From below Tamarack Peak to Hopkins Lake
It was cold last night – it’s chilly this morning, with the sharp bite of fall that has been with us for the last few weeks. I crawl out of the tarp to get some water from the frigid stream nearby, and emerge into an incandescent morning. I’m so full of happiness I might just burst open.
Seahawk and Bumblebee took off at first light. They are meeting a friend of Bee’s on the other side of the border, and want to get to the monument by early tomorrow. I hope we see them there, but I doubt it. For ourselves, we pack up leisurely, Dirtnap, Biscuit, and me. This is the last whole day on the PCT.
It walks like a dream – drifting between sun and shadow, the mountains looking more real than anything I’ve ever seen. We spend a little time in the forest, but most of the day we walk in that space on the tops of the mountains – a sliver of space that’s neither earth nor sky, really, but the floating merging of the two. The mountains are real, but I feel like a dream. I walk through the world and feel totally free.
We run into Mowgli, another hiker walking back to Hart’s Pass from the monument. Twenty miles from the end, and still a new person to meet every day. We tell Mowgli to watch out for Switch, to tell her that we’ll be waiting for her at the monument.
Biscuit talks as we walk, but I am mostly quiet. I feel quiet inside – the quiet that comes from deep contentment, from being in the right place at the right time, from knowing that my partner is walking beside me, from knowing I am in the tops of the mountains, that I am powerful and free and lucky. I know that this could have been otherwise. I think a lot about what I’ve gotten out of this, what I’ve learned. Mostly just stuff about myself. The PCT is a kind place. It’s good for your soul.
After a day of undescribable beauty, the three of us come down off the ridgetop to the tiny, glass-like Hopkins Lake. It’s hard to not think about this being the last night. This is it.
The three of us are nearly settled in for the night – it’s already dark – when we hear some people coming. Switch? Is it Switch?
No! Three dudes cruise into camp, rambunctious, loud, unsettling. It’s ‘Merica, Snake Charmer, and Ambassador. I’ve heard of Snake Charmer and Ambassador, but ‘Merica has been crossing paths with us since nearly the very beginning. He drives me crazy nearly every time. I deeply resent their presence here tonight, loud and disruptive, but in a way it is fitting. He would be here. Life is how it is, not how I want it to be. Besides, although I like to dislike him, he makes it difficult. Although his style of PCT hiking couldn’t be more different from mine, he also knows the woods, and the mushrooms, and I’ve seen him more than once take a break from hiking just to read a book in the woods on a beautiful day. Doesn’t mean I’m not still irritated. Freaking dude-bros.
The ease and simplicity of the day are nearly over. The last day is over. Tomorrow I will re-enter my life, life after the PCT, which will not be simple. Tonight, I have one more night inside the blue tarp, and my purple-and-teal sleeping quilt, snuggled up next to J. One more night.
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