CANADA!!!πŸ˜„πŸ˜„πŸ˜„

Spoiler alert! We made it!!!

But let me tell the story from where I left it, at Snoqualmie pass. As I mentioned it’s only 260 miles to the border from there, so you’d think we’d do that without effort, right? But the pct didn’t let us go easily. The last days were hard.

Seen along the way – it seems we’re not the only ones feeling this way…πŸ˜‰ It made me laugh and thus helped a lot!

Climbing up into the mountains from Snoqualmie pass, the clouds start to cover first the valleys and then the sky – quite impressive, but also scary: According to the weather forecast it’s suppose to be cold and rainy for days now.

We’re still over the “sea of clouds” – but not for long…

And unfortunately, this is correct. The Northern Cascades are apparentely very beautiful, but we don’t see much of them. Most of the time, they are covered by big, dark clouds and fog. Not seeing the views makes our hike once again mentally very tough – it feels so pointless to climb up and down while being soaking wet and cold without seeing anything but wet trees. Hiking feels more like a chore and I often can’t enjoy the moment anymore. This is not what I want this hike to be – but I have to remind myself that in an adventure there are not only good but also bad times and that this is ok.

Despite of the weather we also have good moments. There is a great sunny day after hiking out of Stevens pass and there are a few hours here and there when the clouds drift apart and the sun shines through a little. Then we can enjoy spectacular scenery! After all, they call these mountains “the Alpes of the West”. It often reminds me of home… And even in the rain there are not only bad moments…

Just wow!πŸ˜„

Wet trees…πŸ˜‰ But giant and therefore very impressive ones!

More wet trees…πŸ˜‰ It’s like a jungle – really cool!

A colourful highlight in the rain!

Although the bridge is broken, we can still cross without getting wet feet! We’re very lucky!

There is a lot of wildlife, too. It’s always interesting and fun to spot animals and watch them for a little. There are the omnipresent but still very funny chipmunks. Probably I only still think they are cute because we are lucky and never get chewed through tents, backpacks and foodbags… As we’re in alpine mountains again, there are marmots, too. And for the first time, we see pikas! Ever since learning about their existence in the Sierra Nevada I wanted to see one of these little rodents that look like a mixture between a mouse and a rabbit and live high up in the rocks. In the Sierra there was just too much snow and they hadn’t really gotten out yet, but now, they are everywhere! I try to imitate their calls which always confuses them a little – they are so cute when they sit on a rock looking around for the source of the weird noise…πŸ˜‰

This pictures was not taken by me – but I just have to show you how cute they areπŸ˜„

Our good karma with meeting great people on and off trail continues, too. After an especially rainy, depressing day we run into four Russian-American section-hikers and spend a funny evening with them. On Stevens pass we meet Charlie. He not only takes us to town (although I look quite scary that day as a wasp stung me next to my eye which is swollen shut as a consequenceπŸ˜‰) but also spontaneousely invites us to stay that night with him and his friend Emilia! Thank you so much again, it was an unforgettable evening!

And we meet many pct-hikers, some we haven’t seen for month! One of them is Second Chance whom we last saw after climbing Mt Baden Powell! Thanks to the kindness of him and his girlfriend, we not only can dry our wet gear before starting on our last section of the pct, but also have a very nice dinner and a fun time!

And last but not least, after all our frustrations with USPS, in Stehekin, our last town, I finally get the package with my new shoes! My old ones have carried me incredible 1100 miles (normally, shoes should be changed after around 600 miles) and are literally falling apart by now which led to a lot of pain and problems with my feet. Putting on brandnew shoes makes me feel like walking over clouds and my feet instantly start to recover!

Some milestones – we have come a long way… No wonder my feet hurt!

Giant cinnamon rolls for Cinnamon in the famous bakery in Stehekin where every hiker stops… A last treat before going back on trail to hike the remaining 80 miles.

Because we know now that we’ve got enough time to make it to the border, we start to slow down a little. What’s the point in rushing to the border, dragging ourselves out of our tents in the dark and rain only to arrive one day earlier? Pushing less makes our hike more agreeable and the weather more bearable and we start to enjoy ourselves again…

Andy, motivated on the last stretch… It helps that the sun shines that afternoon πŸ˜‰

Yeah, I can do it!πŸ˜‰

As we get closer and closer to our destination, I unconsciousely start to say goodbye to the trail. I have so many memories of different parts of our hike as I relieve it in a way to be able to let go. I think of home way more often than before. And in a way, the – mostly still rainy – weather helps, because I want to finish now that we’re wet and cold and can’t see so much of the scenery…

As a goodbye-present, the pct gives us a little bit of everything – rain and even snow, but also blue sky and views! And even the clouds can be spectacular!

And then, we wake up on the final morning after another rainy night, only six miles from the border. We pack our soaked tent and get ready to go to Canada. I have to think of our first day on trail, how excited I was, how new everything felt. And now, I’m somehow excited again, although it seems completely surreal that the pct, who always stretched out before us, should suddenly end. The last miles don’t look different from what the trail looked like these last days and hiking feels so natural – unthinkable that it should stop in less than two hours…

Somewhere along the last mile…

A few switchbacks, and then we’re suddenly there – the monument, as I’ve seen it in many pictures, life in front of me. I cry, I can’t help it. Happiness, pride, relief, accomplishment, sadness, I feel it all at the same time. And then we jump and laugh, still not quite believing that we’re actually here, that we really, really made it! We’ve hiked from Mexico to Canada!! And it has been an absolutely awesome adventure!

Autumn is coming!

