Camping: Hart’s Pass PCT mile 2630.14
Miles to go: 38.85
I could feel the cold air trying to penetrate my cocoon of warmth as the first rays of sun began peeking through my tent. The last thing I wanted to do was get out of my sleeping bag, my body heat having built up over the night would escape right out the door. There is no real way to prevent this, as eventually I was going to have to get up and hike. I only have two more full days of hiking left and then I’ll be in Canada. I’ll be done, lost in a world full of expectations. The sun was bright in the morning sky and as I finally made my way out of my tent, I saw frozen condensation everywhere. Our tents were all covered in moisture; partially frozen, and the air clung to the chilly evening far into morning. We individually found places to lay out our gear in direct sunlight in hopes that we wouldn’t have to pack our gear up all wet. We’ve been relatively spoiled in that department out here. We are lucky.
Though the morning was quite cold, it was a beautiful day. We all marched out of camp at different times, as our gear was satisfactorily dried out. It was a late start for all of us, but no one was in any particular rush. Dayglo was first to leave camp, then me; Steeltoe and Waffles somewhere behind me all morning. There was a lot of climbing today, a lot of rise and fall. I’d get to the top of a giant climb, and I’d look in every direction drinking every last detail up with my senses. Now that the end is so near, it is impossible not to feel the anxiety of the impending separation. It pains me to visualize a life where this isn’t going to be the scenery every day, that these people aren’t going to be there to make decisions with, that I’ll have to report to work and try to make back some of the debt I’ve accrued. I’ll travel mostly by bike, bus or car; I’ll miss this so much. I want this to be my life. In the meantime, it is my life for two more days. That much I can enjoy.
I think more and more about my next long hike, and the Appalachian Trail makes so much sense to me. I’ll be in fantastic shape, I’ll already know how to thru-hike, I’ll have friends and family on the East Coast who can help me along the way … and most importantly, I’ll be hiking. I can’t imagine any other life for myself at this point, I’ve come closer to finding myself out here than I ever thought possible. I’ve found myself thriving among the trees and mountains, in a state of mind that feels more natural and relaxed than I’ve ever known. I’ve found myself thriving among these people, the people who understand exactly how perfect life can be living out of bags in different shapes and sizes: ziploc bags, sleeping bags, backpacks, odor proof food bags, stuff sacks, so many ziplocs. In the end I have found what makes me happy, and that is all anyone can ask for. It’s the last thing my Grandmother wished for me when we had our last phone conversation before she passed away. I think of that out here, how she must be able to see how happy I am, how everything I ever needed or wanted from life was right here on the PCT.
These are the thoughts I had as I walked through this great country. I waxed sentimental about my life, the trail, my friends – and as I struggled up the side of a big mountain I still found myself smiling. I could still find joy in the simple fact that I’m on the PCT, the thought that has carried me through this entire experience. I was sweating but the air was cold, so when I stopped to rest I’d feel a chill. I stopped anyway and had snacks, partly because I was hungry, and partly because snack breaks have always been a favorite part of the day. I want to savor the small happinesses that occur on this trail, each one becoming one of the last times I’ll enjoy them on this journey. I’m sentimental like that. I like to savor things that bring me delight. To roll it across my tongue like a fine wine or chocolate, to close my eyes and truly taste the experience – inhaling life as it is in every moment.
Just as I reached the top of the climb, Dayglo and Steeltoe were sitting among some trees on the summit having lunch. I sat with them and enjoyed that too. The three of us who became a team so late in the game, all of us having been friends since the very beginning. We have so much that ties us together. It feels so good to be in their company sitting on top of a mountain, watching the trail wind away around the next pass ahead of us, eating our last meals before we reach civilization. We can see Canada now, it’s right there. So close. I remember when Mexico was that close. Thousands, if not millions of steps ago. Waffles joined us towards the end of our break and we all discussed water and our plans to camp at the campground at Hart’s Pass tonight. We discussed the plan for tomorrow and how close we wanted to be to the border before calling it a day. We all sat there a bit dumbfounded when we realized just how close we are. And then we hiked.
The day became much easier in the second half, with the trail staying fairly level. The views were big and open until the final push through the trees that brought us to Hart’s Pass. We signed the log book there, scouted out some really good spots for our tents, then really began talking about tomorrow. Dayglo and Steeltoe are going to finish tomorrow. I knew they’d do that. It would be a 31 mile day for us, so Waffles and I are feeling much better about making it a 24 mile day and finishing the following morning. We agreed that this would be the plan and I felt teary as I went to bed, secretly hoping that DG and ST would change their minds. I didn’t want to lose them but it’s not about me. We are all finishing our journey on our own terms. Waffles and I don’t want to feel rushed so we aren’t going to push it. It is such a bittersweet feeling in my tent tonight. I’m so elated to be coming to the end of the journey, and yet I feel as if my heart is being ripped out of my chest. I’m tired though. It’s been a long day; emotionally and physically trying. I want to stay in this sleepy warm cocoon forever.