September 23 All the way home

January 21st, 2011

In true hobbit fashion, I got to have TWO breakfasts this morning, and enjoyed both! I had an early breakfast with my sister first before reconnecting with Bill, and then had a second breakfast with Bill and our friend John! So I was thoroughly stuffed when John dropped us off at the rental car place.

I’d been worried about the fact that we weren’t scheduled to pick up the car till 9 am. Usually when we drive back to the San Francisco Bay Area from Portland, we leave at 6 am or even earlier. I thought that we’d end up getting home in the dark, late at night. But it turned out I need not have been concerned. We had a very uneventful drive home and got there at a reasonable hour. Driving between Portland and San Francisco follows sort of a pattern. First you drive through the beautiful Willamette Valley, with the Cascade Mountains (and PCT!) to the east, then Highway 5 climbs up into the mountains and begins to rollercoaster up and down, finally reaching its highest point at Siskiyou Summit (where the PCT crosses!) Then you’re still in mountains all the way into northern California (crossing over the PCT again at Castle Crags) till finally dropping down into the great Central Valley with its rice paddies, fruit trees and olive trees. A couple of hours later, and you’re into the coastal hills, pass the marshes of the north end of San Francisco Bay, and then the final “turn for home”.

It is wonderful to be back, especially since the last few days on the trail were pretty tough. We are amazed and grateful that we made it all the way. Both of us are skin & bones and we’ll have to do some serious eating and resting to get back to normal, and I have to really “hit the ground running” to get the Awana Club started up ASAP.

But it was totally worth it to do the PCT again. Back before Etna, we were sitting around eating supper with Croatian Sensation and Not a Chance. We were talking about how we all were doing the PCT a second time instead of doing some other trail. Croatian commented, “Well, we’re the PCT Retreads, I guess.” I guess we are! We love the PCT, and when we got home, we started talking about “let’s do it again in 2015!” We learned a lot on this hike, and we want to try to apply it, and see if we can do better next time.


“The 3rd Monty” Chipman

Sept. 22 The journey home, part 2–on to Portland

January 20th, 2011

We had to get up so early this morning in order to have enough time to walk back down to the Amtrak station, that I had figured we wouldn’t be able to get any breakfast.  But no problema!  Even though technically the kitchen at the Green Tortoise was not yet ready with breakfast stuff,  they didn’t care when I stuck my nose in the door and asked if I could get something.  So we ended up with a nice hot breakfast (it being a hostel, of course, you cook it yourself) and headed happily back down First Street for the train station.

Soon we were aboard one of the Amtrak “commuter” trains that runs between Seattle and Portland, and enjoying the scenery and the beautiful morning.  I still feel so tired, even after a relatively restful day yesterday, that I was looking forward to going to my sister’s house in Portland and just “crashing” till we head home via rental car tomorrow.   Amtrak is certainly a fun way to travel, and on this commuter train run, there’s no problem with schedules–the train is ON TIME!  (Not like the long-run Amtrak trains, which are notoriously many hours late). 

Several business people were in seats nearby, all busy on their laptops and cell phones. One of them was commenting that taking Amtrak to Portland was much more efficient than driving, because you can get work done on the train, whereas if you drive, you can’t do much of anything.

The Portland Amtrak station is old and well-restored. It’s right near the Willamette River and right on the edge of downtown Portland.  We had a short, easy walk over to the Max lightrail line.  Bill decided he wanted to go visit a friend of ours whom he hadn’t seen in some time, but I was so tired that I opted to just go to my sister’s house. So Bill hopped off the Max a few stations before I did.   It’s a nice little walk from the lightrail station to where my sister lives, and soon I was sitting at her kitchen table, eating a nice sandwich and talking in whispers, since my brother-in-law works at night and sleeps in the daytime.

After that, I spent the rest of the afternoon and early evening  just lying down on the couch–I read a few chapters of an excellent book by Dorothy Sayers, then just went to sleep.  At dinnertime, I got to eat my fill of FRESH green beans, just picked from the garden, and lots of fresh tomatoes.  Wonderful!  And since my sister and her husband make their own homebrewed beer, I got to try their latest batch.  It was really good–and it only costs them about 25 cents a bottle to make.   I went back to the couch and had a good night’s sleep.  Bill ended up staying at our other friend’s house, since they got into a lengthy discussion about something or other.   I figured that would probably happen!

