Day 258: The end of the trail

Day:258

Direction: Southbound 

Trail location: 1954

Cumulative miles hiked 2019/2021: 2620

Cumulative miles hiked 2021: 623
Miles hiked today: 24.9
Elevation: 6051

High/low temp/humidity: 70/52/10

Spinning on the turntable: Yann Tiersen: EUSA

So here we are, you and I, on this last day of my thru-hike. Part of me wants to savor this moment, to split the post today into two or three posts, just to savor this moment for a bit longer. I’ve enjoyed writing and sharing with you, just as much as I’ve enjoyed hiking the PCT. So, even before we dig into the meat of the post today, thank you so very much for following along the past two and a half years. I hope you’ve enjoyed following along as much as we’ve enjoyed sharing with you.

I slept horrible last night. It’s crazy just how poorly I’ve slept on the trail this year. I’ve never been a deep sleeper when I backpack, but this year, ouch. It’s been horrid. This year my hips are bothering me and I wake up from them aching. I’ve tried to do some light/medium stretching at night before I retire to the tent. It helps some, but not a lot. Tylenol or ibuprofen hasn’t done much either. So I’d guess that I was up/awake every hour or so. Tossing and turning, really just waiting for 5:30AM to roll around so that I could start my day. The other hiker I met yesterday told me that he’s getting up between 4:00 and 4:30 every day. No thanks!

Having slept quite poorly, my decision today is how hard do I want to push it? Can I do 26 miles in a day? I think I’ve had a few 17 mile days this year, but I’ve not cracked the 20 mile threshold. We’ll see. It’s hard to predict trail conditions. If it’s a decent trail, I should be able to wrap this up. If it’s a crappy trail, 26 might be a stretch.

Starting with a hill climb

I wish that I could say that I bounded up the hill with vigor, enthusiasm and grace. I demonstrated none of these three characteristics, but I still made it to the top of my last (significant) hill climb on the PCT.

I was happy to make it to the top of the mountain, and happier that I’d soon be headed downhill. Enough of this hill climbing business. Time to hustle and make it into town with enough time to spare to snag a hamburger.

The downhill trail was pretty relaxed for the first mile or so, but then sagebrush and other sharp, pokey, jabby bushes started appearing and extending their tendril’ous instruments of torture out onto the trail. Wearing running shorts, I have no leg protection from foliage that wants to scratch the skin off my legs. There was an awful lot of cussing….I tried stepping on the bushes that were in the trail, but I still ended up with scratched legs. Ditto for stepping around the bushes, and ditto for walking off the trail to go around the bushes. In the end, I just forced my way through and expressed my irritation in the most colorful and profane terms.

I met a herd of cows. They were a bit skittish. Guess there’s not too many hikers traveling through this section right now.

I did stop and try to talk with the cows, but learned that they weren’t cows of faith. I offered them a “peace be with you” and they all ran away. Literally, they ALL immediately ran away. Guess I was in the Baptist cow section. About a quarter mile later I tried it again. This time the cows were receptive to my sign of peace and didn’t run away. Whew. I wonder if they sense that I want to eat their brother or sister for my dinner…

I stopped here for lunch and to evaluate continuing on for the day. I’m at the 12 mile mark. If I want to continue I need to bang out another 14 miles. It’s about noon. Two miles per hour will put me into KMS around 7PM…The general store, with burgers, closes at 6PM. I think I’ll try anyway. A burger, and a good nights sleep, sounds divine. Maybe I’ll get lucky on the store closure time!

I was chatting with a 60’ish couple that was heading North. I was a bit concerned at how much water they were loading up. I’m guessing that they had three gallons between them. I told them about the water sources I found that weren’t listed on Guthook in hopes of them dropping a little water. Turned out they were hiking another two miles and calling it a day. It sounded like they hike about 5-7 miles a day. They have two cars and do a relay run every time they come off trail. I’ve met a few other hikers like this as well. It’s a serious dedication to backpacking.

There’s definitely a feeling of the changing of the seasons in the air. It’s warm, but it’s not hot like it was when I started hiking in July. Plants are dying back and flowers are transitioning into shades of fall colors.

I filled up on water at the bridge, but I was on the lookout for a fresh water spring in hopes of getting fresh cold water…yet somehow I managed to miss the spring by .1 of a mile. I was too lazy to turn around and go back and look for it. I’ve found that the signage on the trail is heavily geared towards North bound hikers. Or maybe I just missed the sign. Don’t know, don’t care at this point.

The afternoon trail, the trail itself, down to KMS, just drove me batty. At times on the trail my impression is that the trail itself, the direction of the trail, the locations that the trail “goes to and from” has been designed by a kindergartner with a Crayon. Seriously.

I was looking down into the valley that I was about to descend into and I could see the trail rolling around on one side of the canyon, meandering back to the other side of the canyon, lollygagging back towards the center of the canyon, only to start the process all over again, kind of like this sentence. I swear, an angry kindergartner laid out this section of the trail. Oh a side note, I spoke with another hiker who had come through this exact section and he was just as annoyed as I was. Seriously! I was also aware that I was hiking “down” and feeling peevish, but if I was hiking “up” I’d be downright hostile.

