bags. One more sleep and we are in Canada. The destination we always had in the long run and never dared thinking about too much. It's here. It's finally here.
Miles 2598.8 to 2622.0. Snowy campground to Harts Pass campground.
The night was freaking cold and we didn’t exactly get much sleep. After getting up at 6am we resume our hike north hoping to catch the rest of the gang. We get to experience the most spectacular sunrise. And while we don’t actually see the sun rise we see the light reflecting on the mountains surrounding us. They are shining bright in red and pink colors. We enjoy the moment because from experience days with such an an amazing sunrise don’t stay sunny for long. And we couldn’t be more right. The clouds come quickly.
We catch up with everyone else after about two miles and are passed by them once more while we are having breakfast further down the trail. Puddles and Sriracha on the other hand are nowhere to be seen. According to Poodlebee they got up really early and must be ahead of us.
There is more and more snow covering the ground and before we know it it starts snowing. First there are light flakes and soon it’s heavy snowfall. The landscape is out of this world. We are in pretty exposed area, hiking up a slope towards the top. It’s quite dark and somber and not a sound is to be heard except for the snow falling down. The snow is much drier than rain and we don’t actually get too wet which we’re glad about. We even decide to stop for lunch at Glacier Pass underneath some trees. We fold out our footprint and cook a hot lunch which feels great in these temperatures. But we can’t stay there for too long. Not soon after we are really freezing and need to get going again.
This sombre, eerie atmosphere is really weird. We don’t really feel comfortable in our own skin. It just makes us feel so so small. We picture the hot tub at the Manning Park Resort and how much we long to be sitting in it right now. That’s gonna have to wait. But just two more days until we’re there. We can push through. We can do it.
We reach Harts Pass, the last road on US soil around 5.30pm. This is where we plan to camp. Everyone else has pushed on, but I assume we will catch them by doing a big day tomorrow. The fire that had previously closed the northern end of the PCT is still burning, but the PCTA has reopened the last 12 miles of the PCT as it’s not in any danger. This means that first thing tomorrow we will get on the fire detour starting at Harts Pass and hike on that alternate for 22 miles. Then we will rejoin the PCT, hike 7 more miles and reach our campsite after a total of 29 miles. A big day. But really our last day on trail because it will mean that we only have 5 more miles until Canada the day after tomorrow.
Some hikers didn’t get their Canada entry permits and will have to walk back here to Harts Pass after they’ve reached the border. One of them is camped right here tonight. He’s been hoping to get a rid out of here but it feels like we’re at the end of the world here and that somebody’s going to drive up here tonight is very unlikely. I feel a little sorry for him. He’s done it, he’s completed the PCT, but now has to rely on someone to get him back to civilization and can’t yet enjoy the sensation of being done. When suddenly a car arrives. With another hiker and her dad in it. She’s come to get her friend! How awesome is this hiker community!
Our second last night on trail. We set up camp right beside Poodlebee and keep talking with him through the walls of our tents. We’re boiling snow to make hot bottles for the night. It’s supposed to go down to -5° celsius. Brrrrrh.
Miles 2576.8 to 2598.8. Bridge Creek campground to snowy campground.
The alarm rings at 5.15am. Trooper has already left, Poodlebee joins us as we leave around 6am. And get lost shortly after. We missed the junction back to the PCT, but luckily realize it after a couple of minutes. It’s still very dark but we spot various stars in the sky so it appears to be cloudless today and we can hope to get a sunny day! Generally the weather forecast for the upcoming days is very changeable. We can expect to get something from everything. Some sun, some rain and even some snow.
The sun slowly rises and presents us with the most scenic valley. We are hiking slowly uphill, making our way to Rainy Pass, another milestone. It’s cold and we don’t stop for breakfast until we find a sunny enough spot to also dry our tents. The view is pretty spectacular. The mountain peaks are all covered in snow, there is misty fog hanging down in the valley, the sun is shining bright, the air is clean and fresh and we feel good.
When we get closer to Rainy Pass we hike through snowy forest. There is snow on the ground and on the trees. It’s really cold, but luckily we are moving and that way the fresh air feels very enjoyable. And when we reach the road at Rainy Pass, I can’t help but let out a big yell. There is a sign posted to the ground saying “Trail Magic”. I can’t believe it! Some trail angels are still providing magic in October! We didn’t dare believe we might run into some trail magic this last in the hiking season! How lucky we are! There is also a little terminus monument put up here. A couple weeks ago the PCT to the border was closed due to a quickly spreading fire north of here. Rainy Pass was defined as the temporary Northern Terminus of the PCT.
