Day 1: Let It Begin

1. April 11: Mile 0 Campo to 15.38 Hauser Creek

Stayed at Scout and Frodo’s, trail angels in San Diego, last night and met numerous hikers starting there. They drove us through the trail head and began. Leapfrogged a South African couple, Ollie the Aussie and Patrick from Alaska, Bob from everywhere along with a couple other gentlemen that began with us. I mostly walked with Kristin from Toronto. There was a surprising amount of water and vegetation so far and there are mosquitoes at our campsite. I’m camping with Kristin and the South African couple tonight. Thinking about hiking to Fred canyon tomorrow 16.5 miles away. 

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Day 244: The Great PCT Love Story

It is exactly eight months to the day that Glowworm and I met in San Diego so I figured it would be somewhat fitting to tell the story that I conveniently left out of all of my blog posts through my 160 days on trail. Enjoy, for what it’s worth. 

Welp, I am finally sitting down to write my long overdue post-PCT update. The original plan was to have three or four of these suckers by now, but as expected those plans completely failed to pan out. In fact, plans failing to pan out or not panning out has basically been the thesis of my life in the two or so months since living the life of a malnourished, mentally deranged, and rather confused nomad. So, let’s get this straight now, I am not going to pathetically attempt (and fail) to recount all the has happened in the last two months. Glowworm did a halfway decent job of summing up the happenings of our post trail escapades in Vancouver and Seattle as well as missing the trail in her most recent post. Her recounting of those events and feelings are far more reverent, appropriate, and sincere than anything I would have ever written so consider yourself lucky for her to have penned such eloquent and meaningful pieces of literature. If you enjoyed those pieces (if you haven’t, shame on you for being so heartless, but I will permit you some level of redemption by giving you the link:  https://thecaffeinatedhiker.wordpress.com/).

Ok, now that I’ve made you slightly guilty, I will happily inform you that this post will once again probably be inappropriate for children, tweens, teens, young adults, people-in-that-awkward-stage-between-35-and-40, middle aged folk, new inductees to AARP, the elderly, the holy shit you’re still alive’s, and the dead. I can, however, guarantee with no real authority that this will probably be the best thing that you will read over the next 5 minutes.

I’m sure at this point you’re thinking, “Okay, okay! Jesus, get to the point.” Fine. I will. I will get to the point, but not without expressing my distaste for what I’m about to write. Love stories make me sick. If there’s anything good that can come out of Kim Jong-Un’s recent ICBM test it’s the possibility that it could wipe out Rom Coms for all eternity. “Like the world has never seen!” as our beloved and well-spoken President Donny Trump would say. I say this because this post is the sappy, mushy gushy, sickening, Nicholas Sparks-worthy love story that everyone (mostly women, especially Glowworm’s friends) has been violently demanding for centuries. Okay, maybe not centuries, but it feels close to it. And, so it’s not horribly one-sided, I have permitted Glowworm to interject freely to correct the many details I will omit or get miserably wrong. Alright, kids, here we go.

Once upon a time in a magical place called San Diego a young prince lay eyes on a beautiful princess and they fell in love. They then frolicked happily through the mountains together and lived happily ever after. The end.

Ha! You think it actually happened like that? Fuck no, it didn’t. It was actually far less tidy. The real story is Glowworm and I met on April 10, 2017 at Scout and Frodo’s home in San Diego. Scout and Frodo annually host the vast majority of PCT hikers at their home the night before they begin their treks. To be honest, Glowworm was the only person my age there so we were naturally drawn to each other, but more for lack of any other options than an impulsive romantic desire. Sorry to burst your bubble. (This is true, but the fact that I ever-so-subtly moved my things from a tent full of older men into his tent seems like it should have tipped us both off a bit). That being said, when I first caught sight of her she was lounging on a lawn chair letting the Southern California sun kiss her pasty Canadian flesh (I had just gotten out of Canadian winter, okay?). And yes, I thought she was quite beautiful.

You see, deep down I really felt like this was my last good shot at finding anyone. I dated someone early in high school for six months (For the record, as of writing this I have now been in a relationship with Glowworm a whole day longer!), but after that ended abruptly I never really pursued anyone until I was in college. When I was in college I pursued a couple girls, but those would fizzle out after a while. In all reality I just never felt comfortable dating and when I found someone I thought was attractive I wanted to pursue them away from my friends under the radar and that was almost impossible to do. So, between being generally awkward surrounding dating and loathing my friends meddling in my relationships I just never really had any good opportunities when most people find their eventual partner. That being said, when I met Glowworm I was purposefully trying to be cautious. I didn’t want to leap at the first girl my age that I came in contact with so I tried to refrain from showing my interest beyond just being friendly (Meanwhile, I was totally clueless. Always have been when it comes to romantic relationships, so I thought I’d just stumbled upon a wonderful friend and hiking buddy).

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Where it all began. The Mexican border with all of the people we stayed with at Scout and Frodo’s. I am standing at the top, Glowworm is six down from the left and Cougar and Dr. McDirty are four and three from left, respectively.

I continued this strategy the following morning when the whole group that stayed at Scout and Frodo’s (including Dr. McDirty and Cougar, our South African friends) departed from the Mexican border to embark on our journeys. Despite how much I wanted to leave with Glowworm, I forced myself to walk away thinking, “You just met this girl, there’ll be other girls and even if there aren’t that not why you’re here.” (I saw him leaving the monument ahead of me and was instantly filled with disappointment… Looking back I don’t know how I didn’t realize my feelings sooner). I must admit, though, I couldn’t shake her from my mind and fortunately by lunch (after purposefully slowing my pace...thanks a lot) she caught up to me. We hiked the rest of the day together and that night camped in the same tentsite along with our eventual friends Dr. McDirty and Cougar. In the days following, I was in lockstep with Glowworm making sure she was never too far out of my sight all the while trying not to come off as too overbearing.

A couple days before we reached the first town of Warner Springs we had been hiking together on a really hot afternoon through the desert and at around 4:00 I found a nice shaded campsite and announced that I was going to stop and camp here. Glowworm responded and said that she was going to hike on. My heart sank. We had camped with each other up until then and all of the hopes of maybe eventually getting her to like me somewhat were dashed in that moment (I honestly had just made a goal to keep hiking until at least 5:00 that day… I ended up having my only night camped alone on the entire trail and can’t say I enjoyed it too much. I will say that I was very happy to see him passing by my tent the next morning).

