Terminus Video

It’s been almost a month since we finished hiking, and we are still trying to figure out the best way to process our experience and synthesize our reflections. Stay tuned for some more writing. In the mean time, here is a video that Penny made when we got to the Canadian border.

We’ve been enjoying the Victory Tour so far. We’re hanging out in Leadville, Colorado at the moment enjoying some wonderful sunshine and great views of familiar, snowy mountains. It’s tempting to just stay here, but we are also looking forward to the Midwestern portion of our tour, and we’re getting pretty excited to stop living out of our backpacks at some point.

The Final 68 Miles

Note the pink tape.

Note the pink tape.

We made it to Canada! But not without spending TWO more nights in Winthrop! We did manage to leave town without buying a house, which some hikers had been threatening to do. B. Rip’s cousin, Chris, somehow managed to have the day off work and drove our team all the way from Seattle to Winthrop. It was a beautiful almost 4 hour drive each way for him. Upon arrival, Chris too fell under the Winthrop spell and couldn’t leave without lunch and some long conversations at the hostel despite his children waiting to be picked up from school. After hearing about how many friends we’d made in Winthrop, Chris and Fun Size had a good laugh when the first person we saw in town greeted us with, “You’re back! Did you guys finish the trail?” The hostel was obviously taken over by hikers, and after discussing our plans we decided to wait another day for the storm to clear. Our readiness to hit the trail made the prospect of another day in town seem tedious, but time passed quickly as Songbird and Fun Size completed four crossword puzzles and Banana Ripper drank six cups of tea. We spent some quality time at the bakery, ate our way through the afternoon, and wrapped up the evening with some frozen pizzas and the movie Wall-E.

Snowy mountains in the sun!

Snowy mountains in the sun!

Songbird befriends a snowman atop Cutthroat Pass.

Songbird befriends a snowman atop Cutthroat Pass.

Our first day on the trail brought lots of sunshine and relatively warm temperatures. A group had gone ahead of us, and we had the good fortune to follow in the trail they had forged through the snow. No snowshoes needed for us! We were happily surprised to find that our day ended in a snow-free forest next to a river. Having planned to cover only 15 miles, we managed to eat dinner outside of our tent with Fun Size before it got dark – a feat we haven’t accomplished in months. The next morning we climbed up again and found ourselves living in the snow for the next two nights and two days. Our group ended up blazing the trail for the remainder of the days while the others who were traveling near us formed a habit of sleeping in after indulging in recreational substances in the evenings. We enjoyed having our full decision making capacities. What we didn’t know ahead of time was that Fun Size loves to play in the snow and has little awareness of the dangers of backcountry snow. This worked to our groups’ advantage because Banana Bird has been thoroughly scared from backcountry winter travel after taking the level 1 avalanche course. Without him, we might have turned around, and without us, he might have perished…. or just had a really good time doing cartwheels down the hills.

Banana Ripper, Songbird, and Fun Size on a snowy hike.

Banana Ripper, Songbird, and Fun Size on a snowy hike.

A lot of the trail was under waist deep snow but we managed to stay found by using a smartphone app that relied on GPS and pre-downloaded maps, by watching for the faint shape of the trail in the snow, and by relying on our well-developed internal sense of where the PCT goes. Fun Size seemed to have unlimited energy for breaking trail and often talked about how he needed more of a workout. This was fine with us. We climbed the hills, descended into the valleys, took in the views, and saw the larch trees turning yellow. Our breaks were only long enough to eat a bar or a peanut butter, honey, raisin, nut wrap. Stopping for long breaks only caused us to lose heat. We did use our snowshoes once, but mostly we carried them as one carries an umbrella to prevent it from raining. We learned that walking along the side of a hill is fairly uncomfortable and difficult in snowshoes. We’re looking forward to taking up snowshoeing on dirt roads in Vermont.

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Note the yellow larch trees.

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A highlight of the last section was our evening at Harts Pass. A thru-hiker named Walking Home who’d finished in August (good move) knew that about 15 to 20 hikers would be camping at Harts Pass and came up to meet us with a truck load of wood for a fire, hot chocolate, homemade stew with homegrown vegetables, and cookies. He even brought a shovel and shoveled snow from our campsite. We dried our socks by the fire, shared stories, and ate our faces off. What a treat! It was almost like being inside. We spent two nights camping above 6,000 feet, which were both pretty cold. Our shoes froze the first night, and we had a mouse visit us on the second night looking for food. The final morning we woke to a light snow and looked at each other saying, “let’s go to Canada!”

Banana Ripper's feet are thrilled about this news.

Banana Ripper’s feet are thrilled about this news.

Foggy morning on Rock Pass.  The view of Canada was spectacular.

Foggy morning on Rock Pass. The view of Canada was spectacular.

Fun Size anticipates victory.

Fun Size anticipates victory.

Bananabird anticipates victory.

Bananabird anticipates victory.