But we can keep going and we make it over to the parking lot/trailhead where there is actually a car parked, some chairs laid out and some hikers enjoying food and hot drinks. We quickly make our way over. There are already other hikers here, such as Badger, Trooper, Captain and her friends. We each get a hot chocolate and enjoy some snacks. They even have beers and wine and we decide to make this our lunch break here since we need to save our fuel anyway. But then Captain finds out about our fuel situation and offers to give us one of hers. She’s got two more which should be plenty to get her to Canada. We can’t thank her enough. Once more a fellow hiker turns out to be our personal trail angel. Thank you so much Captain, you rock!
Then a guy comes up to us, introduces himself as Ian and asks whether it’s possible that we started in the beginning of May? He remembers us because he had taken our pictures back at the Southern Terminus. Wow! We of course remember Ian! He took our pictures and asked us some questions back in the very south of California! He has indeed emailed us since, asking when our estimated date of arrival in Canada would be as he would be waiting at Rainy Pass in early October. We replied that we should be there around mid-October and that therefore we might not run into him. But now we have! He is completely amazed, takes some more polaroid pictures and asks if we would be willing to do an interview with him. We agree and satisfy his curiosity. How awesome is that guy? He came all the way up to the very north of Washington to meet the people again he met 5 months ago at the very beginning of their journey! Ian Tuttle is a professional photographer based in San Francisco and he plans to do a project with the hiker polaroids he’s been taking. You will probably see our pictures here once his project is finished: http://www.ituttle.com/
By reaching Rainy Pass at midday we’ve already hiked 15 miles and only 7 miles remaining until camp. By the time we leave with Trooper we are the last ones (even Sriracha and Puddles already left). The first 3 miles are uphill and are incredibly beautiful. The trees are yellow and green, the ground is white, the mountains around us are beige and white. I can’t stop taking pictures. And when we reach the pass we get to see a view that is even more epic. It’s absolutely insane. I’m afraid our pictures won’t do it justice. Because they don’t necessarily represent what we are feeling in this very moment. The sun is already quite low, we feel like we are literally the last people on the planet and we’re both engulfed by the beauty and the magnitude of it all. A moment that just belongs to us. We are silently looking at the mountain range surrounding us in 360 ° and feel very very lucky indeed.
Now we get to descend another 2 miles until we reach our camp. It’s a steep descend and it’s the snow that makes the whole thing a little sketchy. We should probably have put on our micro spikes but were too lazy to get them out. We make it to our campsite shortly before dusk. There is nobody else here, the others must have pushed on. While we set up Trooper joins us. It feels good to have some company and try and formulate what we’re all feeling. These intense feelings you only get to experience when you put yourself in such a unique situation. Happiness and anxiety go hand in hand and sometimes it only takes minutes to feel both.
We are camped on snow tonight. I guess that’s what it will be like from now on. Winter has arrived in the Northern Cascades. Now we just need to hope that the weather holds up for 3 more days. 3 more days. We are beyond excited!
Miles 2571.9 to 2576.8. Fire closure reroute part 2: Holden Village to Stehekin via ferry, then back on PCT to Bridge Creek campground.
We sleep in. No need to ask why, I’m sure. And incredibly, the weather is absolutely perfect. The sun’s out and the sky is a deep blue. And the mountains? Well, they are white. Oh, surprise!
The shuttle to the ferry doesn’t leave until 10.30am which means we have plenty of time. We stroll over to the dining hall where we see Sriracha and Puddles again. The poor guys slept outside last night. They were freezing and hardly slept. I am angry with this place being all religious and then not help people in need. There were enough hikers sleeping outside last night because they weren’t gonna pay 99 USD for a room. They were miserable. And this place has plenty of very basic rooms where they should have been welcome to sleep in! I am not saying for free. How about 20 USD a night? Even in our room there was another bed. But they would have charged another 99 USD for a person sleeping in it. Meaning that our room would have sold for 3x99 USD. While one person gets to sleep in a private room with 4 beds for 99 USD as well. How is this fair? We should have smuggled Puddles, Sriracha and Poodlebee into our room last night. Never mind those rules.
Our stuff is dry, we are clean and warm and ready for the last leg of our very long journey. Gone are the thoughts about quitting. We are not quitting now, so close to the end! Less than 100 miles to Canada. Craaaazy!
The shuttle arrives and we all jump in. Suddenly there’s again around 15 of us! I never know how that happens. Which holes do all these hikers suddenly crawl out of? Haha. There is also a hiker hiking with a dog and the dog of course gets all the attention from the hikers. Therefore the bus ride down to Lake Chelan and the landing at Lucerne passes by really quickly. Anticipation and excitement is in the air. Chances are very high we are going to make it to Canada now.
