Done with Oregon, but not done with the PCT. There remained a few bits of trail to clean up due to fire closures, both in northern California and Washington. The plan was to go back to NorCal first, then back up to WA. This involved a lot of driving and logistics, but there were reasons for it. Namely, fire season had already started in NorCal, and we wanted to finish in Washington, which we thought was the prettiest state of the PCT.
The first day was spent riding a bus, a train, a shuttle and then driving a car down to Etna, CA. There was a fire in SoOr/NorCal, and another one in NorCal we found out about during this time. It was important to get this section done first, just in case more fires started. It took us all day, and by the time we got to the PCT crossing at Etna Summit, it was just about dark. We hiked in a mile, camped and the next day hiked the remaining 15 miles we missed last year, plus whatever miles we could hike back to the car. The trail was definitely burned over in sections, so there was good reason for last year’s closure. Since it was a hot day, we did not push for a 30+ mile day back to the car, but chose to hike out in the cool morning, get breakfast and head back north to WA.
The drive back to WA took most of the day and we were at the White Pass trail crossing by dark. Fortunately, there is a nice trail head off the road and camping right there. More logistics: we had no shuttle for this last 52 miles of Washington, or that would have been easier, but with two of us and one car plus two super nice trail angels, we made it work. Fortunately, Chinook Pass is on a major road about halfway through the section. I started northward heading toward Chinook Pass, while Still Walking drove the car up to Chinook Pass and started heading southward. The section was only 28 miles, so we’d meet somewhere, pass off the keys, camp and I’d drive around the next day to pick her up at White Pass. From there, the plan was to do a similar key swap between Chinook Pass and Greenwater Lakes Trailhead, which is partway up to Government Camp, our end point.
The key swap went smoothly, and I was able to camp about 3 miles from Chinook Pass. Along the way, I got some faint cell reception. If I stood in one precise spot, I even got to make a phone call and get email. Among the email was one from a hiking friend here in NH, Hikinguy, who happened to be in WA for a while. I knew he’d be there but thought we’d miss each other by a few days. He was going to be in Packwood Saturday morning, the exact town closest to us. He had no big plans for the days, and graciously agreed to help us with a car spot! That meant no key swap, and we could finish as team, rather than solo.
Hikinguy was awesome and after all the driving we were back on our way, with just an afternoon and one more day to hike. One last nice camp spot near a spring in some trees and it really was the last day. It didn’t even seem real, but by lunch time, we arrived right back at the spot where we picked up the PCT last summer after a fire detour. It was almost anticlimatic hiking out to the horse camp, and then eating lunch where we got dropped off last year. We then started the 7.8 mile hike down to car and fortunately, a wonderful PCT section hiker picked us up and took us the rest of the way back to the car. Trail magic right to the end!
What a journey, thanks be to God for seeing me through it. I was happy to finish, but yet sad to leave the PCT. It is a great trail: beautiful, scenic and challenging. Would I do it again? Absolutely.
Burned out trail symbol on a very charred tree in NoCal. Last year’s fire burned over the trail in several parts. In addition to charred trees and ash, some places even had a lingering burned smell to it.
Not all the trail in NorCal was burned – there was a beautiful section of wildflowers, with a huge amount of turk’s cap lilies.
Back in Washington. This is the exact view of Mt. Rainier from the trail as I came around the corner.
Super nice footbridge across the highway at Chinook Pass. This was really nice as the traffic can be busy and fast moving!
Last sunrise on the PCT.
Not quite the Canadian border or Manning Park, B.C., but it is a finish of the PCT!
Last look at the Bridge of the Gods from the airplane on my way home.
Goodbye, Mt. Hood. I’d like to come back someday!