PCT Day 104-107 : The Great Journey Back To Oregon

July 17-20
(+8.2 bonus miles to Manning Park)

I wake up in Canada, to the faintest drizzle. I’m glad I made it to the border yesterday, arriving here in the rain today wouldn’t have been fun. I leave my tent to retrieve my stuff from the bear box and find a moose standing in the middle of the campsite. A moose! My first morning in Canada and I get to see a moose. It runs off, and when I’m ready to go, so do I.

It’s some 8 miles to Manning Park, which is a resort alongside a large highway, which has a store and a restaurant, and I’ll be able to hitch out from there, back to civilisation, ultimately back to the US. But first I need to get there. The trail is muddy and overgrown and dripping wet, and it doesn’t take long to get soaked.

It takes longer than expected, of course, but along the way I meet my first Canadians – two rangers on a little motorised vehicle who welcome me to their country. I meet them just after the trail improves, which gets me all the way to the lodge. It’s a little disorienting to be here, but I locate the reception where I sign the PCT book and then I head to the small café for breakfast. I’m the only hiker there. I sit and eat and wonder if any of these people would give me a ride to Vancouver.

When I’m finished I buy some snacks at the small store and ask for a piece of cardboard and a black marker to make a hitchhiking sign. I want people to know I’m a hiker, so I write ‘PCT hiker to Vancouver’, position myself on the right side of the road and hope for the best. Vancouver is some 2.5 hours away and honestly, I couldn’t imagine anyone wanting a stranger in their car for that long, so I’m prepared for this to take some time.

It takes about half an hour for a car to stop. One guy in inside, tattoos everywhere, his face a little drawn out and the car messy. He could be the best of guys but he also very stereotypically looks like he just got out of prison. I feel awkward about it but I know I wouldn’t be comfortable getting into his car, so I use my excuse for turning down rides for the first time – I thank him, but tell him I only get into a car if a woman’s inside. He doesn’t seem to take offence and rolls up the window to drive off, and then I smell the scent of weed emerging from the interior. I’m happy I turned him down now.

Ten minutes later I’m saved by the perfect hitch. A woman going all the way to Vancouver decides to pick me up. Her name is Marilyn, she’s in her sixties and doesn’t usually pick up hitchhikers at all. But she picked me up. She takes me to her neighbourhood mall where I take a metro downtown. Vancouver in one great hitch!

The next few days are a whirlwind. Suddenly I’m in a city, with people who smell a lot cleaner than me. I figure out my transportation back down to the trail in Oregon but it’s trickier than I’d thought. Buses and accommodation don’t really line up, so it’ll take a bit longer to get back. I’ll now be southbounding the remaining sections from Sisters. I think about how I originally wanted to hike the trail, and I remember writing some of this down on Day 39. My goals have changed a little –

Goal 1: Thruhike the PCT
Goal 2: Hike ALL of the PCT / Hike all the sections northbound / Finish in Canada
Goal 3: Just hike the bloody thing

I won’t be NoBo anymore, I won’t end in Canada, but I’m happy I get to continue, and that I’ll get to finish in the Sierras.

After a day in Vancouver I take the Greyhound back to Portland. When we get to the border everyone has to take their bags out again and walk through security and border control. I explain to the officer about the PCT and the high snow year, and that I’ll need to get back to Oregon and California to actually finish the trail. ‘That’s a huge undertaking,’ he says, then asks what I’ll do if I don’t make it before my flight out. I tell him I won’t have a choice but to come back another year, and then he asks if I’ve got a spare $7. Apparently, if you don’t already have the correct stamp in your passport to enter the US they charge a $7 fine, and this this case, he’s offering to stamp me for another 6 months, so I could definitely finish the trail. I just have to pay $7 for the stamp. I’m dumbfounded, I had no idea this was even possible, so I say yes, of course, this is amazing. I still intend on getting my original flight out, but if anything happens, I’ll be able to change it and finish anyways. I can’t believe it.

When I arrive in Portland all the rooms are booked up, so I end up staying at Sunshine’s again, and it’s great to be with a friend for a few days. She’s babysitting two bunnies which is even more perfect, because bunnies are just the cutest things alive. I try to replace some gear but somehow I fail completely – everything I’ve wanted is too specialised for the stores to actually carry, they don’t stock the colour I really want, or it’s only available online. I can’t even replace the shoes I’ve had for the past 1550 miles.

In the end it takes 4 days to get back down to the trail. I book the bus down to Redmond, but at the last minute decide not to board, so I can drive down with Sunshine instead, and we can spend a night camping together close to the trailhead. We leave Portland in the afternoon and find a camping spot not far from where I camped a month and a half ago, when I was going north from Santiam Pass. It feels like I’ve been off trail for weeks, not days. Tomorrow I’ll be back, and I’m looking forward to it.

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