It was a wonderful thought to know that tomorrow we will be home!

Sept 21 The adventure continues–on to Seattle!

September 21st, 2010




Last night before we went to sleep, we carefully set the hotel’s digital alarm clock to go off at 5:45 am.  Our plan was to load up, grab some of the free coffee downstairs (which was supposed to be available at 6 am), then head for the  6:35 bus.   When the alarm went off,  we groggily got up, wondering why we were so tired.  Dressed warmly and carrying our packs, we headed downstairs, only to find that the hotel lounge was closed, there was no coffee, and it was VERY dark outside.  Bummer!   Then I had an idea–I looked at my wristwatch and said, “Oh joy–it’s only 3:30 am!  The room clock was wrong!  No wonder we feel so tired!”

So back to bed we went!   Oh man, did it feel good!   I personally really do feel completely exhausted.  I guess on the trail I was running on “gotta finish!” power.   We got up AGAIN at 6:00,  got the coffee (nice and hot!) and headed out into a slightly cloudy early morning.  It took only a couple of minutes to reach the bus stop, and we  expected the bus to arrive soon.  It didn’t.  No bus, no bus, no bus.  I looked again at the bus schedule–oh bother!  We thought the bus left at 6:35, but last night we misread the sign.  It actually left at 6:25!   So we now had to wait an hour for the next one.  Brrrr!  It was cold.  I started thinking about breakfast….hmmm–there was a grocery store just down the street–maybe they would open soon and I could get something.

I studied the Cascade Mountains to the east, and they were totally shrouded in dark clouds.  It was obvious that during the night it had rained heavily in Sumas, and since it was very cold, I figured  “It must have snowed up there.”  Turned out later that I was right–we heard from other hikers later that it did indeed snow!  Wow, I’m glad we finished when we did!  And I was very glad to see the SUNrise in Sumas–I had not been looking forward to going from bus to bus in the rain!

Just then, along came Patrick, an Irish “gentleman of the road.”  We chatted with him for awhile, then I saw the grocery store was open and went over to get us some breakfast.  I figured Patrick might like some, too, and yes indeed–he was very happy to get the big cinnamon roll I brought him.  He insisted on giving us a tomato in return (he’d fished it out of the dumpster in the back of the store).  In view of the fact that he was living on the streets, we suggested he might want to go to the local rescue mission where  there are food, a bed, showers, and help getting a job.   Patrick bristled at the idea–his position was “Rescue mission? No way!”  We urged him to reconsider.  Bill and I have personally helped work with people at rescue missions, and we have seen firsthand the awesome wonder of seeing God transform someone’s life, even when the person seemed too far gone for any help at all. 

Patrick didn’t like this talk about God and missions, so he left, and it wasn’t long till the bus to Bellingham came, with a very friendly, helpful driver and passengers.  As the bus followed its winding rural route through farms and dairies, the folks aboard were giving us advice about getting to Seattle via local buses.  It was a beautiful morning, with sun and clouds, and we enjoyed the ride (which only cost us “senior citizens” a dollar!).   Once we reached Bellingham, we didn’t even have to wait for our next bus–it was right there at the bus plaza, and we hopped aboard after paying another $1 each.  This second bus took us to Mt. Vernon, and from there we had only a short wait till a FREE “connector bus” to Stanwood.  Another 10 minute wait, and we boarded the bus to Smoky Point (which cost us a total of $2.50).  Smoky Point bus stop is by a shopping center, and it was lunchtime, so we found a pizza place and had a good meal. 

After lunch, we went back to the bus stop, and for another total fare of $2.50, we rode another bus to Everett.  Just a 10 minute wait there, and we hopped our final bus of the day which took us to Seattle (the fare for that was $4.50).   If you wonder why I keep mentioning fares, it’s because we couldn’t believe how cheap it was!   The final total fare for our trip from Sumas WA to Seattle was $13.50.  And that’s for TWO of us!  Wow!  And it was kinda fun.  I was so tired that it was very nice to just sit on the bus and watch the scenery go by, and we were really grateful for the friendly, helpful bus drivers.  We never had to wonder, “Now what?”   The bus drivers always told us where to go–in fact one of them even walked us over to the free connector bus at Mt. Vernon.

