Scott and Rachel's Pacific Crest Trail thru-hike journal: Canada! Manning Park, Mile 2658, Sep 17

Home in Vancouver, Canada - We got up at our usual time on the morning of September 14th as we wanted to go to the restaurant for our last town breakfast before catching the 8:15 shuttle back to the trail head. We had slept out under the stars without the fly on the tent as it had been a nice warm night, and as we packed up our gear we appreciated the time saver that it was to not have the fly on the tent and we wondered if it would be the last time this season that we will be able to chance it due to the weather. We loaded all of our gear and food bags back into our packs and then vacated the campsite before there were signs of life coming from the campers in the site next to us. It was a couple hundred yards back along the road to the restaurant and as we walked there we commented on what a nice little settlement Stehekin is and how neat it would be to live in such an isolated environment.

We arrived at the restaurant about 25 minutes before they opened so we dropped our packs and sat at one of the patio tables outside. It wasn't long before other hikers and patrons started to gather on the patio, all of us with one common thought in mind: getting fed. The doors were opened at 7:30 by which time there were about 15 people eagerly waiting, and more arriving every minute. We all piled inside the restaurant and quickly gathered around the buffet table to load our plates full of eggs, hash browns, sausage, bacon, and pancakes. We hikers sat around a couple of tables enjoying the food and good company, knowing that it was the last time that we would be together as a group and trying to savor as much of the moment as possible.

Just before 8:15 AM we said our good byes to the other hikers and wander outside to board the shuttle bus that would take us the 11 miles up the road, back to the trailhead. We gave loaded our pack in through the back door and then gave Jim our $6 each as we climbed on board and took our seats. As the bus started rolling along the road Rachel experienced something that she never expected to feel, a touch of melancholy and sadness that the adventure would soon be coming to an end. Through all of the hardships, aches and pains, she never was somewhat surprised when her eyes began to well up and she had to choke back a tear.

We arrived at the High Bridge Ranger Station shortly after 9 AM and then slowly started our way up the trail. It was an overcast morning in the Stehekin Valley and we were wondering if the new system that had been predicted for a couple of days hence had arrived upon us early. We hoped that the skies would not darken and dampen our last few days on the trail with rain as we quickened our pace, knowing that the odds were against us making it through the next 90 miles without experiencing some bad weather.

We started out with a little bit of a climb away from the valley floor and up towards the unremarkable Coon Lake. We then passed by a series of small creeks and along a dirt road for a little ways before we re-emerged on Stehekin River Road, five miles from where we had begun. As we walked the hundred yards up the road to Bridge Creek Campground we was the National Park Service shuttle bus pull up to drop off and pick up other hikers that were eagerly awaiting its arrival. It was a little deflating for us to see this shuttle as we had left it behind just over two hours ago at High Bridge opting to walk instead of transfer busses to the end of the road. Seeing it again was enough to briefly make us wish that we had taken the easier route and save ourselves a couple of hours. We stopped for a break at one of the picnic tables and watched the exchanged its passengers on and off the bus before we gathered ourselves together and resumed our hike.

After leaving the Bridge Creek Campground we began a lengthy traverse eastward up along the Bridge Creek drainage. As we hiked and climbed the dry slopes on the northern bank of the river the sun started to overpower the clouds and we soon found ourselves sweating in the building heat of the day. Despite the terrain being very dry and almost desert like the air was humid from all of the cloud cover that had threatened us earlier in the day. We shuffled along, making our way up the dusty trail, and then stopped for lunch in a small bit of shade near Maple Creek, a tributary to Bridge Creek. A little further on, when we rolled over onto the eastern side of the crest, it actually struck us as quite ironic that, the aside from the presence of a creek, the terrain reminded us so much of the desert. Spring and summer have passed and the foliage and vegetation is dying back. The soil is thirsty for water and the sun is beating strong on our backs. We may be 1200 miles north (2600 trail miles) of where we started, but it almost seems that we have come a full circle in way of the vegetation and landscape. We started in the desert so long ago and here we are, seemingly, back in it.