During the second or third week of our hike, in a particularly long and tough uphill section (at least that was what it seemed to be back then, I’ve got the suspicion that we wouldn’t think that now…πŸ˜‰), Andy started saying “A Washington, ratita, a Washington!” in different Spanish dialects. It was meant to distract me from the climb by making me laugh, and it worked. Not only did it sound very funny, it also seemed so absurd that we were on a path that would lead to a place so far away. Soon, it became a running gag for us that kept us going. But now, seemingly suddenly, we’re almost there – only the Columbia River separates us from Washington! It feels totally surreal!

But before we can set foot into our third and last state, we have some homework to do. The pct in Washington is quite remote and the trail “towns” often have little or no resupply options. We therefore decide to buy all the food for Washington here in Oregon and to ship packages ahead. Doing this huge resupply, repackaging and sending requires a lot of time and energy. It’s logistically quite complicated and stressful. When we finally have shipped the last box after more than a day of work, we are both exhausted.

All our food for Washington! Amongst all the dinners, lunches and breakfasts around 200 energy bars!

A quick lunch, and we are ready to enter Washington. To reach it, we have to walk over the famous Bridge of the Gods, a milestone for thru-hikers. This huge bridge crosses the majestic Columbia River. I didn’t expect it, but the experience is very emotional. While I walk and try not to loose my balance in the strong wind, I can’t stop thinking “We really reached Washington, we really did it!”. Of course I wanted to make it, but somehow it has always felt unrealistic, too far away to be possible that we could walk there. And now, as we’re here, it slowly starts to sink in what a huge distance we’ve walked – and that we actually have chances to make it to Canada!

The Bridge of the Gods!

Walking over the Columbia River – it’s a bit scary to look down!

We’re in Washington!!

But to reach Canada, we have to cross Washington. In my euphoric state, that seems easy now, but Andy is more cautious and says “We still have a long way to go.” We don’t know it yet, but he is very right, it will be long and hard…

For now, we climb out of the valley of the Columbia River. Washington is much steeper than “flat” Oregon, lush and green. We hike through the forest, constantly up and down. It’s warm, hot even, and we sweat a lot in the humid climate as we cross ridge after ridge.

Green, green forest…

Like we’ve done for a long time now, we don’t put the fly over the tent at night to enjoy the stars and cooler temperatures. The first night, this goes well, but during the second night, I wake up at 2 am, hearing a strange noise. It takes full three seconds and a few drops on my face to make me realise what’s going on. Rain! In a blink, I’m wide awake and on my feet, shaking Andy awake to help me put the tentfly into place. Thankfully, we’re very fast now with that, so we manage to keep our gear and especially our sleepingbags dry!

It’s still warm the next day, but it doesn’t stop raining and slowly, the temperature drops and it gets chilly. Mushrooms start to appear and we notice many plants with ripe berries and sometimes already colourful leaves. There is no doubt now that autumn is coming!

That one is huge!

I’m amazed how diverse all these mushrooms are!

Autumn leaves and berries – so beautiful!

We’re quite happy to get one last summer evening in Trout lake, a little town that seems to be full of amazing trailangels. We have dinner inclusively blueberry-milkshakes outside with Logic and other pct-hikers, enjoying the still warmish evening…

In Trout lake, we also get very sad news: Just three days ago, a thru-hiker was killed by a falling tree. It was not even windy, he was just very, very unlucky and in the wrong place at the wrong time. We cross the place of the accident the next day – the tree is still laying across the bridge where it happened. Although we haven’t known him (we later learn that we met him briefly and chatted a little, which somehow makes us feeling worse), it troubles us both deeply. It reminds us in a brutal way that nothing is granted and everything can be over in an instant. It’s so important to live the moment! We have a long and deep conversation that helps a little. But for days after, Andy doesn’t feel safe in the forest anymore while I fight attacks of panik that someone I love could be ripped out of my life in such a way – a big fear I thought I had under control but that has come back now.

We are so very sorry and wish his family and friends a lot of strenght and courage in this sad time!

Over the next days, being on the trail becomes mentally very hard. We really want to enjoy the moment – especially after having had the brutal reminder how important that is – but at the same time we feel the pressure of the miles we have to hike each day to make it to Canada on time. It doesn’t feel like we want it to be anymore. I think we’ve walked enough now and it starts to be too much. Yes, it’s freedom, being in nature and doing something we chose, but too much of something good is still too much. After being more and more grumpy, we finally realise what is going on and have a long talk about it which makes us feel a little better.

Meeting friendly and kind people like here in the “rainbow cafe” also helps a lot! Thank you so much for the awesome trailmagic!

Meanwhile, the trail surprises us again. We hike into the beautiful goat rocks and get through the spectacular and feared knife’s edge (it is not so scary as some wanted us to believe), an area we both really enjoy! We camp by a beautiful lake where we hear elks roar eeriely and I take my last swim on trail. We enjoy a spectacular sunset in the forest and finally reach Snoqualmie pass.

View of Mt Adams, a volcano we walked around, from goat rocks.

The last time we have to walk over snow is actually in Washington! I almost can’t believe it!

The knife’s edge with glacier peak in the background!

There, we have a good and fun dinner with other hikers which lifts our spirits. In the hiker box, we find a pair of trail-runners. Ever since not getting my new shoes I sent to White pass (I don’t like to speak ill of something, but with USPS we really have had many bad experiences), I’ve seen my old ones fall apart more and more with growing unease, worrying that my shoes might not make it and leave me somewhere in the wild with no shoes. Taking the (although too big) trail-runners eases my mind, at least I have a back-up now… And then, we realise that from here, it’s only 260 miles to Canada. In other words, we’ve only got one tenth of the pct left! Canada, we’re coming!