(It’s probably a bit odd to post this before I finish telling about the Washington section, but I thought the beginning of this week would be a good place to give my general thoughts about Washington, instead of throwing it in as an afterthought after the border. So here goes.)
When I was 19, I visited Washington (my first state west of Kansas) and fell in love with its snow-capped mountains and moss-soaked forests. Since then, it’s held a special place in my heart as my favorite non-home state— and I was worried that the PCT would change my mind about it. In my imagination, the Washington section was a cold, wet, backbreaking up-and-down trail through nondescript woods interrupted only by clear-cuts. (I have no idea where I got this notion.) I was really nervous about it.
Instead, I now love Washington more than ever. It gave us vivid blue skies and mountains draped in green firs and red huckleberries and yellow larches. It gave us huge mushrooms and spooky forests where steam rose everywhere the sun touched. It gave us impossibly jagged mountains and dew-drenched pant legs and hours of gnawing adrenaline rushes, and tears and swearing and biting cold and weather so cool and sharp and autumnal that it felt like paradise. It gave us hundreds of miles of wilderness, and trail angels who bent over backward to help us keep moving forward. It gave us the sound of elk and the sight of bears. It gave us my favorite alpine lake, my favorite hikes, my favorite season. We hiked through Sierra-like beauty with full stomachs that allowed us to appreciate it, and we bought pastries and peanut butter with wild abandon. We cruised through the miles, even the severe climbs and descents, with iron-hard legs and a sense of elation, knowing that the border was growing ever closer.
In the end, that made Washington the most magical: we knew that we were going to make it. And that was an incredible feeling.