Friday, September 21, 2012

21 September - the Grand Finale

From Woody Pass (Mile 2649.4) to the Northern Terminus of the PCT (Mile 2660.1) to Manning Park (2669)

Total PCT Miles today (counting the Canadian PCT miles): 20

After a bracing morning swim in Hopkins Lake with the delightful Spud, Oasis, Honey Bear, and Cookie, we pressed on toward the border -- crossing paths with other thru-hikers who had made it and were returning: Fierce Melon, Train, International Gourmet, Anchorman, and others. "It's just ahead! You're almost there" they said -- and we still kept finding it hard to believe it would be.

Finally, exhausted, elated, disoriented (smile), undernourished, goofy, and gaga -- we stumbled across the finish line to the applause and supportive cheers of that great troop of thru-hikers ("The Love Train") we were privileged to hike among for several days. What marvelous people. They are pictured below.

Here's a photo of the assembled Love Train + The Caballeros:

Photo courtesy of Spud. From left to right:
Back row top: Zen, Wampus Cat, Chimp, 
Middle row standing: Snausage, Spud, White Bear, Pan, Seano, Dionysius, Mufasa, Histo, 
Front Row: Yankee Son, Hallmark, Cookie, Oasis, Honey Bear)
The mob of us all as Freebird came walking down the trail and took this photo. [Photo courtesy of Freebird]

Here's a video of a little victory dance Hallmark came up with for all of us. What fun.

As we finished up doing photos, along came Free Bird whom we had seen off and on all the way along the PCT for five months. How good to see him at the finish line!

We'll post more info later (plus more photos), but right now we are wiped out, elated, grateful, in awe, and struggling a bit with re-entry.

Will post photos and catch-up journal entries soon (there's no Verizon in Canada -- at least here).


The Caballeros (Seano, Dionysus, & Pan)

PS. We found out later after much researching that about 131 hikers who had started at Campo in 2012 and step-by-step walked the 2665 miles, had made it here before us. Over the next two months, another 300 (of whom about 270 were thru-hikers) arrived to climb up onto (or hug, or lean against, or fall down at the base of) the monument. The last (we believe) SoBo arrived at the Southern Terminus on Nov. 11. And remarkably, in deep snow and plunging temperatures, I'm Fine made it to the Northern Terminus on Nov. 11 against daunting odds. And a week later, Silent D and Dances With Lizards trudged through a great deal of snow to be the last over the finish line on Nov 18. Hail to the hearty!

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21 Sept -photo finish

On our way to the Northern Terminus, we bump into Anchorman and Imperial Gourmet, who had completed the PCT and were on their way back southbound to exit the PCT in the US rather than go out through Canada.

That line of cleared trees running over the mountains through the woods is the US/Canada border. We're close!

Waiting for us at the Northern Terminus is a crowd of fabulous thru-hikers we'd been with since Stehekin. They cheered and clapped for us as we crossed the border.

The three of us on the Northern Terminus of the PCT. The obelisk to the right is the marker of the US/Canada border.

I'm adding our names to the provisional register. Apparently someone a week or two earlier had made off with the official ledger. Arrgh.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

20 Sept - photo (extra)

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20 September - Alpine Autumn Splendor

From campsite by spring (Mile 2624.3) to Woody Pass (Mile 2649.4).

Total PCT Miles today: 25.1

Autumn colors in alpine beauty all day, and under sunny skies. Wow, wow, wow. We camp up among the larches for the last time at Woody Pass -- just the other side of the cleft in the photo below. So beautiful! And Dionysus breaks out the extra tequila for a festive last night on the PCT for the three of us. Several of the Love Train pass through, and camp on a ridge a few miles beyond.

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Wednesday, September 19, 2012

19 September - Day 149 - Another hot day between glories

From campsite below Cutthroat Pass in Mt Baker National Forest (Mile 2603.2) at elevation 6162 ft down along creek/river bottom land back up over Glacier Pass to campsite by spring (Mile 2624.3)

Total PCT Miles today: 21.1

Stunning high country scenery of larches turning chartreuse then yellow. What colors! And what peaks and peaks and peaks. Shining sun and clear skies.

Pan and Dionysus. Seano is the photographer for most of the rest of the trip.
That's us on the trail -- what you can't tell easily is how steep the slope is.

Autumn larches. Beautiful!

Midday temperatures atop the mountains is comfy, while in the low creeks and the woods it gets stuffy and warm in the upper 80s. Crazy. We know we are very lucky not to be up to our nipples in mud, mist, rain and clouds - as is more usual this time of year.

We hike among other thru-hikers --like Spud, Honey Bear, Cookie & Oasis.

At the campsite among larches, we save a place for Chili & Pepper -- the Dad & Son duo. Chili's 13 and holding up well despite a long bout of shin splints.