She didn’t get very far, as I realized the following morning. She was only a mile or two up the trail and I passed her early in the morning before the sun had properly spread its rays over the valley. At an overpass nearby, I waited as much as I could in hopes that she would show up and sure enough, she hiked in and took a break as well. Later that day the circumstances were flipped (except for the fact that I explicitly tried to get him to stay and camp with me… *cough cough*), Glowworm had decided in the afternoon to camp early while I (in an effort to prove that I wasn’t too interested or in any way needy of her) opted to continue on and hike into the evening.

It was a poor choice, as I discovered the next day. I made the mistake of indulging some guy in a conversation about NASA and the space program that I could never seem to end and had to experience Eagle Rock all by my lonesome (except for this extremely talkative dude). By the time I got to Warner Springs I knew I had made the wrong choice. I was suddenly alone without anyone that I had previously met to visit with and all I could do was scan the vast sea of tents at the Warner Springs Resource Center in hopes of seeing her bright orange shirt. Finally, much to my joy I saw her and promptly moved my gear over to where she was (semi-discretely). (Meanwhile, I walked into Warner Springs desperately hoping to find him there. I’ll never forget how happy I felt when I saw him there in his red rain jacket and tights… Oh, the glory of laundry outfits).

From then on, we hiked together as a group with our friends Dr. McDirty and Cougar and our friendship slowly grew. We got to know each other in the way that all friends do: by finding common ground on trivial things. We discovered that we both like musicals (especially Hamilton), our mothers both worked in similar capacities in elementary schools, we had similar political and religious views, we enjoyed hiking and being outside (duh), and just generally got along with one another and enjoyed the other’s company.

By the time we had reached Big Bear Lake I knew I liked her. I could no longer deny my attraction to her; it was genuine. At the time, though, I had no fucking clue whether or not if she felt the same way. (Spoiler alert: I was STILL clueless). Fortunately, the hostel where we wanted to stay only had two private two-bed rooms available. Obviously, Cougar and Dr. McDirty took one of those rooms and Glowworm and I took the “just friends” room as Sarge (the hostel owner) described it after I insisted we weren’t a thing. I thought the whole “just friends” thing was funny and so did Glowworm, but as I later learned we thought it was funny for completely different reasons. (I thought it was funny because we genuinely were just friends… oops).

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On the summit of Mt. San Jacinto a little under two weeks into the hike with Cougar and Dr. McDirty in the middle.

A couple weeks later in Tehachapi was when I began sensing that she may have the same feelings for me. As with all great love stories, it involved alcohol and a hot tub. (So romantic). The short of it was we went out to the hot tub on a hot sunny day and each drank a large can of beer which eventually turned into a couple more beers that somehow appeared which eventually turned into me going to the gas station to buy a six pack which eventually turned into us getting drunk in a hot tub that we had somehow eclipsed six hours dwelling in. But it was in the last 30 minutes or so after everyone else had left that I first really felt there was some kind of special connection between us (probably the alcohol, but eh, whatever). And as we talked we noticeably started situating ourselves ever closer together. That night was comically stereotypical of a burgeoning relationship that’s yet unspoken as we awkwardly tried to snuggle with each other (but not too much). It was a feeble attempt by Glowworm to initiate it (I thought I was being pretty obvious…), and an even feebler attempt by me to try and respond.

The funny thing was I still don’t think Glowworm had the clarity that I felt in my feelings for her. (It’s true, you guys. Despite everything, despite how obvious it all should have been, I still hadn’t let myself consider the possibility of an actual romantic relationship). As time has gone on I’ve discovered that she has a much harder time coming to terms with the way she feels about things than I do. I’ve never been one to shy away from the way I feel about things (whereas my automatic reaction to feelings is to shy away from them… I mean come on, feelings are scary); maybe not always publicly, but I’ve always tended to be fairly honest with myself. And it was at this point along the trail that I knew that if I was ever going to take this wild opportunity of actually by some miracle finding someone on this trail, she was going to be it.

It was in Lake Isabella, on the morning of the Indy 500, no less (I know, it’s the most Gummies circumstance ever) that I revealed my feelings for her. I was absolutely terrified. If she did not feel the same way then I not only blew it with her, but I also would have completely destroyed the rest of my hike and any fond memories I otherwise would have had. So, I had a lot to lose, but I knew that it was completely worth the risk. I would probably never have an opportunity like this again and I knew if I didn’t take it I’d regret it fully for the rest of my life. (Words cannot describe how grateful I am for that incredible leap of faith). But yeah, so anyway she liked me too and it was cool and then we watched the Indianapolis 500 which was sooooo thrilling!!!! And I got a girl to like me too. (In case anyone was wondering how it all went down, we were lying in bed that morning joking around about why we even stuck around each other when he said, “Do you want to know why?”, and I said “Why what?” (sticking to my clueless card for all it was worth), and he said “I really like you. I love hiking with you.” My heart simultaneously seemed to stop while also starting to beat furiously out of my chest and I came back with possibly the most me response ever of, “Me too,” while continuing to stare stubbornly at the motel room wall. That moment is seared into my brain forever).

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Our first photo together as a couple (well, first good photo) and before when shit hit the fan.

Here’s the part where if this were a movie the music would go to a minor key and it would start raining and all those other bull shit things directors do to try and signal conflict and the turning point in the story. It’s no longer puppies and flowers, it’s dog shit and thorns or something to that effect. Fast forward to the night after leaving Lone Pine in the Sierras. It had been a stressful day. I ate way too much Kielbasa at lunch, it was our first major snow crossing of the Sierras, we thought we lost Cougar and Dr. McDirty only to find them at the campsite at Chicken Spring Lake, it was stupid windy, really fucking cold, and dark by the time we sat down to make camp. It was completely miserable, yet one of the most pivotal nights of my life.