It was a beautiful, sunny afternoon in Seattle, but a glance to the west told us that the Cascades were still shrouded in dark clouds.  So if we were still on the PCT, we’d still be in the rain (and maybe snow).  It was great to feel the sunshine again!  Some of the bus drivers and passengers we talked to today were telling us that even though it was only September 21, Washington had already received a rainfall total that was equal to the ENTIRE winter’s worth of rain in  a normal year.  They were almost apologetic–several said, “Too bad you weren’t hiking in a normal autumn–you would have had nice weather.”  Well, we made it anyway, and as soon as we got off the last bus, we headed for the Amtrak station to pick up the train tickets Bill reserved online while we were at Snoqualmie Pass. 

Outside the station we met another PCT hiker who’d finished the day before we did.  He was waiting patiently for the next train to Chicago, then from there he’d head home to Minnesota.  After a short chat, we went inside, and while Bill got in the ticket line, I ended up talking to a group of senior citizens who were waiting for a train.  They were fascinated by what we’d just done, especially when they found out how old Bill and I are.  I encouraged them to consider hiking the PCT, too!  And I think that maybe a couple of them might be able to try.

Then Bill and I hiked up 1st Street.  What a change to be back in a city after months of mountains!  We were headed for the Green Tortoise hostel–we knew it was somewhere near the Pike Street Market–and after some hunting around, finally found it.  Yahoo–they had room for us AND tonight the hostel was providing dinner–tacos!   All the other people there were very, very young.  Besides Bill and I, there was only one other couple who were “grayheads.”  After taking a very welcome shower, I spent the time till dinner just lying down.  I still feel totally exhausted.  Bill went off to explore the Market down the street.  We both thoroughly enjoyed the taco dinner and it was fun to rub elbows with people from all over the world (though I’d say the Australians were in the majority). 

We went off to sleep in our very comfortable double bunk.  The hostel was full that night, so we had plenty of company!   We have to be up ‘n at em early tomorrow to catch the Amtrak train to Portland.

Monday, Sept. 20 Manning Park–we made it! 2,663.5 miles!

September 20th, 2010


It rained off and on all night, and the little bit of trench we made managed to do a good job of keeping  the rainwater from running under the tarp.  I didn’t sleep much–actually that has become “normal” for me, since we have no functioning alarm clock to wake us up in the dark at 5:00 or so. 

It was very cold as we ate up our breakfast granola–I could see my breath under the tarp!  Huddled under the tarp as the rain continued, we packed up our stuff and cheered at the thought, “Who cares if we get wet and cold today?  We’re almost done!”  Once we are all done stowing gear, and have put on our packs and picked up our trek poles, we always pray and give the day to God.  Today we were able to say, “Thankyou, Lord, that we are almost to Canada!  Help us finish well.” 

The PCT was basically headed down toward the Canada border, which was nice–no more big hills to climb!  There was one confusing junction where we temporarily went off on the wrong trail, because the trail SIGN was mounted way up on a tree, and there was a branch hanging down over it so we didn’t see it at first.  It didn’t take long for us to figure out we were no longer on the PCT–when we turned around and went back, we spotted the sign.  Oh well. 

But there were an awful lot of plants hanging over the PCT, and they were soaking wet from the rain.  Pushing through them was like taking a shower with all your clothes on.  Early on, the clouds were very low, so we could see very little, but gradually they lifted (plus we got lower!) and we began to see the mountains up ahead.  Of course that meant we were straining to make out the border!   The trail wandered gradually down, but finally we came to the last 4 switchbacks that take you down to Monument 78.  Once the trail started switchbacking, I was cheering, “Yes!  We are almost there!” 

We arrived at the US-Canada border, still  in the rain, and found somebody had camped right at the monument. He/she had managed to squeeze a tent onto the little bit of flat ground available.  “Hi, there!” I sang out, and it turned out to be The Graduate, who was contentedly reading a book, still in the warmth of his sleeping bag!   “Could you take our picture?”  I asked, thinking he could do it easily without even getting up, but it turned out he was waiting for us to show up so that WE could take pictures of  HIM!  So he put on his shoes and we had a mutual photo session.  It turned out The Graduate had not yet signed the register, because he couldn’t figure out how to get at it.  We were happy to show him how, and we all signed it.  

