Day 146 September 29
We woke up while it was still dark, originally intending to get out early and onto Canada. Instead we sat huddled in our sleeping bags and watched the sun rise over the mountains and paint everything gold. We were quiet and somber, we didn’t talk much. We took our time packing up camp in the chilly pale glow. It was the last day, finally – the last day on the Pacific Crest Trail.
That weird feeling hung in the air all day, as we crested the final mountain passes, viewed our last alpine lakes and snowy peaks. Thankfully, around the corner came none other than Landfill- on his way back from the monument! With jumbled hugs and shouts the tense mood was broken, and after talking with Landfill for a bit we continued on, grinning and excited. We yelled into the canyon below us, we screamed at the top of our lungs. We didn’t count down the miles, we soaked them in. We basked in the day’s light and chatted loosely. I walked with friends.
I ended up in the front of our group, and was sort of weirdly determined to finish alone. I nearly ran. I saw the line of the border – a really bizarre sight. From about a quarter mile away you could see it– a clearcut of trees, a strip of bald land between two forests, dividing two countries. The trail plunged back into the trees for the final stretch. My heart was pounding maddeningly and my breath was sharp. At every bend I expected to see the monument. One more. One more. Finally, I saw a clearing ahead. I almost couldn’t breathe. I broke out into a fullout run and burst into the clearing. The monument rose before me, a series of wooden posts mirroring the ones at the Southern Terminus that I had stood by what seemed like years ago. I remember the first mile feeling like it was a dream, that after months of planning I was actually putting one foot in front of the other, with fresh trail runners and a heavy pack on my back. I felt the same way now. I was dreaming. I was back in California. I was not actually here. I floated above myself.
I slid off my filthy pack, my home for 5 months, all of my belongings. I looked down at my trail runners, pieces of rubber and mesh that carried me so so many miles. I walked up to the monument and ran my fingertips over the rough wood, the tiny faded American flag perched on top. From Mexico to Canada. Northern Terminus. Pacific Crest National Scenic Trail. The unnatural border stretched away on either side of the monument, like alien markings in a cornfield.
My time alone was brief, as Apache silently glided into the clearing, respecting the quiet that filled the trees. He sat crosslegged, staring at the monument. Shortly after, the quiet was broken. String Cheese, of course. She came sprinting through the trees yelling and whooping, breaking our somber mood. We stood up and yelled as the rest of our group came careening into the clearing, jumping up and down, hugging, screaming. We were actually here, all of us. String Cheese’s dad had provided us with several wildly entertaining inflatable costumes, which we had carried out from Hart’s Pass. We donned these, laughing hysterically, and posted up for our monument photos. K2 whipped out the bottle of champagne and sprayed bubbles everywhere, and the party began. We had managed to pack out bottles of whiskey and beer, and had a real celebration. Then other familiar faces began to fill the scene – Birdbath came next, followed by Two Feathers!!! It was incredible to see her at the finish after we had helped each other so many times along the entire trail. String Cheese and I may have had a bit of a sob session realizing that it was over. I signed the register with words of gratitude, Love Pippin.
We spent about 3 hours at the monument, and finally it was time to head on. We crossed into Canada – INTO CANADA!! – and finished the final 8 miles to Manning Park. I wish I could tell you about the last 8 miles, but I can’t really remember them. Except for lots of 90s songs.
Upon reaching Manning Park, we feasted on huge dinners at the lodge and met up with K2’s parents. I walked outside for a moment and was enveloped in a huge hug. Yogi had driven up from Portland to meet me in Canada, and we held each other for a good long while. YOU FINISHED! You’re here!
I was here in Canada. I had walked thousands of miles to get here. I felt incredibly grateful for every single moment along the way – the horrible shitty parts and the amazing breathtaking days. I was grateful for the sores and blisters, the starry desert skies, the soft pine needles under my feet, the deer that ate my shirt, the aching knees, the freezing Sierra lakes, the foggy mornings and rainy nights. I loved it all. It was terrifying and thrilling and incredibly monotonous. Most of all, I was grateful for the human beings. I learned so much about being alone, but even more about how to be with people. The friends I made along the trail and the community we built is unexplainable, some of the tightest and most immediate connections I have ever made. Because of them, I was standing here in Canada.
I am sitting in a hammock in my backyard in Portland, Oregon exactly one year later, sunlight streaming through the trees as the breeze rocks me, trying my best not to cry as I type this final entry. The PCT has, without a doubt, changed my life. I rolled my eyes when people first asked me if I thought it would change me. But how could it not? It was a lifetime condensed into five glorious, dirty, painful, passionate months.
Thank you so much for following me on my journey. Cheers to yours.