Day 149 – Canada Day

As predicted, I can’t sleep – I wake up at midnight again, feeling refreshed and ready to move, get it over with. And from what I can hear of the rest of the camp, I’m not alone; everyone seems to be restless, the night is full of rustling tossing turning creaking cracking tents bags air mattress. The cacophony’s hard to ignore, punctuated only by four-leggers galloping through a couple of times around 2 or 3am. My brain isn’t being helpful either: is it Canada time yet? No, go back to sleep. What about now, Canada time now? No, it’s still only 4am. We still have 23 miles to make tomorrow today, and we need our rest.

I think it’s the first time ever when the alarm I’ve set for 5:50 actually wakes-me-wakes-me; I’m alert and ready to start my day. My brain has reversed course though – let’s relax, chill out, just be today. Today is Canada Day, after all. There’ll be plenty of time for… whatever. Still, ten minutes later, I can’t stand it anymore, and I’m up and moving and gathering things for the last time.

By the time I emerge, Saber’s packed up, getting ready to go – I wish him a happy Canada Day, and he tells me he considers this his RebirthDay; while he’s not very expressive outwardly, his small smile, as he makes his way out of camp, is contagious.

I feel like that “rebirth” thing is going to be a theme of today. It makes sense, I guess; after we’re done, we’re supposed to be different, changed people. I mean, we already are, in a lot of ways, but we haven’t quite been put back in our frontcountry contexts yet. We know we’ve changed, but we don’t know how our puzzle pieces fit back into the greater whole.

Undercover and A Game emerge from their tent once I’m basically ready to go; I wish them a happy Canada Day, and they politely inform me that there is, in fact, already a Canada Day. Well, this is *our* Canada Day, I say, and I hope they enjoy it – though I do hope I see them again. Clockwork and Squirrel move a little slower than I do, are expecting to get to the terminus a little later than I am, so I wish them a happy Canada Day and easy walking.

Then it’s up and off to Rock Pass in the meditative morning.

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almost there

At the top of the pass, there are campsites – of course there are – but I don’t regret spending my last evening with friends.

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The PCT is really showing off today – it’s cold as hell, but it’s everything you would want for a last day, sunlight playing on the mountains, the passes, my heartstrings. It hammers home just how special my life has been for the last 148 days, just how lucky I am to see these sights.

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My feet are kind of heavy and my bowel is kind of rumbly this morning – both know what’s coming, and they want no part of it. I dig what is (hopefully) my last cathole in acquiescence to the latter. My heart, on the other hand, is as light as a feather, ready to face the day as it comes.

I’ve been out here nearly five months, which is almost half a year – not at all an insignificant chunk of time, even in a lifetime. I find myself drawn into a song from RENT; although 214,560 minutes isn’t nearly as catchy as the original, I find myself asking how, in fact, one measures five months in a year. In daylights? In sunsets? [Hiker] midnights? In cups of coffee? In Inches? In miles? In laughter? In strife?

Nah. It always comes back to love.

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The view back to Rock Pass, far left

The climb to Woody Pass is harder than I think it will be, but this is the second to last climb, and I find myself unable to really gripe about it. Just one more 450-foot climb, and then a long way down.

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It’s mostly contouring after Woody Pass, no down-down to speak of, just quiet little bumps of uppy downy. And then, the last up:

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that’s part of it over yonder.

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I always linger towards the (false) summit of a climb like this – they always whisper to me of infinite potential.

I pass Saber just on the other side of this false summit – it’s about three quarters of the way through the climb, and he eyes me sheepishly; he just needed a moment to sit and watch the morning. I don’t blame him. It’s a good morning to watch. I spot the crest of the climb a little further on – I’m gonna go sit on that for my break. No offense. None taken.

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back towards Saber – most of my pictures look back today

I’m almost there when I run into the Optimist, who finished yesterday, beatific smile on his face as always. He’s always been a chill, practical guy, but there’s an extra something about him today that makes me even more excited for the finish. I congratulate him, and make my way up the last little bit of the climb.

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you’re never too far along in your hike to take pictures of posing chipmunks

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or dem views

Up up up, up to the top at the end of everything.

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I spend a few minutes up there, being silly thankful – this is exactly what I wanted. Sun – no rain, no snow. And only eight miles to go.

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yeah, that is the trail, I did a little offroading to get up here. #worthit

Finally, I slip down, back to the trail. It’s all downhill from here.

