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

Monday, 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!

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