Because I was so stressed out, as Glowworm and I were lying in our tent (actually her 1+ person tent, I presumably was the + … pretty sure the + was intended to be a small dog or a child or a backpack rather than another fully grown human, but we made it work) I more or less had a complete emotional breakdown. I just felt compelled for some reason to completely spill my guts (emotionally, not the Kielbasa) revealing things that I never thought I’d tell anyone and at some point, decided it was a good idea to tell her that I loved her. Mind you, we had only been a thing for less than a week so that probably wasn’t the most ideal timing, but eh, it seemed to work out. Anyway, she didn’t respond in the same way. She said she didn’t know how she felt (FEELINGS you guys, feelings are scary!!). And honestly, I wasn’t sure either. Regardless, I really felt like I blew it and pushed her away. Little did I know that was going to be the least of my concerns 24 hours later.

I’m sure you all know some version of the story by now, but the gist of it is, the next morning after getting very little sleep on a cold and windy night at 11,500 feet, I started to feel what felt like congestion as a result of a cold. By the end of the day I knew that it wasn’t just a cold and I needed to get out of there. It was scary. I couldn’t walk more than ten feet without having to stop for five minutes. That night we lay in our tent taking turns comforting each other. She would comfort me that everything would work out, then she’d start freaking out and I’d comfort her. It wasn’t how I would have written the story, but I wouldn’t have changed the experience for the world.

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Moments before the helicopter arrived to whisk me away with my angel. I would have never survived without her.

She saved me. There’s no navigating around it. It was Glowworm that made me oatmeal in the morning because I was too weak to do it myself. It was Glowworm who helped find alternate routes to potentially bail on. It was Glowworm who hiked through not one, but two frigid river crossings to what turned out to be an unoccupied ranger station in search of help and it was Glowworm whose GPS device I used to contact emergency services to get me to a hospital. It was also Glowworm who watched as someone who just confessed their love for her took off in a helicopter leaving her to trek through some of the most dangerous portions of the PCT alone (along with Dr. McDirty and Cougar). (Yeah, can’t say this was the high point of the trail for me. Although Gummies will certainly tell you that the helicopter ride was the coolest part of his hike, so you know, there’s that).

Going through all of that intensity on the trail to all of a sudden being in a hospital bed really sucked. Like was miserably boring, but also left me with quite a bit of heartache. Glowworm was doing some of the toughest and most stunning sections of the trail and I wanted nothing more than to share that with her instead of being boarded up in a hospital bed racking up medical bills. (Meanwhile, I found myself suddenly forced to confront my feelings and realized that, yeah, I was totally in love with this guy).

I finally had the chance to be reunited with her in Bishop compliments of my Uncle driving me around the Sierras (thanks, Uncle Russ) about a week later. And it was everything you would hope it would be if you were writing a moving script (Are you listening Hollywood? I could really use the money right now.) I arrived at the hostel in Bishop and went to my room to find Glowworm asleep in her bunk and after setting down my pack I slipped into bed with her where upon waking up she told me that she loved me. I defs scored mega boyfriend points at that moment (Um, yeah. Best way to wake up from a sad nap ever). But seriously, though, it was really emotional after being torn apart in that fashion, but it was even more wonderful to be reunited.

It was after our reunion in Bishop that we headed to Lake Tahoe for a much-needed break from the trail. Life had been so intense and so stressful that we just needed to get away from it all. We spent the week doing all the quintessential couples things like holding hands along the beach, cooking dinners with each other, going on long walks on the board walk, seeing movies, and shopping together. (Give me a minute to gag at all of these disgusting things…okay I’m good). During our time in Tahoe we both called our parents to officially tell them that we were dating as well as announce it to the interwebs. It’s crazy to look back and think that so much happened in a matter of only a few weeks.

Moving on from Tahoe we slowly progressed in our relationship. The trail was probably the most ideal incubator for a relationship. You’re with one another 24/7 with no place to hide the ups and downs. There was rarely a day where both of us were having a good day. More often than not one us was having a shit day and having to navigate that was far better at shaking us out as a couple than any experience in “real” life. Some of the things that we went through together were so unfathomably stressful that sharing those experiences with anyone else, even some of my closest friends, would have surely caused irreparable damage, yet we were able to grow stronger through those circumstances. (We got to know each other better in our few months together on the trail than would ever be possible in the same amount of time in the “real” world.)

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Hitchhiking from Bishop to South Lake Tahoe the day after being reunited with the love of my life. I really had just showered, for the record.

We also proved that our weird idiosyncrasies weren’t enough to turn the other away. She somehow managed to stay interested in my despite me going on long tirades about the differences between superchargers and turbochargers, the Hart family March Madness pool, and various topics surrounding socio-economic political bullshit that I’m not even entirely sure what I was getting at. Anyway, despite all that, she somehow seemed to grow ever fonder of me. And I’m still trying to figure out how on Earth I got so lucky. Glowworm even admits to getting sick of the vast majority of people, even her closest friends, after about a week or so. It’s been eight months for us and nope, she still amazingly seems to enjoy my presence. And believe me, I gave her everything I had when it came to pushing her buttons. (This is absolutely true. I’ve never been able to spend so much time around one person without starting to want to rip my hair out. This fact was the reason why I always thought I’d never be able to have your traditional romantic relationship. The fact that I can listen to hours of musings on the inner workings of racecars and the complete history of the Indiana Pacers and still feel my heart brimming over with fondness and love is how I know I’ve found the one for me).

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A perfect, absurdly weird match for each other.

Alright so fast forward to mid-September. We finish the trail, I chug (and dump) milk at the border like any proper Hoosier should and they all lived happily ever after the end. Okay, it didn’t exactly happen that way. The plan was for me to get a job in Canada and for us to move in together upon getting said job. Since the specific story is long and exhausting the short of it is, it didn’t work out. Immigrating to another country is hard. Really fucking hard. If you don’t have a specific professional skill or trade you pretty much either need to be a student or have a Canadian relative to get a work permit. And before you ask, “Well why doesn’t Glowworm just come here?” The quick answer is, it’s even more challenging and complex.

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Joy, elation, and relief. We didn’t hike the full 2,650 miles. We hiked a little over 2,000 of them, but made up for the miles lost by developing a relationship to last a life time.

After traveling for a week in Vancouver and Seattle I spent a couple weeks at Glowworm’s home in Barrie, ON. It felt so great to finally do everyday things together. Cooking dinner, watching Netflix, sleeping in a real bed. It’s those simple things that you really begin to value after spending so much time out on the trail. As time has wore on, “real” life has almost seemed a piece of cake compared to what we went through together on a daily basis out on the trail.