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I run into a ranger on my way down to the lake; he asks me for my permit and I hand it to him, but he’s not asking for my PCT permit. It’s kind of a moot point at this juncture, but he asks that even if we have the PCT permits, to always get the self-signed permits as well – it helps their count when they’re up for federal funding. I waffled at the self-sign station, opted not to since I had the PCT permit – I’ll do it in the future.

I’m only a little further down the way when I hear Undercover’s voice echoing into the valley – yessss. They’re close. They catch me when I stop to pee.

A Game, Undercover and I decide to sit and snack for a bit, hang out, talk – then, suddenly, the mood shifts – WE GOTTA MAKE IT TO CANADA AAAAAA – so we’re up and on our feet, having agreed to walk together the rest of the way.

We have a great time walking and hiking – I am a nerd, they are nerds; praise Helix and pass the controller, I have found my people. I’m so into talking that I trip hard, almost catch myself, and end up on the ground, on my shins, having cushioned my fall as best I know how. The other two are dead silent as I count to three out loud – that’s usually how long it takes for pain to register, and If I can get through three without screaming, nothing’s broken. Turns out, nothing’s broken. There are shallow scrapes on both of my knees and one of my shins1, but nothing’s broken.

Undercover and A Game are freaking out, but I’m calm, more calm than I should be. We talk about how we’ve been tripping more often than usual in the last few weeks, about needing to finish, because we’re exhausted. There’s more of a propensity to hurt ourselves when we’re like this. Also, there’s snow that’s supposed to be coming tomorrow, so that doesn’t hurt.

When we start running into blowdowns, we know we’re close – we’ve been told there are quite a few between us and the border. Nothing like that day in Oregon, but “fun” nonetheless. A Game tells a story about a hiker that fractured a bone just climbing over a blowdown, and I resolve to be reeeeally careful for the next few miles. Undercover, for his part, keeps stubbing his toes2.

We get to the last water at nine-tenths remaining, and it’s beautiful, everything is beautiful today: the weather, the walk, that swath that cuts through the forest

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That is, in fact, our destination

We start a countdown from there, six-tenths, three-tenths; then we start hearing people; and then we round the end of a switchback and I can see it. It steals my breath away.

Down just two more switchbacks, and there, in this smaller-in-real-life clearing, is the Northern Terminus of the PCT.

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Holy shit. The terminus. The monument. I did it. This thing that I’ve been terrified that I maybe couldn’t do for the last nearly-five months… I did it. I’ve just hiked 2650.2 miles, and I cannot actually fathom that as a thing people do, let along a thing that I have done.

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To my surprise, I don’t get teary-eyed. On the Colorado Trail, I hyperventilated and cried at the beginning and, though I tried not to, I also hyperventilated and cried at the end. So it seems right that at the beginning of this trail, there was mostly just shock at standing at the beginning of this crazy adventure, and here at the end… well. Crazy how history do dat.

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exhaustion and shock, alright.

Saber is here, getting his picture taken, along with a small group who arrived this morning and are getting ready to head back up. I don’t envy their trip back over the blowdowns, nor know any of them, and suddenly I’m thankful all over again, not only to be here, but to be here with folks who get me, my silence, my incredulity.

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my ridiculousness

I shake myself out of it by readying the costume. I came here to dance, dammit.

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photo credit for all dino photos/video: Undercover

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this thing was hard to get into

So it’s into the costume, and just like Prom, it’s a quick photo shoot before the dance.

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this picture tho

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RAWR *nom*

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And then, the moment I’ve been waiting for for 2000 miles:

My only regret is that I don’t wanna bogard the terminus, so I keep the dance short and sweet. But I don’t regret  the extra pound and a half I carried for 80 miles, or how ridiculous it looked pulling it out of my pack every evening, settled among my hiker-y belongings, or trying to keep track of all the little bits and bobs. It was totally, 100% worth it.

Then it’s off with the costume, and sidling up to A Game and Undercover, who have the register. We spend the best part of an hour just turning through its pages reverently, taking in the names, the messages, of the people who came before us. My mind drifts to those who will come after us – I wonder what their experiences of this moment will be like, hope they’ll make it, hope for the best for all of us in whatever comes next.

And then, it’s my turn3:

There is no more PCT. Only Zuul.

I always come back to that quote that gave me my trail name. Take it out of its Ghostbustery context of, y’know, possession, and it’s always seemed a very zen-esque saying. There is no more PCT, only this person it made – and I don’t really know who she is yet. I don’t know her mettle. She can handle the PCT, but can she handle what comes next? News at 11. Or in 11 months. Or years. Or something. I add a little something extra, because that’s not enough, but what I write seems incomplete, too. Even if I filled the book, it likely would.

