Saturday, August 27, 2016

Joe Omundson

Completing the last 108 miles of the PCT

I spent 2 nights in the Portland area. I slept on my mom's couch the first night and when they left for the weekend the next day, I got to borrow her car, so I visited friends in town, eventually crashing in the back seat of her car in St. Johns so I could go to an early yoga class the next day, the one I used to work-study every Saturday. (My mom is one of the few subscribers to my blog. Hi Mom. Thanks for letting me use your car. I put in some gas before I returned it.)

Soon I needed to think about getting to Stevens Pass to finish my PCT hike. I knew the best way to get a ride there would be from the PCT Days event in Cascade Locks which was ending the next day. So I started looking for a way to get to Cascade Locks from Wilsonville which was not an easy task until I tried the Craigslist rideshare page. I paid $20 which was probably too much, but there was a guy going from Sherwood to Stevenson and he was a super kind and compassionate human. So I got there, after dark, didn't recognize any friends and I set up my bed and went to sleep.

Next morning, I had some breakfast and packed up. I'd made a sign reading "Stevens Pass" and I went to the event exit and sat down. I was there for less than a minute. The 2nd or 3rd car that drove by pulled over. It was a guy from Illinois who is thinking about doing the trail in a few years. He was flying out the following evening and had no plans until then, so he agreed to drive me 4 1/2 hours to my destination! So my hunch about finding a ride at PCT Days was right. We had some good conversations along the way, and he bought me some chips and then lunch at Stevens Pass. He was in the real estate business, had been an English teacher for 10 years and now is in the process of retiring from his real estate investment education gig. So I think (I hope) it was a mutually beneficial ride, as I shared some of my own experience and opinions about the trail.

Soon I hit the trail. It would be too hard to describe each day. In short, it was a beautiful section, difficult and grand. I had planned to hike the trail with a couple friends and they both had to cancel last minute, so I was kind of bummed about that because I didn't want to hike it alone. Fortunately I didn't have to - a hiker called Trooper joined me my first night out, and we camped together the rest of the way to Stehekin, often hiking together and chatting to pass the time. We averaged about 20 miles per day. She had a very positive attitude and helped keep me focused on the present moment rather than stewing away in my brain too much. In some ways we were similar, like our approach to lifestyle and ethical opinions, but I felt like our personalities were very different. In Myers-Briggs language I'd say she is very much an Extroverted and Sensing type while I am strongly on the the Introverted and Intuitive side. Most of my friends are Intuitives so it was interesting to get a glimpse into the mind of a Sensor.

We arrived in Stehekin yesterday, and it was fun to be in a town with a bunch of hikers again. Trooper was really enthusiastic about celebrating the completion of my thru hike (even though she was so close to finishing the whole thing herself, in 1 go!) and generously bought my broke ass 3 meals in Stehekin. One hiker was wearing a Moab Brewery shirt, and so I talked to him, and we had dinner with him and his wife who had recently retired and started some intensive traveling. They don't live in Moab but will be traveling through there in a month. It was very warm in Stehekin that night so cowboy camping was practically a necessity. The next day I met another hiker living in Moab so it was cool to make that connection. Trooper caught the 8:30 bus back to the trail, and I got lunch and raided the hiker box for some free food before taking the ferry down the 50-mile lake to Chelan. Stehekin can only be accessed by foot, ferry, or float plane. The ferry stopped randomly at the shore to pick up a trail crew worker, and it ended up being a friend I knew from the PCT in 2014! We got to catch up for a while.

Now I'm in Chelan, at a coffee shop charging my phone and writing this blog. I'm planning to find a stealth camping spot in town and then hitch out tomorrow morning. I'm not totally sure where I'm going next. I have loose plans to meet a couple friends for some more camping/outdoor adventures.

So, now I've officially hiked from Mexico to Canada. I have made a virtually continuous set of footprints connecting the borders. I'm glad to be done. It feels like I'm finally released from this 2 1/2 year journey. I'm looking forward to the future and remembering my past adventures fondly. Basically I can do whatever I want next.

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