PCT Days 132-135: Stehekin to Manning Park

I caught the first bus back up to High Bridge at 8.15 in the morning. The driver was nice enough to make a quick stop at the bakery on the way up and so I was able to pack out as much baked goods as I possibly could. By the look of him I think he makes that stop on every journey. I had already oversupplied for the last three and a half days but I still thought I should take at least twelve items of baked goods, half of which I consumed on the bus.

Just four more days and 80 miles and I would be in Canada. The end really was in sight and so I was determined to make the most of the little time I had left on trail.

Full of pastry, I was very grateful for the easy terrain that followed, climbing a gentle 2000 feet over 20 miles up the Stehekin valley to the aptly-named Rainy Pass. The day had started off beautifully with clear skies and the sun shining but by mid-afternoon the clouds descended and the rain began to fall.

Coon Lake

Coon Lake


At Rainy Pass I received a double helping of trail magic, grabbing a drink from a cooler by the highway, before crossing to the trailhead on the opposite of the road where a group of girls had been cooking up burgers for hikers in the rain. They were just packing away when I arrived, having run out of food, but I had a beer with them and they gave me another for the trail which I drunk at camp by Porcupine Creek that evening after hiking another couple of miles.

Another beautiful day followed, starting with a long climb up to Cutthroat Pass where the sunrise cast a strange orangey glow over the mountains and low clouds hovered below me, so thick it seemed I could almost walk across them. I descended to Brush Creek before beginning a 2600 foot climb, the last really difficult ascent of the entire trail.

Cutthroat Pass

Cutthroat Pass


I ended the 28 mile day at the campground at Hart’s Pass where some more trail magic was waiting. Walking Home, who I had met up Forrester Pass way back in the Sierras in June, had had to leave trail due to injury, and had driven up here for the weekend to make food for hikers. I set up camp and sat around eating and drinking for the best part of the evening until the freezing cold night drove me into the warm embrace of my sleeping bag.

I woke up to a grey, misty morning with frost coating my tent and shoes that had been left outside. I quickly packed up and started walking as fast as I could to warm up, eating my breakfast on the go. This was my last full day on the trail, and the fact that it took me ten minutes to find where the trail continued boded well for the last 40 miles.

I finally found my way out of Harts Pass and hiked along fairly easy ridges at high elevation for most of the day. I’m sure the views would have been magnificent if not for the thick layer of mist obscuring everything 20 feet beyond me. It was a bitterly cold day with occasional light rain – I had to constantly keep on the move since whenever I stopped my extremities began to freeze.

Late in the afternoon the trail rose to reach 7150 feet, a high point from which it would be all downhill to Canada. Looking to the north the clouds cleared for just long enough for me to see across the mountains to Canada spread out ahead of me. I ate a celebratory Snickers and prepared myself for the final descent to the border.


I could quite easily have made it all the way to Canada that evening but since I was in no rush, I decided to camp at Castle Pass, about five miles south of the border, setting myself up to finish with a nice easy stroll in the morning.

I pitched my tent for the final time and sat round a campfire sharing my last night on trail with a few section hikers – Smudge, Toaster, Quest and two girls whose names I’ve forgotten but were just starting their hike on the Boundary Trail, which follows the Canadian border for 54 miles.

Since I didn’t have far to go in the morning, I allowed myself to sleep in. I usually wake up at 5am so this meant waking up at a leisurely 5.45 instead. I packed up slowly for the last time, ate my breakfast of pop tarts and Clif bars for the last time, used the nearby facilities (a bush) for the last time and then set off – for the last time.

Just a short, easy few miles downhill and I would be at the border. There was absolutely nothing that could stop me now. Even if I broke both my legs right now I could crawl the last few miles. I have had a recurring dream while I’ve been on trail about a giant hand that hovers over the PCT and picks up one hiker at random each day and drops them 30 miles back along the trail. If this had happened to me now I would have killed myself.

After an hour or so, I reached a clearing in the forest and saw the terminus monument of which I’d seen so many pictures. It was bigger than I was expecting, even though it was an exact replica of the one I had started at in Campo, 135 days and 2650 miles ago.

