September 13, 2015
Junction of Two Creeks past Cathedral Pass (2450.8) to Steven’s Pass – Skykomish (2476.0)
25.2 PCT miles
2510.6 miles total
Today’s Elevation Gain/Loss: + 5,712 ft, – 6,957 ft
Throughout this hike I’ve appreciated the contrast and comparison of hiking the PCT to running a marathon. Since the PCT is about 2,600 miles, and a marathon is about 26 miles, this particular comparison has worked well. I’ve only run one full marathon in my life, the Chicago Marathon back in 2008, and I can’t say I ran it particularly well. But my body and mind went through certain stages that I haven’t forgotten to this day, and to some extent, they have mirrored quite well the sensations I’ve experienced on the PCT. Being around mile 2450 on the PCT feels remarkably similar to being on mile 24.5 of a marathon. Of course, if this were a marathon the bizarre physical and mental sensations we’re experiencing would last for another 15 minutes or so, but out here we get to experience them for another 10 days. If you love running marathons but are looking for something more, might I suggest a 5 month thru-hike of the PCT.
For some reason, denial perhaps, we woke this morning feeling oddly positive about how manageable today was going to feel. We somehow rationed that the 4 “climbs” we had were all significantly milder than the previous day’s climbs and that today was in fact “rolling” and nothing more. We began this morning with a nice long ascent up what I thought was Deception Pass, but now appears to be called Piper Pass on my maps. Here is the first parallel between the end of a marathon and our current state. As I try to think back on our day and the various passes, as they turned out to be, that we went over, everything is a blur. I can barely think straight enough to write a full sentence, let alone remember the details of our day. Suffice it to say that each of the day’s climbs were significant and not at all “easy”. We made it to Mama Bear’s car at the bottom of Steven’s Pass ski resort, but I was limping and delusional and stressed out over the idea of hiking back out tomorrow for another 5 day stretch, this time with rain.
Rather than spend hours trying to remember the details of today’s hike, let me go back to the marathon comparison. There is a video on the internet that you can look up of a woman finishing a race and her body just completely gives out on her. She tries to stand multiple times, and even tries to crawl to the finish line, but even though her mind wants to finish, her body is done. I keep thinking about that woman, and my own last couple miles of the Chicago marathon, and thinking how well I can currently relate. I know I will make it to Canada, but my body is only going to arrive there kicking and screaming. I’m sure not everyone feels this way at the end of their thru-hike, in fact Pickles is in a much healthier state, but this is my experience.
Today my feet ached, my stomach hurt, my body had trouble regulating its temperature, I had less of an appetite, and I had to keep from crying at the very thought of rain. I know these are probably all signs that I should throw in the towel and stop hiking, but I truly do not see that as an option. After how far we’ve come, I’ll do anything to get to the end. Instead, we are going to re-work our plan for the final 200 miles. Perhaps a bit more rest and shorter days will get me there in one piece. As long as this marathon metaphor holds true, the end of this hike just might be the greatest high I will ever experience in my entire life.