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Day 146: An End and A Beginning

Posted by on September 28, 2015

September 23, 2015
Tentsite at Woody Pass (2649.2) to Manning Park – CANADA! (2668.7)
19.5 PCT miles today
2705.3 miles total
Today’s Elevation Gain/Loss: + 3,224 ft, – 5,956 ft

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We did it!! We actually walked all the way from Mexico to Canada. The completion of this journey has left me speechless. There is no way to accurately put into words the amount of pride, joy, gratitude, and disbelief that I currently feel, but of course I will try. We woke this morning to some of the best views that we’ve had since the High Sierras and the final 12 miles that we hiked to the Northern Terminus at the U.S./Canada border flew by. After that, another 8 miles delivered us into the arms of Mama Bear and the warmth and comfort of a restaurant and room at Manning Park’s lodge. We thoroughly enjoyed our third day in a row of crisp, clear blue skies and, in looking back on today, could not have asked for a better ending to this adventure.

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It was so cold this morning that we actually got to hike in our puffy jackets all the way to the border. The early morning sunrise colored the North Cascades in pinks and purples and in between constant stops for photos, Pickles and I randomly exclaimed our disbelief that today we would actually finish. We’d be hiking along when I would shake my head and simply state “wow”, Image 18and then a few minutes later Pickles would comment “Only a few hours left, can you believe it?” We passed a few more hikers (none of which we knew) that were coming back from the monument, and one couple informed us that we were quite close, but that we should be warned there was a trail crew doing some work, so we’d probably hear chainsaws before we saw the border. Our final approach did in fact herald the sounds of chain saws and shouting voices and what we found at the border almost trumped the actual monument. Two Canadian employees were chopping down trees and bucking them up less than 20 feet from the PCT monument. They didn’t look exactly professional, and they certainly didn’t act it. After taking quick notice of us, they began cursing and yelling at one another. The woman was dressed in such a ridiculous full-body Carhart suit that we actually considered for a moment whether or not this was some sort of skit that they were putting on just for us.

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Needless to say, the arguing, interspersed with the wild flailing around of the chainsaw, was a bit distracting. We tried to ignore them as we hugged the monument, drank some PBR, ate a celebratory Snickers, and wrote in the register, but when our friend Milkman arrived about 20 minutes later, we took the opportunity to take a few photos and then move on. We felt eager to actually be done hiking and felt that making it to Manning Park, and seeing Mama Bear, might make for a more “monumental” finish.

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The final mile, on a completely flat and well-maintained trail, may have been the longest of my life. New aches and pains actually manifested themselves in my knees, ankles, and even left foot that I had never felt before, and when we finally emerged from the forest out onto a road, I couldn’t have felt more relieved and ecstatic to see Mama Bear sitting in her Volvo waiting for us. We hadn’t had any reception since we last saw her in Steven’s Pass and we weren’t sure if she knew when to meet us, but based on her track record, we should have figured she’d be prepared. She greeted us with ringing bells, little “PCT finisher medals” that she made herself, shots of whiskey, and lots of congratulatory hugs and tears. It made for the perfect end to our journey, and finally helped the fact that we were done sink in. After greeting Milkman in similar style 20 minutes later, we all headed a mile down the road (in the car of course…no more walking for us) to the lodge. We spent the rest of this evening eating dinner, watching some incredibly touching videos that Mama Bear had put together for us, and resting.

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If there was a Trail Angel of the Year award, it would have to go to Mama Bear. As an only child, who grew up in a predominantly single-parent household, I’m used to my mother being “highly involved” in my life, so I wasn’t all that surprised when she left her home in San Diego to join us for much of this adventure. From the start, Mama Bear has been a valuable and supportive aspect of our PCT hike.  Image 29She has helped us in more ways than I could ever list here, but they include meeting us at trailheads, bringing us our rations, sharing hotel rooms with us, and keeping us well-fed while off trail. And of course, her role in this blog cannot be understated. When it was first discovered on day 2 of this hike that the WordPress app would not be a reasonable way for me to keep a daily blog, she eagerly volunteered to be my go-between and help post each daily blog. From that day forward, the blog has truly been a family affair. I write, Pickles takes most the photos, we send it all to Mama Bear when we have reception, and she posts the blogs so they come out on a daily basis. To top it all off, Mama Bear outdid herself with a slideshow of our entire trip that she had set to music (all songs about hiking) and a video compilation that included recorded congratulations from many of our favorite people. We will never be able to thank Mama Bear enough for all she’s done, but I can rest assured knowing that she has so enjoyed her trail angel role, and gotten so much out of this summer herself, that we’re not completely in her debt.