The final day was the most difficult with several climbs and descents that weren’t fully visible due to clouds, snow, and fog. We took our time, made good decisions, and in the end hoped for the best. It was a good reminder that sometimes you need a little bit of irreverence and determination to override the caution if you’re going to do something big. Our team had a good mix of it all. Eventually we got down below the snow line and found ourselves in a dry forest, heading for the border! The border is a clear cut line through the trees that looks like a power line should run through it. The monument marking the end of the PCT is in the clear cut. We were happy to have a few moments at the monument with just our team to take it in and get a few pictures before the crowd showed up and before the sun set. It was chilly and wet but the lack of snow felt luxurious. We were both in disbelief to be looking at, touching, and photographing this marker. It felt so good and so unreal. We’d been so focused on making it through the previous hiking days that thoughts of being at the end had really faded away. We hung around with everyone for a dance party to “She Drives Me Crazy,” signing of the trail register, and a marriage proposal! Everyone was a bit unsure if he got a “yes.” We camped by a Canadian river just inside Manning Park – 8 miles away from the road to Vancouver and Manning Park Lodge. We savored our final Ramen bombs seasoned with the sweet taste of victory.

"Is this real?"

“Is this real?”

"Yes!  It's real!"

“Yes! It’s real!”

Penny the Thru Penguin.

Penny the Thru Penguin.

Songbird and her thru-uke.

Songbird and her thru-uke.

"I'm tired. No more walking, please."

“I’m tired. No more walking, please.”

When the music started, we envisioned movie credits rolling in the background of our dance party.

When the music started, we envisioned movie credits rolling in the background of our dance party.

Three hikers and one penguin at the end of a fun, snowy journey together.

Three hikers and one penguin at the end of a fun, snowy journey together.

On Sunday morning, the three of us woke up in excellent moods, giggling to each other as we packed up our things and embarked on the short, easy, snowless hike to Manning Park Lodge.  When we arrived at the lodge, we enjoyed the long-anticipated moment where we put down our backpacks, sat down, looked at each other, and said, “Hey, what do you want to do next?”  It was blissful.  We got a room at the lodge, did our laundry, bathed excessively, and spent some time in the hot tub, swimming pool, and steam room before heading to the restaurant for Canadian Thanksgiving dinner.  Our timing couldn’t have been better!  Well, other than the whole snow thing, anyway.  It was a lot of fun to be celebrating a holiday AND a complete thru-hike at the same time.  The pumpkin pie was extra delicious.

The real end of the hike.  Yesssssss.

The real end of the hike. Yesssssss.

The best part of our stay in Manning Park was that we got to sleep inside.  We were warm without having to wear three pairs of socks or do sit-ups to generate heat.  The three of us slept comfortably and relished the opportunity to drink hot coffee in the morning.  Although we were tempted to spend a week or two lounging at the lodge, we were also eager to get on with our plans for a victory tour, and Fun Size’s fiancé was anticipating his return to Portland.  We began the long trek back to the states by hitching a ride to Vancouver with a kind woman named Darcy.  She was heading home from a family Thanksgiving celebration and was generous enough to not only give us a ride to a bus station outside of the city, but also send us off with fresh apples. bus fare, and directions to the train station.

While in Manning Park, Songbird met another Songbird, who hiked the trail in 2009 and now works at the resort!  This Songbird also got her name by carrying a ukulele on the trail.

While in Manning Park, Songbird met another Songbird, who hiked the trail in 2009 and now works at the resort! This Songbird also got her name by carrying a ukulele on the trail.

While Vancouver is probably a pretty cool city with a lot of worthwhile sightseeing, we were in no state to appreciate any of it.  Wandering through the subway station in our hiking clothes with our backpacks, snowshoes, and ice axe was enough to persuade us that this was not the time to try to do anything remotely tourist-y.  Instead, we hopped on the next train to Seattle and spent the evening eating, rubbing each other’s feet, and enjoying Amtrak’s generous leg room.  Once in Seattle, we found ourselves a room at the Travelodge and continued to enjoy the novelties of watching cable TV and sleeping inside.  One continental breakfast later, we parted ways with Fun Size and commenced phase two of the victory tour.  Chris picked us up at the hotel and brought us back to his house, where we were reunited with our street clothes once and for all!

Trying to act like normal train passengers.

Trying to act like normal train passengers.

Sunset on the train.

Sunset on the train.

Our plans so far are to spend a few days in Seattle, then Portland, then San Francisco.  From there, we will make our way slowly back across the country, stopping along the way to visit people we love in various locations.  Let us know if you want to be included in our tour!  We’ll be traveling until we run out of money and/or get too tired of living out of our backpacks.  (Maybe a month or so).  It feels great to have finished this huge project, finally, especially after being jerked around by the weather for what felt like an endless amount of time.  We are still letting the reality of it all sink in slowly, and it’s a lot of fun to sit back and appreciate everything that has happened since April 29th when we flew to San Diego to start this crazy adventure.

CANADA!!!

