As predicted, I can’t sleep – I wake up at midnight again, feeling refreshed and ready to move, get it over with. And from what I can hear of the rest of the camp, I’m not alone; everyone seems to be restless, the night is full of rustling tossing turning creaking cracking tents bags air mattress. The cacophony’s hard to ignore, punctuated only by four-leggers galloping through a couple of times around 2 or 3am. My brain isn’t being helpful either: is it Canada time yet? No, go back to sleep. What about now, Canada time now? No, it’s still only 4am. We still have 23 miles to make
tomorrow today, and we need our rest.
I think it’s the first time ever when the alarm I’ve set for 5:50 actually wakes-me-wakes-me; I’m alert and ready to start my day. My brain has reversed course though – let’s relax, chill out, just be today. Today is Canada Day, after all. There’ll be plenty of time for… whatever. Still, ten minutes later, I can’t stand it anymore, and I’m up and moving and gathering things for the last time.
By the time I emerge, Saber’s packed up, getting ready to go – I wish him a happy Canada Day, and he tells me he considers this his RebirthDay; while he’s not very expressive outwardly, his small smile, as he makes his way out of camp, is contagious.
I feel like that “rebirth” thing is going to be a theme of today. It makes sense, I guess; after we’re done, we’re supposed to be different, changed people. I mean, we already are, in a lot of ways, but we haven’t quite been put back in our frontcountry contexts yet. We know we’ve changed, but we don’t know how our puzzle pieces fit back into the greater whole.
Undercover and A Game emerge from their tent once I’m basically ready to go; I wish them a happy Canada Day, and they politely inform me that there is, in fact, already a Canada Day. Well, this is *our* Canada Day, I say, and I hope they enjoy it – though I do hope I see them again. Clockwork and Squirrel move a little slower than I do, are expecting to get to the terminus a little later than I am, so I wish them a happy Canada Day and easy walking.
Then it’s up and off to Rock Pass in the meditative morning.
At the top of the pass, there are campsites – of course there are – but I don’t regret spending my last evening with friends.
The PCT is really showing off today – it’s cold as hell, but it’s everything you would want for a last day, sunlight playing on the mountains, the passes, my heartstrings. It hammers home just how special my life has been for the last 148 days, just how lucky I am to see these sights.
My feet are kind of heavy and my bowel is kind of rumbly this morning – both know what’s coming, and they want no part of it. I dig what is (hopefully) my last cathole in acquiescence to the latter. My heart, on the other hand, is as light as a feather, ready to face the day as it comes.
I’ve been out here nearly five months, which is almost half a year – not at all an insignificant chunk of time, even in a lifetime. I find myself drawn into a song from RENT; although 214,560 minutes isn’t nearly as catchy as the original, I find myself asking how, in fact, one measures five months in a year. In daylights? In sunsets? [Hiker] midnights? In cups of coffee? In Inches? In miles? In laughter? In strife?
Nah. It always comes back to love.
The climb to Woody Pass is harder than I think it will be, but this is the second to last climb, and I find myself unable to really gripe about it. Just one more 450-foot climb, and then a long way down.
It’s mostly contouring after Woody Pass, no down-down to speak of, just quiet little bumps of uppy downy. And then, the last up:
I pass Saber just on the other side of this false summit – it’s about three quarters of the way through the climb, and he eyes me sheepishly; he just needed a moment to sit and watch the morning. I don’t blame him. It’s a good morning to watch. I spot the crest of the climb a little further on – I’m gonna go sit on that for my break. No offense. None taken.
I’m almost there when I run into the Optimist, who finished yesterday, beatific smile on his face as always. He’s always been a chill, practical guy, but there’s an extra something about him today that makes me even more excited for the finish. I congratulate him, and make my way up the last little bit of the climb.
Up up up, up to the top at the end of everything.
I spend a few minutes up there, being
silly thankful – this is exactly what I wanted. Sun – no rain, no snow. And only eight miles to go.
Finally, I slip down, back to the trail. It’s all downhill from here.
I run into a ranger on my way down to the lake; he asks me for my permit and I hand it to him, but he’s not asking for my PCT permit. It’s kind of a moot point at this juncture, but he asks that even if we have the PCT permits, to always get the self-signed permits as well – it helps their count when they’re up for federal funding. I waffled at the self-sign station, opted not to since I had the PCT permit – I’ll do it in the future.
I’m only a little further down the way when I hear Undercover’s voice echoing into the valley – yessss. They’re close. They catch me when I stop to pee.
A Game, Undercover and I decide to sit and snack for a bit, hang out, talk – then, suddenly, the mood shifts – WE GOTTA MAKE IT TO CANADA AAAAAA – so we’re up and on our feet, having agreed to walk together the rest of the way.
We have a great time walking and hiking – I am a nerd, they are nerds; praise Helix and pass the controller, I have found my people. I’m so into talking that I trip hard, almost catch myself, and end up on the ground, on my shins, having cushioned my fall as best I know how. The other two are dead silent as I count to three out loud – that’s usually how long it takes for pain to register, and If I can get through three without screaming, nothing’s broken. Turns out, nothing’s broken. There are shallow scrapes on both of my knees and one of my shins1, but nothing’s broken.
