September 17, 2015
Tentsite before White Chuck Trail Junction (2521.6) to Tentsite at Vista Creek (2544.8)
23.2 PCT miles today
2579.4 miles total
Today’s Elevation Gain/Loss: + 7,511 ft, – 7,824 ft
This morning we ate our last Thursday morning breakfast. We packed up our tent for the last time on a Thursday and even took our final Thursday poo. It is hard to process everything that goes on out here on the trail, but today we made it very clear to ourselves and everyone around us that we have exactly one week left on the PCT. And it’s a good thing too, because our gear, bodies, and psyches all seem to be breaking down to some extent under the harsh conditions of Washington. Today was easily one of our most challenging days on the entire trail, so we found it especially helpful to know that no matter how hard of a Thursday it might have been, it was also our last Thursday, and that made it worth all the pain and exhaustion.
Today’s 23 miles took over 13 hours, with our only break being a one hour lunch. Not only did we climb and then drop over two entire mountains, but the trail for much of the day was buried under so much overgrowth and tree-fall that it seemed more like a steep obstacle course than the PCT. Add to all that the 10 or so separate times that we put on or took off our rain gear, sometimes only for minutes at a time, and it starts to make sense why this day was so challenging.
This section of trail is also supposed to be some of the prettiest, but most of our views were covered in thick clouds. When we got to the top of our second pass of the day we couldn’t see more than 20 feet in front of us. That’s not to say it isn’t pretty out here…occasionally we felt like we were in Scotland or even Argentina, rather than Washington, but I can’t say that the satisfying moments quite justified the difficulty.
Just as we suspected, today when we stopped for lunch on a bridge over Milk Creek, we were suddenly swarmed by at least 10 hikers who had probably been within miles of us for days. We knew about half of them and introduced ourselves to the rest, only to find that they were all already familiar names. Everyone is trying to make it to Stehekin in time to get their packages from the post office before they close on Saturday, so they’re pushing big miles, even through this difficult terrain. Fortunately we don’t have to worry about that, so we can take our time a little more and watch them all pass us by.
Now that we successfully made it through this body-breaking day, we can hardly believe that we only have 6 days left of hiking. We’ve been unable to stop ourselves from counting down for a while now, but in the final week, it finally feels justified. Sometimes my creativity has gone a little haywire when thinking of ways to count down to the finish. At one point I wished I had a string of those paper rings that we could tear the end off of every day, I’ve pulled out my phone to calculate hours and minutes that we have left, and when we had 365 miles left I thought it would be fun to “hike through the year” starting on “January 1st”. When we woke in our tent a few days ago and only had 10 days left, my brain went so far as to suggest that we could cut off one of my fingers at the end of every day until we made it to Canada. Doing a one-week count down seems much more sane and logical.
So now we have eaten our final Thursday dinner and are about ready to sleep in our tent for the last time on a Thursday night. When we put it that way, the end feels a little more bittersweet. We’re going to miss this life and this trail, even if it does leave us bruised, battered, and exhausted most of the time.