What an amazing and God inspired journey these past five months have been! Hiking in Washington is everything people say it is, beautiful but wet! There’s a saying we have where I am from, ” if you don’t like the weather in Tahoe, wait five minutes”. In Washington, if you don’t like the weather, too bad! It is what it is. If it’s not raining, it’s sleeting. If it’s not sleeting, it’s snowing. I must admit that I had a day or two of partially clear skies and one day that it was outright hot, but the remainder of my hike in Washington was cold and wet.
Rainer National Park was stunning. I remained in White Pass waiting for the weather to become more stable, but that wasn’t occurring. Even though the tempatures were low, the scenery made up for it. It was Labor Day weekend so many day hikers were on the trail until the climbing set in. There are many lakes tucked away in magnificent basins with birds waiting for a free meal. I was hiking with a larger group of people when I left White Pass including a gal from Australia named Hummingbird and a guy from Colorado who went by the name of Ladies Man. When we stopped for lunch, Ladies Man began feeding the gray jays. It was as if they knew what to do. They swooped down and plucked bread from his hand in mid air. It was quite entertaining to watch.
We carried on and as the day was progressing, it was obvious that another storm was brewing. Before long, large snowflakes were falling and my plans for a 20 mile day changed quickly. There were five of us bidding for the same cluster of trees to pitch our tents. Prior to our site, we had to fetch water from a nearly frozen spring and scoop our water from a small seeping puddle. Oh the joys of thru-hiking! As the snow was virtually covering the trail, we all gathered water, then beat feet to camp. On the way, Ladies Man and I chatted about my faith and his view of the universe. He is scientifically minded and not convinced that there is one God who created the heavens and the earth. It broke my heart to hear an incredibly caring man confess that he does not have a belief in our Heavenly Father. I shared with him my faith, my love for Jesus Christ and my strong belief in everlasting life. I understand that not everyone is ready, right now to accept our personal savior but we never know when and where hearts will be changed. All we can do is plant seeds and trust in God to do the rest. Five of us pitched our tents in the trees that afternoon while another seven squeezed in. When the weather changes, you can always find room for a few more hikers. We woke up to a couple of inches of snow on the ground and frozen tent zippers!
The next few days were stormy and gray. Fortunately there was a nice cabin that can be used as an emergency shelter. On my way, trail Angels had set up a canvas tent with a propane heater, double burgers and hot dogs, chocolate cake and real brewed coffee! Honestly, it is all about the calories you can consume and it most definitely helps to keep you warmer. The shelter was warm and dry. There was a young man who stopped by and evidentially he helped to build the cabin twenty years ago. He told stories of the area, pointed out the meadow that housed a herd of elk and called the resident mouse by name. One thing I can say about Washington is that there is no shortage of mice. The logbook inside the cabin also warned of the mice so I securely hung my pack and food on a hook up against the wall. When I woke up the next morning, my last pieces of seeded bread had been devoured. That mouse is an acrobat. Somehow he climbed the wall, hung upside down from the hook and ate my bread! Nothing is safe in a house of mice!
As I proceeded through the northern parts of the trail, the mountains became more rugged and craggy. Heading into Snoqualamie, it had been rainy, foggy, misty and just plain cold! I have heard that there is no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothing! I have the nicest waterproof jacket, alpine pants, fleece hat, neoprene gloves, plastic bags on my feet which are securely tucked inside my trail runners, and darn it, I’m still wet & cold! I planned to stop at the Summit Inn to dry out before my last big push for the Canadian border. As I was marching through the mud puddles and ruts, I attempted to sidestep a ravine that was obviously filled with muck. Silly me, slipped and fell sideways into the muddy hillside and arouse looking more like sasquatch than a thru-hiker! As I saundered into the Summit Inn, I was greeted by many of my trail friends who had taken showers, were all spruced up and I just wanted to hide my filthy self! They all laughed as I entered, knowing they looked the same as I and agreed, that the mud would wash off! After bathing, laundering, drying my gear, I was in much better spirits. One last push, and I would be at Monument 78.