 Then we headed out for Manning Park. The first part of the PCT right after the monument is not a trail. It is an obstacle course. I’d been warned about it by some of the SOBOs, and they were right.  It was so bad that for a joke, I started a mental check list to see if I’d yet met every conceivable trail obstacle.  Let’s see–there was a broken bridge that had me standing there staring and saying to myself, “How in the world am I supposed to get across THIS?” (I did get across, very gingerly!).  There were large holes that I had to negotiate around, plus stretches of trail that were basically a soaking wet mess of tangled plants to get through.  There were rocks to climb over, and most of all, there was mud, mud, mud, while the rain continued to come down.  Fun!  Bill is very good at zipping through all of the above, and he was soon far ahead of me.

Finally the obstacle course was done.  Hooray!  The PCT went back to being just a nice trail climbing up the side of a mountain canyon.  The fall foliage was gorgeous.  There is one kind of  low-growing bush that turns a brilliant bright yellow color–it looks like sunshine on the ground and a couple of times as I looked up ahead, I’d see it and think for a second, “Look!  A sunpatch!  The sun must be trying to come out!”  But one look at the dense gray sky and continuing rain would give me a reality check–“Oh bother!  It’s that pretty yellow bush again!”  I started calling it “The Sunshine Bush.”




I caught up with Bill at the top of Windy Joe Mountain, where he was waiting for me and exploring the campsites that are located up there.  (His conclusion was, “I’m glad we are not camping here tonight!  Everything is soaking wet and there are no genuinely FLAT places!”), then we started the long roadwalk downhill to Manning Park. I remembered this from 2005, and I’d been looking forward to it, thinking, “Oh, won’t it be nice to stroll down the road, enjoying all the lovely fall colors?” Well, make that hurry along, dodging the evergrowing puddles, in the pouring rain, wet and cold.  The Graduate passed us–he was meeting his parents at the trailhead.  He was rejoicing– “I get to sleep in my own bed tonight!”  I wondered where WE would be sleeping tonight??  Abbotsford, perhaps, as we did in 2005?

Finally we reached TRAIL’s END!  Hooray!  But after a few pictures, we headed off down the road to Manning Park, as rain continued.


When we arrived at Manning Park Lodge,  we found out that we’d just missed the only bus by an hour (it left at 11:00 am), and there wouldn’t be another till tomorrow morning. We couldn’t wait that long, not with our Amtrak booking already set up for the morning of Sept. 22.  So we two cold PCT SUCCESSFUL THRUHIKERS!!!! headed into the restaurant for big bowls of hot soup, a sandwich each, and hot coffee. I was worried about Bill–his hands were freezing cold and he just could not get them warm.  The food was VERY good!  There were a lot of people in the restaurant, and I very politely inquired of each group whether they were headed in the direction of Abbotsford, in hopes of finding a ride.  No luck.  Everybody was either heading east, or already had a carful of  folks. So  I headed out into the parking lot to try for a ride there. It was tough. It was still raining, and it seemed as if everybody was going east, not west. Bill and I even tried going out to the highway to stick out our thumbs and hitchhike, but all the cars just went roaring by.  It was pretty discouraging. 

 So back to the parking lot we went, and I stayed outside looking for more “ride possibilities” while Bill went back inside to phone up our Chevron/Techron credit card company, since the card was refused when we tried to pay for lunch.  (The Capital One card DID work)  While I waited for people to come out of either the lodge or the restaurant, I entertained myself by reading a large informational sign, and that’s when I discovered the “wonderful” fact that there are now GRIZZLIES in this area!  Apparently since the “grizz” are now protected, they have been making a comeback.  Man, I am glad I didn’t know that!  I don’t mind black bears, and have no problem with chasing them away or bossing them around, but grizz!!!  Yikes!

Finally a nice older couple offered us a ride, and we were on our way, with our packs perched on our laps (not too bad–we only had basic gear in them–no bulging food bags!), down, down out of the mountains, while rain continued to pour down.  I thought about the 3 mile walk back to the US border from Abbotsford, and the thought of doing it in the rain was NOT very appealing.

But once we were down in the Fraser River Valley, the rain stopped, the clouds began to break up, and by the time the kind couple dropped us off at the park ‘n ride by the highway, the SUN was SHINING!  Oh man, did it feel good!  It was 4:30 pm, so we had to do the walk along Highway 11 with rush hour commute traffic roaring by.  It took an hour to do the 3 miles, because we had to wait at traffic lights.  One of the houses along the way was bedecked with Canadian flags.