The ferry arrives after about 20 minutes and we quickly jump in to get good seats by the window. I am really hungry because breakfast in Holden was kind of meaky and get a cheese sandwich. We are sitting next to some older people just out on a ferry ride today. They look at us curiously and start asking questions. When they hear what we’ve been up to they are completely amazed. And so the 45min ferry ride goes by fast because we are chatting with them the whole way.
We reach Stehekin at 2pm. Originally we had planned to spend the night here and leave in the morning. But since we slept in Holden last night we decided to not pay for another hotel here in Stehekin. But when we hear that the last shuttle going to the trailhead for today leaves at 3pm we rethink that we won’t be able to get everything (resupply boxes, permit to stay overnight within the next 20 miles, lunch, some grocery shopping, getting the wifi code to call my host mum Kim about our arrival date) done in one hour. But as we can’t afford another night in a hotel it’s gonna have to work out. While Dario hurries over to the post office to get our resupply boxes I go inside the restaurant to order our food and into the grocery store to buy bread, some chocolate bars and the code to the wifi. Then I go back to the restaurant and reserve a booth. Dario comes back with the boxes, drops them off at our table and leaves to get our permits. I open the boxes and start organizing our resupply into breakfast, lunch and dinner piles as usual. Then I try to call Kim but realize that I first need to update my messenger app. And this takes ages. There is no way we’ll have enough time. When Dario comes back we quickly eat, pack up everything and hurry down to the shuttle. Finally the messenger app has loaded and I still have wifi. I call her from the bus and tell her our arrival date, the 7th of October. I tell her we’ll spend the night in Manning Park and we agree that she’ll pick us up on the 8th of October. I’ll see her again in 5 days. After 12 years. Wow.
The shuttle waits until I finish my phone call and then leaves towards the trailhead. The shuttle always makes a stopover at the Stehekin Bakery which is very famous among PCT hikers. They make delicious pastries, breads and cinnamon rolls. We buy food for 50 USD (pizza slices, cakes and cinnamons rolls) and get back on the bus. They sure make good business with us hikers. They probably time the shuttle so that hikers don’t have time to eat in Stehekin and then come to the bakery all hungry!! Well, it works (even with some lunch in our bellies). Unfortunately this is also where we realize that once again we forgot to buy fuel. We still have some left but it won't last the whole way. But Trooper and Poodlebee might be able to share it with us. We decide not to freak out about it.
When we reach the trailhead everyone quickly straps on their packs and starts hiking. All of us? No, a minority consisting of Dario and I, Trooper and Sriracha stays behind and lets everyone pass. We’ll take it easy today. Reaching Canada in 4.5 days is plenty of time to do the 89 miles to the border. We’re not in a rush. It’s cloudy by now but it doesn’t look as though it’s about to rain anytime soon.
We reach our campsite after 5 miles. We camp with Trooper, Sriracha, Poodles and Poodlebee. We make a lovely campfire and all eat our goodies from the bakery. A perfect evening.
Miles 2540.6 to 2551.8 + 11 Miles Fire closure reroute part 1: to Holden Village. Suiattle River camp to Holden.
We get up later than planned. It‘s still raining. Poodlebee who was camped next to us has already left. The weather is an absolute catastrophe. It hasn’t stopped raining all night, the tent is soaked and there are rain drops on the inside of the rainfly just waiting to drop down on us. BigAgnes, we love you. Thank you for staying waterproof long enough. There is no point in waiting it out in the tent. It’s not going to stop anytime soon, we know that. Everything we own is wet or at least damp and we haven’t really been able to warm up either. Let’s just go.
After a quick breakfast we put on our wet clothes and take our tent down inside out. That’s the second time on the PCT we’ve had to do it like this. Take down the inner part of the tent first, pack everything under the rainfly and then take down the rainfly at last.
First we are going uphill. In such desolate and strenuous conditions you always feel like there is no way any other human is going through the same thing as you right now. But we are usually wrong. The next turn we take we see Sriracha sitting there. An Aussie we met in Kennedy Meados in mid-June and then again shortly at Snoqualmie Pass. Puddles, the girl he is hiking with and him passed us this morning while we were still asleep. And he’s not having so much fun himself. The poor fella is also suffering from Plantar Fasciitis which doesn’t make this hike any easier. They are also planning to hike into Holden tonight and camp just outside of the village in order to have breakfast there the next day and take the ferry. It’s very likely that people we meet now and who take the same ferry as us will end up at the terminus with us. This is how close we are to Canada. We can almost touch it, but there are still a few obstacles in our way. We pass Sriracha and soon run into Puddles. We keep hiking with her for a fair bit, at least the remaining 8 miles up to where we PCT is closed and the detour over Cloudy Pass down to Holden starts.
