Liquid Sunshine

Date: 9/23/16

Miles: 21.1
Total Miles: 2619.5

Well, it started out promising anyway. Bright stars and the Milky Way had illuminated the night sky as I cinched up the sleeping bag around me last night, and although a layer of clouds had moved into the valley below us by morning, the red flare of the rising sun seemed to be a harbinger of another nice day in the North Cascades.

But that wasn’t quite the way it turned out. Cresting Methow Pass, you could see an even thicker cloud settled into the valley we’d now be descending into. Before we’d gotten very far, we passed the last of the major mile markers: the 2600-mile mark. The only milestone that remains is the US/Canada border and the northern terminus.

After snapping a photo and continuing down the trail, it was only moments before it began, first as sleet and then by pure rain as we dropped in elevation. Our 13th day of liquid sunshine in Washigton was now well under way. Fortunately, although it was yet again perhaps a high of 40 degrees, the rains today would come and go, at least giving us a chance to catch a dry breath before the next round would come. Climbing up into the clouds and then dipping down just beneath them, the pattern repeated all throughout the day, the cold drizzle a nearly constant companion. Of the few highlights on such a cloudy, wet day was this little guy: a pika who was friendly enough to let me snap a photo from only a few feet away.

It was discouraging to know that we were missing out on so many of the endless views we might otherwise have from the trail as it ridge-walked at around 7000 feet, but there was still beauty to be found in the few more brightly-colored larch trees that stood defiantly against the gray backdrop of the cloudscape.

By day’s end, we’d reached Harts Pass, the very last road crossing before Canada, and a remote dirt road at that. Having been here with Emily and our friends Jason and Julie for a trip last summer, it felt natural to think back on how I looked forward to this very moment, imagining what it might feel like to have gotten to this point of the trail, only 30 miles from the end, and what I might have enjoyed and endured to get there. It’s hard to know now exactly how I ought to feel with only one full day and night remaining before I finally reach the border, and I doubt I’ll know how to feel even as the moment nears closer. Nevertheless, my excitement is beginning to build. Sadness over the final chapter of the trail, of course, but happiness at knowing that Emily and my home await me when it all comes to an end.

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