Once we arrived at the border station, we had a long wait.  There were hardly any “border guys” on duty, and a lot of folks who wanted to go through. I was worried, because I knew Bill and I were fresh from the trail after days of rain, so we didn’t look very reputable or impressive.  We started talking to another guy who was waiting, too, and that helped pass the time.  When it was finally our turn,  the official guy just looked at our passports and waved us through.  No problem!  Whew!  In 2005, we had to explain ourselves a bit.  Not this time!

We stepped out the door into Sumas, Washington.   We dodged huge puddles (I guess it rained in Sumas, too??) and  lost no time finding a place to stay(right across the street, and only $45 for the two of us–not bad!).  We hung our wet gear up in the bathroom to begin the drying process, and then headed down the street looking for a place to eat.  The only place open was a Mexican restaurant called El Nopal, so that’s where we had dinner, and joked about “this is becoming our PCT tradition–we have to finish up with dinner at a Mexican restaurant!”, because that’s exactly what happened to us in 2005 also!  The food was very good, and then we headed back to the motel for showers, more gear-drying and sorting, plus phoning home to say “We did it!  We are back in the USA!”

Then we were very glad to collapse into a soft, dry, warm bed–our plans for tomorrow include taking several local buses to get to Seattle, and the first bus leaves at 6:35 am.   It almost felt unreal that after so many months, we were finally done,  and pretty much safe, too (other than a few scrapes and bruises).   Thanks be to God!

Sun. Sept. 19 Miles today: 28.9 Actual total: 2,648.6 miles

September 19th, 2010

Well, it rained quite heavily all night, but we stayed very comfortable under our tarp, with no problems, thanks to the heathery ground underneath us that soaked up every bit of the rain so that nothing ran along the ground.  It was still raining while we ate breakfast and started our packup, but stopped for a brief while as we climbed back up to the PCT and embarked on our last full hiking day!

The rain continued off and on for the rest of the day, sometimes heavily and sometimes lightly, but what made it bearable was that the clouds had lifted and we could see mountains and views once again.  Yesterday, though it didn’t officially “rain”, we were in clouds and mist all day and couldn’t see anything.  The scenery on this part of the PCT is so gorgeous that  rain or no rain, it was a blessing to be able to see it.   Temperature-wise, it was very cold, and I wore most of my layers all day.   We changed our snack times and meal times a bit–the governing consideration was “Look, it stopped raining for a little while!  Let’s eat now!”   Then we would gobble down a Snickers or whatever before moving on.  But at lunchtime, the rain finally stopped for an hour and oh joy!  We found some rocks to sit on–much better than the very wet and muddy ground.

All the colors of the landscape around us are definitely in “autumn mode”.  Even the grass is turning a golden-yellow.  I didn’t get many pictures of it, though, because of the rain, and I have to admit that my enjoyment of the autumn beauty was lessened by being so cold and having to deal with so much rain.  

As far as actual hiking went,  the first “landmark” of the day was reaching Hart’s Pass with its cute ranger station house.  I signed the register there, and was surprised to see that even though it was still very early in the morning, two hikers had already signed in.   I also noticed a lot of cars parked in the area, but no people walking around.  Did that mean we’d be meeting lots of folks on the trail?  We were very sad to see that pretty Meadow Campground, which lies just below the PCT, was devastated by a forest fire.  In the rain and cold, nobody was camping there, and it looked very forlorn.

From Hart’s Pass, the PCT takes a big climb up and up till it reaches “cruising altitude” at about 6200 feet, contouring along mountainsides for many miles, and occasionally dropping down or going up a bit to various “passes.”  At Windy Pass, we had a huge thrill–the highlight of the whole day!  We were sitting by the trail taking a Snickers break, when a MOOSE came strolling by in the meadow, not far away.  We both whipped out our cameras and started taking pictures!  Mr. Moose soon spotted us, stopped and stared at us for awhile.  He had a nice set of antlers, so we were a little bit concerned (we’d heard several hiker tales of  bad-tempered moose), but he finally “floated” away, obviously not worried about us.  I was amazed that such a big, heavy critter could move so effortlessly. 

