Day 155 – Hopkins Lake to Canada! 10km

The day we’ve been walkin for. Well not really but an important one in the saga. We hit the road at 6:30am and begin descending into the final valley. We are slack packing because we left our tent at Hopkins lake. After visiting the monument we have to hike 30 miles back to Harts Pass to get a ride into the big smoke. 
Walking this morning was not comfortable. I began to notice yesterday that we were pushing ourselves to the very end like some strange personal pilgrimage. It was tainting my appreciation of the landscape, not being able to stop and take it in. Also it was excruciating to be this close but still be walking, then all of a sudden it is a if the forest ejected you into a strange linear meadow, there is the monument. 

There is a cleared stripe of trees to denote the border along the 49th parallel. I just stared at it for a while, grinning from ear to ear, it was 8:30am. Then all of a sudden Quiz emerges from the forest and starts to tear up. We have a big hug and proceed to make whisky coffee and get photos with the monument. No Show arrives and shows us where the log book is. The 78th marker is the second statue but in by the US Government along the border, when you remove the top there is the ultimate pct log book. I write Turkey D’s first official Female Wresting advertisement! 

No Show hits the road back to Harts Pass and we have some alone time at the border. All emotions on the spectrum are felt; disbelief, euphoria, sorrow, hysteria and this feeling of epic time, in terms of how much older and wiser we all feel. It also feels as though a huge weight has been lifted, we walked from Mexico to Canada and we were so dedicated to that for so long, now our tasks were small in comparison. For a second I felt invincible, even though we are far from it. It’s amazing what you can build on day by day and how that can accumulate into something ginormous. 

While our path has not been continuous or in any way linear, we have had a completely different experience of the pct than compared to other years. Personal goals have been abandoned and questioned when things have never been easy or predictable. To keep hiking with the knowledge that nothing is technically ‘finished’ and making your own journey out of that was a huge challenge and humbled us to the natural environment which was at times totally inhospitable. Still finishing feels like an acceptance of our limitations and a celebration of the skills we have gained. Be kind/gentle to yourself, love your body and bask in these feelings while you can I say. 

Day 154 – Harts Pass to Hopkins Lake, 39kms

This is my last day writing the blog, Quiz is signing off. Today was hard emotionally and physically. I though that 2200 miles would have prepared me for a day like today (not my longest or hardest) but I feel like I’m pushing to the end now while my body and mind are waiting to finish. I’m sure I will write something after we have finished the trail and have reflected on the whole mammoth trip.

This morning was beautiful! We hiked along a ridge for miles going though beautiful high passes and meadows, looking at the jagged northern Cascades all around us. The mountains here are truely amazing and I kept saying to Turkey D that she should apply for jobs in Seattle so she can come here more often. We also saw 3 seperate plumes of smoke from the fires threatening the trail and the monument, one only 10 miles away. Luckily the wind is still blowing in the other direction.

So many spikes

Mountains for miles

After being spoilt for the first 8 miles of grandiose easy terrain the trail plunged into the trees and we descended to a wooded saddle before starting our climb. We stopped for lunch by a little stream and talked with Io and the UN Crew (formally the Kidney Stone Crew) and washed our some clothes so we look nice in our monument photos (jokes). We had done 14 miles and only had 10 left but we knew they involved a lot of climbing. 
We didn’t stop for long and soon hit the slopes climbing out of the wood and into high rolling meadows and huge exposed rock faces. I’ll let the photos do most of the talking but it was pretty excellent walking. We passed a few hikers coming the other way many of whom seemed quite emotional. I was semi keeping my feelings in check and TD told me she had a lil cry with Box a hiker she passed on the trail and had never before met. It’s just a nice community like that.

There are fires only a few miles away threatening to shut the trail

Looking towards Rocky Pass

We also got to see Teflon again on our final climb! She was so excited for us and openly admitted to balling her eyes out in this very spot the day before. At the top of our final climb we were sure we were looking at Canada! But by this stage I was too tired to feel emotions I just wanted to get to camp. The trail started to descend steeply down a rocky well eroded slope which scared me in my fatigue and finally made me start crying. I realised I am just tired of pushing myself everyday, 12 hours of walking, confronting my fear of heights, sore feet sore legs, back rub, butt chafe, I’m over it. I know I’m bitching and most of the time I love it, it’s just so hard mentally to struggle on your second last day out here.