A few miles after lunch we reached a trail junction where the old PCT trail veered off in a more northward direction to head towards Rainy Pass at Highway 20. The guidebook indicated that the new segment of the PCT crossed to the south east side of Bridge Creek and would make it's way to Highway 20 on the other side of the river. We crossed the river as directed and then passed by Fireweed Camp, as detailed, only to come across a National Parks Backcountry Ranger. We stopped to say hello and then she asked to see our backcountry permit. By this point we have been on the trail for 5 months, have bumped into a handful of backcountry rangers or other officials, and not one of them had every asked to see our permit. We were not the least bit put out by the request of this ranger, but rather we were quite thrilled that after carrying this little piece of paper for 2600 miles it should finally be requested. Scott quickly took off his pack and pulled the little piece of pink carbon copy paper, that has been kept in pristine condition, out of his pack and proudly presented it to her. She took one look at it acknowledged that it was a valid permit and then informed us that we were off the PCT.

According to the ranger, the PCT was still the old route. We tried to explain to her that the guidebook we are using is the most recent edition and that the description of the trail follows exactly, but she was adamant. She pulled out two different Green Trails maps and showed us that the PCT is marked as the old route and that that is where we should be. After a couple of minutes she acknowledged that we were welcome to take whichever route we chose, but she said that the route which we were on was not so well maintained and that we would have to deal with blow-downs and a lot more brush. At last we relented and decided that it would be easier to give in to the ranger and make her feel better that she had managed to redirect us onto what she thought was the official trail so we turned around and backtracked the 0.3 mile past Fireweed Camp, across the river and back to the trail junction to begin our hike northward to Highway 20.

After all of that, the hike up towards the Highway was relatively unremarkable. After about three miles we rejoined with the other route coming in from the east and then we began to parallel the highway westward for another couple of miles before we finally crossed it. By the time we reached the outlet creek of Rainy Lake (1 mile shy of Rainy Pass and the crossing of the highway) it was nearing 6 PM. We had hoped to make it past the highway and another 1.5 miles north to Porcupine Creek before we would camp, but we had two considerations: water and remaining daylight. The guidebook did not make mention of any water source between the two points, nor did it mention available camping for another 6 miles. We figured that we could make it to Porcupine Creek before dark, but we weren't sure what the camping situation would be like so we decided to load up with water at Rainy Creek and carry it forth until we found a suitable site, even if it was short of Porcupine Creek. As Murphy would have it, however, as soon as we loaded up and started back on the trail we passed by a number of smaller flowing creeks and which hadn't been mentioned in the guidebook.

A mile further we reached Highway 20 at Rainy Pass. As we neared the road we came across a note left on the trail. It was from Siesta (whom we had hiked with in central Oregon) and her husband informing any PCT thru-hikers that they were camped 2 miles down the road and that they had way too much beer and smoked sausages to consume themselves and that we should hitch down to join them. We looked at the note and thought it would be a lot of fun to go, but considering the lateness in the day and that we wanted to get an early start the following day we decided to pass on the invite. We crossed the highway and began walking along Forest Road 600 to the northbound trailhead parking lot and the resumption of the PCT when we saw someone walking towards us. As the person got closer we said to each other that we recognized the walk and low and behold, it was Siesta. It turned out that they couldn't find a good spot down the highway so instead they were camped right there at the northbound trailhead. It was a good thing that we hadn't hitched down highway to go look for them!

We set up camp at the side of the trail and then proceeded to have a very enjoyable evening with Siesta, her husband Sean and her brother-in-law Eric who had driven up from the Seattle area. True to their note, they had way too much beer and hotdogs for three people to eat, but we were more than happy to help them out in that respect. As Siesta handed us each a beer she announced that it was going to be their mission of the evening to make sure that we didn't get an early start on the trail the following morning, and they did their best to fulfill that goal. We consumed beer after beer, hotdog after hotdog while enjoying great company and conversation and it was almost midnight before we finally said goodnight and crawled into our tent to capture a few short hours of sleep before starting out on the trail the next morning. It was a really special evening as it had been so unexpected and we also realized that it would be the last such time on our journey north.