We reach the top in the snow. Yes, it is snowing now. And the flakes remain lying on the ground. Better snow than rain, we think, and push on. At least we don’t feel cold because we’ve just climbed 11 miles in 3.5 hours. The remaining 13 miles down to Holden should be easy now. It’s another 2 mile climb to the top of Cloudy Pass and this just kills us. It’s basically very exposed rock climbing for a mile until we reach some sparse forest and then finally reach the top, Cloudy Pass. We have been told that this detour is one of the best parts of the PCT. We have been told that we would see waterfalls, turquoise lakes and beautiful mountains and meadows. We know this beauty is out here. But we can’t see it. It’s just snowing and we can hardly see anything at all.
The second part of the day is mainly downhill. Easy, we think. We will be there in no time, we think. Boy, are we wrong. The remaining 11 miles down to Holden will go down in history as the longest and toughest hike we ever had to do on the PCT.
About a mile down it’s been decided. We are going to take a room in Holden. We are not sleeping in our tent in this situation if we don’t have to. We are so cold, so wet, so miserable, we need something to look forward to tonight. We know a night in Holden costs 99 USD per person and we wonder how this can be fair. We only need a room as an emergency, we don’t want to spend 200 USD there! The rate comes with three meals, the shuttle to the ferry, laundry and showers, but how is it justified? We will try to get a discount. It should work somehow, we are sure the people there are reasonable.
Another 2 hours later we don’t even care about the money anymore. We would have spent 500 USD for a room by now. We are wearing our wet hiking clothes and our soaked rain gear. We are not wearing our down hoodies because we can’t afford to get them wet. Technically, we would afford to get them wet now that we are staying in the hotel. But a. we don’t now FOR SURE that they will have room and b. a change in clothes would require us to stop, take off the pack, then the rain cover, then get the hoodie. Then take off our rain jackets, put on the hoodies and put everything back on. By that time everything would get more wet and we can’t afford to take breaks because it will cool us down immensely. So here we go. Keep hiking on until hypothermia catches us.
Sleeping outside in this weather if you don’t absolutely have to - reckless and dangerous in our opinion. By now our feet (who have been walking in a constant swimming pool of icy water) are frozen. And so are our hands. I can’t feel my fingertips anymore. This situation we are in. I don’t know exactly how we managed to end up here. And we are doing this out of sheer pleasure, for fun! Voluntarily! Have we gone mad? How is this anything I would ever want to do in my life? What life choices are we making here? Have we gone completely mad??? We are in the middle of a snowstorm and all I know is that I have to keep walking. I am crying constantly, the tears are in fact the only thing I can feel right now, because they are hot and streaming down my face.
That’s when we decide to quit. We are going to quit when we reach Holden. I don’t know how we can reach civilization from there exactly, but I know we’ve had enough. That’s it. Can’t go on. At least we are on the same page. We know when enough is enough. We fought hard in the last couple of days and weeks. We can be proud of what we’ve achieved. But there is no way, absolutely to way, we are gonna go on now. Everyone kept telling us how unpredictable and dangerous the Cascades can get in the fall. And it’s October now. It’s time to be done. We are done.
And then we reach some forested area, some shelter at last. I am shaking and crying uncontrollably by now, and Dario is crying because he can’t handle that I can’t handle it anymore. And suddenly, out of nowhere, there are three beautiful deer grazing right next to the trail. We slow down, look at them. They don’t move. They stare at us. One of them is one meter away from us. It doesn’t move an inch. It stays there and keeps looking at us. What an incredible and stunning moment. It quiets me down. I can actually relax. I can breathe. I know we will be okay.
Finally, after what felt like an eternity, we reach the campground. Poodlebee is actually setting up camp here! That’s crazy! But we don’t have the energy to go over and convince him to stay in the village. He knows what he’s doing. He will be fine. ¾ miles later we reach Holden. It’s really no more than a couple of houses. It’s a christian community, as it turns out. We reach the hotel and ask for a room. 99 USD per person. We ask if we can get a discount considering that we will be sharing a room, even a bed. Surely that must have an impact on the rate? The receptionist is compassionate but says he can’t change the price. He will ask someone and get back to us in the morning. Meanwhile we are free to get some dinner, the buffet will be open another ten minutes. We don’t need telling twice. We rush over to the dining hall and fill 7 (seven!) plates with food. And that’s where we see Trooper again! We hiked with him through a lot of Oregon and saw him quickly at Stevens Pass before he headed out. Good to see you again Trooper! While we eat he makes us some hot tea and keeps us company while we eat. We haven’t had anything to eat since breakfast just because there was no way we could possibly stop for lunch. Dinner is chickpea curry with couscous. Basically what we’ve been eating on trail for the past three months. But better, of course. Much better! There are a lot of hikers and we feel great having our crowd around us. But we still haven’t changed out of our wet clothes and are shaking with cold. It’s time for a hot and long shower. We get the key to the room which is very basic and reminds me of the rooms we would share on school camp trips in Switzerland. But it’s very cozy. Perfect. We turn the heater on full speed, put our shoes in front of it and hang our packs and sleeping bags up to dry. Then we shower. For 30 minutes. It’s without a doubt the best hot shower of my life. I only leave it when I am no longer feeling any cold on or in my body.