Undercover and A Game sign the register sweetly, and then it’s drinking a wee bottle of whisky with the help of my friends, to stall, be here, in this moment.

I don’t really want to leave, but I have to get to Manning Park before dark – I’m already a day behind schedule, and while I’ve been sending out Spot pings to my mother, who’s waiting for me, she’ll probably flip out if I don’t make it before dark. I know that Undercover and A Game have family waiting for them at the lodge too, but JUST IN CASE I give them hugs before I go.

Then it’s onward, into Canada – and the world beyond.

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Date: September 29 • Start: 2635.4 • End: 2650.1 • Day: 14.7 + 8.8 to Manning Park = 23.5 
Notable Accomplishments: Completed the PCT • 2650 miles from Mexico to Canada • DID THE THING


[1] I still have the scar.

[2] Heaaaaart youuuuu

[3] Turns out, I was the first of the Wolfpack to sign the register. After all that angst about being slow. Funny how life is. Still, the last one to Canada wins, and while Wolf had to get off at Sierra City, the rest of the Pack made it.

So this is the end of the trail, but not the end of my writing. Tomorrow, I’ll be talking about the aftermath – walking to Manning Park, hanging around Seattle, and getting home – and then on Monday, I’ll be writing about reentry and post-trail depression, which is 100% a real thing, and important to talk about. Later next week, I’m hoping to formally announce my next big adventure. From there, I’ll continue on with in-depth gear reviews, outdoor issues, and current events as they affect a Brown Girl hiker. 

If you’d like to hear about anything in particular, feel free to drop me a line via the Contact page.

56 thoughts on “Day 149 – Canada Day

  1. mjirving says:

    Congrats! A great accomplishment. I love how you spoon-fed this to us over the winter to help bridge the hiking seasons. I have to say that your blog was my favorite of this hiking season. So well written and great story telling. Looking forward to your summary. I section hiked Rainy to Manning and Hiker Heaven to Cajon Pass this year so it was fun to see your finish. I camped at the same spot as you that you did on your last night about a month before you. That last day was one of my favorite on the trail so far as the views were simply amazing. Congrats! -GoalTech

    Liked by 2 people

    • Brown Girl says:

      Thanks! Stoked you enjoyed.

      Man, Rainy to Manning though – really, all of Washington. Felt like I was floored by the views the whole time I’d hike the state again in a heartbeat. Did you get through Cajon before or after the fire went through there?

      Liked by 1 person

      • mjirving says:

        Just before the fire. I camped in the beautiful desert scrub and birds in Swarthout Canyon my last night. Now it’s a wasteland. I’m doing Cajon to Cabazon this spring and Rainy to Stevens later this summer (I’ve done all of Oregon and Kennedy Meadows south down to Cajon so far) so I’ll crack 1,000 mikes this spring. :-). (I enjoyed your Backpacker and Trail Show work too!)

        Like

      • Brown Girl says:

        Yeah. That was a super pretty section. I’m glad it didn’t reach Wrightwood.

        Grats on your 1000 mark! Getting it done 😀

        (Also thanks for that, too!)

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Kellz says:

    Wowee!!!! I’m supposed to be getting for night shift but couldn’t stop reading. You did it! I always knew you would. It’s weird how I don’t actually know but feel somewhat closer to you reading your posts lol. So proud. I look forward to your further posts. Congrats babe! Woo!!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Brown Girl says:

      Thanks! 😄 Sorry to interrupt your prep 😜

      Hah, you do kinda know me now – this is pretty much me, I’m not particularly different in real life. I do more reading, I guess? I tend to talk less than I write? But yeah, wysiwyg, re: blog/life generally, with me.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Fine says:

    I know that you finished months ago, but still: CONGRATS! Such a huge feat! Thank you so much for keeping writing the whole time after finishing, I imagine it was both beautiful & comforting, and horrible at times to look back on this amazing experience. I at least was sometimes unable to look at pictures from my hike for a few months because it made me well up and longing for this lifestyle of knowing that you just had to find water, eat something, and find a place to sleep, and the rest was just walking.
    Looking so forward to your writing in the future, it has been such a pleasure. And I can’t wait to hear about your next adventure!!!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Brown Girl says:

      Thanks for reading! Glad you enjoyed. 😀

      Yeah, I usually spend 1.5-2 hours per post; yesterday it took me more than 4. I was all up in my feelings about it. The best of times, the worst of times, all that. I can’t wait to get back out there.

      Definitely looking forward to the next adventure and more writing!

