I have discovered one simple truth out here on the trail: the longer and farther I walk, the more beautiful life becomes.
Out here in the raw wilderness of the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT), I have had an abundance of uninterrupted time to think about my entire life and some of the practicable goals I have now set for my future. The trail naturally gives the hiker a place for unclouded thinking and personal reflection and teaches many great lessons to anyone who journeys upon it.
Since setting off for this great hike on May 14, 2018, I have come to know myself and others better and have found much joy in long-distance hiking. In the not-too-distant future, I plan to finish the Triple Crown, hike more of Australia’s remarkable trails including the Larapinta Trail in Alice Springs and the Overland Trail in Tasmania, and, of course, thru-hike the Colorado Trail from Littleton to Durango.
Walking the state of Washington was quite different from that of California or Oregon. Overall, Washington was greener, wetter, foggier, and mossier. I decided to walk this last of three states on my own.
Leaving Cascade Locks, I crossed Bridge of the Gods into the state of Washington. In the southern part of the state, I hiked through the Goat Rocks Wilderness and soon had to start well-graded mountain switchbacking. The Yakima Indian Reservation was a remarkable section of trail that took me up Cispus Pass. Although there was much smoke from nearby fires, I enjoyed the descent down the Pass where I was afforded views of pristine waterfalls and a sizable herd of mountain goats roaming the hillsides.
After some uphill climbs, I took in my first heavenly glimpses of Mt. Rainier. After traversing my last snowfields, I walked the precipices of Knife’s Edge. This was undoubtedly one of my favorite parts of Washington, particularly when rewarded with views of Rainier that resembled a Bob Ross painting! After the Knife’s Edge, hikers were led to an alternate fire route that was much more strenuous than the PCT proper. I hiked this detour with two other thru-hikers named Flamingo and McGyver.
The fire detour eventually brought us to White Pass where a hitch was given by a trail angel named Sobo Hobo. The Kracker Barrel gas station/store was enough for me to get a shower, do some laundry, and resupply. Near the store was the base of operations where dozens of hardworking wildland firefighters and hotshots were camped.
Continuing north, the trail led me through Mount Rainier National Park. This was marmot country once more! I entered the wilderness areas of Wenatchee National Forest before arriving at Snoqualmie Pass, a popular ski resort town that offers downhill mountain biking on the off-season. After a comfy, dry stay at the Summit Inn, I picked up my resupply package, ate an exotic sandwich at the hiker-friendly Aardvark Express, and moseyed back on the trail.
Next was Stevens Pass, yet another ski resort. This was a quick stop for me, mainly to charge up my Ankor battery charger. While there, I picked up a stylish Stevens Pass beanie since my head was freezing cold. Since it was getting later in the year, the days were getting shorter and the morning and night temperatures were dropping.
Washington had many stream and river crossings, although not nearly as many as back in the Sierras. There were, however, many bridges constructed by the Forest Service. The bridges were in all shapes and sizes. Some involved extensive engineering and others were simply log foot bridges with anti-slip chainsawed grooves.
The next fire closure required a diversion that took hikers through an old copper mining town called Holden Village. This little village built to support the miners and their families was bought by the Lutheran Church back in the 1960s.
Although used primarily for church retreats, this restored village is open to hikers. After satiating my ravenous appetite at the all-you-can-eat-pasta buffet, I went exploring through the village. There are a number of cottages, a sauna, a general store, a chapel, and even a basement complete with a multi-lane bowling alley and pool tables. The bowling alley had the now-obsolete Brunswick setup, which required the pins to be reset manually. Above the pool tables were strung those olden wood scoring beads recalling another time in history.
From Holden Village, I walked the rest of the seldom-trodden fire trail to a road that led me into the isolated town of Stehekin and the Lake Chelan recreational region. Stehekin, which a ranger informed me means “the way,” is a unique place in that it is only accessible by foot, ferry, or plane. I was accommodated nicely at the Stehekin Valley Ranch where I was treated to a hiker-approved smorgasbord and driven around in a repurposed schoolbus for the dime tour of Stehekin.
Ascending out of Stehekin Valley, I crossed Rainy Pass and eventually arrived at Hart’s Pass. This was to be the last push to get to the border. This last leg was mostly a fire route just set up by the Forest Service so that thru-hikers could get all the way through to tag the monument at the border. The trail had been recently closed at Rainy Pass due to fire on the trail. Had I arrived at the Pass just a few weeks previous, I would not have been able to complete the last sixty miles of trail. I count myself very fortunate for being able to complete the entire trail in one season. This includes every mile of open trail and the designated alternates.
On the morning of September 7, 2018, I touched the newly-built monument, which marks the northern terminus of the Pacific Crest Trail. It was over. I had just hiked 2,652.6 miles (plus blueblazing) from Mexico to Canada in 117 days.
Not bad. Not bad at all.
To all those who gave me words of kindness and encouragement along the way, I wish to express my thanks.
If you have some worthy ambition in your life that you are yearning to accomplish, go for it! Do it and don’t look back. A truly passion-driven person is hard to stop.
“I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.” -Philippians 4:13 (KJV)