Near the end of that day we ran into a Grandpa hiking with two teenage grandkids. They were out of water and wanted to know if they'd be fine without it to their campsite 5 miles futher. I said, "Go back to the river behind you and fill up now." They only had one Nalgene bottle each. I carry enough bottles for 5 liters, and Bill 3. Water is life on the trail.
We were pretty beat up when we got to the High Bridge Ranger station and the road to Stehekin.
We passed Howard Lake, formerly known as Coon Lake. We'd heard that Washington State commission had investigated the names history and changed it. My knee jerk reaction was political correctness overreach. I was wrong. "Coon Lake" was a pejorative for an African American miner who'd lived there in the late 1800's. It was a good idea to change the name. We ran into a lady on the trail who swam in it. "Once you got out beyond the lily pads it was great," she said.
It's always nice to see signs so you know you're headed in the right direction. Homestretch passed us that day. Gotta love trail names. There were few huckleberries this year, even though there are usually more at higher altitudes. I like snacking on them but only found a few worth eating. Two hiking groups we passed saw bears today. I've only seen one in 2650 miles but I'm sure many have seen me. We saw several groups and families that were unfit, unprepared, overweight and overloaded. Several looked like the peddler in the movie Labyrinth. I salute them for being on the trail, but I hope their experience doesn't put them off hiking.
We camped at Six Mile Camp, off trail a bit. It's dispiriting to have to climb up to a campsite after a long, hard day. As I started to set up my tent, I heard a nearby tree with a split on the trunk making cracking noises. I moved my tent to another part of camp and hoped it wouldn't fall in the night. Luckily, it didn't. I tied my permit to a tree nearby and forgot to take it with us the next morning. Hope I don't get fined for littering! Overnight a full moon made me think I'd overslept again. A weird experience: So bright outside you're sure it's past sunrise. Late that night while we were snug in our tents, Scout Troop 120 walked into camp. The next morning before dawn, the Scout leader, an experienced hiker, questioned me extensively about my gear, experiences, and opinions about hiking as we packed up in the dark. I rarely meet people who ask more questions than I do and are good listeners. This guy, a grandfather, some of his Scout grand kids in tow, was the apotheosis.
Dramatic views, twists, climbs and switchbacks today. We found a good stream to fill up our bottles before continuing to the PCT Trail camp at mile 2598. The trail volunteers had done yeoman work on a gravelly, rock-slide-prone and shifting portion of the trail. We found their large camp and camped with these civic minded people, most of whom are age 50 and above. After some talk at dinner I did a magic show for them. It was the best room I've ever worked, and it was at 6200 feet! Bill had some of their spaghetti and pronounced it the best he'd ever had. When I asked the trail chef how many children he had, he said, "I don't know." Hilarious!
A through-hiker at Rock Pass said to me, "Do you know the bus schedule at Manning Park?" Random trail talk. We ran into some dead trees past Rock Pass and at the Northern Terminus. It appears to be the Bark Beetle that has ravished our forests in the southwest. A sad sight. After Rock Pass you go way down and have a tough climb up to Woody Pass. I mistakenly called it Windy Pass in this video. You'll see why when you watch. Those mountains are almost directly west from the trail and are stunning. I met a guy from Switzerland, whose name I think was G, who appeared to be very clean. He said, "That's because my pants are the color of dirt!" Bill speculated, "These mountains must be like they are in Switzerland." G replied, "Yes, you'll see them for a few days like this when walking in my country. Here it goes on for weeks." There were lot's of twists and turns on the trail today, big ups and downs, a steep and narrow corkscrew trail with plenty of big drops and slippery gravel. We moved slowly and carefully. Our last night on the trail we camped at Hopkins's Lake. We filtered water from the lake with CC, 2% and Breeze.
It felt good to come into the Terminus. I was excited to be finishing. A lady ran up to us, showing a picture on her phone and asked if we'd seen her husband on the trail. We had, and 30 minutes later she surprised him when he arrived. The same thing happened with the parents and sister of another hiker. They'd all hiked in the previous day to meet their families. That's a big commitment. It's nine miles of trail from Manning Park. We had been looking at pictures of the monument for years but nothing clears things up like being there. I've said for years, "You never know until you go." All the planning never completely prepares you for the ground truth. The Terminus is in a valley completely in the wilderness. There are no border stations, patrols or roads. We had all our papers authorizing us to cross into Canada and no one to check them. The monument matches the recently renovated one at the southern terminus which faces east. There's a narrow swath of ground cut from the trees going east and west from the Terminus up both mountain sides. I found out later that the entire length of the US-Canada border is marked by a 20-foot-wide slash through the trees.
I made a final video statement that I'd been working on for days. Please watch it and turn up the volume. I was able to sum up all of my feelings about finishing the trail. We met Saint Harbor, a 24 year old, who said he'd completed the trail in 91 days. He was concerned about funding the hike. I asked him how he saved money, and he said, "hike fast" which makes sense. Bill broke out a mini celebratory Tequila. We shared it with Saint Harbor and he said, "Shall I waterfall it?" He meant, "Shall I pour it into my mouth without touching my lips to the bottle so we won't share a cold." Love a new amusing phrase.