Day: Sunday, 2nd October 2016
Miles: 2606.9 – 2630.5
Brush Creek 2606.9 – Remote Site 2630.5
I mentioned in yesterdays post, that by the time I got to camp last night, there was just a single impossibly small space left between some trees. Somehow myself and FlyBy managed to intertwine our two tents somehow to make it work however. Levels of compatibility between the ZPacks Hexamid and Solplex that even the ZPacks guys never planned for. The crew who were a little further up included Outro, Meerkat, Six and others although I was not aware of it last night unfortunately, otherwise I would have joined them for some fun by the fire. I was on trail at 8:50AM and it was chilly morning. Little did I know that it would be one of the most sublime days of hiking however. Even John Muir himself would have approved. It seems that (just with the Sierra Nevada), that the further from a trailhead that the PCT gets, the more it pulsates with a unique level of immensity and energy.
Immediately rising towards views of Glacier Pass, and the sun was already burning off most of the mornings clouds. It was victorious in its fight against the clouds, and I was certainly happy to feel some warmth on my back as we ascended towards the first major pass and ridgeline of the day, in our traverse towards Harts Pass, the final trailhead and a forestry road the will cross the PCT in the United States.
It was cold enough this morning that a thick layer of frost covered the ground as we ascended. The spindly veins of the leaves looking like some chilly pathogen was taking over their veins.
By mid-morning, the sun established itself above, and as usual the colors gradually began to creek out from the shadows. The glacier above our initial pass was small and virtually non-existent however the mountains surrounding it were beautiful in their cloudy cloak, with a thick whitewater creek emanating from the heart of the valley.
It was interesting to see how vividly different, the exposures of the mountains around here were. On the north faces, gravel strewn slopes unable to support even the stubbly trees and shrubs elsewhere existed. On the South, trees and lush grasses managed to eek out an existence, all but on the verge of calling time on this years growth.
Cresting over the first high point and the trail maintained a stable elevation along a ridge that led all the way to Harts Pass. Once over the ridge, and pockets of abundance were to be seen in the sheltered spaces. Vivid oranges of the larch trees dotted the mountains in every direction. I was truly lucky to be here to witness this spectacle, all but confined to a narrow window between the autumn and rapid onslaught of the winter weather, that will lock these mountains away for months, in just a weeks time.
Harts Pass was a pleasant spot to enjoy lunch, with a large gang of hikers assembled for our daily fill of sugar, carbs and protein. It was quiet around here, with the ranger station boarded up, and signs that the season is already over in the camp grounds at the pass.
Beyond Harts Pass, and the trail again asserted itself with a long but gradual ascent to another ridge, as we gradually took aim directly north towards the border. The distant larches dotted higher slopes of evergreen trees, and with the reflections of the clouds visible for miles along the valley floor below, it was a great moment to reflect myself. I listed to my usual playlist, by now the mood of the music choices today matching up to the somber tones of the landscape. I was thinking a lot of the trail. Of the summer passed. Of what will be next, and where this trail might lead m *after* the trail. So much to think about, and not necessarily with answers that are readily available.
With each ridge we ascended, I looked to the north and wondered which of these peaks might be in Canada. It became somewhat of a preoccupation, one of no value whatsoever. Regardless, I think we all shared in these kinds of mind games at the end, all part of the experience when a long slow journey comes to an end.
Occasionally when the drama of the landscape was obscured by the trees, a flash of enormous color would suddenly become visible ahead, the Larches adding an additional magic to our surroundings.
Looking back towards Methow Pass at one point, and I remarked that it was one of the most fulfilling views I had gained from the trail in recent memory. Virtually every peak could be matched to the placement of the PCT, winding the long way round from valley to valley. Occasional outcroppings of rock, or high peaks giving context to the mass of wilderness beyond.
Wntering the Pasayten Wilderness, and I passed a number of hikers southbound, the so -called Victory March for those who decided to terminate on the Canadian border and return to Harts Pass. Its referred to as the victory march as you get to High Five all of your fellow hikers that you finished just ahead of! Part of me thought that this was actually a really nice way to finish the PCT. Maybe I’ll do that next time!
The sun began to drop from the sky in the late evening. Once again the shadows cloaked the hills to the north, but thankfully the rain and flurries of yesterday were nowhere to be seen. I was excited for one last sunset on the Pacific Crest Trail. And thats when it occurred to me. One last sunset. The words are surreal. How can that be. How can this have happened so soon. I was sad this evening. A deep sadness. One that I was perhaps ill-prepared for. The sadness you feel with the end of an era. The last day of school, graduation, the passing of a dear friend. A moment for thought and reflection. I sat on a rock with the view below for a long time. A few small tears in my eyes for some intangible reason. And perhaps even a smile on my face of some sorts.
Moving further and as the trail passed a high ridge to the east, a rain shower all but enveloped me, before pass right by. It was like the seasons decided to give me a reprieve. Just another day.
Finally, as the distant horizon began to turn a vivid pink and apricot, I started to see the valleys in the distance widen out. The views now stretched for miles. Miles of wilderness. No noises, no cars in the distance. No aircraft in the skies. This whole area still and quiet. Holding its breath for the first snow.
After spending so much of the day alone today, I arrived to a large camp and a big crowd of good friends already set up. I decided to make camp here, and settle in for the evening by the pleasant fire they had set. Someone produced some Hersheys chocolate and Graham Crackers. And then I had an idea. The jar of peanut butter and grape jelly I had packed (and cursed) in Stehekin suddenly had a glorious use! So it was that we all enjoyed our last supper. The supper of champions, rounded out with Grape Jelly, Peanut Butter S’mores. Delicious!
This is not a time for sadness I thought, looking into the embers.