So, this is the part where I’m sick of writing and really don’t want to waste any time cutting to the chase. While Glowworm was visiting me for a few weeks in October we got the point where we started to realize that there really weren’t any other personal aspects in each other that we needed to understand more; we felt completely comfortable with one another. We never wanted to get married as a tool for me to get into Canada, but in all reality, that was never the goal. The goal has always been for us to be together.

One night while sitting in my car I thought I might as well at least acknowledge the elephant in the room. Everyone had been half joking to us, “Why don’t you guys just married,” in reference to my immigration troubles, but we had never really discussed going that route. While on the trail after we began dating we had always known that we would one day get married (we spent an entire day on the trail planning out our wedding), but never seriously considered doing it so soon. But by the time I brought it up, it just made sense. So, when I asked what her thoughts would be about the prospect of getting married, there wasn’t a doubt in her mind that this is what she wanted. (Anyone will tell you that I am probably the most indecisive person on the planet. This was the most sure about anything I’d ever felt in my life). So, I promised the before her birthday (February 17th) I would propose.

And on November 24, I did just that. We went to the Pacers/Raptors game (she is most definitely a Pacers fan and has no allegiance to the Toronto Raptors) and after an epic comeback Pacers victory, we went to the Circle downtown where the Circle of Lights had been lit while at the game and under the monument I knelt and proposed (under all the Christmas lights!!! It was so perfect and romantic and wonderful. Sorry, I’m done). She said yes, of course, but it was still so exhilarating and wonderful and I cannot wait to spend the rest of my life with this woman.25276481_10215477935008453_56035509_n.jpg

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She said yes!

There’s so much more I could say, so many more details I could provide, so many more stories I could tell, but I’m going to end this here. This really isn’t the end as much as it is the beginning. Sure, the PCT was a once in a lifetime adventure, but it pales in comparison to the journey that we’re about to embark on together. I love you, Kristin, and I can’t wait to marry you. (And I love you, Michael. More than I can describe in words, so thank you for writing it all out for me.)

I also happy to announce to all of my blog followers that our good friends Dr. McDirty (Mick) and Cougar (Jolene) shared with us days after our engagement that they too are now engaged. We’re so thrilled for you guys! I never would have thought that Kristin and I would be engaged in addition to you two when we all met on April 10th. Congrats!

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Day 160: Checkered Flag

160. September 17: Mile 2646.19 Boundary Trail Junction to Mile 2658.91 Manning Provincial Park
9/17 6:00 AM – All last night I kept waking up with the same excitement and anticipation of a child on Christmas Eve. I’ve been waiting for this moment since I decided to do a thru hike way back in 2013. We had agreed to not set an alarm and just wake up organically knowing that we’d still be early risers which is exactly what happened. It was probably the easiest waking experience we have had in months. 


The others in the camp slowly made their final camp departures to the border as we collected our things. As we began walking away from our tent site you would think that it would be most appropriate to spend the final 3.7 miles in quiet contemplation. But no, we spent those last miles listening to our PCT playlist of songs that we’ve found fun to listen to such as Desposito, Shape of You, The Sound of Silence (Disturbed cover), Baby Got Back, Get Low, You’re the Voice, and Space Jam. 


9/17 9:00 AM – Step by step we approached the border. It didn’t really take all that long after leaving camp. The air was brisk and cool, yet comfortable; a proper Autumn morning. As we descended to the monument we heard what sounded like a helicopter very close by. We had heard through the grapevine that there was a crew that had been choppered in to re-cement the base of Monument 78, the official border designation, a metal obelisk with the date of the US/Canada border treaty, years that it was surveyed, and the nation’s names on the appropriate sides. This is different from the wooden monument that designates the northern terminus of the PCT, although they are situated next to each other. 


Regardless, this was the first thing that came to mind as we headed closer and closer towards Mile 2650, dreading the possibility of a disrupted end to our hike. Sure enough, though, we caught site of a glimpse of the monument through the clearing (Which turned out to be the border. The border is defined by a clear cut line through the trees.) and there was a helicopter landed there, but soon took off. We would find out later that someone had just gotten out of he chopper, took photos of all four sides of the monument, and flown off. Crazy!


It was less than a minute from watching the helicopter fly away that we arrived to the border. Greeted by a large group of 20 or so of people that we’ve been hiking around since Stehekin, some of which we met in the desert. They cheered and clapped for us as we took our final steps filled with relief and elation. For months I’ve been dreaming of being perched atop the northern terminus monument and in true Hoosier style, down a cold bottle of milk. So staying true to that, I put down my pack, climbed onto the wooden pillars, did my best Indy 500 impression by toasting my bottle of milk, chugging half a pint, dumped the rest on my head to the gasps of the assembled hikers, and with a loud roar first pumped the mostly empty bottle to the sky while accidentally spattering everyone with droplets of milk. Woops. Got a little too excited. Months of slowly sloughing along peppered with all sorts of interruptions, frustrations, trials, and hardship all came out at once. 


Glowworm even had a localized celebration of her own by drinking real Ontario maple syrup that her parents had mailed to her in Stehekin (for the record it was so damn good). Afterwards we even shared a single shot of Makers Mark bourbon that I bought to take to the border in Skykomish. 


One by one the others gathered at the border began their final nine miles to Manning Provincial Park in British Columbia to officially end their hikes. After many photos were taken and final PCT registers written we were left alone to soak it all in. We made our last trail breakfasts and thought about what we had just accomplished. In all reality, though, there really wasn’t all that much to think about. We still had half a day of hiking until we were done done and honestly I think it will be months until we fully realize that magnitude of what we have achieved. Since we’ve been almost exclusively around other hikers that are completing the same achievement, this doesn’t seem very weird. It’s not really out of place. In fact most of these people still did the Sierras, a section we opted to skip due to dangerous conditions. So for them, they really did walk from Mexico minus the fire closures which happen every year and aren’t optional. This makes me feel almost less accomplished than them despite knowing that we made the right choice. My point is, it hasn’t sunk in. And since we’ll continue to travel for a month around the United States and Canada visiting new places, family, and friends, it will still be some time until “normal” life resumes. And even then, returning to normality will be an adventure in itself now that I’ll be hopefully immigrating to Canada. I’m sure that in due time, though, the reality of what I’ve just done will hit me. 