TD at Woody Pass

We finally made it to camp (wahoo). Eagle eye TD spotted an owl which was cool. After a stretch and a quick wash in the lake I felt better and we joined UN crew and Io got dinner. We all had really nice reminiscent chats about our favourite moments on trail and the UN Crew gave us a party hat each to go with our whiskey at the monument. What a crazy time, I can’t quite believe that tomorrow we finish, touching that monument is something I have dreamt of doing for so many years and tomorrow it will happen!

Looking down toward Hopkins Lake

Day 153 – Granite Pass to Hart’s Pass – 37kms

We have ourselves an extra 15 minutes this morning, leaving camp at 6:30am to a rather wet and wild world outside. The clouds sat in the valley, sweeping up to lick the sides of the mountains, opening up momentary windows of vision. It was an exciting and disorienting place to be. As the mist began to subside before breakfast we got amazing views of rocky peaks and snow filled glacial valleys. I am mesmerised by a rock that has fallen off the mountain and left a trail of devastation behind it. 

Rockslide Remnants

Morning views through the mist

We had breakfast at Methow Pass below the dramatic Mt Hardy. It felt strange making coffee for two in such a large saucepan and we missed Mushy greatly. I hope he’s doing ok! We didn’t get reception at the Rainy Pass to check that he got to town ok. 

Methow Pass

We plunged into the next valley, into pretty but familiar pine forest. All of a sudden I notice No Show hiking behind us, we chat and filter water together. The path descends for a couple of miles and then swings to the west to take another river valley up to Glacier Pass. This is the main climb of the day and it’s really steady, no steep bits. Quiz and I eat lunch in a sunny meadow at Glacier Pass, half way up the climb, and hang the tent out to dry. The temperature has definitely dropped, its cold in the shade but perfect for hiking during the day. 

Down the valley from Glacier Pass

After lunch we continue our climb up to the top of a ridge and look out toward Azurite Peak and Ballard Mountain. The top of the ridge is sparse with cute spindly pine trees (maybe they are larches? Not sure if they are changing colour). A series of meadows in browns and yellows and reds makes for a warm feeling. I would definitely camp up here if I could do it a second time around! We can probably see Canada from here! We can definitely point out the Diamond Creek fires to the north east. They are still burning but the smoke looks to be blowing east, when we go to the west of them. 

Beautiful larch trees

View from above Glacier Pass

The rest of the day is glorious exposed ridge walking. The flora feels different to the rest of Washiongton’s pct. Many of the pines are smaller, there are less blueberries but more bright red coloured ground cover. The 70 days of no proper rain is far more evident out here, with the grass browned off leaving rocks exposed. 

Collection water before Harts Pass

We catch up with No Show again and get into camp at around 6pm. I found today tiring. The lovely forest service folks at the fire guards cabin give us a beer each and we make dinner and hop in our tents, it’s freezing tonight! 

Day 152 – Bridge Creek Campground to Granite Pass, 35kms

Today I (Quiz) would like to call Out of the Campfire and into the Arctic. What a strange few days we have had, Mushy leaving 😭, the smoke finally clearing yesterday arvo only to have rain and cloud shroud us for all of today. No views for Quiz and Turkey D, poo! 

Today we climbed 5000ft all day long, we literally only went downhill for the last mile. I woke to rain pattering the tent at 5am and it continued off and on building intensity in the afternoon. We set out following Bridge Creek upstream, at our second crossing of the creek we stopped for coffee and were passed by the kidney stone gang. Catalyst came by a but later and stopped to brush her teeth, after a teeth brushing party we all continued on up the valley. Turkey D was in the lead and I was walking as quickly as I could to keep up with Catalyst as she is great to talk to! We chatted queer culture and politics and books and before I realised it we had walked 8 miles, bonus! While Turkey D and I stopped for a break and water filter we were told of trail magic at Rainy Pass. Needless to say our break was brief.

North Fork Agnes River

We hot footed it another few miles and arrived to one of the best trail magics of the trail – ‘PCTs Last Call’. It was excellent for 2 reasons, The Animal and STP (Stop to Piss) were great hosts and characters and were really engaging to talk to, they had also supplied heaps of food and beer! We ate hamburgers and pulled pork croissants, oranges, mandarins, chips and got drunk off 2 beers and a shot of whiskey. Secondly it was excellent because all the kidney stone crew and Catalyst and a few other hikers were there, they cheered us on arrival and then we all sat about in chairs (I know I have mentioned my love of chairs before) and entertained eachother. We stayed 2.5hrs it was so good.

So many log crossings today

What a good gang!