Soon, many other hikers camped around us until our clearing in the larches slept 12.

The PCT cuts across the mountain top in the upper right and into the saddle between the peaks. That's where we're headed.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

18 September - Day 148 - Up into North Cascades National Park

From High Bridge (Mile 2580.3) to campsite below Cutthroat Pass in Mt Baker National Forest (Mile 2603.2) at elevation 6162 ft.

Total PCT Miles today: 22.9

Left Stehekin today.

The Gay Caballeros at the trailhead with Hallmark (left) and her husband Yankee Son (right). Snausage, sporting a dapper kilt, looks on from the photo's edge.

At the trailhead with Golden Ray.

Temps in high 80s. Rubbish of autumn. Thimbleberries & salmonberries as hedge -- we in the trough. Grand fir, White pine, smoke from Agnes Creek fire.

Raced ahead of the "Love Train" pack of hikers (whom we adore) and the fabulous troika (Fierce Melon, Jugs, and Tailgate). Got campsite about 6:30. So many people on the trail now (nearly 20 in our stretch of the trail).

Then end of the day Western Larch! Red leaves of mountain ash, fireweed, huckleberry.

It was a bit of a race for Dionysus who got out ahead of the pack to try to secure us a campsite. He ended up hurting his foot quite a bit more.

Camped by Chili & Pepper in a high grove of larches -- the paths winding all around us through heath.


Monday, September 17, 2012

17 September - Day 147 - Zero in Stehekin

Breakfast at the Ranch was epic.

Afterwards, we caught the bus in -- and it already had thru-hikers in it: the Love Train, most of whom we hadn't met. Moss was on board, and other chums of the trail.

We paused at the organic farm where many bought veggies, fruit, and goat yogurt.

Then we stopped at the bakery. Heavenly.

Then the bus dropped us off in front of the Landing, past the post office.

We hung out today down at the landing on Lake Chelan where we got to say "Bon voyage" to other thru-hikers just leaving for the last leg of the trail -- and "hello" to more thru-hikers arriving.

On Lake Chelan at Stehekin. Dionysus is watching a plane take off.
We picked up our last supply boxes at the Post Office -- lonnnnnnng wait, as the boxes were piled floor-to-ceiling, and the rest were in the attic, as far as I could tell. Got to visit with trail buddies while we waited. The postmaster, I swear, is Odin (white beard, patch over one eye, etc.) -- and the trickster definitely was at play as we waited and waited.

We got to spend time visiting with Chili and Pepper, the father/son thru-hiking duo whom we've hiked with and around for a long time. What an impressive pair.

We sat out in the evening by the lake and drank wine with many thru-hikers -- the big group (called "The Love Train") whom we'd just met (including Hallmark, Yankee Son, Snausage, Mufasa, Honey Bear, Spud and several more) and others who were old chums (like Moss, Gariliet, Scarecaw, etc.). We even sang a few songs (blame the wine that Hallmark and Yankee Son forced us to drink)...

The Caballeros singing on the banks of Lake Chelan. [Photo courtesy of Moss].
Us singing, with Lake Chelan in the background. Smoke haze in the evening from another wildfire. [Photo courtesy of Moss].
Dionysus (right) enjoying the view down Lake Chelan with Honey Bear, Gariliete, Cookie, and [i always forget his trail name; have hiked by him since Ziggy & the Bear's place]. [Photo courtesy of Freebird].

Moss, Dionysus, and Seano in the foreground. Most of the "Love Train" in the background. Pan at far end of table. [Photo courtesy of Freebird]

Dinner afterwards at the Landing and we had a hilarious time.

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Sunday, September 16, 2012

16 September - Day 146 - North Cascades, Agnes Creek Fire, and into Stehekin

From Trail junction (Mile 2557.1) to High Bridge/Stehekin (2580.3)

Total PCT Miles: 22.8

As we hiked toward the "fabled" Stehekin -- the last resupply stop on the PCT -- we were surprised at smoke. A fire on the wooded slopes west of Agnes Creek (where we were hiking) had filled even this far northern end of the PCT with its signature 2012 wildfire smoke. The sunlight was stained. We looked up through a break in the trees at one point and saw the fire burning up a slope. Would we be cut off from Stehekin?

No, as it happened. As we neared High Bridge, the smoke wasn't as bad.But it was hot and dry -- not at all what we have imagined each time we have ever thought of hiking into Stehekin at this point in our journey. Wow.

We hitched a ride with a van from Stehekin Valley Ranch that happened to have brought visitors to the bridge.  At the Ranch, we were welcomed by the owner who gave us a great deal on our overnight stay in two cabins. He even radio'd to the bus driver to bring us 3 six-packs of Corona from town.

