PCT DAY 51: Tuesday August 15, 2017
Mile 2621.5 – Mile 2650.5
29 miles (46.4 km)
My last day on the PCT turned out to be a pretty perfect day of hiking. The snowy peaks of the Northern Cascades made one last appearance just as I was about to start the long forest walk to Canada late in the afternoon.
It was still dark as I started to break camp. I could smell smoke from a fire burning somewhere not far. It was still too dark to see if there was smoke although I could see that the sky was clear. The icy wind of yesteray had died down and it was calm. Glorious sunrise with what looked like a plume of smoke turning pink as the sun lit up the sky and the surrounding rocky ridges. There is a fire burning not far from Mazama and it was possibly the smoke from that fire.
As I walked on the smell of burning fire gradually disappeared.The trail this morning was absolutely perfect, not just the weather conditions but for some miles it traversed ridgeside on far gentler green slopes. This made for much more relaxed hiking for me. Descent to Holman Pass was through lovely, soft forest trail and I made good time to the Pasayten River trail junction.
From here it was a 3 mile uphill section to Rocky Pass where I planned to stop for lunch. There is a 10 mile dry section which meant picking up 2L of water for the climb. The trail ascended to a most georgeous green meadow which wound up to Rocky Pass. Gentle green slopes and majestic pine grove, it was hard not to keep looking back it was such a beautiful section of trail. It was great to stop on top of the pass and enjoy lunch with a view, in perfect temperature and no wind or bugs. The way I wished it was everyday.
The descent off Rocky Pass was amazing. Huge switchbacks stretching across the side of the mountain. Quite incredible. From the top I could see that there was someone hiking up. What a pleasant surprise to find it was Trailblazer with whom I hiked before Snoqualmie. He’d been to the border and was returning to Harts Pass. So happy for him to have completed almost the whole trail this year – except the Sierras.
He continued on his way up and I continued to descend. Looking back up to the Pass I realised how intimidating this wall of rock and ruble appears, even though huge parts of it were covered in a spectacular carpet of wildflowers. Rocky Pass descent gave way to an ascent of Woody Pass which I reached fairly quickly. The wind was scouring the gap and I was pleased to drop down over the other side. The changes in the colour of the mountain slope vegetation were quite noticeable here. It feels like autumn has started to arrive in this part of the world.
From here the snowy peaks of the Northern Cascades began to be slowly revealed. A magnificent view on such a clear day. I stopped so many times to take a picture of the snowy peaks knowing that I would soon lose the view as I start the long downhill to the border.
Just before the 8 mile downhill stretch started the trail passed above Hopkins Lake. The lake is an incredible green colour and is fringed to the south by huge towering cliffs showing tilted sedimentary striations in the rock face.
And that was the last of the spectacular Washington landscape before I started the long downhill through forest heavily overgrown in parts. Just after 6pm I poped out into a clearing and was surprised that I was at the monument. I thought it would take me a little bit longer. That’s it – done. I took some pictures as the sun was setting behind me. I signed the register and hiked into Canada. It felt a bit sudden and a little bit anti-climactic.