But keep climbing we must so Turkey D and I tipsily crossed the highway, used the dunny and continued up. We hiked from a light misty rain into cloud and proper rain. The trees dropped away and we found ourselves atop Cutthroat Pass, a white windy place where huge pillars of rock occasionally loomed out of the mist. Usually I quite like such atmosphere but today I couldn’t help wishing for views after so much smoke. Oh well at least this rain will be helping with the fires and will probably give us a better chance of making it to the boarder. We are camped in a sheltered spot on a steep ridge, we can hear the wind howling but it’s not touching us here. I cooked from bed and we are warm and dry and cozy.

Rainy post Rainy Pass

Just near Cutthroat Pass

Oh I almost forgot to say we saw a porcupine today! Turkey D disturbed it while it was poking around a log and it ran up a tree. When I came along it was eye level with us and we spent ages staring into its face. I though it had the face of a rabbit crossed with a Labrador but TD though it looked like an alien. 

Day 149 – Vista Creek to South Fork Agnes Creek, 35kms

There is no denying that our bodies are feeling tired, my legs have no oomph left in them and only go at one pace, slow. And we are hungry all the time! I (Quiz) am writing this when our food bags are empty, so maybe it’s a mental thing too. Mentally we are all ready to finish, helped by the fact that today hinted at great sights but the smoke was so thick we couldn’t see much.

Crossing the raging Suiattle

We got up 15 min later this morning as it’s now just too dark to get up at 5.30. We have all been sleeping like babies our bodies are so beat, Washington recently has just been steep ups and downs, my thigh muscles are bulging! I walked in a bit of a daze all day, but this morning the trees are what brought me back to the present. They were huge! And so beautiful and covered in moss, some with twisted trunks. I think it’s probably some of the oldest forest we have been in and this was one of the parts of Washington I was most excited for. We made it to the bridge over the Suiattle River for breakfast, the river is huge and flowing tumultuously. We gazed at it while sipping coffee, great hiker tv.

Old growth and the TD

We love the trees here

On the other side of the valley the trail didn’t follow the river but climbed higher up the slope. After crossing Miners Creek on a cool homemade log bridge we climbed up the Creeks valley for ages, 8miles in fact. It was a sweaty hot climb, the smoke was a bit thinner today so the sun was hotter. We had lunch just after the peak, we could vaguely see some spikey peaks around us. The spongy wet meadow we stopped in for lunch was full of yellow jacket wasps, they were not aggressive but in such numbers that I found it difficult to relax. While the others had a long lunch I ate and ran to escape them. 

Wasps! I hate you

Our descent led us through 2 very glaciated valleys, cirques kinda visible though the smoke. The valley floors were covered in rocks and made walking a bit slow but there were picas everywhere meeping warnings to eachother. There was still quite a bit of snow high up on the ridges and like our damp lunch spot the valleys ran with multiple cascading streams and small waterfalls. We soon descended back into forest switchbacking our way to the valley floor. South Fork Agnes Creek is beautiful and blue and has a rocky bottom. We had to take our shoes off to wade across but better now than tomorrow morning in the cold. Camp is within sight of the creek and we will sleep well with it’s comforting white noise. Stehekin and the bakery tomorrow, OMG!

Smokey cirques and rock fields/stoss

Fire fungus

I don’t actually know it’s name but it’s super cool

TD crossing Agnes River

Day 148 – Pumice Creek to Vista Creek Lower Tentsite – 35kms

I lay wide awake in our tent, staring up at the dark grey sky and black hills that frame our scenic camp. I guessed it about 2:30am, I look at my phone, 5:29am! Really? It was so dark still. We all started to get ready none the less. When we finished packing up it’s still too dark for walking so we make coffee and eat breakfast. 

Smoke was thick from the morning onwards

Nestled in the west facing side of Glacier Peak and covered in smoke was our problem. The sky slowly turned this beigey-brown colour which remained for the rest of the day, and the air was thick with the scent of burnt pine ashes. We began what was a slow 3 miles up and down, over many fallen trees, one crash which was so epic we even lost the pct completely and found ourselves walking straight up a steep meadow to get back to it. 

The mornings walk was beautiful and surreal with all the smoke. Whilst it is very disappointing to have these views obscured in the smog, it is a completely different experience in itself. We reach the top of the three mile climb at a high saddle and walk across an exposed ridge and down into a steep glacial valley. As we descend we are admiring the veins running through the rocks when we notice the firey pink sun reflecting off a glacier blue lake. This is a profound phenomenon that could have only happened in this set of specific circumstances and at this very time of day. 