The next morning we woke to the alarm going off at 6 AM. We started moving and packing up our gear trying not to take notice of the sluggish feeling and thick heads that we had. We had been hoping to hike 25 miles that day, but it remained to be seen if we would be physically up to it after our previous nights festivities. Siesta emerged from her tent as we were finishing up and she seemed a little amazed that we were as bright eyed and bushy tailed as we were (she wasn't inside our heads). We thanked her very much for a really enjoyable evening, wished her and her husband happy hiking in their quest southbound to complete the trail, and then we hauled on our packs and started up the trail.

Our days hike began with a 2000 foot, 5 mile climb up past Porcupine Creek up towards Cutthroat Pass. Thankfully it was a cool morning with overcast skies and the grade was not too bad. We made our way up the trail, feeling the effects of the previous night, but doing our best to disregard them and remain focused on our days goal. As we hiked the going got easier and our bodies began to adjust back to what has by now become so normal. We reached the pass just before 9 AM and stopped for a little breakfast before continuing along the eastern side of the ridge, around two bowls towards Granite Pass. We stopped briefly in the saddle of Granite Pass to talk to some weekend hikers before pressing on northwest around Swamp Creek basin. Next on the agenda it was Methow Pass before beginning the long, 6 mile descend down along the West Fork of the Methow River. We stopped for lunch at a creek side camp and then pressed on, still striving to achieve that 25 mile mark for the day.

As had happened the previous day, the cloud coverage had cleared away as the day progressed and it had left us with a hot, muggy day. By the time we reached Brushy Creek where we would turn away from Methow River and veer northward to the next pass, the day was hot. We stopped for a break in a small campsite by the side of the creek, bemoaning the fact that another 2300 foot climb in the hot sun ahead of us. We had already hiked about 18 miles that day and we briefly considered staying put rather than pushing on, but the knowledge that the weather was forecasted to change and rain was due kept us moving on, for a mile today would mean a mile less in bad weather.

As it turned out, the hike up towards and past Glacier Pass was not as bad as we had expected it to be. While the creek was appropriately named (Brushy) it was in a deep enough canyon that we were shaded from the sun by the high peaks to the west of us meaning that the first 3 miles to the pass were very pleasant. Once we passed through the pass and started up the switchbacks that would help us climb the remaining 1400 feet to the incredibly steep ridge to the Cascade Crest it was late enough in the afternoon that despite being in full sun it was cool enough to be relatively comfortable.

At last we reached the crest and began a beautiful ridge walk through alpine gardens and marshy flats. The effect of the crest was evident with a quick look to the east where the landscape was contrasted by dry barren slopes as opposed to the lush green forested hills to the west. We traversed along the ridge for a little bit before dropping of onto the eastern side to make our way around another ridge and around a basin. It was in that basin that we stopped to camp as there was a little creek running through it. We dropped down off the trail to one of the campsites down on the bench and set up our camp on a nice bed of dry grass. The pikas that made their homes in the nearby rock scree called our their greetings and perched themselves up on the rocks to watch with interest as we went about erecting our tent and getting our gear our of our packs. Once we had our tent set up, we weren't long out of doors. We were in the shade of the ridge, there was a cold breeze dropping down from the crest and it w as getting late in the day so we took shelter inside where it was degrees warmer.

The next morning we woke to the sound of rain on the tent fly. The skies were overcast, hanging low around us and they looked threatening. The forecasted bad weather had been fulfilled. Recognizing that the sound of the rain on the fly is always worse than it really is we went about the process of packing up our gear, preparing our packs for rain and donning our waterproof clothing. We took the tent down under the cover of the fly and by the time we actually had to venture out into the weather we found that the rain had let up and we were just shrouded in mist.

We climbed back up to the trail and then began the rest of our traverse across the basin and up towards the southwest shoulder of Tatie Peak. From the shoulder we could look to the northwest and see Harts Pass below, with a parking lot full of vehicles. It was a shock to see so many cars there, as it always is, when we thing that we are in the middle of the wilderness and then we come around a corner to see that infrastructure is encroaching. As Scott always says, it's just further proof the population density is getting greater and as a result the Wilderness is becoming less and less wild.