While Dario is in charge of getting the laundry done and hanging up the tent to dry in the laundry room I clean up the mess in our room, get rid of trash and hang up some more things. Fun fact, I am doing this naked in my towel because all of my clothes are being washed.
We are feeling so so much better now. Today was traumatizing but we are already healing. We watch some Netflix and go to bed very exhausted.
What a day. The last day on trail? Never quit on a bad day, they say. We’ll sleep on it.
Miles 2515.7 to 2540.6. Pumice Creek camp to Suiattle River camp.
The night was rough, it was cold and was raining hard for a couple of hours. When we get up the rain has almost stopped but we refuse to get out of our dry spot. So we decide to have breakfast in the tent and stay until 8.30am when we feel that we really have to move if we want to make our goal and camp at Suiattle River, which is about 25 miles from where we start today.
The day is absolutely miserable. It is raining nonstop. And the trail here in this section is in a very bad condition. There are tons of big logs all over the trail, practically none are cut in half to pass, some times the trail is more like a creek or completely overgrown. At noon we pass a collapsed bridge over milky water. And yes, it is still raining. So we decide to not have any breaks and not do lunch today to make it into our tent as early as possible.
After a big decent we cross another milky river (glacier water) and meet Poodlebee again. He tells us he wants to sleep at the large Suattle River as well and then hikes on ahead of us. From here it is again all the way up up for another 3 hours only to descend on the other side once more.
At about 6 pm it starts to get darker but we still have to do about 4 miles. We pass a campsite where we see a group of hikers having a campfire and spot Andrea, whom we have last seen in Kennedy Meadows at the end of the desert. We quickly say hi and then continue our hike. After about 40 more minutes we find ourselves in a very thick rainforest. And in only a couple of minutes later it is completely dark and we have to use our headlamps. Unfortunately my batteries are empty and Maya‘s lamp has full batteries but is not working properly anymore. So we have to change the batteries in the dark from her lamp to mine. After some attempts it works and we now have one working lamp. It is now only one mile further according to Guthooks. And soon we make it to this very broad bridge across the thundering Suiattle River and desperately try to find the campsite. There, on the other side we see a light. We quickly pass the bridge and see that only one tent fits there. So we have to go a little bit further up parallel to the river and spot another light. This must be Poodlebee down there, we both think and find our way down to him. And yes, it is him. He is already in his tent, successfully avoiding the now really heavy rain.
There is only one more spot, but that‘s all we need. We pitch the tent in the opposite order than usual. We start with the rain fly first and then with the inner tent, so the inner side of the tent doesn't get as wet. What a miserable day this was.
On days like this you really start to question yourself what you're still doing out here. We could already be hanging out at a hot and tropical Colombian beach soaking up the sun rather than hiking in this. But it's all part of the game. And it's now only 110 miles more!
Miles 2493.5 to 2515.7. Lake Sally Ann camp to Pumice Creek camp.
Rain. Not the whole day and not strong rain. But a constant drizzle. Nonstop.
When we wake up it is only raining a little. The tent even stayed completely dry. And when we stick our heads out of the tent we see Jandals, Merman and Montana. They caught up! Good for then. They have to be in Canada on the 5th of October. They hiked 30 miles yesterday and must have caught a cold because they are repeatedly coughing and sneezing. Poor fellas! We know we wouldn’t be able to hike to Canada in 5 days, but we know their style and they seem determined to make it. They leave before us. And we never see them again.
The landscape looks very magical in these conditions. The sun is rising and coloring the clouds around it in all shades of pink. We take our breakfast after only a couple of minutes when we find some good trees to crawl under. But oh man, it’s cold. This is not enjoyable. Let’s keep going.
We are hiking up up up and are completely surrounded by mountain peaks. We hike up to a ridge for a while and when we reach it we can see in the next valley below. The scenery has again changed completely. We are looking down onto this mystical glacier valley. It’s beautiful. But the cold is penetrating, we can feel it in our bones. The rain gear can only take so much rain… We decide to take a break when we reach the creek at the bottom of the valley. By now we are back in dense forest. But in order to stay relatively dry during our lunch we set up the footprint of our tent and place ourselves underneath. It’s not exactly cosy and definitely not warm, but it will have to do. And some hot food definitely can’t hurt right about now. Because Dario is the chef in our two-person team, I have the pleasure of doing the dishes. Which means filling our pots etc. with the icy water of the creek and trying to clean it as good as possible. My hands are positively frozen after that.