I expected the trek down the final hill would take me about two or three hours, instead it took me about four hours. Bye bye burger and fries!

As I plodded into Kennedy Meadows Campground, I was surprised to see a PCTA log book. I haven’t seen a trail registry in a few hundred miles. The last one I recall seeing was at mile 1325. So it’s been awhile. Anyway, it was fitting to sign our names into the log book one last time.

Exiting the campground I had about another two miles to hike before reaching my trail termination. I wasn’t really sure what I should be thinking about. SO many folks share how life changing the trail has been for them. I tried to think deep thoughts, I really did. It didn’t work.

Since the deep thoughts weren’t coming to me, I instead decided to meditate on you dear reader. For those that have commented on the blog, for those that have followed along with emails, for those that traveled with us in spirit, for those that gave us shelter, I meditated on your peace, your health and your happiness. If I knew your name, I used it. If I didn’t know your name, I tried to throw out good vibes to you anyway.

Any then, almost as soon as it started, it was all over. It was a day, just like any other day, but on this day, I completed my thru-hike of the PCT. According to the PCTA: “You’ve accomplished something extraordinary—the physical and mental determination to walk or ride your horse for months along the lofty spine of the American West. We salute you! And we welcome you to one of the most unique alumni communities in the world—one you’ll be a part of for a lifetime.

I was thrilled that Noelle had hung onto Marmot/Sloth’s whiskey shot finishers gift to us from 2019. I drank it today as I finished the trail. I freaking love the full circle.

If you were a student of our PCT adventure, you know that I really appreciate when things come full circle. Today, as you read this, is a important day in my own PCT history. Two years ago today I hit the Canadian border. Today, two full years later, you’re reading about the conclusion of my hike. Full circle. Full stop. I can’t help but smile.

Which brings me back to you, dear reader. Thank you for you your support, kindness, comments, .txt messages and open hearts (and homes) the past few years. I had expectations of how I thought folks would react to our adventure. I didn’t, not for a single moment, expect that so many folks that we had never met would be so kind to us. Thank you. You became our tramily and hiked along side us on our journey.

When I’m dead and gone my obit will read:
Toboggan
19XX-20XX
Husband, Father, Brother
PCT Thru-hiker

See you on the Trail!

24 Comments

  1. Ian

    Congrats! The obit is awesome.

    Reply
  2. Lynn

    Congrats on completing your hike and thanks for taking us along. Can’t wait to see what’s next!

    Reply
    • mcgarveysan

      Thank you for following along! We can’t wait to see what’s next either!

      Reply
  3. Thunder Tahnee Gomez

    Following along with you intermittently has brought us so much joy. On this last blog the honesty of wanting to think deep thoughts but nothing coming is a feeling i (Thunder) can relate to on most days of my life. You guys have taught me and Tahnee so many things about life but this 2 year journey has taught us that sometimes you must stop and pick things back up. I would think the old timers were full of shit when they said “its the journey not the destination” but you’ve taught us what i (Thunder) was too stubborn to learn. Thanks so much for sharing this journey with us. We promise a very celebratory dinner next time you pass through Denver with libations of your choice. Cheers mates!!

    Reply
    • mcgarveysan

      The hiking this year was important to me as I sought to “close a loop”. So many “things” in my life and career have been completed to a 90-95% status. Completed to a “good enough” status. This year was about completing, to 100%, something that was important to me. I can’t believe that I did it, yet I also CAN believe that I did it! (Throws back head and howls!) You know my libation of choice and I’ll be darn happy collect on that generous offer sometime in October.

      I was so touched when you reached out and offered to backpack with me in Washington 2019. The details didn’t line up, but I do remember your kind offer.

      Cheers to the two of you!

      Reply
  4. Marilyn & Clive

    Final hiking post as intense as the first. I could feel the spiny spikes and then the exhilaration that final push to finish! Congratulations to both of you! Thank you for sharing the journey and the insights into being on your own.

    Reply
    • mcgarveysan

      That’s great! I’m SO happy to hear that the intensity of ending the trail (or reading about it) was the same as the intensity when I started the trail.
      Some questions have been answered; can I do this, will I enjoy this, will anyone care, why did I quit my job. Other questions haven’t been answered; What will I do after this, how will I earn a living, is this career suicide. The unanswered questions remain to be answered, but their importance to me has diminished dramatically.

      Reply
  5. David Odell

    Congratulations on finishing your PCT hike. Enjoyed your excellent journal. David Odell. AT71 PCT72 CDT77

    Reply
    • mcgarveysan

      Whoa David! This is an unusual signing of a triple crown’er! A triple crown from a time frame when it took a serious, hardcore badass to complete these trails.
      Hats off to YOU! Thanks for following along.

