Day 16 & 17
Northern Terminus to Manning Park Lodge – 8 miles
I had reached the monument at the US-Canada border. I had mixed emotions and mixed thoughts about what came next, however I still had a night and a morning on trail. The monument may be at the border, but it’s not really the end of the Pacific Crest Trail. When hikers reach the border they have the option to cross into E.C. Manning Provincial Park in British Columbia, or to turn around and hike 30 miles back to Hart’s Pass, which is a very remote spot to get a ride.
In previous years PCT thru-hikers had been able to catch a Greyhound bus that stopped regularly at the Lodge and went all the way into Vancouver. This summer Greyhound announced it would no longer be running buses in all of Western Canada. Thru-hikers are resilient though and have been managing to get rides from hikers and campers heading home from Manning Park.
I’m lucky enough to live in the Vancouver area and so had originally planned for my parents to come pick me up. However, earlier that day I’d been texting with my husband, Dan, through my InReach device. He’d decided to meet me on trail that evening, but he wouldn’t make it to the trailhead until about five o’clock. We’d have to be back in the city by early afternoon the next day so he could get to work on time. I had a decision to make. I could stay at the camp near the monument and wait for my husband to arrive in a few hours or I could push on another four miles to the next campground.
By this point it was about 4:00 p.m. and I’d already hiked nearly 15 miles. I decided to go to the campsite, see what it looked like, consider how I felt and then make my decision. The site was beside the lovely Castle Creek but otherwise it wasn’t much to write home about. I took a short break to fill up on water and then decided to push on. If I could hike four more miles, that was four fewer miles to hike in the morning, which meant real food and a shower so much sooner!
So that’s exactly what I did. The first couple of miles were relatively flat but quite muddy and a bit overgrown. There were signs of recent trail work. I sincerely hoped the work would continue because otherwise the trail was a poor welcome to British Columbia’s Provincial Parks.
Then the trail started to climb. I was lucky enough to have read some details about this section in my trail guide, but other hikers only had Guthook’s Guide to rely on, which doesn’t include the Manning Park section. I ascended over 1,000 feet in the two miles it took me to reach the PCT Camp and meet up with Dan. I’ve since heard hikers complain about that section and how unexpected it was. It seems there’s an expectation that the Cascade mountains end abruptly and it’s all downhill to the highway!
It was a real joy to see Dan coming towards me on the trail. It had been a great second week on trail, but I’d definitely missed him. Needless to say I was pretty tired, but also happy and excited. We set up camp and Dan pulled out some treats from his bag – fresh blueberries and a bottle of our home-brew hard cider.
It was cool and drizzly so we only stayed up as long as it took to make dinner and then we tucked into the tent. My spacious solo tent was now a cozy nest for the two of us.
The next morning we had a quick oatmeal breakfast and hit the trail. Tomorrow I’d sleep in, but today I still had to hike. The last four miles flew by, no doubt thanks to the conversations I got to have with Dan. Before I knew it we were hiking down on an old forest service road which curves down to the Similkameen River. We followed the river west for a mile and then out we popped at the trailhead parking lot.
I rinsed some of the trail dust off in the river and then hopped into the car for the short drive to the lodge where I could change into fresh clothes and have a hearty breakfast.
My two-week section hike was done. I had survived and thrived all by myself for 200 challenging miles. I’d carried everything I needed, set my own schedule, and become physically stronger every day. I felt a thrilling sense of accomplishment, better than I’d felt the day before at the monument.
However, my backpacking season wasn’t over quite yet. I had one more section of the PCT in Washington to complete – 65 miles through Mount Adams and Goat Rocks Wilderness. I was hoping to head south as soon as possible to hike the section that I’d had to skip last summer.
More on that next week!