After some hot tubbing and home cooked food in Portland we headed back to the trail. But, first we stopped at REI to pick up some better rain gear for the infamous rainy Washington. Then we rushed back to cascade locks to get to the post office before it closed so I could get my new shoes and backpack as well as send all our food for Washington ahead to ourselves. We made it just in time and chaotically got everything taken care of. At the locks we met up with Cali’s uncle, Jim, who came out to hike with us to Whites Pass, a 150mi stretch. We also had Madeline, Shana’s dog, joining us for a few days. We left the locks late in the afternoon and the hike started with me carrying Madeline over the Bridge of Gods due to the grated openings. We hiked only a few miles to a campsite near a pond and set up as the sun fell below the horizon. In the morning we took off out of the locks and back into the mountains. We got up on the ridge and had an amazing view of Hood, Adams, Rainier, and St. Helens. Because of lack of flat camping areas we ended up going 21 miles until we found an old logging road to pitch our tents. A long day for Jim’s first full day on trail but he did great. The next day we only went 11 miles to a campground on trail where we were met up with Pat and Shana to give Madeline back. On our way there Jim taught us some mushroom identification! We found tons of chanterelles and also some lobster mushrooms. Over the next few days we also learned to identify king boletes and bears head tooth. At the campground we went swimming at the river and relaxed. When Pat and Shana arrived they made us a big pasta dinner and Jim cooked up the mushrooms to add. It was a delicious meal; Sherpa, another thru-hiker we had met along the trail previously, also joined us for the feast. The first short day out of the locks and then a half day to meet Pat put us a little behind schedule to get to White pass in time for Jim to head home. To make up for lost time we did 23, and 24 miles the next two days, we were definitely showing Jim the relentless pace of through hiking. We realized the next day that we may have pushed him a little too much so we eased off the pace and did 15 miles to a beautiful campsite next to a waterfall at the base of Mt. Adams. We had a relaxing afternoon hanging out; picking huckleberries, cooking mushrooms, and sitting around the fire. We had 50 miles left to White Pass and heard from Otter, a fellow thru-hiker, that there was a storm moving in. We went 20 miles to a protected campsite in the trees, staging ourselves to go over the Goat Rocks, an exposed ridge up in the alpine that is supposed to have some of the best views on the entire trail. As we made camp that night it began to rain and it continued to rain all night. In the morning we debated waiting out the storm but decided to tough it out and go for it. As we started hiking we passed a handful of hikers that had opted to wait it out and were hunkered down in their tents. As we got up above tree line the rain turned to hail and an inch or so of hail had already accumulated on the trail. It was brutally cold but as long as we kept moving we were able to stay warm enough. The whole area was socked in and we couldn’t see more than 100 yards. We crossed snow field after snow field, one being extremely steep and with one false step you would go sliding down a couple hundred feet into the rocks below. Jim fell right at the end of an icy section but luckily managed to grab some rocks at the edge of it and pull himself onto the trail. As we hiked what is called the knifes edge we were getting blasted with hail and wind. We didn’t take a break for twenty miles, then finally dropped down out of the wind and into the trees. There was a hunting camp with tarps and a canvas tent set up along the trail and no one was there so we took refuge there to warm up. We cooked up some hot food and put on some dry clothes and decided to push the final ten miles to White Pass rather than make camp. The rain subsided and we hiked the last few miles under headlamp. Upon reaching the pass everything in the small resort town was closed. We approached a hotel office but all lights were out, I decided to knock anyways in hopes of having a nice warm dry place to sleep for the night. Luckily the manager was there and Jim treated us to a room. We cooked up dinner and crashed after the long 30 mile day through some of the toughest conditions we had had on the entire trail. Of course the next day the weather was amazing, warm with clear skies; we may have missed the amazing views but we had an epic wild adventure that I will always remember. We dried out all of our stuff, did laundry, and had some pizza. Jim’s girlfriend Rebecca picked him up and brought our resupply food that we had given her back at the locks. We said farewell and took off back on the trail as we were meeting some friends at Snoqualmie Pass in 5 days. We meandered our way through the woods with amazing views of Rainier, dominating the sunlit skies as we passed by. We baked bread in tinfoil over the fire, made cornbread and chili, and enjoyed all nature had to offer.