Banana Ripper, Songbird, and Penny the Penguin at the END of the PCT.  So happy.

Banana Ripper, Songbird, and Penny the Penguin at the END of the PCT. So happy.

We made it!!  Full story to come in the next few days.  We are too busy thawing out and drinking champagne to write much at the moment.  Much love to you all.

Maybe We Should Move to Winthrop: The Emotional Roller Coaster

The adventure continues!  We are writing this from a suburb of Seattle, where Banana Ripper’s cousin, Chris, lives with his wife, Charlotte, and their two sons, Ben and Tim.  It’s been a whirlwind of a week, and we’ve found ourselves in some unexpected circumstances.  The bad news is that we have made approximately zero progress toward Canada since our last post.  The GOOD news is that we are not throwing in the towel yet!  Tomorrow, we will head back to Rainy Pass for a second, final attempt at hiking through the snowy North Cascades.

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Exhibit A: The snowy North Cascades.

Last Tuesday, we hiked North as planned, following a group of about a dozen hikers who had gotten a slightly earlier start.  (We had been slowed down by the Rocking Horse Bakery in Winthrop, naturally).  As we began our hike, we were filled with optimism and excitement about having such a short amount of trail between us and the Canadian border.  We climbed up and up, and the snow grew deeper and deeper.  Dun dun dun.  Once we reached the top of Cutthroat Pass at around 6,700 feet, we were up to our hips in the white fluffy stuff!  “No problem,” we said to each other, “this will be totally manageable as long as we can keep following this group of trail-blazers.”  We continued merrily on our way, picking our way slowly across the snowy alpine zone and watching the group ahead of us progress toward victory.  Or so we thought…

Songbird feeling optimistic while hiking in the tracks of other hikers.

Songbird feeling optimistic while hiking in the tracks of other hikers.

Around 1pm, we caught up with the group when they stopped to take a break and strategize.  They had been out there for over five hours, during which time they had managed to hike only six miles.  The two who had been leading the pack voiced a strong opinion that it was unwise to continue.  They reasoned that we might not be able to get down to a lower elevation by nightfall, and that if the snow continued to be that deep for the next sixty miles, it would take a lot more time, equipment, and food than we all had with us.  Banana Ripper and Songbird, who had arrived a little late to this decision making party, were put in a difficult spot.  We had been feeling so great about pushing right on through to Canada, but we also had not experienced anything like what the guys in the front of the pack had been facing.  We knew for sure that we were not equipped to break trail by ourselves, what with our trail running shoes and limited cold weather clothing.  So, after five months of being a self-sufficient team of two people and one penguin, we were forced to admit that we couldn’t keep going without the help of a larger group.

A difficult spot of thinking this was our End of the Thru-Hike Picture.

A difficult spot of thinking this was our End of the Thru-Hike Picture.

The scene was quite intense.  People were fighting, crying, throwing snowballs, taking photos, and trying to avoid hypothermia.  We could barely even talk to each other over the noise of the crowd.  We also had the strange dilemma of simultaneously having to experience the heartbreak of ending our hike while also being reunited with some of our old friends from our desert days for the first time since May!  This was not at all how we had expected our hike to end.  We wanted to sit there for a while experiencing all of the feelings and taking it all in.  We couldn’t do that, though, because there were too many people around and because we were losing precious body heat by the second.  In the middle of all of this, the sky became dark and we were suddenly immersed in a full-on snow flurry.  To avoid getting soaked and even colder, we began our disheartened descent back to the trail head.

The rowdy group at our turn-around point.

The rowdy group at our turn-around point.

On the way down, we did manage to get a lot warmer, but we struggled with just about everything else.  Was this really the end?  What were we supposed to do next?  How could we begin our victory tour without having been victorious?  What were we going to do with all of our instant mashed potatoes in the front country?  Several people had made a back-up plan to hike on a lower (less snowy) alternate route to cross the Canadian border in a different location, so as to find a sense of closure for their long journeys.  We spent several hours weighing the pros and cons of this option and going through several cycles of sadness, anger, peaceful resignation, determination, back to sadness, etc.  In the process, we learned that it is very difficult to decide what you want to do when you are in the midst of experiencing the heartbreak of not getting what you really, truly want.  If we weren’t going to hike to Canada on the PCT, how could anything else we did be of any consequence?

Things getting warm and beautiful on the way down.

Things getting warm and beautiful on the way down.

Still undecided at the bottom of the hill, we felt that it would be a good idea to set up our tent for a night of camping at Rainy Pass.  We didn’t want to rush into any decisions and we needed to find a way to say goodbye to the trail that did not involve a sea of people and dangerous weather conditions.  It was a rough night.  Banana Ripper held it together enough to make us one last ramen bomb, while Songbird and Penny spent some time being sad and feeling the weight of a huge, unmet goal.  The nice part about being in our tent that night was that it gave us the opportunity to understand that we didn’t need to walk to Canada on an alternate route just to be able to say that we walked to Canada.  If we weren’t going to do it all the way on the PCT, we were simply not going to do it.  We decided that we would return next year to complete the final sixty miles of the trail and have a delayed celebration in Manning Park.  It still wasn’t perfect, but it was something.