      (I may have found myself pondering the CDT (again) the day after I finished this thru-hike. I decided to not think about it too much until I could walk without hobbling!)

      Reply
  6. Stacey

    Thanks for the inspiration. Who would have thought, a few years ago, that you’d be here today?!? Can’t wait to see what’s next for you two.

    Reply
    • mcgarveysan

      I know!!! Who would have thought it possible?!? Yet, here we are!

      Reply
  7. Heidi Halverson

    In a word WOW. Fun to read. Super inspirational. So are you going to publish the blog as a book? Simon and Schuster? I think it would be good. Do you guys have Venmo? I’d like to donate $ to a charity of your choice. Sort of a payback for the entertainment and the inspiration. I Venmo you the money. You do what you want with it. Buy some trail magic, get drunk, cure cancer, stop the pandemic, whatever. You deserve it.

    Reply
    • mcgarveysan

      Well, damn, if you’re going to give us enough funding to cure cancer, we’ll definitely send you our Venmo info.

      As far as writing a book; I’ve thought about it. A lot. I’m not sure that I have “enough” of a unique story to share to make it interesting enough for a publisher to want to publish it, let alone someone else to buy it.

      I read a few trail books in the years leading up to our hike, but I stopped reading them once we made a decision to hike the trail. I wanted to have my own experience that wasn’t influenced by someone else’s words. I wanted to share my daily “stuff” without having any idea how others shared their daily “stuff”.

      Now that I’m done with the hike, the thought of reading someone else’s prose about the trail is both intriguing and yawn inducing to me. I may read someones work and think “oh, you suck, I can do it better!” or I may read someone else’s work and be like “Damn, that lady can write, I can’t hold a candle to that!”

      So I’m oscillating. I was listening to an author talk about his PCT book, and I was like, “dang, that’s a character driven book”. As a solo hiker, and a slow one at that, my cast of characters is pretty slim.

      Thanks for following along!

      Reply
      • mcgarveysan

        Venmo is @Noelle-McGarvey. Thanks!

  8. Dan

    The end of the expedition for you, Noelle and Cupcake– Congratulations!
    26 miles in one day – a veritable backpacking ‘marathon’. I figured you’d do it in the 15 and 11 you were talking about and finish tomorrow. Hope that burger is/was everything you were hoping for.
    The photos and postings on your journey log are so great – you feel like you are there.
    Forgot to mention that yesterday’s photo (257) is the very definition of grizzled & scruffy. Well done.
    Also, (Big) Whitney Meadows, west of the trail sign (#256) in the direction of the “Rock Creek 1.6 miles” with no trees is no place to be in a lightning storm, esp carrying a backpack with aluminum framing. One bolt hit about 100 yards from where our troop was snaking across the meadow- probably the closest I’ve ever come to being hit.
    Did you get lightning storms the last month or two?

    Reply
    • mcgarveysan

      I’m glad that you had a real feel for being on the trail with me as I hiked. That was my goal.
      I’m thankful that I didn’t have to deal with any lightning storms during my trek. I was fairly regimented in hiking “up” in the morning and then coming “down” in the early afternoon, specifically to avoid summer storms. I heard thunder a few times and hiked through the rain a few times, but thankfully, no lightning. Lightning striking close to me, like it came close to you, might just be enough for me to hike myself right off the trail!

      Reply
  9. Karen Huck

    I have loved reading your tales of PCT. Thanks for the ride. When I walked 60 miles in 3 days I was elated when I finished, I mean elated. I hope you are mucho elated! You should be.
    New journeys to come, whatever they are hope you two write about them.
    Congrats! Shoe shots and all! Karen Huck

    Reply
    • mcgarveysan

      I think it’s safe to say that more shoe shots are in my future. Just not sure what kind of shoes I’ll be wearing when I take the shot!

      Reply
  10. Matt

    Congratulations on completing this amazing feat. It was fun tagging along with you.

    Reply
  11. Grapthar’s Vise Grips (by Grapthar’s Hammer)

    VFat & Snickers are proud, mighty proud indeed!

    But you and the hot chick did all the work. Love you guys, and congratulations on your achievement. Hadn’t realized it was the same day as Canada. Almost…like…you…planned…it? And if not you, then Somebody did.

    Funny how things work out. You giant, skinny, long-legged ginger fuzzball. Urgent burger!

    Reply
    • mcgarveysan

      No, I hadn’t actually planned it. That’s what I love so much about full (unintended) circles!
      I’ve been salivating at the thought of a good, greasy burger for months. A burger so greasy and unhealthy my doctor would slap me for just looking at it!
      You two though, you traveled with me the entire trail, even if you weren’t there in person.

      Reply
  12. Colleen

    You brought me close to tears. Seriously! I’m so glad that you were able to complete the whole damn thing! Cheers and May you be happy. May you be healthy. May you live in peace.

    Reply
    • mcgarveysan

      Thank you! I’ll continue to seek health, happiness and peace.

      Reply

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