9/17 10:30 AM – After cleaning up breakfast and taking final photos, we also began the final nine mile trek through British Columbia to the Manning Park lodge. Despite unfavorable weather forecasts for the area calling for rain and/or snow, the hike was actually quite nice. It warmed up enough to hike in a short sleeved shirt (because my normal hiking shirt now smelled like sour milk) and shorts. If there was any real contemplation about our experience, it was here. Now that we were on the true final trek of our journey and the celebrations had already occurred, it gave me an opportunity to hit rewind in my mind as I had short glimpses of moments from celebrating at the border, to the beauty and misery of Washington, to skipping the fires of Oregon, to dealing with the heat of Northern California, to lying in the hospital after a failed attempt at the Sierras, to the blissfulness of the desert, and to all those days staring at the ceiling at work in wonder and where this adventure would take me. And in between all of those thoughts were moments of laughter, tears, fear, anger, confusion, wonder, awe, frustration, bewilderment, joy, and elation. 


The last few miles to the lodge was spent on a double wide trail where Glowworm and I walked side by side and listened to Taylor Swift because why not? After an initial climb from the border, the rest was downhill or flat allowing us to thoroughly enjoy the last moments of our hike. 


9/17 2:00 PM – It’s over, done, finished! We made it to the Manning Park Lodge with overcast skies and scattered hikers all with big grins on their faces. We made our way to the restaurant where to our surprise and elation Dr. McDirty and Cougar were already seated. They had finished the day prior in an effort to avoid the forecasted weather and were going to stay at the park until the 19th. After joining them I ordered my very first plate of poutine (french fries with gravy and cheese curds, a Canadian staple). The four of us sat there both bewildered and overwhelmed by what had just taken place. We all had met each other for the first time 161 days ago and now we are all here together eating and drinking in celebration. The likelihood of such a friendship (and relationship for Glowworm and I) just isn’t comprehendible. 

Cougar and Dr. McDirty finishing the day prior.

My first poutine.


After lunch Glowworm and I got some ice cream and sat at the picnic table outside. A few women came up to ask if we had just completed the PCT and so of course we gave them the whole story. They chatted with us for a while and afterwards went into the gift shop behind us and when they came out, they said they wanted to pay for our dinner and gave us a gift card for $30! So nice. Even at the very end we were receiving trail magic. Totally unreal. 
We spent the afternoon hanging out with Dr. McDirty and Cougar in their hotel room at the lodge while they let us use their shower and did our final load of laundry. It was great to just chill out without much in the way of worries. We had already booked our bus ticket and room for the first night so there was nothing else to do except lie there and enjoy the company of our close friends. 


For dinner we went to the bar and ordered salmon burgers and beer with our gracious gift card. Other hikers that we knew like Dave, Judith, and Martin were there as well so we were all able to have a final drink together. 


9/17 9:00 PM – We gathered our things and gave our last goodbye and hugs with promises of seeing each other again to Cougar and Dr. McDirty and walked downstairs where they let hikers sleep for free while they wait for their 2:00 AM Greyhound bus. It was a very weird feeling laying in the dark to the sounds of sleeping pads anxiously rustling around. You could tell there was a mixture of elation, relief, and anxiety in the air. Everyone was stoked, but at the same time dreading the short nap before hopping on a three hour bus ride after finishing a 2,650 journey. 


9/18 1:30 AM – The dead of night slough begins. We began waking up about a half hour prior to the bus arriving and groggily put away our sleeping pads and bags before making our way up stairs. The bus was packed. I don’t think their was a single seat left and it was mostly hikers. There were two seats together at the very back that we sat in, but they were right on top of the engine and it was sweltering hot the whole way. On top of that, I had the most nauseating gas that even made me want to gag. Fortunately I was situated right next to the bathroom so I don’t think anyone made the connection that it was me. The rest of the ride was horrible, as I’m sure you can imagine. I never was able to get any meaningful sleep and kept getting cramps in my legs. 


9/18 5:30 AM – We finally arrived at the bus terminal in Vancouver, BC. Many of the hikers dispersed to make a connecting bus or train while a few of us opted to make the one block walk over to Tim Hortons for breakfast. I had a Boston Cream doughnut, sausage, egg, and cheese on a jalapeño bagel, with a hot chocolate. So damn good. 


9/18 7:00 AM – After milking as much as we could from Tim Hortons wifi we all said our goodbyes with the accompanying hikers and walked through downtown Vancouver to our hotel, the Metropolitan Hotel. We really wanted to treat ourselves after such a crazy adventure so we picked a place that offered room service. So it was way out of our price range, but for one night it was totally worth it. 


This place is swanky, though. Like four stars swanky. We walked in to the lobby with our packs on and hiking clothes and were greeted by this amazing Asian temple carving art installation. It was a wall of intricately carved scenes of everyday life, war, and religious events and it was all carved by hand without any planning. It was beautiful, but the concierge definitely took notice of two homeless looking people getting rather close to the likely priceless art piece. Just as he was about to shoo us out, I went to ask him smugly, “where do we check in?” It was certainly one of my most proud moments. He directed is to the desk where we were able to check in immediately. 


The room is insane. It’s far and away the nicest hotel room I’ve ever stayed in. It has a massive bathroom with a separate tub and shower, bathrobes, private bar (which we didn’t use due to the cost), the most comfy king size bed, a balcony, and the best wifi I have had since leaving my home in Indy. 
We spent the rest of the morning shopping for clothes (all we have is our hiking gear) and exploring downtown Vancouver. For lunch we had the most delicious hot dogs at a street side hot dog stand and I tried Ketchup Chips for the first time in my life which are a Canadian staple apparently. 
After our morning shopping spree where I bought a couple new shirts and a pair of jeans, we hunkered down in our room where we just relaxed, ordered room service, and just took a deep sigh of relief that it was all over. 


