Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Day 151- The One Before The Last One

Sept 30, 2016
Brush Creek(2606.9) to Rock Pass(2635.4) 28.5 miles
Total up/down: +6,755/-4,822 feet

I wasn't sure what to expect today. I have heard that it is supposed to snow this afternoon, but I've also heard that it won't snow until tomorrow. As I expected it was really hard to get out of my sleeping bag. I managed to pack up and eat/drink breakfast from the warmth of my sleeping bag and tent. Eventually I forced myself outside and finished packing up. Oh man, was it cold out. Luckily, I had a nice uphill climb to get my blood pumping. I stopped to process water on my way out of camp and I noticed that Mountain Goat was already gone. I'm not used to having anyone  beat me out of camp in the morning. He must have left really early. As the sun began to rise in earnest it looked like I was in for some rain or possibly snow. I spent the first few miles hiking through a cloud. It was so damp that I stayed chilly even though I was climbing uphill. 
Got to love the Pacific Northwest in September 

Shortly after I took this picture it began to snow. I actually was relieved that it was snowing and not raining. It was a very light snow and the ground was too warm for it to stick. I guess I timed things perfectly, I had climbed to over 6,000 feet, if I was any lower I would have dealt with freezing rain. In the end, it didn't really matter because it only lasted for a few minutes, but for those minutes I enjoyed walking in the peace and quiet that only snow can bring. After the snow quit I was still walking in a cloud. I was a little frustrated because I could tell that I was missing out on epics views all around me. I stopped just before the apex of my climb to drink some water. I just happened to glance to my left and what I saw took my breath away. The clouds had just began to clear and I had an amazing view over to a glacier peak. 
Rising above the clouds

I watched the clouds blow in and around the mountains until I became too chilled to stand still any longer. 
To the far left you can see the trail still enveloped in clouds

I can't believe how quickly the weather changed. One minute I was hiking in snow, then clouds, and finally blue skies were all around. Last night, Mountain Goat and I discussed the power of positive thinking. I joked that if we kept thinking warm, dry thoughts we would make it all the way to Canada with perfect weather. Who knows, maybe it will work. 
Beautiful day

I started out this morning with only 44.2 miles to hike until the Canadian border. In the back of my mind I kept thinking that it might be possible to hike all of those miles today. I would spend the rest of the day playing the "what if game". What if I hike 44.2 miles? I would get to Canada in the middle of the night. What if I hike 20 miles today? I would have to hike 22.2 miles tomorrow. What if I hike 40 miles today? I would only have 4.2 miles tomorrow, but I will only get a few hours of sleep. It was a way to keep my mind occupied and off of the terrible thought that my hike was about to end. Even though I am ready to be done a small part of my mind realizes that once I accomplish my goal I will have to reenter society, which is never fun. If only the weather would stay warm forever, I could flip southbound and hike to Mexico, thus never having to go back to civilization. Alas, the end of summer is here and it is time to start thinking about LATT( Life After The Trail). At least this year I have a job and a life to go back to. After the Appalachian Trail last year I had zero plans and zero aspirations. I felt truly lost. This year I have everything planned out ahead of time. I will spend a month recovering and battling post trail depression at my parents house in Arkansas. Then I will head to Telluride to resume working at Allreds. I love working and living in the mountains and Telluride might be the closest thing to heaven on earth. 

Shortly after the weather cleared I caught up with MAGA. He had camped a few miles ahead of me last night. We hiked together briefly, but eventually I began to pull ahead. Since today was my last full day on the trail I was looking forward to hiking alone. I had a lot of things to process before reaching the end. Before I broke away MAGA asked if I could spare some water. He had misplanned the distance in between water sources. I didn't have much to spare, but I have found myself in his position a few times over the course of 2,620 miles and other hikers graciously helped me. I gave him half of what I had and we made plans to meet up later in the day at Harts Pass, the last trailhead before Canada. 

I didn't do a whole lot of research into Washington. I wanted to be surprised by my surroundings. Even without doing research I have heard that these last miles into Canada are spectacular. I am so thankful that I had great weather today. At some point during the hike I decided to hike until dark and to take my time. There was no since in rushing to the end. It would either snow or it wouldn't and I didn't want the weather to dictate my miles. I wanted to take in as much as I could before returning to the hustle and bustle of civilized living. I took frequent breaks and stopped plotting my miles per hour, which is a huge challenge for me. I like to constantly know how many miles I've hiked. 
Larches reign supreme 
Life above the clouds

Days like today are my favorite days on the Pacific Crest Trail. I only had a few big uphill climbs and I spent most of the day hiking along a ridgeline well above treeline. I had views clear into Canada. Every view was worthy of a travel magazine picture. Shortly after leaving MAGA it became apparent that I gave him too much of my water. I had a long eight miles to hike before I would drop down enough to find a water source. I fought my nature inclination to speed up and rush towards a water source. Part of me knew that I had enough to make it, but the irrational side of my brain likes to be over prepared and was screaming, "You'll die of dehydration soon". That part of my brain usually ends up making me crazy. Today my rational brain persevered and I was able to slowly make my way to Harts Pass and enjoy the sights along the way. 
Views for days
Golden Larches
Eek, only 35 miles to go!!!! 