The best is always saved for the last. Washington is no different. When the clouds lift, and the mountains are revealed, it truly is the most stunning section of the entire PCT. I have never seen such beauty! Each corner reveals a different peak, another pass, an incredible view of Gods workmanship. With the weather changing drastically, the previous fire closures were lifted and the remainder of us thru-hikers were cleared to continue north.
North of Stevens Pass is revered as the most scenic section of all. I wish there were words to describe the magesty that I saw my last days on the trail. All I can say is that it brought me to tears daily. When I looked around, the colors were so intoxicating. The reds were every shade from burgandy to crimson, oranges that were colors of peaches and nectarines, vivid greens and yellows, with purple and lavender mountains. I feel that when you stand on this trail of trails, and experience the amazing and overwhelming beauty, then will you truely see God’s glory!
Something about Washington is utterly peaceful. There were days on the trail during that last weeks that if I saw one person a day, they were celebrated! It seems like everything is without sound. The birds are quieter, the grouse don’t cluck as much, even the chickmunks gather their pine cones silently. I turned off my iPod for the final week and just took in everything in this vast and beautiful wonderland. All I heard were my footsteps underway or my hiking stick occasionally hitting a rock or the aspen tree leaves quaking or the wind blowing before the snowflakes fell on my tent walls. God has such a way to get my attention. He knew our time on the trail was coming to an end but wanted all that He created to be admired! And it was. No distractions, no idle conversations with others, just me and Jesus walking hand in hand. On my last days, I was told of another impending storm. At this point – bring it on. There’s nothing that can keep me from finishing these last hundred miles.
On my last morning, I woke up to a couple of inches of fresh snow. Once again, God blessed me with his wondrous art and beautiful landscape! I am so amazed by this trail, my journey and Gods unending love. As I hiked the final miles, the last five months rewinded in my mind. The desert lizards and snakes that were living amongst a plethora of desert flowers, climbing the countless passes in the Sierra’s only to find another pass that was higher and bigger, the never ending state of California with Mount Shasta forever in view, the Oregonian forests that were so lush and green yet obscured by smoke which seemed to follow me relentlessly, and the final culmination of ending in the Cascades and all its beauty! If I could sum this trail up in two words, I would have to say it is “God’s best!” Nothing was left to chance, no Big Bang occurred! God created this beautiful place for us to live, admire and explore He wanted us to understand how deep his love is, how wide and long this road we travel together and how far he will go to keep us safe, even in the most desolate of places.
Yes, after five months and five days on September 15th at 5:00pm, Jesus and I made it to Monument 78, the northern terminus of the PCT. So the lessons learned while I have been on the trail have been many but the amazing transformation of my heart has been the greatest. God has showed me love from day one, with the people I have met and the generosity of their hearts. He has given me more joy than I have ever experienced in my lifetime from the small creatures that accompany me in my tent at night to the sunrise and sunsets he paints for me daily. The utmost peace that has blanketed me during these past month have profoundly changed me. The patience I have learned especially with myself is nothing short of a miracle! I am capable and strong and I am allowed to be slower than others. God has designed me perfectly, just the way He envisioned me to be. Kindness and goodness is everywhere. In the hikers that have blessed me, to the trail Angels that have fed me, to my many friends who have supported me, to my family who believed in me from the beginning. God has been ever so faithful to me. And I to him. We commune together daily, we walked many miles hand in hand and He we never left each other. I think of the many hiking partners I had during the past five months. Each and every one of them left the trail for one reason or another but Jesus stayed the course. When it got tough, he encouraged me to go a bit further. When my pack overburdened me, he lightened my load. When I was scared at night, he comforted me. I couldn’t have had a more faithful and true hiking partner. I learn gentleness from a lifetime of living. There were many times I was able to comfort others, share a word of encouragement or just offer a hug when needed. But self-control was a lesson learned over and over again. I was taught to trust in my abilities, to not over analyze the upcoming days and to live in the moment. Yesterday teaches us, tomorrow we can dream about, but today is really all that truly matters!
I pray that during my journey that I may have encouraged you to pursue your dreams, to never doubt yourself and to know, that no matter what comes your way, you always have Jesus Christ to lean on, to love and to trust. He made it with me every step of the way and I know that He is waiting to take a journey with you. May God protect you and keep you safe and may the fruit of the spirit be with you always!