Miles: 21.99
Camping: PCT mile 2069.98
Miles to go: 59

I woke up to the smell of the damp forest around me, inhaling the Earth. What will it be like to wake up indoors every day again? I pondered this as I lay prone in my tent, listening as someone was breaking camp. I poked my head out of my tent as Birdbath and Gil made their exit back to the trail. They are in, “get it done,” mode – pushing bigger miles. I feel as if it’s a matter of a day before Steeltoe and Dayglo make the same push to finish. Everyone is mentally over it and I don’t want to feel that way, but I do. The shorter days, the wetness, the cold air – it all makes things seem over prematurely. The end is as inevitable as the changing of the seasons, and this whole thing isn’t going to be our every day reality any more.

I decided to move quick in order to harness the day and make the best of the last miles to Canada. The other guys were still not moving so I took a journey up the steep hillside to a privy perched on the very top. This privy was a mere wooden box with a hole cut into the top of it. I sat down and looked around at the whole world waking up around me. I was at one of the higher points around; the mountains and trees that surrounded me were shaking off the morning fog that clung in wisps to the air. I thought about taking a deep breath but in my position, decided I’d wait for that one.

When I returned to camp, everyone was moving. Waffles was still hanging about saying he didn’t want to push huge miles on the last couple of days. He wanted to hike with us and that made me happy, because I know these other guys will lose their patience and shoot ahead before long. I simply don’t want to finish alone. So we all headed out of camp on our own today, with the expected goal of around 22 miles.

I got back into the hiking pretty easily today, as it felt good to move again. I’m sure going to miss hiking every day with no real concerns in life, such simplicity. The guys said they might do more miles today, but at least Waffles had no desire to go any farther than I was planning. It amazes me that I’m still meeting people out here, so close to the finish line. I originally met Waffles back in Lake Tahoe, and we’ve crossed paths several times but this is our first time hiking together. He’s a really sweet guy from Belgium – another great European to share the trail with.

We all had lunch at Rainy Pass where we spread our tents and sleeping bags across every available patch of sunshine in the parking lot. Rainy Pass is a trailhead, so there were a lot of cars parked there but we hardly saw any people. We definitely thought it would be a great spot for trail magic, but alas it was a sleepy afternoon in the rainy mountains of northern Washington. Our lunch was short, and we all headed back into the mountains in our own heads. Dayglo was off first and I was pretty much right behind him for a while. I caught him on top of Cutthroat Pass after a long winding hike up the side of an open valley. The fall colors popped all around, providing a sharp contrast with the granite peaks that towered over everything. Cutthroat Pass itself looks north to Canada across great rocky mountains, craggy peaks jagged against the horizon. I stood in awe of the view and took a step sideways to sit with Dayglo when I lost my footing. Like a tree just cut by a lumberjack I fell to the side with my pack still on. Feeling no pain though a bit awkward, I started laughing uncontrollably. Dayglo stared at me confused, having missed the full show of my fall. I picked myself up and grabbed a snack for afternoonsies before sitting there taking in the full glory of the view.

It was cold sitting there, and soon Waffles and Steeltoe were there too. We were all enamored with the view but knew we had to get to camp before long. The days are considerably shorter all of a sudden, none of us feels like doing any night hiking in this terrain and it is quite cold. It wasn’t much longer before we reached Methow Pass where we were going to call it a night. It was a wide open pass, very few trees in sight. We aren’t too keen on camping so exposed, mostly due to condensation, but we aren’t sure there will be more camping if we push forward. We made a group decision to stay here and if nothing else, we are all extremely pleased with the views. It reminds me of Sonora Pass, the large open space with panoramic views of the surrounding mountains. All of us hunkered down for dinner watching a most beautiful sunset and then sat up watching the stars pop into the night sky, one by one. It’s so magical, so pristine, so perfect. There is still no place I’d rather be, even Canada. I want to stay here on this mountain top, with these people, with all of this love and appreciation always in my heart.