The final show down

7 October 2013:

Today was my final day on the PCT, and the trail wasn’t going to let me have it easy for the remaining 14 miles to the Canadian border. I think it decided to save the best for last, and all I can say is I’m glad I started early before the weather really rolled in.

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Seeing the dark clouds ahead brought me some unease, but it hadn’t snowed on me all night, so I felt confident there’d still be plenty of footprints to follow up ahead. I also figured if it turned really bad I could always turn back and head to lower elevation, right? I spoke to the trail aloud as I’ve often done throughout this journey, ‘look after me trail, we’re nearly there, let’s do this!’

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The trail to Woody Pass had relatively deep snow on the switchbacks, to the point where I actually couldn’t see where the footprints went and ended up breaking trail in my snowshoes after first attempting to cross the ridge in my yack tracks.

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I seemed to be on the same ridge line for hours because of the effort it was taking to move forward in the snow. The snow shoes worked well for a while, but even they started sinking, with one coming off my foot and getting buried in the snow. I took them off again when I hit the washouts, which slowed my progress down even further.

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Once off the never ending ridge the trail started climbing up to Woody Pass. I was sinking quite deeply up to my knees in the snow on the switchbacks, and found it easier to hike straight up the side of the mountain in some instances to avoid sinking into the existing footprints covered by freshly fallen snow. I expected to reach the 7000 foot peak and the Devil’s Staircase a lot sooner than I did. Deep snow, lack of footprints and near whiteout conditions started making me quite nervous, and when I finally got GPS signal on my apps, I realised I still had a fair distance to get to the top.

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The trail gods must have been watching out for me, because my Guthook’s app which hadn’t been showing my GPS location on the map page since before Washington, now suddenly worked. It helped me realise that those who walked ahead of me had often skipped the switchbacks, which was why the footsteps had disappeared so frequently. But there was so much fresh snow at this point, I couldn’t necessarily tell if I was following human or animal tracks as the imprints were so faint.

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As I watched my blue GPS dot getting closer and closer to the peak, my emotions ran high. I almost burst into tears when I thought I’d reached the top, then saw one final climb, and scrambled up with all my strength as the snow started falling again.

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The climb down the Devil’s Staircase was a lot easier in fresh snow. Ice would have been hazardous, and I thanked the trail for cutting me some slack on this one. It was as if someone had their finger over the weather switch, because as soon as I was over the most treacherous section and heading down, down, down the switchbacks to the border, the heavy snow started falling. I looked back at the mountain I’d just climbed over, and could see nothing but cloud. All I could do was breathe a sigh of relief.

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I booked it all the way to the border from here, my poncho flapping in the breeze and snow blowing directly in my face. The trail was still tripping me up on roots and rocks, but in the last 3 miles I started thinking to myself, ‘I’m actually going to make it… I’m going to complete the Pacific Crest Trail.’ I had to push back premature tears which came gushing out when I finally did reach the monument.

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I was in such a state of shock when I saw the northern terminus it’s hard to express exactly how I felt. I had heard some people experience an anticlimax on arrival, I wouldn’t say that was the case for me. I had so many raw emotions running through my veins it took me a while piece my thoughts together. It was deathly silent, with only the slight pitter patter of rain drops hitting the ground. I had imagined this moment in so many different ways, but I never thought it would just be me, standing there in a stunned silence, with no other hikers on trail.

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Ok, so why has no one EVER talked about how HEAVY the border monument is? Otter told me where the register was, and to leave him any extra food in there as he’d be heading straight back to Harts Pass from the border. I scribbled a quick note in the register and saw that Bad Seed was the last person to arrive before me the previous day. I had meant to study the register, but the rain started falling heavier and I didn’t want the pages to get wet. I put it back in its ziplock bag and left my little celebratory bottle of champagne and snacks for Otter. Then I had to heave that monstrous piece of steel back onto its base. I almost did my worst back injury of the entire trip getting it back on, and I almost faced it the wrong way with the US pointing towards Canada and vice versa.

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Fuller said the final 8 miles would fly by, and they actually did. The only break I had taken all day was the 45 minutes I spent at the monument. I’d been surviving off whatever food I could fit in my pockets and decided I could last another 8 miles to the trail head. What I didn’t realise was the Manning Park Lodge is another mile from the trail head, and by then I had truly run out of steam.