We rounded the south east flank of Peak 7405 and then made our way north towards Harts Pass with it's campground, parking lot and merging of roads. As we approached we saw a patch of blue sky above us, and being that we hadn't been rained on yet, we decided to take a break and strip off our rain gear. With that done, we started on down the trail again, only to have the patch of blue sky disappear and the misty cloud to roll in upon us again. Despite the bad weather, something quite wonderful happened as we neared the pass. We were hiking along as a day hiker came around a bend towards us. As we got closer the hiker called out "Hey!" and we realized that it was none other than Brant Phillips, whom we had hiked with prior to Mt. Whitney. What a thrill to meet up with him again; it is so strange that we have crossed paths with most of the people whom we became friendly with in the early part of the hike: Eric, a.k.a. Skypilot, Ken and Cindy, Rex, and now Brant. We stopped to talk to Brant for a while and he told us that he had finished the trail about a week previously, had gone home to Spokane and then had returned to Hart's Pass so that he could bring a cache of food and beverages out for thru-hikers still on the trail. He told us that we would find a flat of soda pop as well as a case of beer a little further along the trail, and that if we went to his campsite we would find a cooler on the backseat of the car with fixings for sandwiches. After chatting for a while we thanked him very much for his offer of food and beverages, assured him that we would partake and then continued on our way as he ventured off on his day hike before returning to Spokane.

Sure enough, a mile further up the trail we came across the soda pop and beer on the side of the trail. We each grabbed a soda to enjoy in the short-term and then we packed a beer into our packs to be enjoyed later that evening as a "last night on the trail" celebration. With the beverages in hand, we next went to his campsite were we made ourselves a turkey breast sandwich, and followed that up with a cookies and banana each. All in all, we were well fed and rested, and by the time we were ready to leave, about half an hour later, the rain was upon us again.

We put on our waterproofs again as we returned back to the trail. We began with a climbing traverse around Deer Park, back up towards the ridge and the Slate Peak Lookout Tower. As we slowly made our way along the trail we could see that there were a couple of hikers ahead of us. The first one we only saw briefly as she rounded the ridge, but the second one was closer. We could tell that he was carrying an external frame pack and because of that we assumed that he was a weekender starting out from Hart's Pass. We were wrong. A little further along the trail we came across some bushes and the hiker in front of us has stopped in the shelter of them to take a break; it was Gravedigger and he informed us that the second hiker we had seen further ahead was in fact Theresa. We were shocked to see him and hear that Theresa was ahead as when we left Stehekin we had been under the impression that the rest of the group was hanging out for a Zero Day, heading out the day after us and then taking their time about getting to Manning as they were shooting for Sept. 19th. It turned out that they had camped a mile behind us that previous evening and Gravedigger had seen us up ahead climbing the switchbacks up the ridge as he had been starting them. Once again, it just goes to show that people can be very close behind and you will never know it unless you stop for one reason or another.

After leaving Gravedigger to prepare his meal we continued on along our traverse. We rounded the nose from which we had seen Theresa disappear behind and then continued on around another basin until we reached Buffalo Pass followed by Windy Pass, Foggy Pass and finally Jim Pass where we stopped for lunch. We never set eyes on Theresa again, and a hunter headed in the opposite direction to us informed us that we were "falling behind" as she had her head down and was just trucking along the trail.

It had been one of those mornings of hiking where the weather couldn't figure out what it wanted to do. It would spit and blow for a while and then ease up, invariably as we were doing a climb. We would get hot and sweaty under our waterproof clothing and Scott would want to stop and take off his jacket. Sure enough, no sooner than we would get hiking again and the rain and wind would start up one more time. On would come the jacket again when the intensity got to the point that he was getting soaked. It was a rather miserable morning, and by the time we stopped for lunch at Jim Pass it was after 1 PM, we had hiked just under 14 miles, and we were feeling wet, cold and miserable. We were quick about eating our lunch as every minute that we sat there under the tree that was providing us a meager amount of shelter from the wind and rain, we got colder. Our bodies cooled quickly and we were eager to get moving again so that we could try and warm up. As usual, we looked at the map to try and determine where we would camp that night, and we saw that there was a campsite by a spring 7 miles further on. It would put us short of our desired mileage and either force us into a longer day to finish the next day, or an extra day on the trail, but at that moment, setting up camp and getting out of the weather sounded very attractive.

