Day 147 – Last Marker

It’s been about two weeks of weird anxiety of an evening – thinking I’m gonna go to sleep and then something’s gonna happen in the middle of the night. A grizzly is gonna slash into my tent and eat me, or I’m gonna get hypothermia in my -3F bag, or a coyote is gonna tear my face off as I get up to pee – whatever it is, it means I’m not gonna finish my hike. And whatever form it takes, I’m super over it. Luckily, I wake up feeling super refreshed– although it is midnight, so I don’t know that I’m gonna get that far right now. Oh well.

I am super thirsty, though – I’ve killed all my water in the night. While I usually get some water out of whatever food I’ve cooked, the super-delicious, magical, buttery-but-dry savory pastry didn’t help in that regard. I have to use my aqua mira in the middle of the night while trying not to wake my sitemates. Ugh. On top of that, I’m unsure whether or not the aqua mira actually made it into the bottle – it’s dark, and my exhaustion is finding me again. In the morning, though, there are no bleach stains on my sleeping bag or tent floor, so it probably made it. Probably. It would be amusing to get back home only to get rekt by giardia. Everything up here’s supposed to be glacier-fed, so it should, in theory, be fine.

I barely sit up before my bladder starts shrieking, and I’m no longer concerned about my sitemates, throwing on socks shoes skirt to dash off into the woods. By the time I get back, A Game and Undercover are  up and talking quietly, and when I hear my name, I chime in that I’m awake. Time to start the day.

So it’s chatting with the two of them and Galactic, who’s being social this morning, as we pack up. The topic on everyone’s mind is the weather; the Delormes suggest that the chance of rain today has dropped from 27% to 21%. Hooray! I make plans with Undercover and A Game; I’m gonna stop at Glacier Pass, halfway up our last grouchy climb, about 26 miles from here. I pull out first, know that Galactic is faster than I am – I’ll see him at least once more.

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The footbridge across Bridge Creek is out when I get there, so it’s across a sketchy log crossing instead. I keep hearing something behind me; it’s just Galactic, who passes me as I climb to Rainy Pass. A bit further on, I pass a runner, and there’s a weird moment where all my brain has to offer is “you’re not a thruhiker”, before I remember that other people use these trails. I must be tired; I just came out of Stehekin, a somewhat populated place, yesterday. I shouldn’t be this sensitive to other folks on the trails.

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Closer and closer to Rainy Pass, why are we going up? The road’s down there. Well, at least, it was. Well, why are we going down? The road’s up there.  I’m kind of getting fed up with the trail’s shit, particularly since it kind of looks like that 1 in 5 chance of rain is gonna turn into a 1 in 1. But when I get to Rainy Pass, the clouds start to open up, and everything turns all gorgeous-like.

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I cross the road, go into the the pit toilet at the trailhead, bask in the novelty that is still using a toilet with a roof. It won’t be a novelty for long.

Then it’s time to climb again – up up up to Cutthroat Pass.

Two Tone said at Stehekin that the ascents to Cutthroat and Glacier are the last two rough climbs of the hike, and I’ve prepared myself for them both physically and emotionally. Since there’s a load of water along the way, my pack feels lighter without all the usual water I carry.

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As I’m climbing, the heavens clear, and it starts to get stunning.

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Undercover and A Game Catch me while I’m gawking at everything, barely going a few feet before I have to take another picture. They tell me about the yellow pines that are everywhere now – larches, they’re called, the only conifer that loses its needles like a deciduous tree. There’s yellow and green and red everywhere, contrasted by the sky’s startling blue.

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It’s winding and weird and strange on the way up to Cutthroat, but it’s not as punishing as I was led to believe. Maybe that’s because of all the picture breaks, though.

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I get to the top, and I forget to breathe for just a moment.

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hiker’s paradise

It’s not even windy, so I decide to take a break, and when Undercover and A Game announce that they’re going to eat lunch up here, I don’t think it’s a bad idea at all.

We talk about our experiences abroad, experiences that, while occurring in other countries, are alike enough that it makes us all giggle. It’s good conversation, but my legs are itchy, rip-roaring ready to crush some miles. So I let them off the leash and walk.

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It’s flat enough on the other side of Cutthroat, curving in and out and around rock features, before showing off the next three miles of trail, all the way to Methow Pass. I love it when the trail shows off. Then down, down, crossing terrain that’s not as hard as it probably should be. It’s nice not to see it for once. At the top of Methow, I turn around, see all the trail behind me, feel good about my day – there’s just something about the concrete nature of accomplishment out here that is incredibly satiating, like ice cream when you’ve got a sweet tooth.

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Down, down, that sweetness rolling through my veins, and suddenly, I’m caught in a precipitous arrival.

I wasn’t even aware that it was coming up. I should have been, maybe, but math isn’t my strong suit, and I don’t know that I could’ve really prepared for it, anyway.

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That’s it. That’s the last of these stand-in landmarks that I’m going to see. The next landmark I come across is the terminus.

Holy shit.

FEELS. FEELS EVERYWHERE.

primary feel:

primary feel:

I take shitloads of pictures because I feel like this is important, momentous, and afterwards I just… sit. Just being is important, too.

I kind of want to wait for A Game and Undercover, be here to clap them in, share this moment with them, but I take a look at the time and know I shouldn’t. Gotta keep walking. The mileage seems doable, but only if I take off now.

I note that I’m alone, that I haven’t seen folk aside from A Game, Undercover, Galactic, and that runner all day. No one’s passed me from behind; I haven’t caught up to anyone either. The folk ahead are likely to finish tomorrow – will there be anyone at the terminus when I finish? I hope someone will. Bonus points if it’s Undercover and A Game.