What we thought might be our last thru-hiking night on the PCT in the Rainy Pass TH parking lot.

What we thought might be our last thru-hiking night on the PCT in the Rainy Pass TH parking lot.

The next morning, we packed up and headed for Winthrop again, after sending some fresh thru-hiking hopefuls out onto the trail with our best wishes.  Feeling confident enough about our decision to call it a hike, we began the slow process of reintegrating into normal society and making plans for our next phase of the journey.  This process involved throwing away some of our most disgusting gear, coordinating with some friends in Seattle, and embarking on an exhausting shopping trip to the local thrift store to acquire some cotton clothing.  We had been excitedly anticipating all of these activities when we thought they would occur after a successful thru-hike, but now they all felt like a bittersweet kind of punishment.  The silver lining in all of that was that when we stopped at the bakery for a recovery snack, we ran into our acquaintance, Randi, who had been our server at the pizza place on our first night in town.  She immediately invited us to spend the evening at her cabin in the woods!  We had a lovely time eating home-cooked dinner and chatting by the fire with Randi and Abby, another local who works at the bakery.  They both took excellent care of us and helped to lift our spirits.  Randi even went as far as to give us a ride all the way to Leavenworth the next morning!

Banana Bird with Randi and Abby at the Rocking Horse Bakery in Winthrop. One reason we love this town is the number of Melanzanas we've found!

Banana Bird with Randi and Abby at the Rocking Horse Bakery in Winthrop. One reason we love this town is the number of Melanzanas we’ve found!

From Leavenworth, we commenced the tour of visiting people we know in the Northwest.  Our first stop was near Stevens Pass, where Songbird’s friend Flash lives.  Flash took us to her home in Index, by way of the ski area, where we romped in the snow with her dog, Indy,and watched some eager skiers who were starting the season early.  We enjoyed a wonderful evening of home-cooked food and conversation with Flash, Dan, and Indy, and were lulled to sleep by the sound of the nearby Skykomish River.  In the morning, Flash made us some amazing blueberry muffins and we lounged around for several hours and several games of tug with the dog before moving toward our next destination.  Flash brought us here to Woodinville, by way of the Red Hook Brewery, where we were thrilled to discover that the tour involved zero walking.

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Banana Bird with Flash in our newly acquired cotton clothing.

In the midst of all of this travel and socializing, we have become aware that all hope may not be lost for our thru-hike.  Even before we left Winthrop, we got word that some of the hikers who went up to Cutthroat Pass the day after we did had been able to continue North and were likely to make it all the way to Canada.  It started to seem possible that we could just wait a few more days and then follow a nicely established path through the snow.  Perhaps if we acquired some more winter appropriate gear, we could give it another shot!  This is the part of the blog post where it becomes clear that we are by no means finished riding the emotional roller coaster.  If other people were going to make it to Canada on the PCT, why shouldn’t we?  We began plotting our return to the trail immediately.  In the mean time, we thought it would be prudent to be a little patient and to carry on with our plans so as not to spend too many days waiting around in Winthrop for news and weather reports.

We found this rock that was artfully hidden in a tree at Rainy Pass by our dear friends Karen and Cecilia back in July as they were moving from Seattle to New Hampshire! Wow, that was fun.

We found this rock that was artfully hidden in a tree at Rainy Pass by our dear friends Karen and Cecilia back in July as they were moving from Seattle to New Hampshire! Wow, that was fun.

In Woodinville, we have been enjoying the company of Banana Ripper’s relatives.  Between games and art projects with a three year-old and a four year-old, we have enjoyed some conversations with adults and have continued to rack up our tally of home-cooked meals.  Chris and Charlotte have been wonderful hosts in every way, and have been very supportive of our tentative plans to go back and finish this thing.  Today, we borrowed a car in order to stock up on necessities at REI and Safeway.  Several hundred dollars later, we are feeling confident about being able to tromp through all of the snow with relative ease, comfort, and style.  We would have broken the bank even further if it hadn’t been for Chris’s generous donation of a loaner pair of snow shoes and a warmer sleeping bag.  Thanks, Chris!

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Banana Ripper, Cousin Chris, Songbird in front of the North Cascades Mountain Hostel.

We have mostly solidified our plans to start making our way back to the trail tomorrow.  Chris will drive us back to Rainy Pass in the late morning.  We’ll also be meeting up with our friend Fun Size, who will be our companion for this final attempt.  He was part of the group that turned around last Tuesday, and was reluctant to return to his home in Portland with such an important piece of unfinished business still lingering.  The three of us have been collaborating on the plan to give it another shot, so we will have some good company for this leg of the journey.  Because we don’t want to start hiking over a high pass tomorrow afternoon, we’ll probably end up spending yet another night in our new favorite town, Winthrop, before hitting the trail once and for all on Tuesday.  We’re planning on allowing ourselves five days to complete the 68 mile hike to Manning Park.  Normally that distance would take us three days, but we’re expecting to move slowly over what sounds like some pretty challenging terrain.  We hope to be in Canada by next weekend!  Until then, we will continue to approach this whole thing with cautious optimism and a renewed sense of determination.

