From campsite at mile 2649 to Canada at mile 2660
I didn't sleep well, not because I was excited but because not sleeping well has become my new sleep routine lately. Even though I was awake early we didn't get a very early start. I took some extra time to French braid my hair. The clouds in the sky went from pink cotton candy wisps to gray strands while I fought my hair tame. Portrait fiddled on his phone while waiting for me. Team All Dead left their camp just before us.
|The last sunrise|
The trail didn't go down like it usually does after a pass. We did some side hill while looking out at shadow peaks in the distance. There was one mountain with snow patches on its side that looked bigger than all the rest that the sun had picked out to light up. It stood out like a gem among the other dull mountains. There was a quick ridge walk with shortened views thanks to the clouds. From the ridge we could see a lake that was one of the few listed water sources for the day, but we weren't planning on going off trail to it.
Leaving the ridge walk we finally started the down hill--downhill the rest of the way to Canada. Shortly after the ridge I heard voices and whinnies--horses were coming up the trail. There was a large flat area full of huckleberry plants that we stepped into to make way for the two riders and their horses. Their asked if we were thru-hikers, and congratulated us on our last day. After the had ridden on by we got back on trail and hurried on north.
Team All Dead had clustered at a campsite near the junction with the trail to the lake. We kept going, not needing a break yet. We wanted to be at Canada for lunch. I liked the way that sounded: let's go to Canada for lunch. We were moving along at a good pace--not as fast as going to Harts Pass and not at Town Pace, which I hadn't been able to hike at for awhile now due to my tendons, but we were on track to get to Canada in time for lunch.
We came to another trail junction and went just a little further on and then stopped for a snack. Somewhere near the ridge walk we started to play the game Favorite and Least Favorite. We asked each other favorite and least favorite hitch, snack, town meal, trail magic, hostel and the list kept going--Portrait asked me what my favorite rock was. We continued to play during our snack. It was another fun way to remember our hike and it avoided thoughts of after the hike.
Team All Dead passed us while we were packing up and getting underway again. They were slackpacking the ten miles to the monument and then back to where we had all camped. Their packs looked wonderfully small. It was almost hard not to be jealous, but they still had 30 miles to hike after reaching the monument.
I had hoped the clouds would move on as we hiked, but they seemed to move in instead. All the blue sky was crowded out as the sky grew darker. The trail dropped us into a more forested section cutting off my views of stormy clouds and I mostly stopped thinking about them for awhile. We came to a level area where little campsites nestled in the trees and a small grassy meadow had a fire pit and sitting logs. We were at Castle Pass. Back at Sierra City Opus had been flipping through a National Geographic article on the Washington PCT and came across a monument picture with a sign saying Castle Pass and an arrow pointing south. Since then I had been looking forward to Castle Pass, even with all the other Castle named places that I saw. This Castle Pass seemed cozy--I would have liked to stay there, but some other time when I didn't have such a strong desire to eat lunch in another country. No Amp passed us as Portrait took my picture with the Castle Pass sign. Somebody had Sharpie marker-ed onto the sign that we had 3 miles left. Portrait said it was actually 3.6.
We stepped over a dozen little streams in the next couple of miles. We went in and out of heavy forest as we switchbacked downhill. Portrait thought we would hear Canada before we saw it--he thought Team All Dead was sure to celebrate loudly. We saw it first, though. A long thin clear-cut strip running down a mountain. The trail went close enough to Canada to kiss that strip, and then it switchbacked and we went away from the border. We almost touched the border a few more times--each time I thought there would be the monument even though the area didn't fit with the pictures I had seen of the monument. Then we could hear voices below us: loud, happy, and excited voices.
The trail ducked back into the forest, hiding the border from me and then I really felt a sense of anticipation. I smiled at the trail builders--they knew what they were doing when they sent the trail through a clearing with the border in sight and then into trees to hide the monument until the last footfall. The voice grew louder as we grew closer...and so did the disappointment that we wouldn't have the monument all to ourselves. It felt a little like somebody else opened my Christmas present.
I thought the monument would be right in front of me when I walked into the clearing. I thought the trail would dead end at its base. Instead the monument was off to my left and the trail continued, unbroken, into Canada. Team All Dead was scattered around the small clearing, sitting in the dirt making signs and reading the register. Buckket was handing out chocolate as we came into the clearing. I put down my pack and ate my chocolate while looking at the five pillars that made up the monument. The PCT logo on the tallest, an American flag and a Canadian one one the second tallest pillar, and trail information on the others. And looking at it I felt peaceful. It was the same feeling I felt atop Springer Mountain at the end of my '09 thru-hike. I felt calm, happy, proud of myself, and grateful to be there and under that I felt tired, worn down, and aching. I hardly touched the monument before sitting down to my lunch--everybody seemed to be giving the monument space. We sat, in a loose semi-circle, facing the monument like we were children in a classroom and it was our teacher.
|Trail name poster|
I ate lunch leaning against my pack. Portrait took pictures of Tortoise standing on the top-most pillar and then he took some photos for Team All Dead. While they climbed over the monument the sky started spiting a few raindrops on us. We all looked a the sky in disbelief. Would it really rain on our last day when we hadn't had a day of rain in months? It seemed unfair and I started to grow very anxious watching Team All Dead posing for another dozen pictures. I didn't want my finish photo showing me sopping wet wearing a trash bag as a rain poncho. I didn't want that photo summing up my hike--it would have been wrong. I tried not to stress about it--it could be a funny story if there was a sudden down pour. The few drips stopped. Team All Dead relinquished the monument to others.
Whoever designed the monument built it with climbing in mind, I'm sure. It would have fit in at a playground. I went up to the monument while Portrait stood ready with three different cameras. The lowest pillar was the perfect height to step on and made a nice stairway to the other pillars. And there I was perched on the tallest pillar, my arms outstretched, and I grinned.