Saturday 27th August
Start: Bushcamp, mile 2635
End: Manning Park, Canada, off mile 2659
We enjoyed our last trail coffee and oatmeal sat in the dark. Both of us were contemplative. I am aware that during this trip we have both complained incessantly, but it still felt bittersweet. We agreed that we will miss being out here. The sense of freedom, and daily exhilaration cannot be matched. We have craved amenities like a bed so often, but stripped of modern choices does make life simple.
As we left camp with Mark the sun had yet to rise and it felt cold in the wind. For the first time I was hiking in the thermal bottoms I sleep in. We winded up to Rock Pass with pink hues above us. After descending down a scree slope we had another longer climb up the valley wall to Woody Pass. Once we mounted it we stopped and looked out at the new range of mountains ahead. They must be Canadian! Our first sight of Canada. Also visible was an increasing number of clouds; surely it wasn’t going to rain on our last day?!
We hiked on through a path of noble fir trees, which made me think of Christmas. A ranger (the only person we had seen on the whole hike), passed and asked to see our wilderness permits. Luckily Mark had bothered to fill one in!
From being on a pinnacle with 360 views at Hopkins Pass, we began to descend and enter forest cover. The next miles felt slow as I was eagerly awaiting arriving at the border. The closer we got, the more excited I felt. I thought the forest was rather unremarkable, but Mark pointed out how rare it is to see pine, Douglas Fir, cedar, and blue spruce all growing together. So I will take his word that it was amazing. Instead I was caught up dealing with around a dozen blow-downs, one of which scrapped up my knee. A parting gift from the US.
Finally, after some switchbacks down, we could hear voices, and as the monument came into sight a small group of hikers were gathered there. The border was not what I was expecting – where were the Mounties to greet us, or a fence or something? Instead, a PCT monument stood next to a silver American-Canadian goodwill obelisk called Monument 78. Probably the most striking part was the impact of a missing row of trees running up the hillside in both directions, enabling the physical border to be seen by air.
We took some photos whilst being awkwardly observed by the other hikers. They told us that we looked too clean to have walked all the way from Oregon! I would have loved to have had a sly dig about how easy it is to have personal hygiene standards, but instead just smiled. They eventually left, having to turn around and walk back the way they had come – I didn’t get the full story but for some reason they didn’t have permission to enter Canada. If I had to guess, it was probably something to do with the pound of pot in their bags!
Reaching the monument, and the effective end of the PCT soon felt anti-climatic. We had nearly 9 miles further to hike just to get back into the world. Why couldn’t there be an air-lift service at this point? We sat and had some food at a nearby river. It was a beautiful spot. From there we were on a mission to Manning Park, and didn’t really stop. The sky had cleared and it now felt hot and humid. Conrad was popping painkillers for his feet like they were going out of fashion. I was stumbling a lot due to tree roots, crumbling trail, and mostly because I was tired. The last 4 miles led us down a stony jeep road.
At around 5:30pm we resurfaced back into civilisation. Well, it was a paved road at least. We started walking along the road towards the lodge when a car pulled up with a smiling lady in it. It took us a few seconds to recognise Roberta sat in the driver’s seat – I think we were all just zoned out. I have never felt so happy to see someone! As we piled into the car and finally took a seat it dawned on me that we were done! The hike at that point was officially over.
Over dinner in the lodge it still hadn’t fully sunk in. I was grateful for Mark’s company in this last section, it was amazing how our little chance reunion happened. I also felt a little sad at Dan’s absence from the group. I had been half expecting to see him sat at the monument waiting for us, our hiking buddy from Kentucky. Would we ever see him again? He had kept us entertained with his stories and road-walking escapades since southern Oregon.
Tonight we will get a bed and a shower.I think I need some time to decompress and to let it all sink in. I do feel a sense of achievement and triumph, but mostly right now I feel at a loss. The trail had become our daily routine, and I will miss the wonderful people out there who enhanced the experience so much. I am so thankful to the many who supported our efforts along the way. Oh, and I should probably now think about monitoring what I eat!