Inching Toward The End

Penny and her animal friends.  Thanks, Elayne and Robert!  They were delicious.

Penny and her animal friends. Thanks, Elayne and Robert! They were delicious.

Hello Readers!  We are writing from the lovely little town of Winthrop, Washington, where we have taken an unexpected “Last Stop”.  We thought we would push right through from Stehekin to Canada, but the weather has slowed us down a bit.  You might say that the weather is simply helping us cherish our last moments on the trail by forcing us to really take our time and be patient.  We were expecting to be sipping champagne in Manning Park by tomorrow or Wednesday.  If all goes well enough from here, we’ll be finishing on Friday the fourth or Saturday the fifth instead.  Some people say, “The last one to Canada wins!”

Snow on the trail!

Snow on the trail!

Wet plants on the side of the trail dump water into our shoes. :(

Wet plants on the side of the trail dump water into our shoes. :(

The reports say that several inches of snow have fallen up above 5,000 ft.  We managed to miss one big storm while we were away in NH, but the next one caught us just as we were getting in to Stehekin on Friday.  As soon as we got on the shuttle bus to town, hikers starting talking our heads off about how terrible the weather was about to become.  At the Stehekin Lodge (recommended travel destination for anyone looking to spend some quiet time in the North Cascades!), twenty or thirty hikers were seriously stressing about the impending snow.  Several of them called it quits and took the ferry across Lake Chelan in order to move on with their lives.  Others took the ferry into the nearest town to buy boots, snowshoes, jackets, mittens, etc.  One guy even told us that the trail was closed and under ten feet of snow!  That notion got us pretty upset for a while, until we found out that the trail is absolutely still open.  We still have no idea where that rumor got started.

This HUGE dog is thrilled about the snow on Red Pass.

This HUGE dog is thrilled about the snow on Red Pass.

As we’ve learned many times on this trip, it’s best to take everything we hear from other hikers with a large grain of salt.  We decided early on during our stay in Stehekin to generally avoid talking to other hikers about their plans for how to handle the weather.  Our instinct was to spend a day inside while it poured rain, then set out to hike the next twenty miles of trail up to Rainy Pass at Highway 20.  From there, we would see for ourselves just how crazy the conditions were.  After a wonderfully cozy day of eating baked goods and taking many hot showers, we loaded up and put on our now dry hiking shoes.  The hike to Rainy Pass was, well, rainy.  We made one quick stop to eat lunch, but otherwise had to keep plowing forward in order to avoid hypothermia.  When we got to the pass at 4,500 ft, we were so wet and cold that the outhouse in the parking lot suddenly looked like a great place to take shelter.  We thought we would camp nearby for the night, but a sign on a tree convinced us otherwise.  It said, “Do you need a shower?  Do you need a warm bed?  Do you like killer pizza and tasty microbrews?  We love PCT hikers here at the North Cascades Mountain Hostel!  Come spend some time here!”  We answered, “Yes! Yes! Yes!” and decided at once to abandon our rainy camping plans.

The Stehekin Pastry Co. was exactly where we wanted to be on Saturday.

The Stehekin Pastry Co. was exactly where we wanted to be on Saturday.

Winthrop, it turns out, is an essential part of our journey, which we would never have known if the weather had stayed good.  As soon as we arrived in town, we sat down in the pizza parlor for some hot food.  The waitress immediately said, “nice Melanzanas!”  and we knew we were in for a good night.  (For anyone who doesn’t know, Melanzana is the local outdoor clothing factory in Leadville, CO.  We love making the Leadville connection whenever anyone recognizes our fleeces).  She then made us hot tea, served us pizza and an amazing chocolate-y dessert, and got her boyfriend to come over and give us a ride to the hostel.

Mountains rising out of a valley of clouds.  This was a rare sunny day, during which we took out the camera and got our socks mostly dry.

Mountains rising out of a valley of clouds. This was a rare sunny day, during which we took out the camera and got our socks mostly dry.

After a warm and dry night, we spent some time wandering around town this morning.  We ran into several other hikers who all managed to escape the Stehekin Stress and who are all planning to move forward in a warm, safe, and collaborative manner.  It’s been great to reconnect with people who were part of our community way back in the desert of Southern California.  In the hot, dry parts of the trail, people were brought together at water sources and under shady trees.  Here, we are all coming together again to support each other through the final snowy stretch.  We’ll head out tomorrow morning in a large herd of people who all share two objectives:  Stay safe and make it to Canada.  Since we’ve already lost the race against the snow, there is no longer any rush to complete the trail.  We’ll be taking it very slowly in order to be careful and stay warm and dry.