From Jim's Pass we began the long descent down towards Holman Pass at a low point in the crest where numerous trails converge. It was about 5 miles down to the pass and the last mile of it was a series of switchbacks that seemingly dropped us further and further down. With each turn of the trail we became more anxious, knowing that as soon as we reached the bottom we would immediately begin our climb back up the other side. On the positive side, however, the weather was being more cooperative. The rain showers had ceased, the clouds had lifted a little and we were able to warm up somewhat, despite our downhill hike.

At last we reached Holman Pass and we stopped for a quick chocolate bar break before beginning our hike back up the other side. As it had not rained on us since leaving Jim Pass Scott decided that he would shed his waterproofs in preparation for the climb, but sure enough, within another mile or so the weather became threatening again and the showers began anew. Being that we were climbing, Scott was reluctant to put his jacket on again so instead he would stop under the shelter of a tree every now and then, hopeful that the intensity would let up and he wouldn't get totally soaked. He braved a couple of showers and then after a little while things seemed to let up a bit and his shirt began to dry again.

Two and a half miles after leaving Holman Pass we reached the bench that housed the never failing spring and camp. We looked at our watch, considered the mileage that we had done so far, that which we had left to Manning Park, the weather, and then finally decided to push on another few miles. We reasoned to ourselves that a mile today was one less tomorrow, and that we knew what the weather was doing now but the following day it might be even worse. We loaded up with a couple extra liters of water each and then pushed on up the hill towards the crest gap separating Canyon Creek and Rock Creek basins.

We reached that saddle and then began our way down the switchbacks on the other side before traversing across the steep basin wall towards Woody Pass. We had been hoping to make it to Woody Pass to camp that night, but as we were still descending the switchbacks from the previous gap we realized that we were unlikely to make it in time as dusky was approaching, hastened by the thick and dark clouds hanging around us. The walls of Rock Creek Basin were so steep that we knew we would not find camping anywhere along it and that our only hope was the trees on the other side of the traverse and that's what we set our sights on.

As we neared the mid point of the basin traverse we came across three hunters sitting on the side of the trail, waiting for a shot at some game in the basin a few hundred yards below us. Of the three, one was wearing a black poncho, one was in camouflage, and one was wearing the requisite florescent orange and it had been the later whom we had seen from as far away as the rim of the basin, almost a mile away. They sat there the whole time until we were finally upon them and then they moved just enough to let us pass. Undoubtedly, they must have been very frustrated to have been still for so long only to have us come trucking along. Needless to say, they greeted us with nothing more than a glare.

We reached the far side of the basin and began another series of switchbacks, these ones taking us up towards Woody Pass. As we walked our eyes scanned the terrain and bushes on either side of the trail, looking for anything flat and large enough that we would be able to pitch the tent. After a little bit we saw something below the trail, a cleared flat spot that looked like it had been used as a camp before. We looked for a trail leading down to it and when we didn't find one we decided to just bushwhack. The embankment was steep and the ground was wet and slippery so it was tough going and Scott even slipped and ended up in a mess of bushes, but a few minutes later we were standing in the small clearing. It had looked like a big spacious area from up on the trail,, but in actual fact, it was a small clearing with only one level spot which was smaller than the floor space of our tent. We thought about scrambling back up to the trail and carrying on, but then we couldn't be sure that we would find anything better so we decided to make the most of it. After all, we had had worse, but it sure wasn't what we had in mind for our last night on the trail.

We managed to get the tent set up on the level spot. Both of our legs would slope down a little, and Scott would maybe have to roll into Rachel a bit, but for the most part we would be comfortable. We put the fly on and pulled all of our gear underneath, into the vestibules, and then disappeared inside to get warm, clean and rest. We started by grabbing the beers that we had packed with us for he day and we cracked them and toasted Brant for bringing them. With beer down the gullet and a dry place to relax, we started to feel a little better about things and went through our evening routine for our last time of the trip. As we were getting comfortable and preparing dinner we heard a crack of the hunter's rifle, which unnerved us a little to have gunfire so close by, and we both hoped that whatever they were shooting at got away unscathed.