      Like

  4. Jim Benthuysen says:

    What a great read and it was fun to have actually crossed paths then later Hear youmention others I know. Thank you!
    I’m very interested in your comments on re entry….

    Liked by 1 person

  5. George Turner (AKA Old Growth) says:

    My God, you’re looking lean! For my perspective, it seems that fat has will to live. I took two 500+ LASHs this year lost 27 pounds. Gained it all back after the first; about two-thirds of it after the second. How long did your hiker hunger last? Do Ben and Jerry continuously call you too?

    While I was on the trail in the fall, my wife got a job teaching in Maine. She loves it, but I’m needed in North Carolina to help take care of my grand kids. The trail kind of taught us how to love and support each other from a far. How are things with Spesh? Any plans to hike with him this summer?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Brown Girl says:

      HAH. I lost 27 pounds too, though I definitely frontloaded the two weeks before I left with little more than cheeseburgers, pizza, and ice cream. From the 27 lost, I’ve gained about 17 backand I’m pretty happy to stick where I’m at. Food in real life is nearly as difficult as it is on the trail – either I’m eating more food because I’m not paying attention or I’m not eating anything because I’m not paying attention. It’s a delicate balance.

      Spesh and I are working through life post-trail – more on that on Monday – but we do have plans for the summer, which will hopefully solidify next week! Y’all will know as soon as I do.

      Like

  6. Maylis says:

    Aaah! Congrats!!!! Awesome dance and costume 🙂
    Stocked to hear there will be more posts coming, but sad they will not be about another day on the PCT. It was one of my favorite blogs of the winter and got me super excited to do my own PCT thru-hike next year.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Brown Girl says:

      GET STOKED. (I’m sure you already are. 😊)

      Thanks for reading, and I’m glad you enjoyed! Lemme know if you have any questions – us hikers like to talk.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Brown Girl says:

      Of course! Glad it’s helping – it’s definitely helped me, too. Although it’s in the 60s-70s here in CO now, so that’s fun. 🙃

      Like

    • Brown Girl says:

      Wow, thanks! You did the triple crown back when it was no joke – I just found your trail journal, and what I’m gonna do this weekend!

      Like

  7. Schrauf says:

    Congrats on the kick-ass finish! Beautiful writing and pictures the entire way, and if it’s even possible, an even better PCT Dino Shuffle at the end! Thank you for sharing some of your feelings as well, about trail difficulties, society, race, etc.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Brown Girl says:

      Thanks! The Dino shuffle was definitely one of the highlights. 😜 And thanks for being open to the latter bits – I think they’re important to talk about.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. ParksandTea says:

    Congratulations! (Even tho it was months ago) I’m glad your blog got stretched out, it been a bright spot in my week days and I’m excited to see your next adventure.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Brown Girl says:

      Thanks!

      I’mma tell you a not-so-secret: I kind of like it this way, too. Granted, I’d try not to do it this way next time – I kind of left folks hanging, which isn’t cool – but I’ll admit, it’s been kind of a heartwarmer on cold, snowy days.

      Things should get solidified for the next adventure next week, so keep an eye out!

      Like

  9. juliewycoff says:

    Awesome! You made it. I always love the Canada Day blog posts the best. They are the most triumphant and I always get a little teary. Congratulations on an amazing accomplishment and thanks for bringing us along for your ride.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Brown Girl says:

      So many feelings! It’s just the culmination of so much and it’s so simple in a way, but… So many feelings!

      Thank you, and thank you so much for coming along!

      Like

    • Brown Girl says:

      Ahahaha Iknorite – I definitely laughed about it when I was writing last night. I *would* do something like that.

      So glad you enjoyed!

      Like

  10. Ray says:

    Amanda. Thank you for taking us along on your journey. I love your style of writing, for the feelings that you infuse to the reader. I literally see myself hiking the trail and viewing the beautiful scenery with you. I’ve followed your blog every day from when you were at Warner Springs. Eagerly waiting for the next day. Thank you. I’m thrilled that you will continue to write about your post trail feelings.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Brown Girl says:

      I had so much fun with this – both the hiking and the writing – and I’m glad you did, too! Thank you for sticking with me through the long hiatus!

      Like

  11. ismay says:

    Fantastic! Congratulations! I echo the thoughts on how well you write and how your blog stands out, among so many others. I look forward to reading more. I actually passed you near Donahue Pass while on the JMT northbound last summer; was too shy to say hello, but I am thrilled that you were the only PCT blogger I recognized on the trail 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Brown Girl says:

      Oh man! You shoulda said hi! I apparently get hilariously shocked and/or flustered when I meet folks who read my blog.