Banana Ripper is ready for anything.

Banana Ripper is ready for anything.

We’ll catch up with you all on the other side, we hope!

Sun, Rain, and an Important Detour

We are on our way back to Seattle and the PCT at Steven’s Pass from a lovely wedding weekend in Freedom, New Hampshire where our good friends, Karen and Cecilia were married. In many ways, this weekend has provided quite the contrast to trail life. We’ve rediscovered how quickly cars and planes move, and we’ve practiced our mindfulness skills in the airport when things get too busy. We are even posting this from the AIRPLANE! Although it feels ridiculous to travel across the country when we have 180 miles of trail remaining, we thoroughly enjoyed the chance to get off the rainy trail and, of course, to celebrate with friends. The lakeside wedding was beautiful and full of love. We swam, sang around a campfire, slept in a cabin, contra danced, and even took out a canoe.

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The brides were so happy to have us they even chauffeured us in the camp golf cart.

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This is Banana Ripper trying not to look too much like a thru-hiker. Good thing Penny was there help her out.

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Our cabin at camp was super luxurious compared to a wet tent.

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Penny wore her tuxedo to the wedding.

On the way back to Boston, we stopped to see Songbird’s Aunt Cathy who treated us to a home cooked brunch. We relished a few moments to sit, sip, eat, and chat in her sun room. Banana Ripper’s parents each helped us get between the Boston airport and Freedom, NH in various ways. As has been true throughout our trip, we are grateful to so many family, friends, and strangers who support us in the most incredible ways. Speaking of incredible strangers and good friends, a big thanks to Brook and Laura of Seattle. These friends of Karen and Cecilia (strangers to us until recently) helped us get from the trail to and from the Seattle airport. Brook met us in our smelly state as we came off the trail. She took us home, helped us do our laundry, fed us veggies from her garden, provided us with a bed and a shower, and took us to the airport in the morning while probably jeopardizing her on-time arrival to work. Laura will meet us around midnight and drive us to the trail in the morning. Thanks in advance for drying our smelly, wet hiking shoes, Laura!

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Team Banana Bird with Aunt Cathy

Several weeks ago, we spent some very relaxing and enjoyable time in Hood River, OR with Banana Ripper’s mom and her partner, Gary. Highlights included massages, excellent food, and watching lots of windsurfing and kite boarding on the Columbia River.

Enjoying dinner on the deck with Gary and Mama Banana Ripper.

Enjoying dinner on the deck with Gary and Mama Banana Ripper.

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View of the Columbia River Gorge from Hood River, OR

Banana Ripper’s mom dropped us off at the trail in the evening just before a rain and thunderstorm hit. We had time to hike a few miles and set up our tent just before the rain hit. We enjoyed burgers from town and read Harry Potter in our tent while counting seconds between lightning and thunder and noting how close the storm was. Things quieted down just about the time when we wanted to go to sleep. We woke to a persistent rain that continued throughout the next day. Packing a wet tent in the morning does not result in a dry tent coming out of your backpack at the end of the day. We took solace in the form of other hikers who were out there with us, fighting to keep our spirits up.

After crossing the glacial Adams Creek, just below Mt. Adams, our cold feet had us both in tears. Not having lost all decision making capabilities, we made the move to set up our wet tent in the rain, peel off our wet clothes, pull on our dry clothes, and warm up under our sleeping bags. Despite the puddle in our tent, our camping mattresses that resemble pool floaties, kept us dry. We spent an agonizing 45 minutes calculating that if we hiked another 7 miles, we would have time to stay in a hotel in Packwood in a few days. This was enough motivation to put our wet clothing back on, pack up the wet tent, and move on. The rain actually let up while we walked that evening, and we were treated to clearing skies the next morning. The sun even came out and lunch, allowing us to dry everything!

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Mt. Adams on a sunny day from Goat Rocks Wilderness.

The 44 miles of trail South of White Pass were astonishing. As the rain cleared we found ourselves in the Goat Rocks wilderness, one of Washington’s most talked about wilderness areas. We saw rocks AND goats while taking in views of alpine meadows and high peaks.

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B. Rip excited to enter Goat Rocks wilderness. “The Rally Cap”

Mountains, Mt. Adams, and Songbird.

Mountains, Mt. Adams, and Songbird.

As we climbed higher to the Knife Edge Ridge, we gained views of Mt. Saint Helens, Mt. Adams, and finally Mt. Rainier. We crossed snowfields and treaded carefully along the narrow trail under a relentless sun. We even applied sunscreen, a rare Washingtonian event.

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The Great Washingtonian Ice Cap

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Songbird on the Knife Edge Ridge.

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Banana Ripper enjoying some foot elevation and a Clif Bar from Katie C.