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When I reached the lodge I walked around like a zombie until I met a girl that worked there and asked vaguely, “ummm… when hikers finish the PCT, where do they usually go?” She congratulated me and directed me to the lodge building where I could access wifi and make a phone call. As I was crossing the road a huge van drove up. As it got nearer I could see hands frantically waving through the windows. I squinted to see who it was, and was overwhelmed when 5 of my wonderful friends from Vancouver jumped out, started hugging me and spraying me with champagne! I fell into yet another state of shock! They were all equipped with hiking gear to meet me on the trail but I’d beat them to it! I couldn’t have dreamed of a better reception as I wasn’t sure if anyone was going to be there at all. Thank you Sue, Lady Bug (my inspiration to hike the trail), BJ, Steph, and Janer! What a way to finish this epic journey. And it goes without saying but thank you to everyone who sent me comments of love, support and motivation; of wisdom, advice and care. I’m still completely speechless!

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30 thoughts on “The final show down

  1. Big, big, big congratulations! What an achievement. You’ve inspired me to make sure I get back out there and do the PCT before too long. So what’s next? CDT or AT? If the latter, you have a lobster and blueberry pie waiting for you at our house in Maine when you finish! Thanks so much for all the time you put into keeping everyone updated.

  2. Those whiteout / washout videos are terrifying, even knowing that you came through safely. I posted my congratulatory message on the earlier blog post where we all learned that you had reached the finish, so I won’t repeat it here, except to say how very happy I am for you. (However, you “speechless” is hard to believe….!)

  3. Muk Muk,

    I have been following your trip since Mt. Whitney and I want to congratulate you on finishing the trail. I am sure it is bitter sweet to finish as a solo hiker but you finished it and that is all that matters. Thank you very much for taking us along with you. I hope you will keep updating us for a while as you remember things about this epic trip. It has really given me more motivation to plan my JMT hike in a couple of years. Once again, thank you very much!

  4. Wow, I am still shaking after watching those videos when the weather was moving in. Holy $%&§. You are one tough woman doing this section on your own. Congratulations again on your monumental achievement, Muk Muk! I hope I have the privilege of meeting you one day on another trail (maybe the CDT?).

    Wide Angle

  5. Congratulations! What an accomplishment. Stories for your family for the rest of your life. I definitely want to do that some day.

  6. Congratulations, on your completion, and a big thank you for all of the posts and videos along the way, it is and ’twas a wonderful story.

  7. Your last days on the trail were just incredible, Muk Muk. I agree with Elizabeth Cattell who wants to be cross with you but really can’t. It’s all about your safety. On the flip side, I wish I could have had those experiences of seeing the winter wonderland and having the entire last 60 miles to one’s self. Sometimes, that’s kind of nice. I think you got some of the most special memories out of these last two weeks, and I’ve really enjoyed reading about your journey. Just incredible.

    When is the party at Wolfman’s? 🙂

  8. What beautiful friends! And what an ending!! Keep posting so we can learn about how you’re settling back in and what you decide to do next!
    Mol x

  9. OMG! Had I not already known that you were done I would’ve been stressing out for you the last few days. The video entries could have as easily been like an “Into the Wild” recreation of what might have happened…

    I’m grateful that you managed to hit the weather right or it may have been a lot hairier that it was!

    What a journey, congratulations! Truly an inspiring trip.

    What next! 🙂

  10. Congrats Muk Muk and thanks for taking us along from blazing heat in the sand piles to falling snow at the end, what an unreal adventure. May God bless your future endeavors……….you have a real gift as a writer…………thanks again………….

  11. You did it! You did it! You certainly DID! A BIG congratulations to you. Well done Muk Muk!!

    The final three weeks on the trail have been trying to say the least. I think it has all added up to be a magnificent triumph on your part. You should be so proud!! If they made a movie of your trek, there isn’t an actress that could play you and improve your role upon it. I knew the first time you cried (on camera) back in California, that you had what it takes to make it. You prompted my first ever blog reply and I haven’t stopped watching since.

    Having read most of your blog throughout the PCT hike and the many replies of your followers, I wanted to write a few words that I think many might agree with and many have already written. After meeting you for the quickest ever 3 hour brunch at Snoqualmie Pass, I gave thought to how it was I felt about your journey and how to express what IT, what YOU, made me feel.

