The Trail Head

Hiking the Continental Divide, Pacific Crest and Appalachian Trail

Hiking the Pacific Crest Trail from Mexico to Canada

4/17/85

 

4/17/85

I walked away from civilization today.

Trash along the highway dulled the natural rush of beginning our six-month trek into nature. 


In Moreno Village, we visited the first in a series of small town diners. A young wife in a ball cap juggled grill duty and register ringing as a rag tag collection of customers stand about patiently. Never in the city…

Meredith and Charlene, our first PCT groupie, guide us through a green maze, give us hot chocolate.  Fields of wild lilac, akin to scenes from the Wizard of Oz, lead us to our campsite just off the lake in the midst of a manzanita stand. An oak tree towers by.  

We leave them for camp.

 

 

A minute on months of planning:

Down to:

-day-by-day itinerary

-dinner menu

-water filter: $45 so we can feel safe from giardiasis, an intestinal bacteria they wa could be in any water we find. It’s a fine mess we’ve gotten ourselves into when you can’t drink water out in nature.

In the time before we left Albuquerque, so many people thought we had already gone. It was six weeks from the end of my job to the start of the hike, a time in limbo, much of it spent planning.

Spending, thinking, wondering over.

I no longer delight in weekends, 5’o’clock, but the steady hum of my stove warms my demeanor. The quiet makes me want to stare off into the candle all night.

We’re through day one, 164 to go.

 

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10/4/85

Up early, we push up Miers Creek, over Suiattle Pass. Take Railroad Creek Trail, old PCT. Find Jeff and Keith at site after my break. So I take another, sing my giardia song based on old standard,"Youve Got a smiling face" and based on knowledge the protozoa giardia lamblia looks like a smiling face under a microscope. "Scoop a cup of water, you've picked up a smiling face.  Drink up that cup of water, you've swallowed a smiling face. Giardia Lamblia's all over the place. You've swallowed a smiling face."

Back on trail, long descent along creeks. Lost temporarily, we get back to PCT. Push past 5-mile Camp. Pitch on trail near Agnes Creek. Crash, but I'm up updating, reading before dark. 

Note: This is no longer fun. We're all tired of it., only continue to finish what we've started. Everything smells. Views no longer balance the doldrums. Boots latest in Gear Wars. May have giardia. Intestines certainly jumpy!

105/85

After early morning writing and reading, back to sleep.  Up again dark. Out of tent, on trail as daylight hits. Pass Keith and Jeff just up the trail. Tired, I hike through dense forest to bridge across Agnes Creek. Cross, down road to guard station. Keith and Jeff show up quickly. We sit, decide to hike uphill to bus stop. But a truck ride changes this plan. We ride into Stehekin. 

Beautiful rid down to Stehekin, on Lake Chelan. Head down to showers, laundry. After first shower since Packwood, head back to cafe. $9 meal a bit overpriced, but a welcome change from freeze-dried fare. Talk with Goodales, a couple from Twisp. who'll call my brother Bob for me about meeting in Canada. never conceived our las stop would be phoneless. Keith shows up. Apparently he tired of being launderer. We're left to retrieve our own. Exchange words. I get clothes, return to update, kill time 'til we get a better shot at our mail.

Lounge on deck, read Rolling Stone from David Forrest, a co-worker in Midland, Texas, cover to cover. Passersby amused, interested by my repose.

Head down, pitch nearby at campground. Head back for dinner. Postmaster shows up as we drink at bar. Ecstatic, although happy for respite, get mail from Don Pitts, our latest savior. Back at restaurant, we open mail. Boxes from Mom, JL will get me to the border. Also letters from Mom and Grama with $20.

Big steak dinner. Down for to visitor's center for mushroom presentation by pretty rangerette. Afterward I tell her my joke: What did the left toe say to the right toe? There's fungus among us." Back to camp as rain returns to unsettle my nerves.

 

10/6/85

During night, dump in trail in dark after futile flashlight search for latrine. Up later, I find, bury, head up to breakfast.