After getting off the trail at White Pass, we indulged in showers, a bed, TV, a continental breakfast, and a leisurely day in town. The five hiking days from White Pass to Snoqualmie Pass (Interstate-90) were sunny and hot, with temperatures ranging above 80 degrees. Indian summer lasted just long enough for us to forget how unpleasant the rain had been. We kept to our 22 miles a day and ate a lot of huckleberries, which were abundant along the trail. Upon arriving at the highway rest stop at Snoqualmie Pass, we went immediately to the Pancake House for our second breakfast. We bought our re-supply food at the Chevron and enjoyed talking about how we had made in back to the Mass Pike! We stayed in a local hostel with a lot of hikers, which gave us a chance to talk about the upcoming rain, ponder the possibility of snow farther north, and giddily anticipate arriving at the monument on the Canadian border.

This is what 3 days of food from the Chevron looks like.

This is what 3 days of food from the Chevron looks like.

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The Mass Pike!!

Leaving Snoqualmie, we knew we were headed for several days of clouds, rain, thunder, etc. Walking out of town before any of this hit made us feel like things would be fine. We took in the views for which Section J of Washington is famous on our first day with no rain. By evening, the lightning, thunder, and rain appeared over us as we trekked the last few miles to our campsite in the dark. The only thing worse than hiking in the dark, a habit we’ve been trying to break, is hiking in the dark AND the rain. After a dry evening in our tent and a brief stint of being lost the next day, we became well acquainted with the elevation gain and loss that is characteristic of this section. It seemed that we climbed up only to go down for days in the clouds. The last 24 hours of our time in section J were marked by light and unending rain. We kept most of our things relatively dry while wishing Brook could bring her invisible helicopter to meet us at our soggy campsite eight miles out of Stevens Pass.

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Approaching the Katwalk just North of Snoqualmie Pass.

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Clouds in the next valley.

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Clouds pouring in.

Alas, we hiked those soggy eight miles and were thrilled to find that Stevens Pass ski area is big enough to have a building that is open in the summer and even sells food and warm beverages. We availed ourselves of these luxuries before finding a ride to the trail angel house in Skykomish. The Dinsmores’ driveway was sunny and warm. We dried out as well as we could before Brook’s arrival. We greeted each other like old friends, and soon everything became easy as the rain and cold faded into memories.

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Yessss. Steven’s Pass has everything we want. Now we just have to muster the energy to climb the stairs…

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Just wanted to let all you electric car aficionados know that you can recharge at Steven’s Pass Ski Area.

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Happiness in the Dinsmores’ driveway.

After four days of warmth and dryness and motorized transportation, we are gearing up to head back to the trail for the final push!  We expect our return to the wilderness to be both relieving and difficult.  It has been a bit weird to be back in the “real” world, and the idea of leaving the crowds, traffic, and clothing choices behind seems relaxing.  On the other hand, it looks as though we are heading into some cold, wet territory on the trail.  Rumor has it that some snow has been falling up in the high sections of the Northernmost parts of the trail.  We are bracing ourselves for some unpleasant times and hoping for a few glimpses of sunshine in our final nine-ish days of hiking.  While we are eager to get to Manning Park and be done with all element-related discomfort, we will also be sad to leave the thru hiking life behind so soon.

Enjoying some sunshine.

Enjoying some sunshine.

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Penny and Hawthorne had a joyful reunion for the weekend. Hawthorne didn’t make the weight limit for the thru-hike, but he is awaiting her return at home.

Washing-fun!

We made it!

We made it!

Well, it’s official.  We are IN WASHINGTON!!  Actually, we’re in Hood River, Oregon, enjoying some rest and relaxation with Anne and Gary, but we have just finished hiking the first 80 miles of Washingtonian trail.  That means we are a mere 423 miles from the Canadian border.  Whoa!  It feels so good to be here.

Just a few more miles to go!

Just a few more miles to go! Songbird probably looked deranged because she walked 2,155 miles to get here.

After we eventually left the Timberline Lodge, we had two more long, tiring days of hiking in Oregon.  The weather got a bit unfriendly on us again, so we approached the border in a damp manner.  It rained for about 24 hours before clearing up just in time for us to take the beautiful 15 mile alternate route along the Eagle Creek Trail.  The trail bypassed about 15 miles of the PCT and took us through a spectacular finale for our Oregonian hike.  We saw some amazing waterfalls, including the famous Tunnel Falls, which we caught just before sunset.

Tunnel Falls

Tunnel Falls

Family photo in front of beautiful Ramona Falls.

Family photo in front of beautiful Ramona Falls.

After our scenic waterfall tour, we walked into the town of Cascade Locks, which is where the PCT crosses the Bridge of the Gods at just 200 feet above sea level, the trail’s lowest point.  As we arrived in town and were looking for a place to eat breakfast, we met a kind woman named Nancy who was out for her morning walk and stopped to chat with us for a few minutes.  She gave us some encouraging words of support and continued on her way.  A little while later, she came to find us at our breakfast table and practically insisted that we come up to her hotel room to take showers after eating.  We obviously couldn’t say no to an offer like that!  Nancy took great care of us for an hour or so before we embarked on our errands feeling clean and refreshed.  It was a great way to wrap up our Oregon experience.