    The following are some personal observations, as a true thru-hiker enthusiast.

    You have a candid way about you that is both genuine and authentic, a sincerity that is pure without pretense, a youthful exuberance full of expression which marks your personality. From these qualities is born a maturity that emanates confidence and self reliance in the most unassuming manner. Meeting you briefly, and watching you through your writing and videos has truly been a pleasure to observe as it unfolded on the trail.

    Your grit and determination are evident throughout the hike. Your blog, your account, has given us a glimpse into your spirit, your human side. You showed us your character and the capacity to share and overcome many obstacles. You gave your time and opened your soul to all who have watched, and all of this by just being yourself. We have celebrated, laughed, cried, prayed and pulled you along in our hearts. You shared your struggles and they became our struggles, your success was our success. You gave us a role in your journey, and a glimpse of a rare achievement at its best.

    For that we are grateful and sincerely thank you for taking us with you “Along the Pacific Crest Trail”.

    Good luck to all you do in the future, I know you will do well!

    An appreciative fan,

    Tim

  12. Wow, you really got over that mountain in the nick of time!!! I don’t want to imagine the conditions within those clouds and with the snowfall in the washout zones…
    I love that you talked to the trail, seems like it listened and waited with the worst until you were through.
    And what a wonderful ending with your amazing friends! I hope you have had some nice and relaxed days since finishing the trail, with lots of good company, good (fresh!) food and a lot of sleep!
    I would love it if you kept blogging, sharing whatever you choose, but if you prefer not to, then I want to thank you one more time for taking us with you on your journey, for sharing your experiences so open-hearted, for letting us get to know you through your blog. The world is a better place with people like you in it!
    I wish you all the best for your future, safe travels!

  13. Congrats again Muk Muk! What an incredible adventure. Better than anything on TV that’s for sure. On a technical note, I’m curious about your GPS not working. Do you have any sense for why that was the case and did it happen elsewhere on the trail? I’ve never had that happen to me and it’s kind of scary to consider that as a possibility. Did it seem to be weather related? Were you using an iPhone? Anyway, not to get too much into details when it’s all about the celebration for your finish!

    -GoalTech

  14. Muk you one Hell of a great Person! And one CRAZY ASS thru Hiker! I just can not believe you did that last section by yourself, visa be damned. But at the same time it is so great that you did do it!, and that you completed your PCT Hike. Your just amazing!

  15. HI Rozanne,

    Wow! I can’t believe how difficult the last few days were. Scary! You have amazing strength and determination. Definately a surviver. Congrats!

    Donna

  16. Wow I’m so happy that you were able to complete the PCT and survived all the dangers along the way, we were all so worried. I agree with TimV above and want to thank you for letting us follow you in your journey, guess I’m a PCT junkie, and will really miss you, so hope you follow up with more blogs, or a book as you already have it written. I think it took as much if not more mental strength than physical to complete the PCT solo as you did. Looks like the last day on the trail threw everything at you just so you wouldn’t forget how hard it really was.
    Your an inspiration to all of us as we look for and meet challenges in life!!! Enjoy your success!!!
    PS I was at Timberline Lodge on Tues night, it snowed and I got up before dawn to get some photos of the PCT trail up there in the sunrise, it was beautiful but very cold and windy, and thought about you alone up there somewhere in the snow in Wa. So glad your now safe and warm.
    Ann & the Tramper Ladies

  17. Woooo hoooooo. What a punishing, dangerous and lucky last day. Just mentally rewinding through past images and video you’ve shared, I’m in awe of the variety, contrasts and magnificence of the Trail itself. Of course I marvel at your achievement but also that of those who made it this year, in the past and will do so in the future. Perhaps a final acknowledgement to the hardy family of followers for all the support and reinforcement you’ve given our Muk Muk.

  18. Congrats again MukMuk and THANK YOU so much for letting us live it with you. I will say your mom and dad’s comments were some of my favorites. It was always sweet to see that they were watching you the whole way and being so supportive. This must have been so amazing in real life and I can’t wait to start doing some longer trails in the future. Don’t think I will ever thru hike, but you never know!