The only thing which helps is hiking. So we pack our stuff and start hiking again. It’s a steep uphill climb now and we are glad because climbing up is the only thing really producing some body heat.
It’s getting dark early now. The dark clouds don’t help. This is definitely not one of the moments I will miss once I am in a heated house, feeling warm. We really really really just want to reach Canada now. One more week till we reach the border. We can do this!
We reach our designated campsite, a creek, around dusk. There are campsites but they are very exposed and we’d much rather find some shelter from pine trees. There’s trees in abundance here, how hard can it be to find a flat spot among them?? But we’re also on a mountainside now and the terrain isn’t exactly flat.
Finally we find a small spot and decide to squeeze our tent in there. We quickly put on some warm clothes and hang up our wet clothes to dry. They won’t dry, but where else are we going to put them? Once we are bundled up in our sleeping bags, eating pasta and watching Netflix life looks already a little better again. Yep, the Great British Bake-Off is the most soothing and homey series ever!
Miles 2473.8 to 2493.5. Lake Janus camp to Lake Sally Ann camp.
Dario ended up putting his phone back together last night and only went to bed around 11.30pm. So we sleep in until 6.30am today. The weatherman was right: the sky is cloudy, there is no sun and we are generally feeling a little glum. We are so ready to arrive. But it is very foreseeable now. Less than 10 days until Canada!
We take our breakfast break after we have climbed the first mountain and have a lovely view from up there. Even the sun comes out briefly to dry our tent (more or less).
We are eating berries all day long. Huckleberries or blueberries, we have no idea, but they taste so delicious. Our mouths are blue, and Dario’s hands are so so blue. I don’t know what he does with those berries that they rub off on his hands so much! But we should really hike a little faster now. Our plan still is to do 22-mile days and we need to try and keep it up.
We take our lunch a little later at so-called Pear Lake. The sun even comes out to keep us company for about a half an hour in which we try and soak it up as much as we can. There are also a few very pretty birds around looking curiously at our food. We previously emptied out our doritos chips crumbles by mistake and they are very interested in them.
I know we’ve been mentioning loads of times who beautiful autumn is out here. But we just can’t get over just HOW beautiful it is. White mountain peaks. Bushes in every shade of red and orange. Green pine trees, yellow leaves from other trees. It’s stunning, even when the sun isn’t shining. We are walking through meadows and parallel to mountain ridges and it’s just really impressive. We take hundreds of pictures. I can’t help but feel very happy once more. So many completely different emotions out here!!! While we have been seeing a lot of hikers in the last couple days, we see only one NOBO and a couple of SOBOs today. We feel alone. But in a good way. We have this paradise all to ourselves.
While there is still no rain we can already see some thunderclouds forming up ahead. According to our GPS app they are just north of us and exactly where we are headed. We might evade them by camping a little earlier where we can still hope that no rain is going to come this way during the night. And we find the perfect spot.
Lake Sally Ann is amazing. It’s embedded in this mountain, its water colour is gorgeous, and there are some pine tree groups providing protection from wind and possibly rain. We set up camp underneath some pine trees, we can see the lake on one side and the most fabulous view on the other side. It’s still light out, and we enjoy camping early and taking in the scenery.
Once we are in the tent we hear other people approaching - it looks like we will not be the only ones sleeping here tonight. After dinner, Netflix and blogging we go to bed early and have a great sleep (and hopefully no rain despite the forecast!).
Miles 2459.8 to 2473.8. Lake Susan Jane camp to Lake Janus camp.
What a restless night! Dario kept hearing mice and even saw a mouse who had climber up our inner tent on our tent stakes! We start hiking at 6.30am, Benjamin Button is already ahead of us. Only one small mountain to climb, should be easy! The sun is just rising as we make our way up, immersing the mountain tops and colorful meadows in a golden light. The pictures just don’t to the colors justice! The autumnal colors are incredibly beautiful, what a stunning Indian Summer we get to experience here.
There is a ski lift on top of the mountain as Stevens Pass is a popular skiing place in winter and once we reach the top we can see the little settlement down below, and get cell reception for the first time in days! Stevens Pass is still about 2.5 miles away and Dario uses that time to call Andri, a close friend of his. It was his birthday the day before, when we were unable to contact him due to service absence.
We reach the pass at 8.15am and contact BigBro who slept here last night. This is the time to say goodbye to him. He will be back on trail right after, while we still have to hitch into Skykomish and get our resupply and the laundry done. We also have to say goodbye to Benjamin Button now who is hitching east to Leavenworth from where he hopes to get a ride to Lake Chelan (where Stehekin is situated at the other end of the lake and can be reached by a ferry ride).