It was a strange feeling when we were finally ready for sleep. We lay there in the tent listening to the rain pound against the fly having to come to terms with the fact that rain would be a very real prospect for our last day of hiking. We had a mixture of feelings and we began to list off many of the things that we will miss about the trail once we are done. For Scott, being able to pee wherever he wants was high on his list, but we both agreed that we would miss the relative simplicity of life, the quiet, the solitude, being able to see the stars in all their great numbers and brilliance, our fellow hikers, and so much more. What we would get in exchange would be a few days of rest, a visit with friends and loved ones, and a sense of accomplishment and achievement.

On the morning of September 17th, our last day on the trail, we woke up at the usual time, (just before 6 AM) to the dreaded sound of rain hitting the tent fly. We lay there listening to the drops come in waves as the showers passed overhead, wishing that they would cease and we would be able to finish our trek in the glory of good weather. We so badly wanted to be able to enjoy our moment at the monument and the thought of being wet and cold was not the least bit appealing. It was hard to get moving, especially after we heard two more gun shots ring through the basin shortly after we awoke. How ironic, we thought to ourselves, that we had bedded down and woken up to gun shots on our last night on the trail. Things just weren't shaping up to be what we had envisioned.

After about 10 minutes of lying there we finally got moving. It was our last day and there was no point in putting it off any longer. We tried to adopt the "it didn't matter how much or how hard it rained because we were going home" attitude as we pulled on clothing that was still damp from the previous day's hike. Recklessly we packed our gear, not paying the usual attention to the order with which things were loaded into our packs as it just didn't seem to matter anymore, and then finally we were ready to emerge from under the cover of the fly and face the elements. Rachel was the first as she was desperate to squat behind a bush, and to her delight she was able to report that the rain had let up momentarily and we were just shrouded in cloud. Nonetheless, we pulled down the tent without any delay and quickly packed it away, not paying much attention to the dirt or pine needles clinging to the wet exterior, figuring that we could clean it all up once we got home. We stuffed our rain jacket pockets full of left over snacks and candy bars so that we wouldn't be needlessly slowed down later on for breakfast or finding our way under the plastic garbage bag covers to get at them and then we were off. We made our way along a faint path, through the bush, leading back to the trail, and then we continued where we had left off the previous evening, on our climb up to Woody Pass.

We reached Woody Pass, which showed no resemblance to it's name and would have made for every exposed camping had we made it that far, and then began a lengthy traverse below Three Fools Peak. The scenery would likely have been spectacular on a clear day, but as we were shrouded in clouds and fog we didn't get much of a view at all. Then, as we continued to hike and we neared the high point of the Washington PCT (7126 feet) at an unnamed summit, we began to notice two things. First, we saw that there was a light dusting of snow on the ground. It had started a couple hundred feet above where we had camped, but the higher we climbed the thicker it got. The second thing was that the clouds were beginning to lift and lighten. At first we warned the sun not to toy with us, but after disappearing back behind clouds a couple of times it appeared that it was winning the battle and the sky was slowly clearing.

From the unnamed summit we began a descent down past the rock-bound Hopkins Lake towards Hopkins Pass before continuing along a very gentle descent through mostly wooded slopes toward the open Castle Pass. By the time we reached Castle Pass we stopped for a little break as we knew that we were on the final approach to the border, 4 miles away. We had a chocolate bar each and then began our through the open meadow and then traversed along to the monument.

The final approach to the monument brought us onto a short bank of switchbacks, each one of which approached the border-designating swath cut through the trees, but then stopped short and turned us back, staying on U.S. soil. We saw the swath before we saw the monument below and we immediately knew that we were almost upon the 49th Parallel, for why else would anyone cut a 36 foot break through the trees as far as the eye can see? As we made our way around the first of the four switchbacks we looked down towards the monument and we saw a couple of people there, but one of them was in denim. Rachel's first thought was that someone had hiked in to greet us, but that was quickly dismissed as nobody other than Rachel's parents really knew when we might be arriving and even they weren't expecting us until later that day at the earliest. The next thought was that it might be Theresa and Gravedigger still hanging out at the monument, but that the individual we had seen was in denim made that prospect seem unlikely. For lack of a better explanation, we figured that they must be a couple of day hikers, but by the time we actually arrived at the monument they were nowhere to be seen; nobody to take our photo, what a bummer.

