PCT156 – the Canadian border

(With apologies to Redford and von Sydow)

Sep 12

We left Harlequin Bridge around 7, and got to High Bridge by 930.

Faceplant saw a bald eagle fly slowly down the river here. Dammit!

7th National Park.

My luck held for almost the entire day, we only had rain for about 10 minutes. Once we were back in the woods, the trail followed a river up a canyon all day. It reminded me a lot of Deep Creek Canyon down in the desert at mile 300. Like there, you could hear but not see the river all day long. Unlike there, it wasn’t boiling hot.

Loving the dated grafitti. Fall is definitely here. A lot of the shrubs are turning red as are the maples. Also, even when the Sun is out, it’s not as warm as it used to be. Tonight where I am camping it is supposed to go down to 35°. I am at the Rainy Pass trailhead, a parking lot off State Route 20. Hardly a backcountry paradise. Faceplant is sleeping in the women’s toilet to avoid the inevitable. We are supposed to get some rain tonight and into tomorrow.

Bears. The North Cascades National Park that I walked through today is supposed to have a lot of them. However I didn’t see any, only their poop.

I passed a tent site where people failed at hanging their food.

Protip: bears can climb trees. Also, don’t use your tent or sleeping bag stuffsack for food; you’ll end up sleeping in a peanut butter scented bed.

Tomorrow, might be less than a 20 mile day. The weather is supposed to stay nasty, and for us to break 20 miles would mean camping at the top of Glacier Pass. That’s at 5500 feet of elevation and there might be snow. Only a few miles before that there are tent sites at a river crossing at 4300 feet. While tenting there will be no picnic in the rain, and the extra 5 degrees of warm and the protection of the trees will be worth it.

After today there are only 4 days left. The this blows my mind. It’s possible that monday night, I will be sitting in a restaurant in Vancouver.

Sep 13 – The short day

19.8 today, to the above-mentioned site. Right now we’re down to 43 trail miles. Plus the 4 detour miles and the 9 to the Manning Park lodge, and we’re talking 56 total, to cover in 3 days. A decadently slow pace of less than 19 per day.

Had some fun rain and snow, yes, snow going up and over Cutthroat and Methow passes. Today again the umbrella proved its worth. Since my gloves suck and aren’t waterproof, being able to keep most of me dry under the dome was a huge bonus.

Despite the wind and snow, I had to stop several times to take it all in. So beautiful, so wild, so unspoiled, and all mine for the viewing. I’m on mountain top 40 miles from a road, and at least that from a powerline or cell reception. Awesome.

Also, this.

At lunch we were down to 52 trail miles to go!

I will have barely enough bars to get to Canada at 4 per day, but I’ll arrive with 4 extra dinners. Which just proves that sugar and chocolate and dates are more appealing than instant madhed potatoes, even with added lentils, beans, and olive oil. Faceplant has a ridiculous amount of extra food, so she gave me some hot chocolate powder and some kind of banana and berry smoothie. And soy vanilla powder. So … they all went into the jar together and were delish.

Two days of hiking, and then The Last Day. That day will be more Canada than US.

I kind of don’t remember April. I mean, I do with effort, but everything else is so immediate, and requires my focus, that past things lose some of their power. For someone who holds grudges and never lets anything go, maybe this is a mindset worth keeping.

Sep 14 – 13 or 23 depending on how you count

Over halfway through the detour.

Passed through Harts Pass, the last road on the trail. The only way out is through!

Got trail magic granola bars on trail from some dayhikers. And a fistbump.

Met a horseman leading a troop of horses, he congratulated us and said it was quite an accomplishment.

I’m getting pretty excited. Even the cold and rain seem like bonus attractions for the last few days.

Because of the fire, were routed down a valley over a series of horse trails. Camping and water are wildcards, but we found both, although the quality of the campsites leaves a bit to be desired. The trail has definitely been pounded by horses, and when wet its not the best. But, its getting us to Canada.

Today it rained of course, this time harder and longer. Once again the Chromedome made things much nicer. But wet feet all day are not fun, especially when its chilly enough outside to make olive oil congeal.

Met 2 returning hikers today, camping with one here. They’re able to give us good insight into the detour and conditions on the trail. For instance, we hadn’t checked, but we’re going to be back close to 7000 feet. Everyone apparently froze their butts off last night up there. So … we’re not doing that.

Sep 15 – 25.7, or something

Rainy and around 40 degrees. Not the most fun ever. Also, briefly it snowed.

3.7 miles to the border! I had kind of lost perspective since we were wandering around off the Real Trail. When we got back to the PCT at Woody Pass, Faceplant was waiting for me and said, “There’s only 10.2 miles to Canada.”

Stop.

Mind blown.

We met Jason, a cool guy we’ve bern hopscotching with for a while, bouncing back off the border. He had packed out four cinnamon rolls from the Stehekin bakery, and still had one left. He was heading down to the Oregon coast to do more hiking, in his words, to really finish off the summer. When we asked him how it was at the monument, he couldn’t really find words, then said, “remember how you felt on day 1? Like that, but more.”

Today, like the past few, was good until about 2, then it turned to shit.

Here’s me at the last 7000 foot mark, in the snow. Note the lack of gloves. They’re on my list for next time. After this its all downhill from here.

Sept 16 – the Last Day

Hint: If you want to skip to the end, I did finally make it to Canada.


We were meeting Faceplant’s family at the border at 11, to give them time to hike the 8 miles in from the Canada side. Because we camped low, and not at the lake where the Guthook drones did, we were warm, dry, and only 3.7 miles from the border.

If that’s the Slash (or The Cut) at 49 degrees, then I’m almost there.

And here it is.

Shhhhh. Re-entering the US from the Canadian side.

Sep 18 – Vancouver

After two bus and one train ride, I got to my hostel in Vancouver, where I’m spending a couple of days recuperating. It’s the same old story, Australians everywhere, that guy who stays in his bunk watching cartoons on his phone, people cooking weird things in the communal kitchen, and this place even has a cat.

The place is in a sketchy part of town, so they have PSA posters everywhere, warning everyone “these are not the same drugs you find at home”.

Here for a bit, then home to my old life.


Announcer Joe: Smokebeard squares off against his final opponent. He blew away Stevens at the start of the frame, had some trouble with Stehekin, and he’s on a full count here with Manning. He’s really digging into the dirt on the mound now, his trademark set when he needs the out.

Announcer Jerry: This has been a long at-bat, with Manning countering with every trick in the book; detours, snow, fog, rain, and freezing cold.

Joe: The deep breath, the set, the kick, the pitch … AND HE’S DONE IT! Smokebeard reaches back for something extra and puts a 102 mph heater right down the heart of the plate! Manning is frozen; called strike three; it’s over! Smokebeard has reached Canada! Can you believe it?!

About smokebeard 135 Articles
Smokebeard has hiked the 2652 mile Pacific Crest Trail, the 2160+ mile Appalachian Trail, the 73+ mile Great Glen Cycle Route, all 46 of the Adirondack High Peaks, the 78+ mile Rhode Island North/South Trail, and the Saranac Six. He is also a certified Leave No Trace Trainer. A former MATC Caretaker in the Piazza Rock/Saddleback area, he’s passionate about applying Leave No Trace as an ethical system. His latest adventure was a 3 week thruhike of the 273 mile Long Trail in Vermont.

8 Comments

  1. Wow! ,,,,,,,,,is all. Most men dream a dream that recedes over time to a longing and then a regret. You really did it!!
    Knowing you, I’m not at all surprised.

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