With the clouds high in the sky, even though it was mostly raining all day, we still got awesome views of the huge U-shaped, glacier-carved forested valleys.  Everything in the landscape here seems to be on a “giant” scale.  Fall colors are everywhere.  Every mountainside is painted in yellow and orange–even the dark green forests are embroidered with bright colors.  We met a hiker who FINISHED the PCT yesterday (way to go!) and was hiking back south to get a ride out at Hart’s Pass.  He gave us welcome news of the hikers who have finished in the last few days, and among them were Trash Bucket and Happy Camper!  What a relief!  Now we know they are OK!

We were passed by The Graduate, who is on a tear for the border.  He plans to hike nonstop till he gets there.   Next we met a dad and daughter out backpacking.  The dad is very enthusiastic about the PCT–his son thruhiked successfully two years ago!  It was fun to talk to them, but we didn’t linger too long–it was coooold!  The trail took us to the top of a pass.  The “new” route then goes WAY down into a valley,before climbing  up again to the next pass.  The “old” route just contoured evenly over, but it was pretty much demolished by rockslides, so was abandoned.   Grumping a little bit, we headed down and began the climb back up. The rain at that point decided it was time to do a “cats & dogs” downpour.  Oh fun!   Bill has been having more and more trouble with big uphill climbs, and this was no exception.  I was soon well ahead of him, and planned to wait at the top.  When I got there I was surprised to find that somebody had set up camp (two tents, plus food hung from trees)  but no-one was there.  I waited for a long time, and no Bill.  Brrr!   The wind and rain were freezing, so I decided to hike along a bit farther to get out of the wind, and stop and wait again.   Still no Bill.  I began to get worried.   

As it turned out, he had taken his time climbing up to the pass, and once he got there he messed around for awhile taking pictures, and also trying to walk “back” a bit on the old PCT trail that’s been abandoned.  Meanwhile, whom should I see coming southbound on the PCT but “Balls” and his lovely little daughter (9 or 10 years old).  The last time I saw him was in the Sierras, when we were both glissading down a pass, and he zipped right past me.  Turned out that he had left off thruhiking because of a foot injury, and had only completed the California PCT– but his daughter really wanted to see Monument 78 (so did he!), so he took her on a little backpack adventure.  They’d been to the monument and were returning to their “base camp” at the pass.  Aha–so that explained the two tents!   Bill finally showed up as I was talking to them, and he and I headed on north together.  The afternoon was very cold and getting colder.  

Finding a place to eat some supper was very hard.  The wind was strong and there were few protected spots.  We finally huddled behind some trees and ate as fast as we could.  Brrrrr!   Then we mushed on fast, partly to stay warm, and partly just to get to a campable place before dark.  Those miles after supper included climbing up to the highest point of the PCT in Section L (7,000-plus feet) in rain, with wind so strong I could not use my umbrella.  Bummer!  I really missed the umbrella–it keeps my head and shoulders and the top of my pack dry, plus it breaks the wind so I stay warmer.  But this wind was far too wild and strong–I had to stow the umbrella.

The PCT went up and up into what on a nice day would be a lovely “alpine garden” area, but for us it was in the cloud, freezing cold and windswept.  We reached the top at last and began switchbacking down to near Hopkins Lake.  Side trails led to some campsites, hooray!  But it was still raining and everything was soaking wet, muddy and cold.  We disagreed about where to set up the tarp, but finally went with the spot Bill wanted.   I was sort of bummed because this was our last night on the trail, and I was hoping for a really nice campsite like we had in 2005.  No such luck, this time.   We barely got the tarp up in time before it was dark, as the rain continued.

Today was a tough haul–a challenge to be met, which is a good thing–but not at all fun.  The upside is that we actually got to SEE some scenery at least for awhile. The other thing that helps me to keep going is to “sing” in my head (not out loud–I need all my breath for hiking!) and I am very glad I’ve learned so many gospel songs and hymns.  I pick one with a good “hiking  rhythm” to it, and “sing” all the verses to myself, then pick another one.  A lot of the thruhikers listen to recordings as they hike–I would find that very distracting.   As the rain pattered on the tarp tonight, we had our last evening Bible reading.   Only 14.9 miles to go, and we are DONE!   I am looking forward to being warm, dry and clean, plus resting my very tired feet.