Apocalypse sun

The walk down to Mica Lake was a pleasure. We passed many cute marmots with big red coats on with white collars. They are huge up here and they have so much attitude. Mica Lake is stunning with still deep blue reflecting mesmerising grey rock fields. 

Mica lake

We then take a steep descent to Milk Creek, over 3000ft of elevation lost in about 50 switch backs. This valley is too steep, the river has been washed out and there are dead trees everywhere. We fill up our water and begin the next climb, nearly 3000ft back out of the valley. It feels like over the last three days we have climbed up to the base of Glacier Peak 3 times. Mushy counts 42 switchbacks on this climb up. 

Milk Creek, steepest valley on the pct imho

The top of the ridge is instantly beautiful, we pass in and out of meadows until we get to another large glacial valley where we have lunch. It’s 2pm and we are all exhausted. 

Glacial valleys

The rest of the afternoon is spent walking down the Vista Creek Valley, another 3000ft descent. I’m glad Washiongton is a challenge, ending the pct with a bang, plus our leg muscles have definitely reached a new level. However, we all feel as though our bodies are needing a proper break. We have sore knees from all the climbing, get strange muscle spasms, Mushy now needs to eat more food than he can carry because of the calories being burnt instantaneously and most importantly we are all craving town food more than ever, its excruciating! 

Day 147 – 1 mile past Lake Sally Ann to Pumice Creek, 34kms

Quiz here. Wow! What an epic day. Today was a day you hike for but also a day that tests you, in short beautiful and really fucking hard (5000ft of climbing). We woke up in our great hilltop campsite and we are going to sleep in another amazing place perched on the side of a steep alpine valley watching the sun set in a smokey haze.

Camp views

We started our day with a 7 mile ridge walk, it was evident early on that overnight the wind direction changed and our views were smokey all day long. The ridge was fantastic though, not only was it relatively easy alpine meadow walking, the few remaining wildflowers were out and our views were of Glacier Peak and its surrounding grand and rugged ridges. We climbed along the side of White Mountain which was particularly steep and led to Red Pass which gave us excellent views of the Peak and the shale valley and streams we were to follow. Teflon, who we met at the Dinsmores had a break here with us, she hiked the trail in 2015 and said this was one of her favourite places on the whole trail!


Mt June from the side of White Mountain

It’s just so good, from every angle

A rare photo of the gang, thanks Teflon!

Reds Pass was our first high point of the day and from here we descended steeply very very steeply though the shale valley. The shale morphed into grass as we got lower, punctuated with large rocks left behind by glaciers of old. There were Springs bubbling from rocks around every corner and the ground was wet. Trees stared to pop up soon we had entered an old old forest full of mossy cliffs and secret meadows and tiny streams. A roar of a waterfall could be heard and glimpses caught through the trees of a huge fall at least a mile away. We followed White Chuck River deep into the valley, zigzagging so low we could no longer see any peaks just trees. We stopped by a white glacial fed Baekos Creek for lunch, feeling accomplished by our 14 mile morning.

Our snakey path from Reds Pass

Looking back

Glacier Peak!

We were lucky we walked so far as the afternoon had its own challenges. I thought the flat river valley would be easy walking but with so much water around the path became a stream and all the ground on either side mud. We finally reached Kennedy Creek and crossed on the infamous broken bridge which was actually quite sturdy. The creek was in a huge and very eroded valley. 

What a dodgy bridge

50m high erosion

And now we climbed, it was the slowest 3.5 miles of my life. There were switchbacks but it felt like the trail went straight up. The afternoon was hot and thankfully there was a stream 2/3 of the way up because I drank 2 litres of water over 2 miles. Finally after my legs felt like they were going to drop of we crossed the the other side of the ridge and had arrived in alpine wonderland again! What a great way to finish the day! Pumice Creek has soft grassy banks a short cascading Falls and water that is too cold for a full submersion. We sat up till 8pm to watch the sun set at the end of the valley, the smoke for once working in our favour. All of our hiker hunger has amped up in the last week with all the big climbs and we meticulously planned what meals we would have in Seattle (shrimp, numerous salads Meg/Princess Layers style, and a visit to Outback Steakhouse as Mushy has told us about it about 10 times now). We also talked at length about buttery cinnamon scrolls we would get from the bakery in Stedheikn, only 2.5 days away!

Up close and personal

Nice camp

Bags and sundance