There are actually two monuments designating our arrival at the border. The first of which is a scaled down replica of the Washington Monument, and there are many like it placed at different locations along the border between Canada and the U.S.. While that monument was the "official" one, it was the second one which we were eager to see. The second monument is a replica of that which we had seen at the southern terminus of the PCT, a series of five different sized wooden posts all bundled together and inscribed, denoting it as the Northern Terminus of the Pacific Crest National Scenic Trail. It was this second monument that we were interested in having our picture taken at.

Over the previous 2658 miles there had been much thought and anticipation about what it was going to be like to finally arrive at the border. Rachel had been unsure whether she would laugh, cheer, cry, or kiss the Canadian soil, but what she never anticipated was that we would both find our arrival at the monument rather anti-climatic. Scott had been a little more realistic, thinking to himself that the border is nothing much more than an arbitrary, geo-political, line drawn across the globe that could be changed at any time, and that the significance of our hike from border to border is only relevant as long as the lines remain where they are. Needless to say, there were no cheers, tears or kissing of the soil upon our arrival. What there was, instead, was a warm feeling of achievement and accomplishment. We had done it! We had hiked from Mexico to Canada, 2658 miles along the Pacific Crest Trail.

We took our packs off to take our first real break of the day. We took a couple pictures of the monuments and then sat down to have a quick lunch while trying to come to grips with the fact that we had hiked from border to border and we grabbed the trail register and read through some of the entries made by other hikers who have completed the trek. As we were sitting there, about ten minutes after arriving, we noticed another hiker navigating the switchbacks above us. It was Sno-Leopard. As he made the final approach to the monument we greeted him with a congratulations and a hand shake and then he sat down to join us in a little rest, snack, and relishing of the moment.

About twenty minutes after we had arrived, we were finishing up with our snacks when two men came walking up the trail from the Canadian side. It took a moment, but then we realized that one of them was a Canadian Immigration officer and the other was a plain clothes RCMP officer. As they approached they introduced themselves and then promptly asked to see our paperwork and proof of citizenship. These developments took us very much by surprise as we were expecting to simply have to drop Scott's paperwork off at the Hope RCMP detachment on the way back into town. In actual fact, we were take so off guard that we didn't even have the appropriate documentation with us. In preparing for our hike, we had thought that it would be safer to have Rachel's parents hold on to the approval-to-enter papers and our passports and bring them to manning Park when they came to pick us up, rather than chance mailing them and having the parcel get lost or be delayed. We explained this to the officials and then present ed them with our drivers licenses. The Immigration Officer examined Scott's license, flip through some papers and then commented that he had not been scheduled to cross the border until Sept. 30th; they had a list of all hikers who had been given pre-approval to enter the country and on what dates. After finishing up with Scott, he turned his attention to Rachel. This is where we ran into problems. Being that Rachel is a Canadian citizen, it had never even occurred to us that she needed to apply for authorization to enter the country. We had printed the form off of the PCTA web-page and Scott had filled it out, but nowhere in all of the information that we read were we informed that all individuals wishing to enter the country via the PCT needed to apply, regardless of citizenship. Trying to keep the situation light, we asked with a laugh if she was going to be refused entry and sent back to down the trail, but when it came out that Rachel used to be a Correctional Officer and the Immigration Officer disclosed that he had also been in Corrections, a common ground was established, a short dialogue about people they may each know occurred, and a sense of trust was established. Of the three of us hikers present, the only individual who had all of his documentation and paperwork completed and present was Sno-Leopard. We thanked the officials for having had the courtesy to give us some time at the monument before appearing out of the bush and making us deal with authority and bureaucracy right way, but despite the twenty minute delay that whole situation left us feeling a little unsettled.