      I’m glad you enjoyed, and I hope you enjoyed the JMT (and the descent from Donohue into Lyell Canyon – so nice, even if I missed the glissade)!

      Like

  12. Dave says:

    Amanda – Congratulations! Loved following along. My wife and I did a LASH (compliments to you on the acronym) in 2014 from Tehachapi to Cascade Locks (we will be back someday to complete the trail). I am continually amazed by the dedication of the best PCT bloggers. Only those who have actually done the deed know how difficult it is to pull off. We had a simple Facebook page for our hike, and even writing once a week recap posts from town seemed like a major burden with the pull of food and sleep and chores and friends. Cheers to you!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Brown Girl says:

      Thanks! I can’t take credit for the acronym – the trail provides, as they say. 😉 But dang, that is a LASH! Or a thru with the ends clipped off, one of the two. Wishing you the time and the luck to finish!

      I won’t say it wasn’t sometimes a burden blogging – both on trail and once I got off – but it also brightened my day to remember, more often than not. Plus, I can’t bear to leave a story half-told. It’s a failing. 😊

      Like

    • Brown Girl says:

      It feels amazing and wonderful and precious, like you’re at the top of the world – until you watch Finding Dory for the first time and you realize that the plot is leading up to Sigourney’s Step 3 (hopefully that is dense enough not to count as a spoiler) and ugly cry for five minutes straight.

      It feels like it’s finally over – I kind of feel adrift again. Good thing I planned to write about that on Monday.

      Like

  13. Lou Ann Johnson says:

    sure have enjoyed following your adventure-I hiked the Oregon-Washington section in 1983 and although that was a long time ago(I still backpack) I remember so well the day I reached the northern terminus (of course it was raining)-back then it was the little monument you took the lid off to leave messages-I wonder what happened to the messages in there-I have done many hikes since then but the PCT was special even before trail angels .

    Liked by 1 person

    • Brown Girl says:

      Wow. That must have been incredible. It must have been so much wilder back then – much respect. Thank you for reading! I hope it brought back good memories.

      I actually tried to get into the Monument, but it seemed like it’d been recently painted over – I wonder if anyone actually got into it last year.

      I was also just wondering earlier what happens to the terminus registers every year. Maybe Scout and Frodo have the ones from the southern terminus? Or maybe they hand them off to the PCTA? That’d probably be the first place to start looking. Maybe I’ll start asking around…

      Like

      • mjirving says:

        It was welded/glued shut this year and repainted. Probably didn’t like all the “gifts” left inside. I believe the same guy (in Mazama?) his name escapes me…manages the register in the north each year and then collects it and sends it to the PCTA. Don’t know how long he’s been the guy for that though.

        -GoalTech

        Like

      • Brown Girl says:

        Well that is sad but understandable about the Monument. It’d be cool if the PCTA kept those records – and even cooler if someone were to digitize them. The PCTA has better things to do, though – too bad I don’t live nearby, I’d maybe ask to do it for funsies.

        Like

    • Brown Girl says:

      Thanks! 😀

      I wouldn’t be especially surprised if not a lot of people talk about it – it’s hard to go from a powerful, well-oiled machine who knows where she fits in the scheme of things in the backcountry to someone whose too-rough edges chafe against her “place” in the frontcountry. It’s a lot of feeling stymied, feeling powerless. But more on that Monday.

      Like

  14. Cathy Wright says:

    Just have to say CONGRATS on making that amazing hike!! I admire you…
    It was a bummer when you weren’t posting in the summer while actually doing the hike, but i really did enjoy reading it during the winter months…so it all worked out! Looking forward to your next move…..

    Liked by 1 person

    • Brown Girl says:

      Thanks so much! I do feel kind of terrible about falling behind. I would’ve loved to have y’all finish with me, and was definitely bummed about it at the time. Still, this did allow me to stay on trail – in heart if not in body – a little longer than I otherwise would’ve.

      I’m glad spring is coming, though – I think I’d go stir crazy without something to write about. 😜

      Like

  15. Gayle says:

    I’m a bit late to the party here (was waiting till I had a proper keyboard at my disposal before I commented) but just wanted to say that I’ve loved following along on your journey (from the Midlands of England – a place very far removed in all respects from the nature of the PCT). You’ve provided a fantastically well written account, and I’m doubly impressed that you continued the writing so consistently after finishing the trail. So congrats both on a walk well done and a walk well written 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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