I lose debate over waiting for better weather. Rush to ready, catch shuttle up the hill and out of Chelan as it passes.

Pack at shelter, girls who fail to call my brother Bob entertain, divide our attention as we pack for the last stretch. 

Hike out ahead of Keith and Jeff. Down road, back on trail. Into woods, cross Bridge Creek on bridge. Up again. Nice peaks though snowy tops make me shiver. Bowan Mt., etc. Push to hideaway Camp with time to spare for a change. Eat, crash, as cold hits.      

10/7/85

Hike out early, cold and wet. Hike up to Rainy Pass in track shoes I’ve worn since 40 miles before Stehekin. Change to boots after walking highway to trailhead. Immediately we climb. Jeff lost until Bensen Creek Camp.

Awesome peaks as we head into the Northern Cascades for real. Snow deepens. Follow Jeff tread up to Cuthroat Pass, where Keith and I try to take a break in below-freezing temperatures.

A bit unnerved, we hike on across ridges, etc.. The excitement now replaced by uneasiness with weather, desire to finish. Tough ups and downs.

Catch Keith at Willis Camp just before dark. Eat, crash to escape the cold.

10/8/85

Hike thankfully downhill, then bck up into snow. Big push up Glacier Pass, Grasshopper Pass. Goat hunters coming down warn of trouble ahead. Keith and I break in chill, then push on. Boots a problem, I hike after the long-legged Jones.

Around, up, then down to Harts Pass. Against my better judgment, push on down to catch Keith at agreed-upon spot. Tough climb, too much snow on ridge. Eventually ridge walking, but it’s too dark. I ditch in a shelter of trees, no hot dinner. Pitch in the dark, a bit scared.

10/8/85

Hike thankfully downhill, then back up into snow. Big push up Glacier Pass, Grasshopper Pass. Goat hunters coming down warn of trouble ahead. Keith and I break in chill, then push on. Boots a problem, I hike after the long-legged Jones.

Around, up, then down to Harts Pass. Against my better judgment, push on down to catch Keith at agreed-upon spot. Tough climb, too much snow on ridge. Eventually ridge walking, but it’s too dark. I ditch in a shelter of trees, no hot dinner. Pitch in the dark, a bit scared.

10/9/85

Morning breaks with frozen boots. Painfully I push them on, push on ahead miserable. Keith and Jeff just ahead. I drink some hot Tang, push over “true to its name Windy Pass,” which is actually calm. Resolved to “only” do 15 miles, get in position for final day’s push.

Snow remains deep, drifts up to knees in spots. More switchbacking climbs. See Keith and Jeff at bottom of switchbacks into Rock Creek Valley. Deep snow on the way down. Then back up. Dead I pull into spot just below Woody Pass. Cook, crash as snow begins to fall in earnest, putting our anticipated finish in doubt.

Up early, I push out over snowy pass. Jeff catches me before the last big climb,  in threatening weather and clouds through snow up the ridge.  Keith catches us as the trail swichbacks gleefully down. Short stop at Hopkins Pass. Meet Jean from the Gaspe,  snow on the barren tops of his sandaled feet, as he headed south.  His attitude convinces me to abandon boots for the final time. Down I go.

Sign "4 miles to U.S. border" stuns me to reality of event about to take place. Push to monument. Keith and Jeff there, we shoot photos, celebrate, feast, read notes of other hikers inside miniature version of Washington Monument on border.


Then final miles, one last climb, up to Windy Joe Pass area. Then down to the road. Almost running, I make short work of road miles. Rain little worry. We've made it.

Jeff catches me near Highway 3. My ankle almost gives out as we hike up to lodge. Brother Bob there. Wild happiness. Call Mom. It's the anniversary of my father's death. I'm sure he's proud.

2,600 miles. From Mexico to Canada, the entire Pacific Crest Trail. From weekend backpacker to knowledgeable vet. What have I learned, only time will tell.

 

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