Shortly after finishing up with the Immigration Officer the three of us were left along again. We sat there for a while, taking a few more photos, re-packing our packs, and trying to come to terms with what had just happened (both finishing the trail and being confronted by officials so soon). Another ten minutes later we bid Sno-Leopard goodbye as we started off on the last 7 miles (12 km) to Highway 3 and Manning Park Lodge. We got about 0.2 mile further down the trail when we came across a whole congregation of officials (about 5 Customs Officers, the Immigration Officer and RCMP Officer we had already seen, and a BC Parks Employee) all hanging around their ATV's and a camp fire. Once again we were taken by surprise, this time by the apparent numbers and force with which they were present. We stopped to chat again briefly and then the Immigration Officer appeared with a digital camera and wanted to take our photo. We have no idea what the purpose of the photo taking was, but don't for a moment suspect that it was simply because he wanted to remember our meeting in the years to come; just one more thing to make us feel a little unsettled about the whole encounter.

Once we had taken our leave, once and for all, from the officials, we set out on our 7 mile hike to Manning Park Lodge. Surprisingly enough, it began with a 1000 foot climb up and to the base of Windy Joe Mountain along a trail much the same as any other we had hiked on over the past 2650 miles. It was relatively narrow and cut into the slope embankment, had a little forest duff, a couple of blow-downs and perhaps a little more northwest mud than we have seen in the past, but all in all, it was quite uneventful. We reached a couple of trail junctions, one of which had a billboard full of information and we chuckled to ourselves when we saw a notice advising hikers that the PCT is for "experienced" backpackers which we suppose that we now fall into the category of. A little bit further, the trail turned onto an old gravel road and we began our 3 mile descent along it. We thought it a little disappointing to spend our last couple of miles on the trail walking along an old road, but it did allow us to walk side by side for a couple of miles until we reached the bottom of the then found ourselves back onto trail tread which brought us out to the road leading to Highway 3 and the Lodge. We arrived at the PCT trailhead parking lot on the roadway sometime around 3 PM. At first we were a little disoriented and had no idea which way to walk in order to reach the Lodge, but we soon figured it out and began our half-mile road walk to the Parks infrastructure.

Rachel had feared that those last 7 miles to the lodge would be the longest 7 miles of the trip, her father had tried to get her to think of that part as a Victory Lap, but strangely it was neither. We walked those miles eager to get to the lodge but also wanting to relish that last couple of hours on the trail. We were looking forward to putting our packs down, not to be picked up again any time too soon but hiking has become what we know and do and making the transition back into civilization may be difficult. As we got closer and closer to the road, we began to feel more and more tired. Our pace slowed and we hobbled a little more despite that we had done less mileage than usual. It was as though our bodies knew that the end was upon us and that they didn't need to be strong anymore; we had known it in our minds for a while, but now we were feeling it physically.

We reached the Manning Park Lodge complex just after 4 PM. and we weren't expecting Rachel's parents until sometime around 7 PM. We wanted to find somewhere comfortable to wait, where we could get some food and a beverage so we sought out the pub. A telephone call to Syd and Judith on their cell phone informed them that we were waiting for them and let us know that they were well on their way and would arrive within two hours. We ordered a burger each and a beer to wash it down with, chatted with the barkeep and another customer, and than after finishing our meal, we retired to the easy chairs to enjoy a second beer and wait for Rachel's parents.

At about 6:45 PM it occurred to Rachel that her parents might be arriving any minute. She went upstairs to have a look in the parking lot to see if they were there, and as she walked through the door of the pub and stepped outside she was just in time to see them climbing out of their vehicle and starting across the parking lot towards her. It was a great reunion with hugs and kisses all around and than another celebratory beer. As we were beginning to think about taking our leave and heading back down to Vancouver, another thru-hiker, Luke, walked into the pub. He came over to greet us and we congratulated him on having completed the hike the previous afternoon.

At last it was time to go. We had finished the trail, had our celebratory couple of beers and now we were eager to get home and be reunited with our cat. It was a 2.5 hour drive back to Vancouver (not including the hour stop for another meal along the way) and we arrived at home by about 10 PM on the evening of September 17th, our journey was done, for the next 12 days, until we start the next one.