Day 142: Monday, September 23

Finished the PCT today at the U.S./Canada border and then exited at Manning Park, BC (PCT mi 2669.0), walked 15.1 miles today

As Jesus once said, "It is finished." I made it to the end of the PCT at about 10 this morning, and now 12 hours later I'm at my Carleton friend Aaron's house in Seattle. It started with a lot of snow ... It snowed all night, although there was only a dusting around my tent because I was thoroughly sheltered by trees. Woke up to Blur and Goodall chatting outside my tent at 6:30, Goodall saying something like, "We're really finishing today, right? Because my sleeping bag is soaked, I'm wearing all my clothes, and I won't have a crumb of food left by this afternoon." They left and apparently did a very good job finding the trail through the untracked snow for the first few miles, because all we had to do later was follow their footprints and no one got lost. Shortly after their departure, my tent pole collapsed (again), and I spent the next 20 minutes packing most of my stuff up and changing clothes with one hand while the other supported the pole and the tent ceiling--a maneuver only recommended for experienced thru-hikers. I felt like I had passed some kind of final exam when I pulled it off successfully. When I finally escaped out the door, the tent collapsing behind me, I could see Spark and Instigate were almost packed up, so once I had stuffed the tent away I left with them.

There was around 3 inches of snow on every surface once we left the shelter of the trees, and it stayed that way for about two miles. The trail was descending the whole time, though, so eventually we entered a thoroughly miserable slush zone, wherein the tread was sunk in 6 inches of frigid water from time to time. Then below that, it was just the usual rainy wet Washington forest. I fell behind the whole group and started running quite a bit over the last mile to catch up ... Eventually I heard hootin' and hollerin' coming from the woods down below me and I knew I was close to the monument, and just a minute later I rounded a bend and there it was, with Lotus, Hermes, Spark, Instigate and Jackrabbit all standing around. At first everyone was kind of quiet and subdued--people posed for pictures, Hermes passed around the bottle of Moët he'd been lugging since Stehekin, some of the ones with stoves and fuel remaining heated up coffee and tea, everybody had a look at and signed the trail register, which was nearly impossible to access stuck as it was inside the heavy silver monolith. Everyone, myself included, got more comfortable with actually being there and got more talkative as time went on, but we also all began to freeze our asses off and everyone moved on into Canada after about 45 minutes total at the border. Robin Hood and Carrot still hadn't made it at that point, as were hoping they would, so Instigate scratched a note in the dirt that said, "RA HO AND CARROT, WE GOT COLD AND LEFT. SORRY. MEOW."

It had been 6 miles at that point but there were still around 9 to go to get out of the woods at the Manning Park Ski Resort along Highway 3 in Canada. Again, I fell behind and did those last miles entirely myself, just as 90% of the other miles on the trip have been. They went up and over a gentle climb of Windy Joe--such a Canadian name for a mountain. The last bit was on a sort of jeep track, then a paved road, then suddenly I found myself wandering around in the rain on some mowed lawns next to funny-looking lodge buildings, looking for the main one where they would have my box of dry clothes, a restaurant and a place to sit for a few hours to wait for Kristin. I felt so out of place--more than I usually do when I stumble out of the woods alone and into civilization--but I did find the main lodge and was able to change into jeans, a t-shirt and a wool sweater and have a decent meal in the restaurant with a bunch of other hikers. Robin Hood and Carrot dragged in at 4, saying they'd spent the night before Woody Pass and had to do the climb up to 7100 feet this morning (by comparison, the rest of us started at 6200 and went down from there), and that "it was full-on winter already up there." Around 4:30, Kristin arrived and Robin Hood, Hermes and Lotus piled in and I took us on a savage journey west and south back to the I-5 corridor in the good old U.S. Surprisingly, the border people at Abbotsford did not bat an eye at a carload of young dirty people claiming to have walked into Canada that morning and let us pass without extra inspection. We dropped Hermes & Lotus off in Bellingham at the downtown food co-op, where they were planning to meet an acquaintance of theirs. Then Robin Hood and I got in our last junk meals for awhile at Wendy's--no more crap like that if I'm not hiking it off the next day--and we made it to Seattle by 9:30. Dropped Robin Hood off at a friend's house, said my goodbyes to him and wished him luck on his upcoming season of work at McMurdo in Antarctica, then 10 minutes later Kristin and I were here, at our friend Aaron's place. The hike is really over, but it'll be hard to really feel that until I get up tomorrow morning and realize there's no walking, no intense physical exertion to do, and there won't be for a long time.