Days 121-129: Skykomish to Canada

September 1st-9th

I slept in until 7:30, but I was still awake before some of the others. I gathered my things and moved outside so as to not wake them up. I had a ton of food, so I decided to cook up some of my breakfast there. At this point, I’ve spent so much money on food and I was anxious to get out of town. Though my body probably needed it, I kind of regretted not pushing on after picking up my resupply.

Ray and I hit the trail together, but it wasn’t long until I had outpaced him. Since it was Labor Day weekend, there were a ton of people out. One guy had bags of candy for all of us thru-hikers. I proceeded to munch on this while walking…I’m eating ALL THE TIME. In the afternoon, the crowds subsided and I wondered if anyone else would be at Pear Lake, where I planned on camping. There were a few people here and at about 8pm Ray and a couple other guys I had met wandered in.

The next day, I said my good byes to Ray, thinking this would be the last time I saw him. It was a beautiful journey; so many large peaks and less smoke in the air; Washington is gorgeous. Again, there were a ton of people during the middle of the day, but by the afternoon, I saw very few. I made camp at a large tent site near a creek, but no one else passed by. Washington has made me more comfortable with camping alone and I can now fall asleep instead of panicking at every broken twig in the night.

On Sept 3rd, I woke up and quickly packed my things. There was quite the climb for the first 10 miles of the day and I eventually arrived at Mica Lake. It was beyond gorgeous! It was like a small ocean in the middle of mountains. The blue was so dark and it ended on a sandy beach with a beautiful turquoise color. I made a note to come back here. It was far to cold for me to jump in, but I did take a long second breakfast here and chatted with a SOBO (south bounder).

My terrible picture of a corner of Mica Lake.

I eventually motivated myself to leave, make my descent before the final big climb of the day. The climb wasn’t as steep, but it was exposed and hot in the afternoon sun. I’ve been hurting a ton and chomped down more ibprofen and pushed myself up the mountain. I knew there was a decent sized campsite at the Suiattle River, so pushed myself to make 30 miles today. My body screamed as I made camp near a large group. The first sentence in my journal for today was “I am physically broken.”

Since I slept so close to the river, I did not hear my alarm go off and didn’t wake up until 6:15. I gave up on my plan to do 31 miles by 6:15pm, to catch the last bus into the town of Stehekin. Instead of waiting for second breakfast, I immediately started my pot for coffee and chomped down my morning dose of ibprofen. Coffee and pills got me through the last bit of Washington. My body ached in a different level than the rest of the trail, I hit my wall and my body was deteriorating.

A couple hours into hiking, I ran into Megaphone, who I thought was at least a day ahead of me. It’s still so wonderful to run into people you have met and think they are way ahead or behind you. After lunch, I debated on if I could still catch the last shuttle. It seemed possible, but would be cutting it close. I pushed hard at at 5pm I arrived at a great campsite with a lovely stream. There was still 5 miles to go before catching the bus. I checked Guthooks (gps) and learned that I couldn’t stay at the ranger station, where the bus picks people up. I called it early, saving my knees and took the opportunity to soak my feet in the creek.

My tent! I realized I hadn’t taken a picture of the tent I had been using for most of the journey.

More people made camp here and in the morning (Sept 5th) a ton of others passed by. It had felt like there wasn’t this many people so close to me for days, where did they all come from? I got out of camp by 6:30am and hobbled my way down the trail with the herd.

The bus stops halfway into town, at the bakery. The bakery is one of those places that thruhikers dream about. It is in a super cute cabin and is actually phenomenal, not just because you’re starving. (Side note: There are very few truly amazing places to eat along the trail. Most of the time it is large portion, diner food.) I got a slice of nectarine raspberry pie, a lemon tart, a quiche, and a berry danish; finishing the tart and quiche before making it into town.

Once in town, I met up with Give-a-hoot and had a veggie burger for lunch. So many hikers got “stuck” here for the holiday weekend, as the post office wasn’t open until today. A massive herd of people left in the afternoon, but I decided to stay the night in town. It was super smokey and you could barely see the peaks across Lake Chelan. Later in the day, Colton appeared! He was part of my trail family from the desert and I hadn’t seen him since leaving Bishop. He traveled through the Sierra and had stayed ahead of the fires!

Smoke covered peaks. This was most of northern Washington for me.

The next day, I got up in time for the first bus back to the trail. At the bakery, I loaded up: a slice of quiche, a danish, cinnamon roll and two molasses cookies. I would carry the cookies to the border to celebrate. Though I rested most of yesterday, I still ached all over. I looked forward to getting back into a regular yoga practice, though I knew it’d be like starting over.

I met a couple new hikers: Smiles and Nature Monster. We camped together after Rainy Pass. It was nice to have some company and we hiked together the next couple of days. The following day we caught up to a section hiker, Firefly, and made camp at Harts Pass. The forest ranger passed out beers to each of us and we decided to call it for the evening.

On the 8th, we hiked from Harts Pass to the border! We stopped and ate so often today, just to lighten our packs. Everyone we passed had the same mentality. It was kind of like a celebration, stopping and eating at every stream. You need a special permit to cross into Canada on the trail. Those who do not have this, touch the monument and then hike south on the PCT 30 miles to get off trail. As I got closer to the border, others were making their journey back. There were congratulations, high fives and lots of celebration along the way. It was pretty magical.

The final lake on the trail. It was late in the afternoon and it was freezing! But I still jumped in to celebrate it.

I reached the border alone. It was quiet, the sun setting quickly. I felt like this summarized my Washington experience, of mostly solitude. I took a couple pictures and crossed the border to make camp. My plan was to finish here and go back to the Sierra next summer; this was the end of my journey.

There were quite a number of people here and soon after making dinner Nature Monster appeared. As it got completely dark, another woman appeared. I remember passing her about a week ago but had not met her. She gave us her full story of hiking since Ashland, and Nature Monster named her “20-minutes,” as she didn’t have a trail name and we suddenly knew her like family. We convinced her to stay instead of hiking the 8 miles to Manning Park lodge that night.

In the morning, we started our last few miles to the lodge. I hadn’t felt impacted by the ending of the trail yesterday, but today, I suddenly felt sad. I was ready to go home and be with Rafael, but I wasn’t ready to stop my time in nature. My body ached, I felt physically broken and emotionally torn. Everyone at the lodge was going in different directions; some were ending their journey with plans to return to missing sections next year, others were traveling back to California, and very few had completed the trail and were on their way home.

Nature Monster, 20-minutes and myself got a ride with another hiker whom I had met along the way, Little One. Her mom and friend had driven up from Seattle to pick her up and offered us rides as well. Leaving Canada happened much quicker than I expected. After arriving in Seattle, I got a bus to Portland and I was home by that evening, September 9th.

1 Comment

  1. Wow, I felt your sadness through my own. It’s been a remarkable journey. Thank you for sharing it with me. Happy Holidays to you and Rafael! Hugs, Barbara

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