Undercover and A Game are freaking out, but I’m calm, more calm than I should be. We talk about how we’ve been tripping more often than usual in the last few weeks, about needing to finish, because we’re exhausted. There’s more of a propensity to hurt ourselves when we’re like this. Also, there’s snow that’s supposed to be coming tomorrow, so that doesn’t hurt.
When we start running into blowdowns, we know we’re close – we’ve been told there are quite a few between us and the border. Nothing like that day in Oregon, but “fun” nonetheless. A Game tells a story about a hiker that fractured a bone just climbing over a blowdown, and I resolve to be reeeeally careful for the next few miles. Undercover, for his part, keeps stubbing his toes2.
We get to the last water at nine-tenths remaining, and it’s beautiful, everything is beautiful today: the weather, the walk, that swath that cuts through the forest
We start a countdown from there, six-tenths, three-tenths; then we start hearing people; and then we round the end of a switchback and I can see it. It steals my breath away.
Down just two more switchbacks, and there, in this smaller-in-real-life clearing, is the Northern Terminus of the PCT.
Holy shit. The terminus. The monument. I did it. This thing that I’ve been terrified that I maybe couldn’t do for the last nearly-five months… I did it. I’ve just hiked 2650.2 miles, and I cannot actually fathom that as a thing people do, let along a thing that I have done.
To my surprise, I don’t get teary-eyed. On the Colorado Trail, I hyperventilated and cried at the beginning and, though I tried not to, I also hyperventilated and cried at the end. So it seems right that at the beginning of this trail, there was mostly just shock at standing at the beginning of this crazy adventure, and here at the end… well. Crazy how history do dat.
Saber is here, getting his picture taken, along with a small group who arrived this morning and are getting ready to head back up. I don’t envy their trip back over the blowdowns, nor know any of them, and suddenly I’m thankful all over again, not only to be here, but to be here with folks who get me, my silence, my incredulity.
I shake myself out of it by readying the costume. I came here to dance, dammit.
So it’s into the costume, and just like Prom, it’s a quick photo shoot before the dance.
And then, the moment I’ve been waiting for for 2000 miles:
My only regret is that I don’t wanna bogard the terminus, so I keep the dance short and sweet. But I don’t regret the extra pound and a half I carried for 80 miles, or how ridiculous it looked pulling it out of my pack every evening, settled among my hiker-y belongings, or trying to keep track of all the little bits and bobs. It was totally, 100% worth it.
Then it’s off with the costume, and sidling up to A Game and Undercover, who have the register. We spend the best part of an hour just turning through its pages reverently, taking in the names, the messages, of the people who came before us. My mind drifts to those who will come after us – I wonder what their experiences of this moment will be like, hope they’ll make it, hope for the best for all of us in whatever comes next.
And then, it’s my turn3:
There is no more PCT. Only Zuul.
I always come back to that quote that gave me my trail name. Take it out of its Ghostbustery context of, y’know, possession, and it’s always seemed a very zen-esque saying. There is no more PCT, only this person it made – and I don’t really know who she is yet. I don’t know her mettle. She can handle the PCT, but can she handle what comes next? News at 11. Or in 11 months. Or years. Or something. I add a little something extra, because that’s not enough, but what I write seems incomplete, too. Even if I filled the book, it likely would.
Undercover and A Game sign the register sweetly, and then it’s drinking a wee bottle of whisky with the help of my friends, to stall, be here, in this moment.
I don’t really want to leave, but I have to get to Manning Park before dark – I’m already a day behind schedule, and while I’ve been sending out Spot pings to my mother, who’s waiting for me, she’ll probably flip out if I don’t make it before dark. I know that Undercover and A Game have family waiting for them at the lodge too, but JUST IN CASE I give them hugs before I go.
Then it’s onward, into Canada – and the world beyond.
Date: September 29 • Start: 2635.4 • End: 2650.1 • Day: 14.7 + 8.8 to Manning Park = 23.5
Notable Accomplishments: Completed the PCT • 2650 miles from Mexico to Canada • DID THE THING
 I still have the scar.
 Heaaaaart youuuuu
 Turns out, I was the first of the Wolfpack to sign the register. After all that angst about being slow. Funny how life is. Still, the last one to Canada wins, and while Wolf had to get off at Sierra City, the rest of the Pack made it.
So this is the end of the trail, but not the end of my writing. Tomorrow, I’ll be talking about the aftermath – walking to Manning Park, hanging around Seattle, and getting home – and then on Monday, I’ll be writing about reentry and post-trail depression, which is 100% a real thing, and important to talk about. Later next week, I’m hoping to formally announce my next big adventure. From there, I’ll continue on with in-depth gear reviews, outdoor issues, and current events as they affect a Brown Girl hiker.
If you’d like to hear about anything in particular, feel free to drop me a line via the Contact page.