It’s here that I’m going to officially end my daily blog for the PCT. It’s been a wild ride and I’m so glad I chose to go on this adventure. It has been completely life changing. In due time I’ll post some post-PCT updates after I’ve had some space to truly reflect on what I’ve just done and maybe give you some better insight as to what happened while I’ve been out here as well as give some more general life updates. Until then, it’s been real. 
~ Gummies

Day 159: Penultimation

159. September 16: Mile 2625.28 Campsite to Mile 2646.19 Boundary Trail Junction 
The penultimate day on the PCT. It was a bitterly cold morning. So cold that my water actually had iced over a little bit over night. Getting up was once again a challenge but once we got moving everything was Kosher. The sun was able to warm the Earth just enough to be comfortable by lunch where we had a incredible spot view the mountains. This whole part of Washington has a feeling of classic American West with mountains and pine trees, but also has a vibe of Tuscany with dry yellow grasses covering hillsides. It’s very cool. Throughout this whole hike, actually as we’ve been in these amazing places you’d think that what you have been seeing in these photos must feel even better in person. But in some ways we’re still somewhat detached from it all. Since we’re still confined to the trail, it still just seems like a blown up picture. 


As we hiked a lot of hikers coming Sobo that had just come from the border and were exiting the trail via Hart’s Pass instead of Manning Park since they didn’t have the proper border paperwork. There was one small group in particular that caught my eye heading sobo. It was Belle, an Australian Cattle Dog that we had last seen entering the Sierras. Her owner uses her as a hearing alert dog and she thru hiked the entire trail including the Sierras! Other hikers coming back from the border were absolutely elated and on a total high. Tomorrow morning I too will be on that same high. 


In the afternoon we climbed up to the top of Rock Pass which then plummeted us down into a valley to them climb back up to Woody Pass. The whole section was just so breathtaking. I can’t even begin to describe it with my fourth grade vocabulary so here’s some photos to hopefully give you a sense of what it was like. 


Shortly after reaching Woody Pass we reached the peak of the final climb on the entire PCT. It really is all down hill from here. Hikers that we’ve hiked with at various times along the trail were all resting there taking it all in. Stephanie from Italy, Acorn and Jackie from Germany, Bin Chicken from Australia, a French couple, an Israeli, and others. I was actually the only American there. It was so cool to collectively be there together and soak in the last ridge views before descending to the border. 


While most of the group we had taken a break with were headed to the border tonight, we camped about three and a half miles from the northern terminus. There was a British guy named Martin, Chewy, Dave and Judith from Switzerland, Coyote from Japan, and a few others. We all shared our last on trail meals together and reminisced about our journeys by laughing, sharing stories, and discussing what we’re taking away from our experiences. For dinner, I decided to splurge and buy myself a dehydrated Mountain House meal and polished it off with what was left of the cinnamon roll I got at the Stehekin bakery. A fantastic day to end the day! The next time I sit down to write this, I’ll be in Canada! So stoked!

Day 158: I Smell Winter

158. September 15: Mile 2603.36 Golden Creek to Mile 2625.28 Campsite 
The temperature is definitely starting to drop. We woke up to layer of frost and bitter cold. It took a while for us to get comfortable taking off our extra layers. I certainly wouldn’t want to be out here much long on account of the cold alone. 
A morning six mile climb left us with more amazing views and with nothing but smaller climbs from here on out. Glowworm had a bit of a rough morning. She’s been experiencing cold-like symptoms for a couple mornings now and it really slowed her down. It’s rough because at this point there’s nothing we can really do aside from pushing on to Manning Park (Canada). It’s the closest town along with being the end point. I feel so helpless because there’s nothing I can say or do to really make her feel any better given our circumstances other than keep going. 
After lunch things started looking up for us as we walked along an impressive ridge towards Hart’s Pass. Hart’s Pass is the last place to bail before Canada and for Nobo’s who don’t have their remote entry permit, they have to hike back here to leave the trail. Unfortunately there’s a fire ten miles east of the PCT that has closed all trails east of us as well as the road to Hart’s Pass. The Forest Service is, however, providing a shuttle for hikers to get off there. Since we’re going into Canada and onto Manning Park, this does not affect us. 
As of now we have less than 25 miles to the border! Still anxious to be done as I’m sure you cam tell by now. I’ve really lost interest in writing these damn things each night and haven’t had the energy to write anything entertaining or funny. So all we got left now is a full day tomorrow, three miles on Sunday to the border and onto Manning Park eight miles further to finally be done. Thank goodness because it’s pretty dang cold as I’m writing this in the tent right now. Snow is even forecast for Monday. 

Day 157: Now You’re Just Showing Off, Washington 

157. September 14: Mile 2580.61 Six Mile Campsite to Mile 2603.36 Golden Creek
Another stunning day. All the Sobo’s who told us that the trail became more and more beautiful the further north you went were correct. To back up a bit since I used yesterday’s post to remember and grieve for Snickers, when we took the bus back to the trailhead from Stehekin we again stopped at the bakery. We had a bit more time so I packed out a six inch diameter sticky bun, a cinnamon roll of the same size, and four chocolate chip cookies for my snacks on this section. We then began the longest and biggest elevation gain climb on the entire PCT of 25 miles and 8000 feet. It’s super chill, though, since it only gains 320 feet per mile and you hardly even notice it. We camped about halfway up the climb and resumed this morning. When we arrived at the Rainy Pass Trailhead and parking area, there was a couple that had recently finished their through hike and had rented a car to do trail magic at this parking lot. So cool! They had candy and chips and Cokes and it was so, so good. There was probably about 20 hikers there and we gleaned that they were all headed for the same small campsite we were. 10 of them were all in a single group. I’m all for people traveling with their friends, but at some point large groups out here make life hell for the rest of us when trying to plan where to camp. 
As we neared the top of the climb the scenery was beautiful, but when we reached the top of Cutthroat Pass, the other side was breathtaking. Jagged peaks surrounded our view with green pine valleys and small patches of lingering snow dotted throughout the ridges. It was gorgeous. We remained at this elevation with these views for the rest of the day and it was some of the most stunning hiking we’ve done along the trail. 


