PCT 2019: Day 57, Castle Pass to Northern Terminus to Woody Pass

Well, I'm southbound, baby

Starting where we began hiking the day before yesterday, the PCT is 29.4 miles to the northern terminus. In order to hike all of the PCT, which I intend to do, I have to hike those miles twice.

I’m not going to complain about repeating those miles, though. This section of the trail has been wonderful. Retracing my steps today and tomorrow only means I get to see the same views from a different perspective.

DateTuesday, July 2, 2019
WeatherCloudy and chilly, with an occasional light mist, late thunderstorm with hail
Trail ConditionsOvergrown with several blowdowns to the border, then a long climb
Today's Miles14.7
Trip Miles747.5

As planned, Ralph and I left our tents set up in camp when we started hiking shortly before 6 a.m. We did that so we could leave some gear behind to save weight. In all, we had just under seven miles to hike to the border and back, but with lighter packs, we could go faster.

That was the plan, anyway. Because of trail conditions and the number of photos I took, I don't think we saved any time.

We had been warned by other hikers that the trail was overgrown and wet, so I wore wind pants over my shorts.

The warnings were correct and I was glad I did.

Making matters worse, there were several blowdowns in this section to the border. They slowed us down enough that this became my one regret for doing this section twice.

One mile away from the border was a message written in rocks, “1 mi. to go.” The words were true going northbound, but of course not southbound.

Then again, every marker like this that I pass from now on won't apply to me because of the 703 miles I already hiked in the desert.

With less than two-tenths of a mile to go, I could tell I was close to the border. I saw in the distance a straight gap in the trees. This wasn’t for a power line. It was a cut made to mark the border.

There wasn’t a fence like there is at the Mexican border, but the location of the Canadian border was unmistakable.

No one was at the border when we arrived, though a couple of hikers appeared a short time later.

There was no big celebration like there will be when northbound thru-hikers arrive here. Most of them, if they first manage to get through the Sierra and other snowy sections, will not arrive here until September or October.

Ralph and I took photos at the monument that stood at the border. It was identical to the one I stood next to on March 24.

Then, illegal or not, I took a step into Canada. In truth, it was entirely legal for me to walk into Canada because I was carrying the permit I obtained when I first began planning my hike. It was only illegal for me to walk back into the U.S.

I’m hoping my infraction will be overlooked because I only took a couple steps before turning around.

For now and the foreseeable future, I will be a southbound hiker.

On the way back to Castle Pass, where we left our tents, I was able to spend more time looking at flowers. There were many along the way, including Canadian bunchberries. I couldn’t tell if they were legal immigrants.

Later in the year, they will produce bright red berries.

Scattered among the bunchberry flowers were heartleaf arnica. The flower has been used for medicinal purposes in many countries, often in a tea, and reportedly has been combined with ocher and bird feathers to make a love potion.

There were also many columbine flowers.

Seeing and photographing all of these flowers was slowing me down more than the blowdowns over the trail.

Another flower I saw now that I had not noticed on the northbound trip was queen’s cup. It’s also called bead lily and bride's bonnet, and is a member of the lily family.

I had to take a photo of one more wildflower before turning my attention back to the trail. It was a Columbia tiger lily. Native Americans used the bulb of this plant as a peppery seasoning, but today it’s so popular many people plant them in their gardens.

When we finally reached our campsite, we ate breakfast and took down our tents.

As we were preparing to leave, two hikers arrived. Rook had a trail name from her AT hike a few years ago. Erin didn’t yet have a trail name. They thought about camping here, but intended to hike on to the monument first before deciding.

Ralph and I began hiking again at 11:15 a.m.

I knew yesterday when we descended from the high point at 7,117 feet we would now have to go back up to that same elevation. From the border, the climb was a total of 2,870 feet.

Except for the last mile, however, it wasn’t steep.

There were more flowers to see, of course, including lupines. I had seen a lot of these in the desert.

The sky remained overcast throughout the day. There had been a little drizzle early, but now the weather was just cold and a little breezy.

Despite the temperature, staying warm wasn’t a problem because of the continuous climb we had to make.

The clouds didn’t hinder our views, either.

I still marveled at seeing wildflowers on the return trip that I had failed to notice the first time. One was the bush penstemon.

Did I fail to see them yesterday because the weather was so nice and I focused more on the distant views? Perhaps, but this was an enjoyable experience, thanks to the return trip.

Hiking down Devil’s Staircase yesterday wasn’t especially noteworthy, but going up it today was much different. The climb was steep.

We also had barely paid attention to patches of snow we crossed yesterday, but today we needed to be more careful. The snow wasn’t different, but it was easier to slip going up. Each step required digging in for better footing.

When we finished the long climb we stopped for a late lunch. While we were there, we met some other hikers who, like me, had flipped north after completing the desert. Their names were Gigs, Animal and Red Vine.

There was a steady stream of hikers after that. Someone said about 50 left yesterday from Hart’s Pass. We were now meeting many of them.

After seeing places to camp yesterday on our northbound hike, we thought Woody Pass would be a good place to stop today. Seeing all of the hikers streaming north, though, made us wonder if there would be any space for us when we got there.

We arrived at the pass at 4:30 p.m., and thankfully, there was room for us.

This was especially good timing because of the weather. The sky looked clear east and south, but from our vantage spot at 6,649 feet, we could tell clouds were moving in from the west and north.

We were joined at our campsite by a hiker named Boogeyman, who was just starting out on a thru-hike attempt. He was exhausted and didn’t have much to say during dinner, then went to bed early.

By 6 p.m. the weather began to change noticeably. It turned colder and more breezy. Thick, low clouds rolled in over us.

I was in my tent by 6:30. A light rain began to fall two hours later, and within fifteen minutes it became a full-on thunderstorm with heavy rain and hail.

Light rain resumed later, but surprisingly, my tent didn’t leak nearly as much as it had two nights ago.

Well, I'm southbound
Lord, I'm comin' home to you.
Well, I'm southbound, baby
Lord, I'm comin' home to you.
I got that old lonesome feelin’ 
That's sometimes called the blues

From “Southbound” by Dickey Betts (Allman Brothers Band)


"Nothing to tell now. Let the words be yours, I'm done with mine."ref.