Harts Pass is significant due to its remote location. It marks the last bale out point before reaching the Canadian border. This becomes important for hikers who find themselves in truly bad weather. There is a campground and ranger station at the pass, but is only accessible by a very rough dirt road. Many people are forced to end their thru-hike here due to weather. From here to the border(actually five miles before the border) the trail is continuously above six thousand feet of elevation. In this part of the country six thousand feet of elevation seems to mark the difference between rain and snow. The risk of avalanches are extremely high. I hoped to find water at Harts Pass, but that did not happen. Instead I was greeted by a sign for trail magic. I hurried in the direction the sign indicated, but there was nothing there. Instead I found a very nice ranger. He said that the people gave up doing trail magic because of the impending storm. I can't fault them for not wanting to deal with camping in the snow. I chatted with the ranger for ten minutes before his ride showed up. He asked if I needed any food. I explained that I probably had too much and thanked him for his kindness. He offered to pack out my trash for me. I was totally stoked to unload the few ounces of trash I was carrying. As I dug the trash out of my pack he said he had heard Stehekin was out of canister fuel to sell. I told him that was true and I was almost out. I was pretty sure I didn't have enough to cook dinner tonight. I was stunned when he offered me an almost full canister. His season of patrolling was coming to an end and he assured me that he wouldn't need it. This small act of kindness made all the difference in the world to me. I would have a hot meal tonight! 
30 miles to go

As I ate a snack, MAGA came rushing out of the woods. It is amazing how the prospect of trail magic can put a spring in anyones step. He was understandably disappointed to find out that there would be no trail magic and no water. Luckily, for both of us, there was a reliable water source .3 miles up the trail. MAGA took off in search of water and I took the time to sign the trail register. I'm pretty sure this is the last one before Canada! 

I was planning on finishing up my audiobook today, but I had so much going on inside my mind that I didn't need a distraction. I contemplated all that I have seen along the way. I thought about all of the extraordinary people I have met, the cool towns I have visited, the national parks I have hiked through, the highs and lows of thru hiking, and the amazing support I have received from family, friends, and strangers. This experience has been completely different than the Appalachian Trail, but it has also been very similar. The remainder of my day went by very quickly. I expected to catch up to MAGA at some point, but unfortunately I would never see him again. I did run into Moses, which was very unexpected. I thought he would be finishing today. He stopped to process water and I continued onward, I knew that we would see each other at some point later in the day. 
Typical view of the day, magical

The temperature began to drop steadily. By five o'clock I was putting layers on. I really wanted to get as close as possible to the border today so I could have an easier day tomorrow. With the high probability of rain/snow beginning tomorrow, I wanted to make it to the border before it started. I really didn't want to finish in the rain. I still haven't figured out how to take pictures when it is raining. Once my hands are wet I can't get my iPhone touch screen to cooperate. By six o'clock I was really cold and thinking about calling it for the day. I really wanted to hike another three miles, but I came across Helen Keller, his parents, and Make Shift. They had a roaring fire going and were celebrating the end of the trail. I decided to take a break and use my Delorme InReach to check the weather forcast. As I warmed myself by the fire,waiting for the weather report to come in, Moses hiked past me. He was going to go another 7-10 miles before stopping. He is a huge fan of night hiking. Finally the weather report came in and it looked like it would begin to snow or rain starting at 11 or 12 tomorrow. I decided to get as many miles in as I could before it got dark. I said my goodbyes to Hellen Keller and Make Shift. I had a really good uphill climb ahead of me. By this point I had already hiked twenty five miles, but I figured the more I hiked today the less I have to hike tomorrow. 
Make Shift, Hellen Keller, and his parents

I ended up hiking until just after seven o'clock. The sun had already set and I had to battle the fading light to get setup.  Mountain Goat had made it to camp minutes before me. He had gotten up at 4:30 this morning so he could to a big mileage day. We chatted about our day while setting up camp. It is going to be extremely cold tonight. I cooked and ate dinner as quickly as possible. Mountain Goat and I made plans to get up at 4:30 and start hiking around 5. We were both extremely motivated to finish before the bad weather rolled in. I'm looking forward to finishing tomorrow and I'm equally excited about the prospect of starting my final day before the sun rises. I'm hoping for an epic sunrise on my last day. 
Such a great day
Grateful for excellent weather today
I'm going to miss this

“Happiness is a myth we seek,
If manifested surely irks;
Like river speeding to the plain,
On its arrival slows and murks.
For man is happy only in
His aspiration to the heights;
When he attains his goal, he cools
And longs for other distant flights.”
- Kahlil Gibran