September 17, 2017
Castle Pass – Manning Park, BC (2646.42-2658.91)
The feeling in camp this morning was akin to that felt by small children on Christmas morning. We slept in, although due to the excitement we didn’t actually sleep much into the morning, and instead laid around for a bit reflecting on the trip. One by one, our campmates headed out to walk the last few miles to the monument, and eventually we did as well, the last ones to leave the campsite. Leading up to this moment, I had anticipated a rather quiet and contemplative mood in these last few miles, but instead Gummies and I listened to a playlist of songs that have influenced the hike in some way, which included such timeless classics as Baby Got Back, Get Low, and Space Jam. So yeah, not quite the sombre reflection I had been imagining, but much more fun.
As we approached the monument, my excitement grew. Suddenly, we heard what sounded like a helicopter landing nearby. We were only about a quarter mile from the monument at this point, and I was sure that must be where the helicopter was landing. As we rounded a switchback, we realized we could see the monument and the border through the trees, and the helicopter was there! I was a bit disappointed, thinking that they were there to do work on the Canada/US border monument (we had heard rumours of people having their finishing pictures ruined a few days before by a construction crew on site), but as we stood there we realized the helicopter was already taking off again!
We hurried down the last few steps to the monument, and were greeted with cheers and hugs by the hikers who were already there. The people we had camped with (Dave, Judith, Chewie, Red, and Nigel) were all there, along with all the people who had gotten to the monument the night before and camped there, so it was quite a party. It was a bit surreal seeingmonument, but with all the excitement going on I don’t think the full realization of the moment was able to hit me. We got our finishing photos, I drank my maple syrup to celebrate my return to the homeland, and Gummies had his bottle of milk which he drank/dumped on his head/sprayed all over everyone (because winners of the Indy 500 drink milk). We also shared a tiny little bottle of Maker’s Mark, before making breakfast to enjoy at the monument.
Slowly, the other hikers all headed on into Canada, and we eventually got a few moments alone at the monument to soak it all in. Still, I don’t think any of it really sunk in for me. Not the magnitude of what I had just done, and not the fact that it was all coming to an end now. Of course, we still had to hike 9 more miles into Canada to get to Manning Park, but our time on the Pacific Crest Trail proper was officially over. I think we spent around an hour and a half at the monument, but we did eventually hike on into Canada. The weather forecast had been calling for rain or even snow starting today, but we lucked out and the weather was beautiful. Sunny, and the perfect temperature for hiking. The Canadian trail into Manning Park was also really nice. Not too much in the way of elevation gain, and sometimes it was even wide enough for us to walk side by side. I was probably imagining it, but being back in Canada felt different and nice, like coming home.
Eventually, we arrived at the Manning Park Lodge, and obviously headed straight to the restaurant to get lunch. When we walked in, we noticed Cougar and Dr. McDirty were there, so we joined them at their table. They finished the day before us, but I’m really glad we at least got to meet up with them at the end and reflect on everything that had happened over the past five months. After lunch, we attempted to book tickets on the Greyhound bus to Vancouver, but the WiFi at the lodge was terrible and the desktop computer in the lobby also wouldn’t work. There was a brief panic, but I was eventually able to contact my dad who booked the tickets for us.
Cougar and Dr. McDirty had booked a room for the night, and they let us use their shower so that we didn’t have to shower in the pool shower that the lodge lets hikers use. Once we were all cleaned up and our laundry was in the machine, we headed over to the pub for one last meal together before parting ways. It’s so strange saying goodbye to people after this hike. You forge such strong bonds with the people you meet out in the wilderness, but there’s also a kind of detachment behind it, since you never know when someone might hike off never to be seen again. Still, it was definitely sad saying goodbye to Cougar and Dr. McDirty after all that we’d been through together.
Gummies and I headed down to the basement of the lodge, where they let hikers crash on the floor while waiting for the bus to show up (for some reason, the only time the bus stops at Manning Park is 2am). All the hikers in the room slowly drifted off, but I couldn’t fall asleep for a long while. My mind was racing with the feelings of being finished and the excitement of heading to Vancouver. I scrolled through every single photo I’ve taken on the hike. The desert feels like a lifetime ago, and almost like it was an entirely different person who experienced it. It’s crazy to look back on the past five months and everything that’s happened since that fateful day I left home and flew alone to San Diego. I’ve grown so much in the past five months, and learned things that I never know about myself. I knew exactly where the trail went when I set out, but it still managed to bring me to places I never expected.
Everyone began packing up to catch the bus shortly after 1am, so I think I only got an hour or two of sleep. The bus already had some people on it when it arrived, and the rest of the seats were totally filled by hikers. It was about 3 and a half hours to Vancouver, and I might have drifted off a few times but I definitely didn’t get any good sleep. We were dropped off at the bus station at 5:30am in the pitch blackness, and so of course immediately descended upon the nearest Tim Hortons for breakfast. Walking into a Timmies made the feeling of home so much more real. We sat there for a couple of hours waiting for the sun to rise, and then walked across town to the hotel we had booked for the night.
Now I’m really home.
We decided to treat ourselves for our first real night off trail, and got a room at a pretty nice place in downtown Vancouver. The concierge definitely gave us a hard look when we walked in with our backpacks and dirty hiking clothes, but quickly turned friendly when we asked where we could check in for our reservation. The lady at the check-in desk was pretty impressed when we told her we’d walked there from Mexico, and she had our room ready right away, even though it was only 8am and nowhere near official check-in time.
The room is soooo nice. I feel a bit guilty about spending so much, but I think we definitely deserve this. After relaxing for a bit, we headed out into the city with a plan to buy some non-hiking clothes. We ran into Acorn and Bin Chicken inside the nearby H&M store trying to do the same thing, which was kind of funny. We were able to pick up a few items of street clothes, as well as some toiletries and even a bubble bath bar from Lush (yep, I really decided to treat myself). After we had finished shopping, as we were sitting on the street side eating lunch from a hot dog cart, we saw Adam and Baton walking on the opposite side of the street! They came over and talked to us for a bit, and it felt so strange seeing other hikers in the setting of the downtown of a major city. So crazy that we’re still randomly running into each other, even here.
We had a totally luxurious evening of ordering room service and lying in bed, and of course having my bubble bath which felt incredible. I had the best sleep I’ve had in a while. I don’t think I woke up once in the night. I really wanted this blog post to include some kind of deep reflection on my post-hike feelings, but honestly I don’t think the true feelings of being done have hit me yet. We still have a week of playing tourist in Vancouver and Seattle, and then Gummies and I will spend a couple weeks visiting at each of our hometowns, so the adventure doesn’t really feel over yet. I’m definitely going to be posting a few post-trail updates as life unfolds and the reality of being done the hike truly sets in.
In the end, the trail was everything I thought it would be, but also so much more. You really can’t comprehend the things that happen to you on a trip of this magnitude until you go out and do it. I knew it was going to be hard, but it was so much harder than I thought it would be. The trail humbled me. It brought me to my knees, but also lifted me up. It showed me that I can’t do everything, but I can do some pretty badass stuff. I can hike over 2000 miles. I can live in the wilderness for 5 months. I can climb mountains and trek through the snow and forge bonds with total strangers. I am so much stronger than I ever knew, but I also learned that it’s okay to be weak sometimes. I am not invincible, and that’s okay. I’m leaving the trail, but I’m taking a part of it with me that will stay with me forever. In the things that it has taught me, the ways that it has changed me, the love that it has given me. I hiked the PCT in the year of fire and ice, and life will never be the same.