We showered, and then it was supper time. What a supper! What delicious food! (Beer arrived!) And what desserts! We then did our laundry.

We stayed in "tent cabins" -- which meant hard walls and floor, but a canvas roof. We were provided kerosene lanterns, as the generator goes off at night. Really charming.

Here's a photo from their website (

[Photo courtesy of Stehekin Valley Ranch]

[Photo courtesy of Stehekin Valley Ranch]

[The food at the Ranch is definitely the BEST in Stehekin -- better than the Landing and Lodge at the lake].

Time for our last zero. Tomorrow, we may head into the landing at the lake where many thru-hikers are staying. But the goal tomorrow is to rest ...

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Saturday, September 15, 2012

15 September - Day 145 - Down, down, down, up, up, up, etc.

From Mica Lake (2531.3) to trail junction (Mile 2557.1)

Total PCT Miles: 25.8

Wow. Our aching feet/ankles/calves/knees (etc). And how easy to be on a coping-skills roller coaster when we feel daily/nightly so exposed and worn down.

Dionysus's feet were really hurting today. And the Trail was incorrigible: 3500 ft drop in elevation, followed by 3000 ft back up, then another little drop, then 600 feet up, then a plunge of 3000 feet down again --- across a forest landscape including huge 300-year old trees that had been blown down and that we had to scramble over. Roaring glacier silt Suiattle River to cross via a fallen tree (you fall, you die). Other creeks to ford. Really stunning views of so many mountains here throughout the Glacier Peak Wilderness -- and even distant Mt Baker raising its snowy volcano cone up by the Canadian border.

Still, it is so "normal" for us to live this way. Hard to believe the end of the trail is only 6 days away.

Gentians! Late summer alpine flowers who have kept us smiling all across Washington. Old friends from Colorado and the Alps.

Sulfur Shelf. If only we had a fry pan, butter, and lemon. YUMMMMM.

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Friday, September 14, 2012

14 September - Day 144 - Hiking through "The Hills Are Alive"

From campsite at Kodak Peak ridge (2508.1) to Mica Lake (2531.3)

Total PCT Miles: 23.2

What a day of rugged, difficult alpine-like mountain terrain -- with spectacular autumn mountain scenery. The cataracts we cross hopping from boulder to log, the glaciers looming over us, the tricky snowfields to cross, the fallen trees we have to climb over/under/around. The yellow-bellied marmots whistling whenever a raven passed. These improbable jigsaw ridges we traverse. How can landscape this steep not just slide down into the valley?

We did our yodel-duet for Knutella & Nightingale in a lovely "Norwegian" alpine valley.

We had pain meds to manage the foot pain (Dionysus has a stress fracture & a broken toe, we suspect; my feet and knees are a pain-o-rama; Seano's holding up but is in fair pain after midday). Wow, did we make good time.

The mossy, mushroom-filled fairy forest around the base of Glacier Peak was astonishingly beautiful. The rivers coming off the volcano, violent, implacable. One of the log bridges we crossed was broken. Here are some photos Seano took of it (Mr. Cameraman).

The water is silty with glacial runoff. Dionysus and Pan approach the bridge while Seano photographs from above.

Better view of the bridge.

Seano's view as he starts to cross.

Camped by "Arctic Sea" looking Mica Lake -- at 5446 ft elevation, but so alpine.

We camp not far from the troika (Jugs, Fierce Melon, & Tailgate), as well as some weekend hikers. Tundra-like heath tucked into steep mountain slopes & snow fields. All around, impossibly vast mountains covered in glaciers, sheer pencil-point peaks, and a monster glaciated volcano. The distances are composed of rank upon rank of mountain ridge silhouettes in the evening's smoke haze.

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Thursday, September 13, 2012

13 September - Day 143 - Farewell Rainier, Hello Glacier Peak

From campsite at Lake Janus (Mile 2485.6) to Kodak Peak ridge (2508.1)

Total PCT Miles: 23.5

Passed the 2500 mile mark! Here we sing a little bit for Knutella, Nightingail, and Train (who hiked the PCT every day in a wedding gown -- he went through a couple of dozen by the end of the PCT).

2500 miles so far!
Train resting by the 2500-mile marker.

Dionysus and Pan joke with Nightingail and Knutella. This was after we sang some songs.

Glacier Peak is getting closer. What a volcano! Too bad its in a haze from wildfires to the east.

Haze from the Wenatchee Fire.

Dionysus's foot is increasingly painful. We think he has a stress fracture -- plus a broke toe. But he's stoical as ever, and so we march on.

The mountains are lovely in autumn -- and during this unseasonably warm dry weather. We hike toward Glacier Peak - and begin "turning" it -- that is, by our legs moving us along the mountain itself turns.

We hike near Knutella and Nightingail -- so we swap many boasts about Norwegians. :-)

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