Days 117-120–stehekin to manning park
August 15-18 | NOBO Miles 2572.4-2652 + 8 bonus miles past the border
I woke up just in time to catch the free bus leaving Stehekin Valley Ranch, which rolled up to the infamous town bakery at the exact same time the 9:15 bus from the trailhead arrived. And what do you know, out came Store Brand, Trashcan, Biz (who I finally met for the first time in daylight), and another friend Mastermind. We got some bakery goodies (a bomb cinnamon roll for me) and I hopped on the bus with them. We rolled into town, got our resupply boxes, looted the hiker box, and claimed some Adirondack chairs on the patio of the one and only store in town. We loitered for hours as our power banks charged and we mooched the Manager’s WiFi while tourists arriving on the ferry from Chelan gawked at our casual filth. A nice dude named Ranger Rick who I’d ridden the bus from the ranch with came up to us with one simple proposition: “beer?” And two minutes later we each had a complimentary Sierra Nevada in hand.
Not 10 minutes after that, another guy, who’d been lunching at the resort next door, came over to gift us half a bottle of his leftover wine. Everyone was trying to get us drunk. I poured it into my smartwater bottle and took it to go.
At 2 we decided it was time to get back on the road. We took the $8 bus (highway robbery but I guess that’s how the town makes money), stopped at the bakery and got some goods (dinner calzone for me) for the road, and made it to the trailhead by 3. We had needed to get a permit to camp since we wouldn’t be leaving the NP boundary that night, so we reserved a spot at Fireweed Camp, 14 miles up the trail (on a looooong gradual uphill) and got a move on.
I got berry distracted by all the ripe red raspberries on the uphill. In addition to the many dogs I ran across, they seriously slowed me down.
The 3 dudes and I camped that night with another friend, Long Legs, and two older guys, Wolf and Goldfish. As we ate dinner we passed the wine around (and my calzone) and heard a light scurrying behind us–a mouse, trying to sneak up on us and pirate some crumbs. While we were still awake. Thank goodness camp had a bear box, where we all cached our food for protection. It was a rare rodent-free night.
The next morning, we crossed Rainy Pass at Highway 20, the last major road before the border.
From there the trail climbed up into some seriously rugged territory that, in many ways, reminded me of the desert. At some points you could see switchbacks in the distance for miles.
A very fun surprise was passing an Outward Bound group of 12 (very tired and sweaty looking) high school kids and 4 leaders on their way up to Cutthroat Lake as I was going down a hill. I chatted them up about how cool what they were doing was and how I used to do adventure summer camps as a kid. I asked if they had trail names and it turns out they’d just come up with them that morning, so one by one from their caravan line they shouted them up to me excitedly. In our talk I also discovered that only one of them carries the trowel for the whole group… I wonder how that works.
I told them all they should hike the PCT one day. They were all smiling as I went off on my way, and the leaders thanked me for stopping to chat (I guess most thrus don’t take the time), but I think I was more stoked than any of them. It was one of those moments where you get to be a cool or interesting–albeit brief–part of someone else’s experience.
That night we convened at 25 miles and decided we wanted to push a few more. This meant another 2500 foot climb, but it was cool and overcast. I took my sweet time, jammed to some classic rock, and actually got cold on the way up.
Around 8 I met the guys at camp. We’d lost Biz a few miles back but we were joined by 3 girls also going NOBO–Squish, Juicy J, And Small Talk–who were super excited to play along with the joke and pretend it was my birthday when I rolled up. They were fun. I wondered how I hadn’t seen them at all in the past month?!? The trail be that way sometimes.
The next morning was a moody ridgewalk through heavy mist.
We made our way through Hart’s Pass, the last road we would cross in the US, and up into some spectacular country.
The North Cascades are out of control. I met a dude named Recon, who was hiking the Pacific Northwest Trail, right where the the PNT intersected the PCT. He really freaked me out when he told me he’d seen a Grizzly 4 days prior. I had less than 20 miles to Canada to avoid a mauling.
Marmots screamed at me as I passed by and it sounded so ridiculous I started to laugh hysterically.
We pressed out a 31-miler that night to Hopkins Lake. The wind was so strong that night that the water was warmer than the air. We really got a taste of some North Cascades fury, but it was gorgeous.
We all woke excitedly the next morning, pumped to get to Canada. The guys woke up at 6:30 and rolled out at 6:42, an impossible feat I will never understand. I was on the move by 7, my Achilles’ tendons both crying out, stiff and swollen from all the steep climbing of the past few days. I popped some Advil and trucked along.
By 9 I arrived at the monument to find Store Brand and Trash Can waiting, and we all had a little celebration (little as we all still have 400+ miles to go in the Sierra), signed the log book, and took some goofy pictures.
But we still had 8 miles and a small hill to go before Manning Park. We moved along and were there before noon, soon joined by Long Legs (who was in such bad shape he was basically hobbling, but hey, he’d finished the trail) and Biz, who was only about an hour behind us. It was a good time, made even better by the free pool, hot tub, and shower access at the resort. We chilled hard on the Lodge patio and probably alarmed some of the many tourists there on that Sunday afternoon.
We were lucky enough to score a ride all the way back to a Seattle with the incredibly amazing Lani, who I’d made plans with back in Stehekin and who was picking us up on her way back from visiting her daughter Kaitlin in Spokane. Having already driven 6 hours that day, she scooped us up and we made our way southwest.
We dropped Biz at a McDonald’s in Hope, BC, and sent him off in style (he was done with his hike and more than stoked to be near some burgers) before continuing down the road. Lani took us across the border at Sumas, where the border patrol agent had a hard time telling Store Brand and Trashcan apart (classic). “Very difficult,” she giggled, handing our passports back to us.
We drove through tiny farm towns and past Mt. Baker, eventually making it down I-5 towards Seattle. Around 9PM we arrived in Mukilteo and dropped the guys at a Walgreen’s where their uncle would be coming to pick them up. Lani and I then returned to her house after what was a near 12-hour day of driving for her (trail angel of the year award) and had some eggs and fresh ciabatta toast while chatting with Brian. It was great to see them again before leaving Washington–super shout out to these two for always coming through in the clutch!!
The next morning was an early one as I’d booked a plane ticket the day prior from Seattle to Reno by way of San Francisco. Lani had me at the airport by 7AM and I gave her a big hug goodbye. The rest of the day would take me through 5 hours of fog-related travel delays, but I made the most of it snacking my way through SFO. I was in Reno and on a bus to South Lake Tahoe by late afternoon, and picking up a pizza on my way to the Holiday Inn by 7PM. A night of laundry, showers, and a new episode of Bachelor in Paradise set me up for success.
Today is Day 122 but I’m too lazy to make a separate post about it. Suffice it to say that I snagged myself a new shirt (the gray one wasn’t cutting the mustard) and a replacement beanie to fill the hat-shaped hole in my heart. Tonight I wil resupply, in customary fashion, at Grocery Outlet, before hitting the trail at Echo Lake to bang out my last 440 miles.
It’s official that my mom will meet me at Walker Pass on September 6, so it’s time to turn on the burners. It feels surreal and more than exciting. And I have yet to see a single speck of snow here, which is mind-boggling. Sierra Nevada, I’m coming for you!!