    Ian

  19. Congratulations! I have followed you since the beginning. You persevered very well and thank you for letting us in with your journal. I know what it is like to maintain a journal doing one myself on my AT thru-hike in 02. I also finished by hike alone like you did but atop Katahdin alone in fog October 7th. When you think back you may realize that the solitude brought more meaning to the end. But I would so love to thru the PCT. I’m older now and that just makes it harder to set myself up to do another trail. Remember that when you contemplate another thru-hike and you will. Great job!

    Two Scoops

  20. Hi Rozi,
    Congratulations on an amazing triumph. I honestly do not know what I am going to do every night now as I have been following your blog religiously and marveling at your tenacity and spirit.
    You have inspired me in a very big way.
    I was thrilled to read you had your friends to share your moment of celebration.
    Love Swuzzie (Susan)

  21. Hi darling, an early rise for the last day, hard to believe. The incredible scenery, the beautiful snowfields in this white wilderness and the high mountain peaks and somewhere in between are you, our daughter, looking so small but walking with determination, strength and a very strong will to finish this Trail. Thanks to the good “Weather Gods”, the amazing helpful “Trail Angels” and the fellow hikers and blog followers, you Muk Muk have had lots of support and admiration from all of them. It would have given you more determination and will to finish the PCT. It has been fantastic that we all could follow your story. I, also, like to thank all the blog followers and people who came across her in the hike, you all gave her lots of courage and strength during her hike. It was so lovely to read all those replies. May the future be great for all of you and special for you darling, Love you, Mutti xxoo

  22. I can’t write the words…so unable to find words that can say what I feel deep in my soul about you, Muk Muk….Remarkable, Brave, Persistence, and so many other unspeakable traits…You are beautiful ( a deeply inadequate word) and I will alway remember your courage….Bless you, Muk Muk, with many memories that will forever be yours and, incredibly, ours. Barbie speaking here.

  23. Dear Muk,

    Hello from Daniel, your Ashland massage guy.
    I have a few things on my mind I want to share with you.

    No. 1: Congratulations, Muk, on your success of completion, reaching your very lofty goal! And I know now you are moved on, and back in to your life of this fast moving world…. maybe still seeking balance. I’m no less impressed by your PCT success today than when you actually made it. It was a gift to me to be of some small service to you on your journey, and a gift as well to follow your posts, though I’m so lo-tech I couldn’t watch your movies. I enjoyed being part of your journey, it was at times exhilarating and the views breathtaking. Although I love the outdoors, and get out some, my backpacking days are mostly behind me and I just have no desire to take on such a long and arduous adventure. The years I have left seem shorter than years did when I was younger. I’m content having enjoyed your doing of it, thank you again!

    Anyway, I am bolstered and nourished by your determination and persistence throughout the length of your journey, and in the face of truly life threatening conditions.

    You came in to my office twice, and after working with you, I wasn’t sure how you were going to do. I was really concerned, actually, that you might not be able to carry on much further. Somehow you managed, and then the days passed, I don’t recall the hip coming up in your posts so much anymore. So, I guess that part of your discomfort eventually passed, or at least you were able to deal with it.

    It was cool from my perspective to have the opportunity to work with you as well as BananaRipper and Songbird, whom you referred to me. I saw all 3 of you the day of your first visit. I got a card from them which says they made it through on 13Oct, so, almost a week after you; 3′ of snow by the time they got through. I guess I helped one’s knee pain go away, never to return for the duration, so, I hope to use that on my website, and market a bit to PCT hikers. Perhaps I’ll offer ride service to or from the trailhead?

    Anyhow, I’m wishing you all the best on your current and future endeavors and activities!
    Thank you for calling me!
    Warmly,
    Daniel Salisbury
    Licensed Massage Therapist
    541-621-9020
    Ashland OR
    http://www.danielsalisbury.net

    • So nice to hear from you Daniel and I can’t thank you enough for looking after me in Ashland! I’m currently hiking the Camino in Spain and could use some massage therapy on my back and legs. I’ve started up a new blog at http://www.serialnomad.com if you’re up for some more bedtime reading! Hope you’re well and great to hear from you! Muk

      • Cool to know you’re out hiking again. I saw a documentary on the Camino last year. Looks like a beautiful, strange, cool and very different kind of pilgrimage. Ancient in a European way. Best wishes on all your travels, Rozanne!

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