I hate goodbyes. But at the same time I am positive we will see these two again. BigBro in Europe, Benjamin Button whenever we will be back in California, as he lives in LA.
We start hitching. It’s brutally cold here because the sun hasn’t reached the valley where Stevens Pass is yet. We are both wearing our extremely bright and well showing down jackets, but still nobody cares to stop for us. Soon Starburst and Poodlebee show up, they spent the night up near the ski lift. We must have passed them this morning but didn’t see their tents. After about 40 minutes a van coming from the direction of Skykomish turns up and slows down. About 10 hikers jump out of the van and the driver asks us if we want a ride to Skykomish. Yaaay, finally! We get in, it’s nice and warm. Our driver is called Billy and he’s awesome, apparently giving free rides to hikers throughout the season. We are so lucky!
Skykomish is very small. Very pretty. We instantly like it. We wish we could spend the night here. But nope, that’s not the plan. Post Office, laundry, shower and organizing, that’s what we’re here for. And the restaurant of course. That’s where Billy drops us off and asks us when we intend to get back on trail. It is now 09.30 am and Dario and I are confident that we can be ready by 1pm. The other two aren’t sure what they’re gonna do yet so he agrees to just pick up the two of us at 1pm. He drops us off at the restaurant and we get a table for the four of us. We have been leapfrogging with Starburst for weeks now, Poodlebee on the other hand we only met at Snoqualmi Pass. Starburst is blogging and vlogging about the PCT on her Youtube channel “The Whimsical Woman” (https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCIUPDURNSrgUg96rxhlr5rA), and she’s got 10’000 subscribers to her channel. I had been following her on instagram and it’s kind of funny that we met in real life after. They’re both American and lovely people and we enjoy an excellent breakfast together.
After breakfast we do our laundry, collect our boxes and start organizing them outside on a picnic table on the lawn in the town centre. It’s warm and we can easily dry our tent while we “are working”. I also received my new long-sleeve shirt that BigBro ordered with Amazon. Yay, another layer to keep me warm! People keep coming up to our table and asking us about the trail, always reacting very astonished when we tell them that we’ve hiked more than 2000 miles to get here. When we are nearly done we take turns in showering at the hotel and are ready at 12.59pm. Billy is already waiting nearby and therefore we are back at Stevens Pass in no time. Wow, what an efficient resupply stop! We’ve never organized faster. But it was also very stressful and we didn’t have time to relax at all. So let’s go to the restaurant at Stevens Pass and eat a burger.
Dario still has another problem. His shoes. He has only been wearing them since Snoqualmie, where he found them in a hiker box, but they are causing him pain as they are a little bit too small, and already quite battered. He goes looking around Stevens Pass, if there is a store or even just a hiker box. And again, he gets lucky and finds Columbia hiking boots. These might work better in the wet Washington conditions anyway!
And then suddenly we realize we forgot to buy fuel! This is a big disaster! We look all around Stevens Pass but they don’t appear to be selling them here. We check in the hiker box, but no fuel canister there either. What are we gonna do? We need fuel to cook our food! We almost only carry food which needs to be cooked. And the little bit we have left in our fuel canister is just not gonna be enough to hike all the way to Stehekin! Should we go back to Skykomish? But we don’t have the time for that. But well, I guess we will have to. Anyway, we already ordered our burgers and now sit down with another hiker called Jandals (he was the one who offered us his room to shower in at the Timberline Lodge back in Oregon). We mention our fuel problem and he offers without hesitation that we take his. But! No, he…, he needs it for himself! Well, he is going to go into Leavenworth where he can buy another, so he insists we take his, and doesn’t want our money for it. Wow. We are speechless. This is just so selfless and kind. We couldn’t be any more grateful and buy him some beers and share our fries with him. Thank you so much Jandals, you are such a great person! We sit with him a little while longer. He is a Brit but living in New Zealand and trying to convince us that we come to visit us in New Zealand. As if we needed convincing! If we end up going to NZ we will most definitely visit Jandals!
Most of the hiker talk right now is about the finishing date. Everyone asks everyone about what date they’re planning to finish. Some are overly confident, replying with dates coming up very soon. Our planned end date is still around 7th/8th of October which people generally consider to be reasonable. Due to a fire closure there is a gonna be another detour before Stehekin, where hikers can either hike 27 miles (instead of the closed 20 miles) to get back on the PCT, or take a ferry on Lake Chelan from a village called Holden to the town of Stehekin, the last resupply stop on the PCT. Most hikers are opting for the second alternative because the weather is supposed to get worse again soon, it’s still considered an official PCT detour and a ferry ride is, well, kind of fun. But the ferry only runs once a day. Most hikers are now calculating which date they’re gonna catch the ferry. Jandals wants to catch it the day before us, but still needs to get into Leavenworth for his food (and now fuel) resupply. Which means he’s kind of in a hurry and therefore gets up from the table soon and catches a ride to Leavenworth.