We settled upon a campsite just short of our planned one since it was just marked as a creek and not a tent site. But there were still four other tents already set up with only one spot left (which we took) and we hadn’t even made it to the real campsite. We’re now in a bubble of hikers that tend to set up camp early (5:00 PMish) which sucks for us because we hike until 7:00 or so. So when we do get to camp sites, most of the spots are taken. Part of the problem is that the fires in northern Oregon and Southern Washington have pushed all of the hikers south of us further north and we are now all condensed into this one little three to four day caravan. It’s the hand we’ve been dealt, but it’s still irritating. 
For dinner Glowworm and I had one of our best on trail dinners. She had a packet of instant refried beans and I had red beans and rice so we each shared with the other to make delicious burritos! Hopefully the farts will be minimal in the tent…
After today we only have two full days and then three miles on the third to the border followed by an additional eight to Manning Park. Almost done!

Day 156: For Snickers 

156. September 13: Mile 2569.42 Stehekin, WA to Mile 2580.61 Six Mile Campsite 
Today was a sad day. This morning I was able to receive a message from my sister saying that I needed to call Mom or Dad. After a couple tries on the pay phone I was able to get a hold of my dad who gave me the news that my 12 year old German Shepherd and best friend, Snickers had to be put down last night. He had been slowly declining for quite some time now. His hips, like with many of his breed, began to deteriorate and more recently while I’ve been on this hike he lost his ability to hear us call his name. From what my parents told me, it sounds like he began suffering from a neurological disorder rendering him unable to walk in a straight line, pee, or eat. So my parents had to make the hard choice to let him suffer no more and put him down. 


Upon hearing this news I broke down in tears. I was so close. Only a week away from finishing, but still a month away from returning to Quail Creek Blvd. I can’t even began to count the amount of times I’ve imagined myself walking through the front door to Snickers and Maddie (our other dog, a Beagle) rushing to the door to greet me with smiles and kisses. I’ll never be able to experience that now. Just Maddie. She lost her best friend too. I wish I could have seen him one last time. One last hug. 


Snickers became part of my family when he was a one year old recovering from kennel cough at a German Shepherd rescue. His name at the rescue was Eli, but we decided upon Snickers while at the Cheesecake Factory on the north side of Indy due to his coloring and cheerful personality. He would never have won any dog shows as his back was straight and not downwardly slanting like well bred Shepherds, but he was gorgeous nonetheless. He ran crooked with his hips out of line with his shoulders, he’d play fetch, but would only chase after the ball and then stand next to it. He would put his paws on top of the bed when I was little while the rest of the family knelt bedside to say our prayers. He’d come to my bedside every night to check on me by nuzzling me with his cold nose. He’d lick the salt off of my face and arms when got home from a bike ride. He always would stick his nose in my dirty laundry and take deep whiffs as if to take in as much of my scent as possible. Anytime I went out back to mow he would follow me lap after lap and any time I stopped and left the mower, he’d guard it as if to ensure its safety as well as my own. He loved to squeak his stuffed animals around the house and them shove the wet toy into your lap and continue to chomp and squeak. When he was younger he would go to Emily’s room and gingerly pick up her stuffed toys and bring them out to the living room; we always knew he wanted to be a mother. He took his time eating and never rushed. He hated the sound of the smoke alarm. After a few bad experiences where we forgot to open the flu when having a fire, the alarm went off and he eventually would no longer join us for family fires. He loved sleeping in his crate and we never forced him to sleep there. Any rug was his rug; he slept on all of them. Tornado sirens always prompted him to howl. He hated rough housing and would always try to quell the situation. He had a long fuse and put up with a lot of shenanigans from Maddie, his younger sister. He’d always dance with his back legs if you tickled him while scratching his bum. He was gentle. He was loving. He was my best friend for almost half of my life and I miss him dearly. Thank you Snicks for all those great years together. I love you. 

For you, buddy.

Day 155: The Gang’s All Here

155. September 12: Mile 2551.39 Campsite to Mile 2569.42 Stehekin, WA 
The final town! The hike into town was pretty short. It wad only a short bit of uphill (less than a mile) before a 18ish mile hike down several thousand feet towards Stehekin. At lunch I figured we could probably make the 3:00 shuttle into town instead of waiting for the 6:15 one (it’s a dirt road with basically no cars on it) so once that became fixated in my head, it became my mission to get there at 3:00. In hindsight I really shouldn’t have done this. We made it; just barely, but for Glowworm I know it was more of a struggle. She was not hiking slow by any means, I was just hiking exceptionally fast. We should have just taken it easy and had a slow chill day to make it for the 6:15 bus, but I for whatever reason decided it was better to push. I should learn from this lesson. 


The bus that picks the hikers up stops at this trail famous bakery outside of town before arriving in Stehekin. But instead of the normal 20 minute stay at the bakery, it was only five minutes due to some hikers really wanting to retrieve their resupply boxes before the post office closed. So we were rushed and I panicked so I wound up buying two slices of cold pizza, two large chocolate chip cookies, a cold cut sandwich, and a pint of milk. In think the total came out to be $25 or something. I didn’t even get proper baked goods! Ugh, hopefully tomorrow we’ll get a chance to look and decode before heading back to the trail. 


In town, which is more of a resort than a town, we immediately headed to the general store to buy fuel out of fear that they would run out. Fortunately they had some and we will be able to happily eat out dinners hot for the remainder of the hike. After purchasing our canisters we joined Dr. McDirty, Cougar, and Adam who had already arrived earlier in the day on the porch for beers and to eat our baked goods. It seems like everyone we have met and become friends with along the trail have descended upon Stehekin at the same time. We saw Acorn, a German girl we last saw in the desert on the hike into town, Stephanie from Italy was in town when we got there too, so was Coco from Brazil, Monarch, John, and others! It’s so crazy. Some of these people we haven’t seen in months and we’re now all together. 


We spent the evening chatting with our friends and then trying to determine our plan for the coming days. The 17th still looks like our best bet for finishing, it’ll just be a matter of when on the 17th. I’m still very much looking forward to being done despite the beauty of the the last several days. 
Hopefully I’ll be able to finally post these blogs for all of Washington which you have sadly not been able to read as I’ve hiked through this section. The wifi in each of these towns has been poor to nonexistent and cell service hasn’t been a whole lot better. I last had contact with the outside world six days ago and it will be another five days until we get to the border and onto Manning Park where I can get internet again. Sorry to everyone who is undoubtedly concerned as to my silence. It was not planned by any means. I’m hoping to maybe call my parents on the one pay phone in town (apparently pay phones are still a thing) and let them know I’m alive and well tomorrow. We shall see. 

