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  • Emily Hayes

PCT August update: The End (but somewhere else)

Updated: Feb 22, 2023

First published in Botley Bridge, a village magazine in Hampshire, UK.

It was the 6th September 2022 that I finally touched the Canadian Border after walking for 5 months and 9 days from the Mexican Border. My long distance hike is now over but getting to the border did not go as planned.

Monument 72 at the Canadian border

The wild fires in Oregon and Washington caused major disruption to my hike over the past month. During the 2 weeks I hiked in Oregon I had to bypass 130 miles of trail due to active and previous years' fires. The challenge became about logistics and was no longer about walking miles. Figuring out new routes and transport had to be done quickly to stay on track with my finishing date. I was fortunate that the smoke from fires did not affect my hiking experience as it can become quite harmful for health. When I was on trail (and not in a town trying to figure out a reroute) the days in Oregon consisted of well graded trails, lakes, mosquitos, lots of forests and clear blue skies. I hiked into Cascade Locks in mid August to walk over Bridge of the Gods which marks a significant moment in my journey; walking over the Columbia River from Oregon into Washington.

Bridge of the Gods - goodbye Oregon and hello Washington!

Washington state has been a highlight of this thru-hike. The postcard perfect views of prominent mountains in the skyline, wildflowers, meadows and lush green forests in the foreground delivered what I had expected when I was planning my hike. However at this stage in my journey I was feeling exhausted every day, my body always ached, the weight loss continued and the enthusiasm to hike 27 mile days had disappeared.

View of Rainier

I happily took an entire rest day in the lakeside resort of Stehikin when I heard the news that the trail leading to the Canadian border was closed due to a growing fire close to the PCT. It was unlikely to be extinguished anytime soon as resources are often not placed on wilderness fires with no proximity to populous areas. The news was devastating. I was so close to the end but not able to complete the last few miles. A group of other hikers assembled around me and we devised a plan to hike an alternate route along Ross Lake as the northern part of the lake passed into Canada. We secured new permits, transport and a boat to take us back once we had reached the border. Halfway through our new 3 day adventure a section of trail that we had planned to walk along also closed due to more fires. After an afternoon of discussions focused around health risks from fire, we managed to flag a boat down on the lake and arrange for another boat to take us to the border rather than persevering through a closed trail. The smoke from surrounding fires was beginning to have an impact on visibility and I noticed my throat was uncomfortable. Our boat got us to the Ross Lake provincial park that had been abandoned for some time due to blow down trees, it was a little eerie in the smoke but we were in and out in 20 minutes, followed by swarms of mosquitos. We touched the monument on the border and rushed back to the boat that took us to the safe southern shores of Ross Lake marking a definitive end to my thru-hike.

The "getting to Canada" crew

It has been an incredible journey and I have gained so much from this experience. I'd like to thank you for reading and for all the support I have received.

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