And soon after, we are off too, back on trail. One more resupply stop until Canada. UNBELIEVABLE!
But I ate too much and I am feeling oh so sick now. I don’t digest town food very well. It happens almost every time. I am only used to crappy trail food now. Greeeeat! We can only go slow and I can’t really enjoy the sunny weather and beautiful scenery around us.
We reach our designated campsite in the dark, after 10 miles. According to the weather forecast which we checked in Stevens Pass this was the last sunny day for a while. Tomorrow should be overcast and then the rain will likely come back. And it looks like it might be raining, and even snowing, for a while. Fingers crossed that the weatherman is wrong.
The night is still cloudless and starry, our base layers which we use as pyjamas are still warm from the dryer. I am tired and soon fall asleep after dinner.
Miles 2434.8 to 2459.8. Alpine meadow camp to Lake Susan Jane camp.
05.30am. Time to get up. We are oh so tired. But it’s time to get back to civilization. It might still be possible to reach Stevens Pass/Skykomish tonight but then we would only have to pay for a night in a hotel, which we don’t want.
After we are done packing up I go get water at the nearby lake. The sky is full of stars, the moon is shining bright, I can see the outlines of the mountains surroundings us. Clouds of steam are emerging from the lake. The meadow is frozen. What a WOW moment.
We have to climb first. And the scenery around us is just so mindblowingly beautiful. Washington in nice weather - the most beautiful thing you’ll ever see. We eat our breakfast while our tent is drying. 10 more days of living this life. This simple life. This mentally and physically very challenging life. This very rewarding life. What are we going to miss the most?, we think. The tranquillity, Dario says.
After hiking up and down all morning we reach the Deception Lakes around noon and decide to have lunch there. This is one of the most beautiful lakes I have ever seen. I would love to go swimming, but the water is icy cold and we couldn’t really warm up again after. It’s here that we find out about an easy alternate you can take, cutting a mile off the PCT, but equally beautiful. We decide to do just that and don’t regret our decision. The alternate route first leads us uphill through dense forest and then emerges to this saddle with a stunning view. The way back down is a bit of a stumble. We have to climb over big rocks and are concentrating hard not to fall.
Dario comes up with a game. Let’s list all the nights where we stayed on the PCT since the beginning. It keeps us busy! Sometimes we have to think really hard about where we slept, but after piecing memories together we usually find out. We are in the midst of me explaining to Dario where we stayed that one night in the Sierra, when suddenly I hear movement. And vibration. There is something there behind that tree!!! It’s probably just a deer, Dario says, but I am not convinced. It feels larger, denser. We have meanwhile retreated a couples meters, but now I slowly go ahead again to peer through the undergrowth. A set of eyes. A face. IT IS A BEAR!!! And a rather big one! I yell to Dario to take some more steps back and walk over to him. The bear is right next to the trail and it’s not moving. What should we do? We start making some noise with our trekking poles, but he’s not really impressed by that. We start yelling and go closer again, when suddenly he breaks through the bushes and lands on the trail. Instead of running away, what a black bear is expected to do, he comes charging in our direction!!! But then quickly realizes his error. He probably thinks “oopsie, there’s people there”, and jumps on the other side of the trail. There is another tree there which he now jumps on to. And falls off of. It’s almost as if he’s a little embarrassed by his failed attempt to climb the tree. With his head bowed down he slowly starts to trot away on all fours. Picking berries on the way.
What a rush of adrenaline! What an amazing experience! Scary, but amazing! Now we are practically running down the trail. We are so pumped! And bump into Benjamin Button. We tell him all about our encounter and while he’s happy for us, he’s also a little envious and starts keeping his eyes out for another bear. Thanks to the adrenalin I am still hiking the fastest I’ve ever hiked. And even going uphill I don’t even seem to need much energy!
We reach our campsite at Lake Susan Jane by 8pm. We are now only 5 miles away from Stevens Pass from where we plan to hitch into Skykomish. Benjamin Button who is in a bit of a hurry and needs to reach the Canadian border around the 4th of October decides to skip the next 100-mile section from Stevens Pass to Skykomish. He will leave the trail in Stevens Pass tomorrow and try to reach Stehekin, the last resupply stop as soon as possible. We regret his decision but can of course totally understand where he’s coming from. Also we are all at the end of our physical powers by now. Mentally we are strong. We KNOW we can do it now that it’s less than two weeks away. But physically… our bodies are hurting. We are ready to be done.