We met up with Alison, Haley, and Tyler at Snoqualmie pass. They were joining us for the section to Stevens pass, about 75mi. It was a blast hiking with them, as we passed though some beautiful wilderness and had some great camp sites by lakes and rivers. A big thunder and lightning storm rolled in just as we got to the pass and Tyler drove us down to the Dinsmores’ house, PCT trail angels, where he dropped Cali and I off and they headed back to Seattle. The Dinsmores were great, they had converted a large garage into a bunk house for hikers and it was a cozy place to be as the storm rolled through. Lots of other hikers were there and we all hung out and watched a movie that night. In the morning Cali and I got breakfast at the small diner across the street and organized our resupply. Not ones to wait out the rain or spend much time in town we caught a ride that afternoon to the trail and took off towards Stehekin, the final resupply town. We wanted to slow down for the final stretch but it was either push a bit or have to wait three days for the post office to reopen after the long weekend that was coming, so we maintained a reasonable pace. This section was beautiful but challenging, twenty mile days were usually a pretty relaxed day but here it was a push. The days were shorter, there were lots of ups and downs through rough terrain, and our bodies were wearing down. Somehow Cali and I always managed to take the entire day to get to camp no matter how far we were going. We seemed to be always setting up in the dark, it was what worked for us. We loved taking lots of breaks throughout the day and enjoying the beauty of our surroundings. Thru-hiking isn’t about getting to specific campsites but rather experiencing the journey along the trail. Hiking at sunset was the best time to be on the trail. Most people had set up camp for the night but we continued on as the lighting had a warmth and energy that revived us and made us really appreciate where we were. On this section we hiked by Glacier Peak. The days leading up to the mountain had exemplified classic northwest weather- cloudy, gray and drizzly. However the skies cleared as we climbed towards the peak, and that special evening the sun shone through, lighting up Glacier as we hiked over its shoulder. A couple days later we reached Stehekin in time to get our resupply box from the post office. We then went to the famous bakery that every hiker talks about in Washington and had an enormous sticky bun and coffee. We spent the day in town hanging out with Sundog and Giggles, a couple that we frequently ran into along the trail. We found out that the little town of Stehekin was having a town party that night where their 8 piece band was playing. Cali and I caught a ride to the house where the band was playing under some tents in a field. It was a great time, the whole town showed up, which this time of year was only around 50 people. We danced all night, enjoyed the potluck food, and met the local crowd. In the morning we caught the first bus back to the trail and on the way grabbed some pastries from the bakery for our lunch. We were excited for the final leg of the trail but also dreaded leaving the simplistic lifestyle that it provided. However, we heard snow was moving in on the north cascades so it was definitely time to finish up. Out of Stehekin we hiked up to Rainy pass in the rain where just over a year earlier Cali and I had crossed the North Cascades on the final stretch of our cross country bike ride from Baltimore to Seattle. In the morning we hiked up into the freshly snow covered mountains. It was definitely cold but the views were amazing. We were able to camp below the snowline allowing for a more pleasant night’s sleep. The last day was picture perfect, the sun was out, the mountains were dusted with fresh snow, and there were expansive views of the North Cascades and the not-so-distant mountain ranges within Canada. To start in the hot dry desert and finish in the snow covered mountains capped off the trail perfectly. The hiking season was coming to an end and I had walked the length of the country and experienced the vast diversity the pacific crest trail has to offer. Reaching the monument at the border in the middle of the woods was anticlimactic. There was no expansive view or historic point, just an arbitrary line defined by a swatch of clear cut trees defining the border between the US and Canada. This just solidified that the PCT is not about the destination, but the journey along the way.