Last days in the North Cascades

PCT miles 2574.1 to 2651.3 – Stehekin to Castle Pass – Total PCT miles 2651.3

Mother Nature has told us it’s time for us to finish our hike. This morning we walked in snow, a dusting of fresh powder that made Cutthroat Pass sparkle in autumn sunlight. Trail-side huckleberries are afire with red leaves. The larch are turning gold. Deep blue gentian-harbinger of winter-are in flower. Streams are icy in the frost of morning. A week into autumn, we now have more minutes of darkness than light.

These are our last full days on the trail. They are full with realizations: Last weekday breakfasts with spectacular views or seats of logs in forest floors or golden grassy meadows. Last water from cold springs. Last marmots. Last time that walking 25 miles a day is the biggest objective of said day. Last maps. Last cold dinners. Last nights in our tent. Last sunsets. Last sunrises.

Not that we will never have these experiences again. (The sun and moon will both rise on October 1.) But the living and making of these moments on this PCT journey is ending. I hope these days of walking for hours through sagebrush, wildflowers, nearly 2000 miles of lupine, over granite ridges, and through many a forest will stay vivid in my mind. That they will be memories I can seek for inspiration as we return to the other world-the one that some people call “real”. I’m still uncertain of that reference. Life on the trail has been more vibrant, richer, with moments more clearly distilled then most I experience in that so-called real world.

While it is a life richly lived on the PCT. We are not distraught that our hike will soon be ending. We’ve enjoyed these last 5 months, 151 days of trail life. It’s been a good walk and our turn is about up. I am grateful for every one of these days. For my partner. For the friends that we have made. For the kindness we have received. For the steps we have taken. For the pure joy of being able to look back and see how far we’ve come.

I’m grateful that we are fulfilling our PCT dreams. I’ve kept true to my 11-year old self. Gabriel’s learned what it means to walk for days and days on end.

But there are other goals to attend now that this dream is nearing fulfillment. I still have the majority of Washington’s 100 highest mountains to climb-some of them taunting me from the PCT in these last days (ahh… Tower) and they won’t get climbed if I just keep on walking. There are books to read. A garden to grow. Farmers markets to enjoy. Beach trips with waves to surf. Mountains with powder to ski. Long lost friends to catch up with after 2700 miles. I look forward to these experiences.

But for now, we’ll savor our time amid the larches, views into the Pickets, and walk amid the gentle mountains of the Pasayten Wilderness.

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