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As this day draws to a close, I identify most powerfully with two emotions. One is my love for the Pacific Crest Trail and the other is my immense relief that Pickles and I made it to the end and can finally rest. I know that the days, weeks, and months to come will include much processing and reflection, but I also know that, some time very soon, I will need to make the transition into planning and preparation for our next adventure. One month from tomorrow, I have the privilege of marrying Pickles in North Lake Tahoe, and there is still much that needs to be done. Within that month we need to move into a home, get a car, and start working. The PCT may be over, but our life of adventure has only just begun. I plan on taking a break from the daily blog after tonight, but I will be back with occasional posts (including some more details about our gear) in the weeks to come. The next long-distance trip that we have planned will be a bike tour of New Zealand next fall, so keep us in mind and check back soon for more stories of adventure. Thank you for following us on our journey and we hope your own story finds you out on the trail, enjoying all that nature has to offer.

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The completion of our 2015 thru-hike of the PCT is dedicated to our dear friend Susan and her 2-year-old son, Daniel. Daniel was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia in April of this year, and we hope to help alleviate some of the financial burden of treatment by petitioning readers of our blog to please consider making a financial contribution to Susan and her family by going to this website: Any amount is greatly appreciated. Susan keeps an incredibly well-written blog documenting her journey that you can find at Daniel is a little fighter and we wouldn’t be surprised to find him out here on the trail one day. Thank you in advance for your generosity and may you and your family stay well.

33 Responses to Day 146: An End and A Beginning

  1. brewella deville

    Congratulations! Here’s to you, and your husband to be, and to your awesome mom with the good taste in bourbon.

  2. Cristi

    So happy for you two! CONGRATULATIONS! I have been eagerly following your entire hike since I found it around day 4 when I was beginning some research about hiking the PCT. Everyday I have looked forward to hearing about your day. This last week was excruciating to wait to see what happened! I am from Portland but was in Colorado when you passed through, would have loved to somehow find you at the food carts to actually meet. I feel like we know each other because I have been cheering you on and admiring you both from the sidelines. I am so glad you shared your journey because I know now I am too wimpy and I am not ever going to do the whole PCT but maybe one day maybe I will do the 200 mile John Muir Portion. Thank you so much for helping me have an insight into this adventure. Best wishes to you both on your wedding day and beyond!

  3. jason rowe

    Congratulations Rochelle and Don!!!

    I’ve been following your blog and, even tho I have not commented until now, I’ve been very much following yoru journey through your thoughful writing and phography.

    Thank you for sharing your journey! I’m super proud and inspired by you.

    I know you have been back for a week now, so hopefully your getting the rest you need and your foot will finally heal. I’m looking forward to seeing you (and meeting Don) soon.



  4. Sarah Coston

    What a wonderful adventure. Congratulations to both of you and much love to your mom, too, for all the wonderful support she gave both of you. She also had an adventure she will never forget.

  5. Bill

    Way to go Rochelle!!!! You, Pickles and Moma Bear have completed an amazing journey and a huge accomplishment. I have enjoyed following your adventure. I really like your writing style, and could picture myself on the trail. I actually followed in your steps from Mammoth to Sonora Pass this summer , and it was cool thinking that you had been in some of the same campsites, not long before me. I’m impressed that you were able to write a blog every night, as it was all I could do, to put up my tent, make some dinner, then crawl into my sleeping bag.
    I really hope everything gets better and works out with your feet.
    Look forward to hearing from you again
    Victoria, BC
    Bill recently posted…Tennis in Koh Samui Thailand-The World’s Best Beaches and Fantastic Places to RallyMy Profile

  6. Joe/Kim Cole


  7. Adam Dresser

    Congratulations! It was nice to follow your trip. I was figuring you would pass me and I’d get to meet you, but then that toe infection took me out. But it was nice to finish it out virtually through your blog. Best wishes, and if you post them here on this blog, I would love to read about your future adventures too. Cheers!
    Adam Dresser recently posted…Where There’s Smoke…My Profile

  8. Joshua Gow

    I have been following you thru your journey and just wanted to say Congratulations! Good luck on your next journey.