Day 154: T-100 Miles

154. September 11: Mile 2586.84 Campsite to Mile 2551.39 Campsite 
Geez, another fantastic day! And today is five months on the trail! After so many totally crap days lately, the past couple have been phenomenal. We began the day at the top of the climb we did yesterday with fantastic views of the sunrise. It’s also worth mentioning that the stars last night were stellar. It’s been weeks since I’ve last had a chance to look into the night sky whilst being clear. 


Anyway, pretty much the entire first half of the day to lunch was spent hiking downhill. At the bottom began and eight mile climb, but as it turned out, was even easier than the climb yesterday and we were able to scamper up it without losing much pace from the morning. 


We’re camped at one of the coolest campsites we’ve stayed at on this whole trail. The tent is at the base of a colossal rock face with fallen scree and debris that has slid into the valley below us. There’s still some patches of snow up there too. 


Tomorrow we should be able to get to the trailhead for Stehekin either late afternoon or early evening and hopefully get to the famous bakery to load up on many items that will surely send me into cardiac arrest. By our best estimates (which should be pretty accurate by this point) we are now just a week away and less than 100 miles away from the northern terminus! Fingers crossed that winter holds off. The weather has been on a downward trend to getting cooler each day, especially at night. We shall see!

Day 153: The Sun Will Come Out…Today 

153. September 10: Mile 2508.82 Campsite to Mile 2526.84 Campsite 
Bright and sunny today! This was much needed after last night’s rain. The morning started off slow due to said rain. We had a hard time dragging ourselves of our wet tent which was wet on the outside due to the precipitation, wet on the inside due to condensation, and the outside of our sleeping bags were wet because of the condensation. So as you can imagine we were literally not very happy campers. It is worth noting, however, that our sleeping bags (they’re actually backpacking quilts, but I digress) were still dry and warm on the inside. 


The first segment of the day to breakfast was awful for me. Glowworm had it rough more so than I getting going, but once we got going I really took a nose dive. I was hungry, tired, and hating the immediate climb after leaving camp. But after breakfast and some tunes in my ears, I was able to revive my enthusiasm for life and begin enjoying my day. 


At the first sight of open space with sun we exploded our packs and dried out our tent and quilts (sleeping bags). That chore took a while, but it was much welcomed since it was the first sun and blue sky we had seen in about a week. Plus the view was unreal. 


Afterwards the day just kept getting better. More incredible views of mountains with massive glaciers carving down their slopes, and vast meadows speckled with greens, yellows, and reds. After lunch at a mountain creek we hiked up to the top of a insanely beautiful pass with 360 degree views of snow capped mountain peaks with glacial lakes and grassy meadows. I’m constantly amazed at the world I’m currently living in. 


We descended from the picturesque scene back into the woods before tackling a five mile straight up climb. We could see the infinite switchbacks as we hiked down into the valley from the other side. Other than the first few tenths of a mile, though, the climb turned out to be not that bad. We were actually able to crush the climb with relative ease and able to make it to our campsite, albeit after dark, in much shorter time than we anticipated. 


For dinner we ate cold soaked rice noodles with a sauce powder than was meant for much more water than we had and was basically salt. If someone made me eat this is real life I would have gagged, but since we were unable to buy fuel in Skykomish and I was raging with hunger, it would suffice. 

Day 152: Autumn in Washington 

152. September 9: Mile 2486.70 Pass Creek to Mile 2508.82 Campsite 
Today started off with rain. Actually I’m not really sure if it actually rained or if it was a cloud that left thick dew on the trees which in turn sprinkled the tent, but either way we woke up with a wet tent. Well, the outside was wet, but minus the walls being a bit damp we were dry. 


The hike today was probably one of my favorite single day hikes ever. Until the end at least, but I’ll explain later. Let me set the stage for you. Pour yourself a glass of apple cider, cozy up to a fire, and breathe in fresh, cool, and damp mountain air. It really has begun to feel like fall out here. The berry bushes are turning shades of wine red and yellow along the mountain sides with wispy white clouds constantly circulating over the peaks and through the valleys causing a constant mist. I didn’t even mind the chilly temperatures and dampness. Autumn is by far my favorite season and it certainly felt like such today. 


The terrain was absolutely magnificent as well. Gorgeous ridges and slopes dotted with evergreens, grass, and berry bushes of brilliant colors. We mostly kept our rain jackets on for both warmth and to stay dry, but I rarely sweated. Hopefully I’ll be able to post some pictures here that do the views justice because I’m unable to describe them in words. 


At one point we saw several families of marmots just chilling near the trail. They were completely unfazed by our presence and we were able to get up close and snap some pictures of them. It’s like they were modeling for us!


Unfortunately, though, the day managed to get real shitty (at least for me) at the end. Late in the afternoon on our final climb it began to get rather cold so I put on my new pants that I got in Bend. I didn’t realize at the time, but we were just about to enter into a cloud as we ascended so the mist became much thicker. However, for the most part my pants didn’t really het all that wet so I decided against putting on my rain pants over top of them. But then after we got to the bottom of the descent and back into the forest, the thick shrubs next to the trail now soaked in water absolutely saturated my otherwise mostly dry pants and continued to do so for the next several miles until camp (I kept holding out hope that the shrubs would lift and my body heat would dry the pants). 


So then came camp. Since it was more or less misting all day we never got out our wet tent to let it dry so we set up our soaking wet tent while large droplets of water fell from the trees. Then, we made dinner. I think I may have failed to mention that in Skykomish when we went to buy fuel at the store since we were almost out, they were all out of stock. We figured if we pre-soaked our food we should still be good. The first couple night on the trail, though, we still had enough fuel to boil the necessary water to cook our food and I thought that I’d have just enough to do the same tonight. I didn’t. So after a long day in the rain and now with soaked pants and a wet tent, all I wanted was a hot meal (or anything hot for that matter). But as soon as I lit my stove, it wasn’t long before it went out and he water was no warmer than before. Fortunately I had instant mashed potatoes somI could still rehydrate them with cold water rather quick, but it still sucked. The challenge now will be getting things to dry when the weather in unlikely to be bright and sunny for at least a couple days. 


I promise that today was actually a really good day, though. It was on the very end that sucked. It’s just so much easier to write about negative things that positive ones, especially when the negative just happened.