The End… for now

October 13, 2011 § 5 Comments

Cascade Locks to Trout Lake – 68 miles 4 days Total: 2223 miles 181 days + 22 zero days

And the rain fell upon the earth for forty days and forty nights. Oh, sorry, that’s another story 😉 The day we stepped into Washington it rained the whole day and the whole night. The next morning it was still raining. We packed a completely drenched tent, resisted the temptation to head back to Cascade Locks and pushed on north. After the lunch break we were that close to quitting. My throat was tight with tears at the thought that it was over. We were cold. Our shoes were soaked. Despite the raincover, the backpacks were getting wet, all we could do was hope the waterproof bags inside were holding better. There was no way the tent was going to dry during the day.

“Just walk and it’s gonna be ok.” It started as a joke many miles ago, we would say this whenever there was an issue on the trail but it became true along the way. So we walked and it got better. We warmed up, the rain eventually stopped (for that day at least…) and it wasn’t so bad to set up a wet tent at camp that night. It wasn’t over yet.

But then we learnt that several hikers had gotten caught in a snow storm in the Goat Rocks Wilderness a few days ago. We had already heard that another hiker had gotten lost in a whiteout in the same area a week ago. We were heading that way, it was at higher altitude so it was probably snowing up there and more snow storms were predicted. Snow on the ground is one thing, we can deal with that, we did in the Sierras, but a snow storm is different. It seemed unsafe to still be out there. There is crazy and there is stupid. We do crazy (obviously!) but we don’t do stupid. Our dad taught us better about the mountains than to run head first in a snow storm so we could hike about 450 more miles and reach the arbitrary number of 2650 miles. We were told Washington was a succession of amazing views, the next scenery more beautiful than the previous one. What was the point of hiking it in a white mist?

We struggled to take a decision. It was hard, there were tears. We really wanted to get to Canada. It was tough to let go and come to terms with the fact that we were not gonna make it. But we made the wise choice, we left the trail at the next road. I think we grew up more by having to take that decision than during 5 months on the trail.

We had been telling section hikers we met that they were doing it the smart way. Well, we have become section hikers. And man, what a section! 2223 miles. But we really lived it as a thru-hike and that’s the good thing, we’ll get the best of both worlds, because when we’ll be back to hike those last 500 miles, it’ll really be as smart section hikers, we’ll be able to take the time.

Because we’ll be back. This is the end for now. We are not done yet. We’ll hike to Canada some day. A song from the band Carrousel has been the hymn of our PCT since our first steps on the trail. We would sing it when we felt good and when it was hard, to give us courage. It fits now maybe more than ever. The lyrics say: “On y arrivera quand même. Demain, une autre fois.” [We will make it anyway. Tomorrow, another time]. And more importantly: “Peu importe où ça nous mène…” [No matter where it leads us…]

We are happy. It has been an amazing experience. We have met extraordinary people, shared incredible moments and seen the most beautiful things. It’s the end but it’s also the beginning of the next adventure. We are looking forward to going home and hugging family and friends. We are not walking any more miles, at last we can rest.

We are proud. We have walked a hell of a long way! There has been more good times than bad times, but it has been hard work. We usually woke up between 6-7am and didn’t set up camp before 6-7pm. We have dedicated most of our time to the trail; in 5 months we have only read a single book! Leaving the mexican border we never thought that we would be able to walk 27 miles in a day (a marathon is 26.2 miles…). For the last 5 months we have woken up with swollen feet and have hurt every day. We have dealt with and overcome the many challenges of the trail: the heat, the lack of water, the boringness of the desert, the snow, the river crossings, the logistics of resupply, the occasional tension between sisters, the pain… Modesty is a quality but knowing your true worth is as well and I think we have earned the right to say, without sounding too boastful: THE SWISTERS ROCK!!!!!

