Real winter hits

27 September 2013:

This morning we woke to real winter conditions with snow covering our campsite and tents. I was excited to be in the middle of such a white wonderland, but had no idea how difficult it would be packing up camp, filling water bottles and doing the usual tasks with freezing cold hands.

Once we hit the trail the snow continued to fall and my poor cold legs felt like lead. It took so much effort to walk I started getting worried about how I was going to climb all the passes we had ahead of us in these freezing cold conditions.

In the middle of the day we saw Filthy and Junko heading southbound down the trail. I thought maybe they had decided to flip flop Washington but they had decided they didn’t have the right gear for these conditions and were calling an end to their hike (unless an Indian sunmer was likely to roll in). It was so sad to see them heading south with their trail dreams coming to an end. It wasn’t long until we passed two more thru hikers, White Lightning and his friend who were the ones without rain jackets, tents and cold weather equipment. It was actually a relief to see them safe and heading out of the crazy conditions we were experiencing.

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We decided to set up camp early while we were still at low elevation in the hope to build a fire and dry out some of our gear. Unfortunately there wasn’t enough dry kindling or wood to get a fire going, so we bunkered down with a plan to get up early and make a dash over Fire Creek Pass and Mica Lake tomorrow.

The start of the snow

Get ready for a look back at the trail that was, starting here…

26 September 2013:

It’s only 8:15pm and already UB and I are snuggled in our sleeping bags after setting up camp as the first snowflakes I’ve witnessed on trail appeared. The snow was a novelty for about 30 seconds, then I realised just how cold it actually was and how wet it was going to be setting up our tents. My tent has become the gear and wet clothing storage shelter and UB’s the sleeping and cooking shelter. We’ve tried to set them up as close as possible in the hope to create some kind of two bedroom apartment, but mine unfortunately has a rather large log underneath it on the left hand side and the gap between the two doors is too large to avoid the rain in between.

Yesterday we hit the trail at Steven’s Pass around 2pm after Tim, the man who was going to drive us to the trail head, realised he had a flat tyre and UB needed to step in and change it for him. Terry Dinsmore (a local trail angel), was also around at the time and suggested we all jump in the back of his truck instead incase the spare tyre on Tim’s car wouldn’t make it up to the pass.

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The trail was flat to begin with but in true Washington style it soon began to climb. We ended up making it 12 miles to a small campsite just shy of Grizzly Peak. The weather was perfect during the day and it only rained a little overnight, so we were able to hit the trail just after 6:30am this morning with dry gear except for a few rain drops on the tents.

The trail was very muddy in parts and I slipped over early on, needing UB to help me back to a standing position. Later in the afternoon UB had some close calls slipping and sliding through numerous muddy sections, but he managed to stay on his feet. I have to say it’s the most dangerous part of the trail for ankle twists and bad falls.

We stopped around 11am for an early lunch while the sun peeked its head out slightly from behind the clouds. It was the first day I’ve cooked a warm lunch since the Sierras, and it was nice to be able to actually enjoy a proper sit down while the weather was still good.

The trail climbed again straight after lunch and UB felt a little nauseous after eating. I wondered if it was the same issue I was having over the last couple of weeks, which has seemed to die down a little for me since the last section. We passed the 2500 mile mark today which was an exciting landmark, but not as big a deal as the 2000 mile marker. Probably because now the end is in sight and the countdown has been on since the start of Washington. The biggest surprise today was seeing so many huckleberry bushes next to the trail. I had just been saying to UB that it was sad all the berries had gone, then suddenly I was surrounded by bushes on either side of the trail.

About 20 miles into today, dark clouds started rolling in. We saw three beautiful rainbows within about 5 minutes of each other, but then the heavens opened and it rained and hailed on us until we reached camp at Reflection Pond and it started snowing. I really hope we get some sun tomorrow as all of our gear and some of our clothing is soaking wet. The trail also heads up into higher altitudes, so it’s going to be cold the next few days if things don’t have the chance to dry out!

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Oh Canada!

I’m lying in a warm bed in Vancouver listening to the howling wind outside, thinking ‘thank goodness I’m no longer out there!’

It took me 5 months and 22 days to walk 2663 miles from Mexico to Canada. I still have so much to update and post… but for now I just wanted to share my arrival at the monument with you. It was heartbreaking, overwhelming and joyous all at once; bringing many emotions from the last few days to the forefront.

I have many snippets of my final day to share with you tomorrow when the dust has settled a little. All I can say is thank you to the many people who played a major role in getting me over the finish line. I’ve never experienced generosity and kindness like I did throughout my PCT journey. THANK YOU!

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Safely in Stehekin

Firstly, I just skimmed through some of the comments that have been coming through the last couple of days regarding my and UB’s whereabouts on trail. Thank you so much for your thoughts and prayers; they may well have delivered us to Stehekin safely today.

There is obviously a lot to update you on, but for now I just wanted to let you all know that we made it here safely today on the 3pm bus from the ranger station at High Bridge.

The last 12 hours have been an ordeal to say the least. We woke this morning at 4:30am, packed up our wet sleeping bags, clothes and tents, and knew we were at the point of no return. We had to make it 22.5 miles to High Bridge over a 6000 foot pass. It had poured with rain all night so we knew what that meant 1000 feet above where we slept at Miner’s Creek… SNOW, and lots of it.

Many hikers had already turned back during this section, and we knew once we passed Fire Creek Pass we had no choice but to continue forward. The last few days proved what an incredible team UB and I are. We planned strategically to spread out our days to sleep low, conserve our food and dry clothes, and to get close enough last night to make one final push out of there. Yesterday we had to wear sopping wet clothes for 14 miles at low elevation to ensure we could survive one more night and the final climb over 6000 feet.

We don’t know of anyone who has made it through behind us and we’re very worried for a brother and sister hiking pair who passed us but are currently unaccounted for. I’m still shaking as I sit here writing this, knowing just how bitterly cold it was out there in the mountains when all our clothes were wet. I think I was close to hypothermic two days ago; today I was worried about UB when his hands were so cold I had to feed him lunch during one of our three 5 minute breaks for the entire day. We made it to High Bridge on a packet of jelly beans, a protein bar, snickers bar, cliff bar and one peanut butter and jelly tortilla.

There is one computer in Stehekin and no wifi so I will fill in the blanks of the last section in due course. For now I simply wanted to let you know we’re safe and well. We will spend tonight and tomorrow regrouping mentally and physically, assess the weather and our gear, and make an educated decision regarding the final section of the hike. Some hikers are pushing on, many are calling it quits. UB and I will make our decision based on the weather forecast, our gear and our skill level. I’m beginning to realise just how close we balanced on the fine line between life and death during this last section; and I don’t want to put UB and I at risk to cross the finish line.

Tomorrow we will know more. Keep an eye on SPOT on my ‘Where am I’ page, as I’m not sure I’ll have a chance to use this computer again while I’m here.

Thanks again for your thoughts and prayers… let’s hope for some clear days ahead.

Muk