I’ve always been aware of a bit of a rub on the trail, socially. It’s not like I’ve been pretending to be something I’m not, but I’ve often found that there’s something – in me or in the folks that I’m around – that causes just a little bit of friction in my interactions. Not always, but often enough to note. And that’s fine, I guess. I don’t have to get along with everyone. I’m not ever going to get along with everyone. But it was rare that I felt like my full self around anyone but Pineapple or the Wolfpack; there was always some extra weight on the interaction. But with Undercover and A Game, and the much-missed Cookie Scrambler, it’s felt like there’s been no weight at all.

There’s so little weight that I think I maybe talk too much these days – but I feel like I have a voice among these folks, and I can’t help using it. In my day to day in the frontcountry, as a black woman, what I have to say isn’t particularly valued. I mean, it’s not like people are shushing me or anything, but I’m always aware of my speech, and how much I’m speaking, and for how long – it makes me feel like I’m transgressing when I talk “too much”, even when all I’m doing is being excited, expressing my me. It’s important to stay self-reflexive, to feel out every situation and understand that sometimes I do talk too much, that’s a thing. But also, speaking writing having a voice is not a cardinal sin, and people who treat you like it is, particularly when you’re trying to connect with people… those are not your people. Or they’re not meant to be close friends, anyway. Close friends push you, challenge you to come correct, but they want you to come, be present, with them, in the moment. It’s a neat thing that I’ve found several people like that for me on the PCT, even if most of them have come in the last 500 miles.

Down, down into a forest, where there’s supposedly a creek; I come across a gent who has apparently set up a tent nearby, though the tent is doing well at hiding. The land is covered in tentsites, and I can tell this is like the desert for southbounders; I can just picture how this area looked a few months ago, with a bunch of folks squeezed into these spots, telling stories about trying to get to Mexico. Back in the present, the gentleman is apparently with a small group doing Harts Pass to Rainy Pass over the course of a week. He tells me I’m almost there, that he really admires what we thruhikers do, and gives me an early congratulations. It’s super nice of him to take the time to do, and all of a sudden, I’m back in my feelings.

I’m in my feelings across the creek and through the contouring, all the way to the last water in 13 miles. After a day full of water, it feels like a really long carry; I’m grouchy about it, but I load up with three liters – I don’t know if what I’m going to cook, whether I’ll need to drink hot chocolate, whether I’ll be thirsty as hell again tonight.

I kind of regret it as I climb to Glacier Pass – it’s a tiny little pass on the way up to something a little higher, but it’s still up. And up through the woods, so there’s not much to see beyond a snowshoe hare, starting to turn white from his paws on up, who stops to stare at me for just long enough for me to get the camera booted but not long enough for me to take the picture. Still, the sighting keeps me pumped all the way up to Glacier Pass.

It’s 6:45 when I get up there, spot a site just under the trees before the proper crest of the hill. I consider it, but it’s still early, so I go up to the crest proper and see the proper spot. That one’s much bigger, but it’s out in the open, and it’s already kind of cold. There’s supposed to be another one, on the other side of the trail, but I can’t find it, so it’s back to the first site, as usual. I’m putting my pack down right as Undercover and A Game roll up. We’re setting up when Saber rolls in, decides to camp nearby – the more the merrier, as far as I’m concerned.

I get ambitious, start boiling water for three packets of macaroni while we talk expectations vs. reality of the trail. Saber talks about all the partying he didn’t expect, I talk about how I didn’t expect to feel so crushed about others’ mileage again; Undercover also talks about not making the mileage he wanted to, and A Game is… at peace, or so it seems. It’s her first time backpacking, so she didn’t really have any expectations. She thinks the reality is pretty sweet, though, and the rest of us agree.

The conversation turns towards the world beyond the trail, to more real shit like brownness and Trump and and and, and while A Game and Undercover are chill and willing, thoughtful, engaging participants, Saber seems like he feels… uncomfortable. I notice, and kind of feel weird about it, but in Stehekin on Monday, when there was some hikerbro conversation happening, no one seemed to consider or care whether or not I was comfortable. And it feels so, so good to talk, to get upset, to be understood. And yeah, true enough, there’s something to be said for inclusion, but I’m paying close attention to the conversation, and we’re not saying anything that isn’t measurably, objectively true.

As the time passes, the conversation gets even heavier – heavy even for me, about sexism and experiences of sexual assault and how shitty the standards of “manliness” are for EVERYONE in that regard – and Saber decides to go to bed. I feel bad for continuing the conversation, but I don’t try to stop him beyond a sincere “are you sure”. His choice.

I don’t know how I’m gonna eat all this macaroni, I think, but when I look down I’m almost done. Welp. Still hungry. A Game hands me some chocolate with chilis in it, and it sates the sugar-craving beast.

It’s cold, so we’re off to bed, with 40 miles left to the border, and 50 to Manning Park. I can feel the tingle in the air as I send off a Spot – I think I’m finally nearly ready, ready to be done.

Date: September 27 • Start: 2583.7 • End: 2609.6 • Day: 25.9
Notable Accomplishments: Dat Northern Washington Scenery tho • Solid miles • Life-giving campsite chats

3 thoughts on “Day 147 – Last Marker

  1. adamtdresser says:

    Wow. Great pictures. And this:

    “there’s just something about the concrete nature of accomplishment out here that is incredibly satiating”

    That’s it right there. That’s why it’s so special. That’s why it changes your life. That’s why people get bummed after it’s over.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Griff says:

    Yeah, that friction between what is “normal” and “okay” and “polite” to discuss and what is not. People need to be less afraid of discomfort and having their points of view disagreed with. Need to trust themselves more with the ability to digest and understand challenging information. Willfully staying in a bubble is cowardice, not strength.

    Liked by 2 people

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