We are wiser. We haven’t found God and the meaning of life hasn’t been revealed to us. No, it’s the little things of life that everybody knows deep down but tends to forget that the trail reminded us. Take the time. You are great. Look beyond first impressions. Listen to yourself. If I quit does it mean I failed? Live the questions…

We are sad. We couldn’t make it to Canada. It’s the end. It’s time to say goodbye. When we could. We never got the chance to say goodbye to a lot of the amazing people we met. We would give anything to hike one more time in the golden glow of the evening light, to spend one more night around the fire with the guys, to get out of the tent one morning and stand face to face with a young buck, to hear a familiar voice hail: “Hey, Swisters!”, to stand on top of a pass in the Sierras and feel tall as we stand on top of the world and be humbled at the same time by the world’s immensity…

The trail has changed us. We have changed to adapt to the trail. Our eyes have been trained to spot the next trail marker or to identify the trail after its disappearance under a snow patch. We can set up and fold our tent with our eyes closed. We sleep like a baby in our tent but can’t seem to find sleep in a bed. The way our gear fits in our backpacks has been optimised over 5 months, every item has its place. After 5 days on the trail we start to think that maybe we need a shower. We think names like Good Karma, Wolfpack, Scarecrow, Mufasa and so on are perfectly valid names for people. We have become calories freak, checking the numbers on every food packaging looking for the best ratio: the most calories for the less weight. We have experimented and learnt by trial and error that not all food can be stored in a ziploc bag. We think the only proper instrument to eat with is the spork (What!?! You don’t know what it is?!?). We fantasize over SPAM for lunch and mashed potatoes with tuna is the supreme of gourmet cuisine. In our mouth “I’m ok.” means “It hurts, but I can walk so keep going.” Our feet are called Louis and Robert, and we talk to them. We refer to 9pm as hiker’s midnight. The smell of a male thru-hiker that hasn’t showered for a few days turns us on, we think calves are the sexiest part of a man’s body and men have got to have a beard. In towns we wear rainpants as a fashion statement (no, it’s the only clean clothes that’s left while we’re doing laundry…). We don’t look at coolers the same way anymore, they are forever full of magic.

We are at a loss. The trail has been our home for the last 5 months. We have slept, eaten, pooped, puked, laughed, cried, hurt and had fun on the trail. We have loved it and hated it. It has brought us pain and joy. This line on the ground has been our whole life, our sole purpose for the last 5 months. And now it’s over. We are not walking any more miles. What are we gonna do?

I thought the moment we reached the monument at the Canadian border would be the most powerful moment of my life and that it will answer all the questions. I was wrong. That moment was the last 5 months.

§ 5 Responses to The End… for now

  • Marc RR says:

    Congratulations on all that you accomplished, of which knowing when to stop is not the least difficult nor the less important. You made the right decision. Welcome back to civilisation for a while.

    Contact us if and when you make it back all the way to little Switzerland.

  • Claire says:

    Bravo les filles!!! Chapeau bas!!!

  • Melissa says:

    Congratulation for all the miles and wisdom. Thank you for all your posts. I have been following you as an unseen spy for a few months. I will be walking the PCT solo next year. Your joys and hopes and insights and fear will be mine next year. Your blog was a nice preview.

    I want to walk all the way, I want to finish, but the climate-people are calling for another year of insane snow next year. I have also been following two guys on the CDT, and both of them are snowed in in New Mexico. One of them just almost died trapped in a snow storm. Good for you to have more wits than ambition. I hope I can be this wise if faced with the same decision. I am sorry that you won’t get to see the Cascades right away. They are my home, and the most beautiful place on earth in my completely biased opinion.

    Maybe I will meet you on a trail sometime.

    Good luck with the rest. You should continue your blog. I am just as curious as to how one reintegrates real life than I was about your adventures on the trail.

    Cheers! – The Bobcat

    • Hi Melissa – The Bobcat,
      It’s great to discover that it’s not only family and friends that have been reading the blog. Good luck on your PCT hike next year! If you’ll be keeping a journal, I’d be curious to have the link, it would be a nice way to relive the trail. If you have any question or need any advice, don’t hesitate to ask, I’ll be happy to share what we learnt from experience. Several people have shown interest in life after the trail, so there’ll certainly be a few more posts.
      Happy trails!
      Aurelie – Hazard

  • Cylia says:

    Félicitation 🙂 !
    J’ai adoré suivre vos aventures pdt ces 5 mois (ça va me manquer). J’espère lire la 2ème parties bientot.

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