Stehekin (Salishan for “the way through”) is the most beautiful trail town I’ve visited. It has only one road and the only way to it is by ferry or foot. Only 75 people live here year-round. Everything I see is somehow delightful – from shacks, to bikes, to taxidermy. The landscape seems to wrap objects in a kind of understanding, while allowing them to stand by themselves as unique moments. It treats us well. We are warmed by the fall sun, nourished by baked goods, and excited (and a bit sad) to be on our very last stretch of this PCT odyssey.
We stock up at the bakery and hit the trail at 1pm. We’re rolling seven deep. It’s the largest and, dare I say, my favorite crew I’ve hiked with: Cracker Jack, Polar Bear, Cheeseburger, V, Goosebumps, and Think Fast.
We decide to keep today light and only hike 13 miles. It’s a perfect fall afternoon. We stop at a big established campsite for coffee and snacks. We share food – salmon jerky, Gouda cheese, gummi objects. Cheeseburger teaches us some German. We listen to music from Cracker Jack’s Spotify play list of 300 hits. We laugh a lot.
By 6:30pm, we’re at camp. It’s getting chilly and I put on all my clothes. We sit in a circle and make our dinners. Everyone except Cheeseburger, who is on a crazy rampage against mini bears. He constructs a Looney Tunes level trap. He’s taking their nibbling on his gear WAY too personally.
The next morning, we reach Rainy Pass in time for second breakfast. My food for this final section is nothing short of extravagant: bread, prosciutto, salami, and French butter. I make a number of sandwiches and eat them with my coffee. Then I just start eating hunks of butter.
After our snack, we pass mile 2601.7. Only 78.3 more to go!
We walk among gold and lime green Larches and we break at Cutthroat Pass. The Northern Cascades have a mysterious way. I can’t exactly put my finger on it. Many of the places I’ve walked through have distinct personalities. But this place, with its deep glacier-carved valleys, rugged peaks, and rocky trails that contour the mountains feels altogether different. Maybe it’s the addition of the fall whether? This place has a foreignness that makes me want to return for more.
We hike on until we have to use our headlamps and then find tent sites for all of us by a creek. We eat dinner and discuss how we can’t believe we’re almost finished. Our recollections of the desert are still so clear. Did we really walk all this way?? We’re baffled by our own (near) accomplishment.