It then hit me that this was it. I had finished my thru-hike. I had successfully walked the entire Pacific Crest Trail from Mexico to Canada. At first I didn’t really feel anything but relief – relieved that I had made it, relieved that I hadn’t failed, relieved that all the time and money and effort I’d invested in this hike hadn’t been for nothing, but mostly relieved that after four and a half months I was going home.

I took some photos and sat on a log staring at the monument in what felt like shock for the best part of an hour. It was so surreal to be here at the end. I’d been living in this localised bubble for the last few months, confined by the boundaries of an 18-inch wide trail but now I had reached the end of my small world. I was about to step through the door of my own personal Truman Show, into real life where the rules of social acceptability apply and my every move would no longer be followed by everyone back home. A few more steps across the border and I would be back in civilisation.

Well, not quite. This sense of finality was short-lived as I then realised I had to walk another eight miles to get out of the wilderness. Hiking non-PCT miles – whether to get to a town, campsite or water source – was always frustrating, but even moreso now that I had just finished my thru-hike and should have been done with walking for good.

I left the monument and walked across the border, noticing a big bag of drugs hanging from a tree. Probably a thru-hiker had decided it was a bad idea to smuggle his stash across the border so abandoned them. I could sympathise; I was carrying about 11 extra Clif bars in my food bag so I knew exactly what it was like to oversupply.

Even though it was an easy, forested trail, the eight miles to Manning Park seemed like the slowest, most difficult miles of the entire walk. In my head I was done, so why was I still walking? I just wanted to be inside with clean clothes, some food and a beer.

I finally made it to the highway and the resort of Manning Park and the minute I took off my pack and put it down was when the emotions hit me. No more walking. It was really the end. I didn’t know how I should be feeling. I felt overjoyed that I had made it all the way, sad that it was over, excited to be going back to England, but mostly I just felt hungry and tired.

My journey on the PCT was over, and I was going home.

The end!

The end!

Thank you!

My hike from Mexico to Canada is to raise money for SANE mental health charity. Thanks to everyone who has generously sponsored me I am getting closer and closer to my target of raising £3000 but I’m not there yet. If you would like to donate any amount (even just £1), visit my donation page here.

Mile 2580: Eve Parker

Mile 2580: Eve Parker

Mile 2590 - Oliver Ivins

Mile 2590 – Oliver Ivins

Mile 2600 - Sam Norton

Mile 2600 – Sam Norton

Mile 2610 - Zoe Buckland

Mile 2610 – Zoe Buckland

Mile 2620 - Tammy from Timberline Lodge

Mile 2620 – Tammy from Timberline Lodge

Mile 2630 - Callum Haste

Mile 2630 – Callum Haste

Mile 2640 - Philip Halpin

Mile 2640 – Philip Halpin

13 replies
  1. Ken Mon
    Ken Mon says:

    Congrats. Well done. Really enjoyed your blog and thanks for the stunning photos!I Recently finished a book called Walking Man- The Secret Life of Colin Fletcher. After one long long walk he wrote the piece below- You might connect more with it than us blog readers as you have done it.

    “Now anyone returning from a long backpacking trip into the wilderness understands that the profound meanings of the journey will not float to the surface right away. They come to understanding slowly, layer by layer. Sure, the big lessons become clear, probably while you are still out there. Some deeper meanings unfold weeks or even months later. But the most profound meanings can endure for years in a sort of eventide dusk. You know they are there, but they lie waiting for a time when you are ready to understand them—or perhaps you never will.”

    Cheers
    Kenmon

    Reply
  2. Tarsi Wilding
    Tarsi Wilding says:

    what an amazing experience and trip of a lifetime. I love the way you write, your passion and the pictures you took during this trip. Thank you for taking us with you in your journey. It has been a great pleasure to read about your adventures.

    Reply
  3. Beverly
    Beverly says:

    Congratulations for completing your trek. And thanks for taking me along! Best wishes for a safe trip home.
    (Maybe you’ll pick another trail someday. . .the US has two more big ones. *wink, wink, nudge, nudge* Or maybe you’ll never want to see another mountain, ever.)
    Again, thanks.

    Reply
  4. Jann
    Jann says:

    I really enjoyed this final post. And indeed, your entire journal of your thr-hike on the PCT. There were many chuckles and beautiful photographs throughout.

    Safe travels home, and best of everything to you.
    Jann

    Reply

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