  9. Sheila

    Congratulations! I do hope you are able to come back to Washington someday and really see it. I know I am biased, but I think it is the most beautiful place in the world. I love my view of Mt. Adams every day, and even though I drive over White Pass once a month the beauty of the drive and views of Mt. Rainier always amaze me. Late July-early August is nearly perfect here.

    Thank you for sharing your journey. It has been wonderful to follow your adventures, and I’m sure your next adventures will be even more fabulous. I hope we will get to see a wedding picture!

    Wishing you all the happiness in the world!

    • Rochelle

      Thank you Sheila! I hadn’t thought about it, but you’re right, we should post up some photos after the wedding! I can’t blog right now…but you can expect some postings in November and December.
      Rochelle recently posted…Day 146: An End and A BeginningMy Profile

  10. Jeremie Countryman

    I can’t begin to tell you how happy I am for the both of you to have accomplished such an amazing journey. I have spent the last four months reading all of your posts and have made it a point to check your site everyday for your latest adventure. I felt my self living vicariously through your posts and through out your journey. I am about to enter the next chapter in my life as you are entering the next chapter in yours. As you have completed the PCT and started in your next adventure I will be retiring from the Military after 26 years and am making plans to also complete the PCT as a way of starting a new life. I have hiked most of the trail through Washington and Oregon but want to do the whole thing as you have done.

    It is really bad that the weather here in Washington turned bad literally three days before you arrived. The stretch between Trout Lake and Rainer is beautiful if it is not raining….

    I hope to follow your next adventure and I really hope that you continue writing as you are an awesome writer and adventurer.

    Good Luck to you and your soon to be husband. Just remember as one adventure ends another adventure begins!

    Thank You
    Jeremie K Countryman
    Rochester Washington

    PS If you ever want to hike through the Olympics you want to go in July and August, it is the driest part of the year!!

    • Rochelle

      Thank you Jeremie! I have a feeling that despite all our protests, we’ll probably be back to hike Washington in drier times. The terrain is challenging, but I am sure the weather was what really kicked our butts. Thanks for following along and good luck on your hike, too!!
      Rochelle recently posted…Day 146: An End and A BeginningMy Profile

  11. Tom


  12. Christie Valenzona

    Congrats Rochelle! Your journey has been amazing to follow. You are both such an inspiration!

  13. John Martin

    A big congratulations for completing your thru-hike from Mexico to Canada. Also, thank you for writing this excellent blog. I can imagine how difficult it must have been to take the time each day to write when you must have been exhausted from hiking big miles. I’ve been following your blog for the past few months because you and Pickles have been hiking about three days ahead of my daughter, Soccer Mom, who also did the trail this year. Your blog helped me to have a sense of the weather and terrain that she was hiking in. Best of luck with your upcoming wedding and your future endeavors!
    John Martin recently posted…Day 146: An End and A BeginningMy Profile

    • Rochelle

      Hi John! I met Soccer Mom only for about 5 minutes on the morning that we left Castle Crags State Park but she was super sweet and said she’d been seeing us in the register since the beginning. Everyone was always talking about her and how awesome she is 🙂 Thanks for reading the blog, we’re glad you enjoyed it!
      Rochelle recently posted…Day 146: An End and A BeginningMy Profile

  14. Lisa

    Congratulations! Been reading your blog since I met you two in Cascade locks. I hope you upload the video Mamma bear did. Sounds really cool. Take care 🙂

  15. Eats Rocks & Dirt

    Congratulations! I met you at Stampede Pass in Washington and am so glad to hear that you completed the hike. I’m also happy that you got to see some of beautiful Washington.

  16. Mike Flanagan

    Wow, congrats!! Thanks for sharing your stories.

  17. Ross

    Rochelle. Your blog has been a fabulous read, and congratulations to you and Pickles on the completion of your PCT adventure.

    If you do get “down under” to NZ next year, do not hesitate to contact me. We live on the east coast of the North Island, and would be happy to assist you in any way we can. PCT has been on my bucket list for about thirty years. One day maybe..


  18. Heather Walls

    A delayed and double congratulations on your completion and your wedding! I only found your blog about a month ago and have been reading it whenever I can starting at day 1. It has solidified in me that I will do this thru-hike but there will be much that is out of my comfort zone that hopefully will be overcome on this very long walk.

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