Crossing the Bridge of the Gods.

Crossing the Bridge of the Gods.

So far, Washington looks a lot like Oregon.  We’ve been walking through a lot of forest, up and down some rolling hills that might be slightly steeper than the ones in Oregon, and have caught some views of the nearby volcanic peaks.  We’ve been approaching Mt. Adams for the last few days and will be passing under it shortly after we get back on the trail.  The weather in Washington has been beautiful, and we are hoping for that trend to continue all the way through the beginning of October, when we expect to finish the trail.

On our first full day in Washington, we thought it would be fun to hike 27 miles and get into camp about an hour after dark.  Actually, it wasn’t really that fun.  We had to make it a big day in order to get to Trout Lake on time for our fourth and final parental rendez-vous.  Hiking in the dark is not our favorite activity, so we try to avoid it whenever possible.  Occasionally though, the only way to find a flat place to sleep is to put on our headlamps and plow on into the night.  We did find a great place to sleep eventually, and our extra hiking made the following two days a little bit shorter and less taxing.  The next day, we even managed to camp at a lake, which is a very rare occurrence!

Yesterday, we spent part of our morning hiking with a guy named Broken Toe, who is attempting to hike the PCT in 99 days.  To give you some perspective on what that means, we have been out here for approximately 130 days so far.  Even though Broken Toe is putting in 30 to 55 miles a day, we have somehow managed to keep him in our sights for about a week.  He popped up behind us on the trail and said, “wow, you hike fast!”  We laughed about this statement because in fact, we hike more slowly than just about every other thru hiker.  What we do have going for us, though, is consistency.  While some people cruise through 50 miles in a day and then spend three days living it up in Portland, we generally keep on trucking through our 20ish miles a day at a sustainable pace.  We sometimes call ourselves Team Tortoise because of this phenomenon where we keep running into the same people who zoom by us on the trail at alarming speeds.

Penny is helping Banana Ripper manage her foot pain by performing a "Laying on of Penguin."  It has been hugely successful.

Penny is helping Banana Ripper manage her foot pain by performing a “Laying on of Penguin.” It has been hugely successful.

Our first bit of Washingtonian magic came our way when we arrived at the road to Trout Lake yesterday afternoon.  We had heard that the road was not very well traveled and might be a hard place to find a ride into town.  As we neared the end of our hike, a fellow hiker caught up with us and said, “Alright people, let’s start putting out the good vibes.  We’re going to get a great ride, a free place to stay, and we’re gonna meet some kind of hippie guy with a huge sack of marijuana.”  We actually weren’t looking for a free place to stay or a hippie guy with a bag of marijuana, but we certainly got on board with the idea of putting out the good vibes.  When we got to the road, there was not a car in sight, but a minute later, before Banana Ripper even had time to rip off her shoes, a van came around the corner and stopped right in front of us.  A woman named Cat jumped out and said, “Trail angel, at your service.”  Take note:  Putting out the good vibes almost always leads to amazing encounters with wonderful people.

Hooray!

Hooray!

We are continuing to put out the good vibes as we work our way through the home stretch of this journey.  We are lucky to have been able to walk this far in good health, with good people supporting us along the way, and with mostly perfect weather.  All of the good energy that has carried us this far will surely be with us for another few weeks and another several hundred miles.  For now, we are refueling by spending two days sitting, sleeping, eating, chatting, and enjoying Anne and Gary’s company with an amazing view of the Columbia River.  Our plans include finding the local ice cream shop, swimming in the river, watching the windsurfers and kite boarders, and walking as little as possible.

Signs of support from wonderful people.

Signs of support from wonderful people.

Penny would like to let everyone know that she added some photos to her post, “Penny’s Pensive Pennings.”  Banana Ripper and Songbird would also like you to know that they added some photos to their most recent post, “Oregonian Magic.”  Finally, a computer with photo uploading capabilities!!  Enjoy.

Here are some bonus photos from Oregon that didn’t fit into the other posts.

Banana Ripper in front of Three Fingered Jack.

Banana Ripper in front of Three Fingered Jack.

Songbird in front of South Sister.

Songbird in front of South Sister.

Packing up in the shelter where we spent a cozy night.

Packing up in the shelter where we spent a cozy night.

The shelter even had a table with chairs for us to use at breakfast!

The shelter even had a table with chairs for us to use at breakfast!

Walking through a large burn area.  The bare trees allow for better views, although it can get a bit hot when there is no shade.

Walking through a large burn area. The bare trees allow for better views, although it can get a bit hot when there is no shade.

Team Banana Bird does Crater Lake.

Team Banana Bird does Crater Lake.

And here are some more videos for your viewing pleasure:

Penny and Banana Ripper in Washington: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ujNNPm4RNAU&feature=youtu.be

Dinner time: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lypSyO-kiwk&feature=youtu.be

Snack Time: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8aYmFj5i2fo&feature=youtu.be