PCT Day 1, Harts Pass to Holman Creek Trail Junction, 13 miles

The beginning is always today. —Mary Shelley

Day 1, Harts Pass to Holman Creek Trail Junction, 13 miles

And so it begins.

I am not prepared for the PCT. I am prepared for the PCT. The PCT is not prepared for me. The PCT is prepared for me.

Which is most true?

As I wake up in a bed – maybe the last time for a while, Kurt and Holly lay out a huge spread for breakfast and I just gorge. I’m not as skinny as when I returned from New Zealand, but I know I’ll need calories today.

She has sandwich fixin’s too and we all pile into the car with a sack lunch, our axes crowded in a pile so as not to cut the fabric. Kurt and Holly are ‘trail angels,’ taking four of us in, feeding us, helping us buy fuel and food, and, maybe most important, getting us oriented. It’s incredibly generous and selfless.

I leave a little money, but they say it’s more important to pay it forward. Bellingham is a cool town, artsy with funky shops and restaurants. Sadly, it’s been ‘discovered’ so Seattle’s housing crunch has migrated here.

The mastermind of today’s shuttle is a woman named Pamila. She’s invited nearly thirty hikers to camp on her lawn and pile into three rented vans for the half day’s drive to Hart’s Pass. It’s a massive hiker village packing up – American, Australian, Scottish, German, Italian, Indian – and herding cats to get us on our way.

I sit in front, Charlie the terrier on my lap and Kate driving, a through-hiker herself who walked the PCT and the Te Araroa. We talk the entire drive, like two soldiers reliving some highlights, but more of the trauma of rough trail conditions and wild weather.

I realize I hadn’t spoken about that walk much at all. The shock when I got home drained all my energy, leaving me practically speechless, this epic life-changing trip shoved aside while life intervened.

Kate and I share so many details, I am taken straight back to knee-deep mud, sidling high above rivers, the straight up and straight down of unmaintained trails and also the incredible generosity we came across.

We take lots of stops along our drive today – a converted dairy farm/disc golf park where we meet after exchanging one van for something larger. It’s hot and I know I packed too many warm clothes thinking it’s going to be cold in the mountains. Most are dressed in shorts and tees. I’m in my long, thicker pants and a merino turtleneck. Ah well.

We stop at the North Cascades Visitor Center for a pee break. A volunteer talks about bears and I put my hands on the rough fur of a grizzly next to the soft fir of black bear. Off we go into the thrilling spires pushing up into the blue sky, barely a cloud in sight. Snow nestles in the bowls. The water below is a deep turquoise. I look for peeps my age and my speed wondering who will be my trail family.

We drive over Rainy Pass and see a sign for the PCT crossing I’ll make under a week.

Finally we arrive on the rutted dirt road up to Hart’s Pass, the highest – and most dangerous – road in Washington. I look warily over the side with no guardrail protecting a fall thousands of feet down. The views are spectacular as we finally arrive at a ranger station. Here is where we all leave our food, axes and spikes for the harder portion to our south. The US will not allow entry from Canada via the trail, so hikers have to walk thirty miles north to touch the terminus monument, then walk right back down.

But it’s absolutely glorious walking. A quick picture and we’re off, the ultralight crew practically running ahead. I begin walking with Vincenzo who laughs at my utter joy as we skip up onto a ridgeline, an enormous chasm separating us from Mount Baker and the crown of the Cascades.

“You will spend five months smiling!” he tells me. I am smiling, all the way up and down wildflower-filled meadows, banks of grasses dotted with orange, purple, yellow, white, mauve, flying down the mountainside. I am so blessed. I am here now because something awful happened that I did not want to happen. But it got me here amidst balsam-scented forests, glacier-smooth rock and views for miles. I hear the largo from Mozart’s Clarinet Concerto as I walk on such beautiful trail, a super highway compared with the TA. My heart fills with gratitude.

The alicoop is up with a big noisy group next to me finally tucking in. I am exhausted, wrapped inside and thinking about tomorrow and all I am grateful for. I take with me to sleep now the question of what it will take to rise above my pain.

The answer catches me as my eyes close – walk.

Published by alison young

Alison Young is the Blissful Hiker, a voice artist and sometime saunterer. 📣🐥👣🎒

Reader Comments

  1. Best of luck and many, many good wishes for an amazing hike, Alison. I hope it is the best kind of salve but will also become much more than that for you in the weeks to come.

  2. Thanks for moving ahead without either hope or fear. Thanks for including your musical interpretations of the landscape in your posts.

    1. I have a little hope and loads of fear too! But pressing on anyway. It was ‘There is no rose” by Richard Rasch in the forest today

  3. Have a great trip Alison! I’m hiking from Hart’s Pass south for 5 days beginning August 1st. Wish I could hike the whole trail, but for now will just have to piece section hikes together, and live vicariously through your blog. Your pictures are glorious.

  4. Alison–I thought you were off and not blogging with me. I have been sad. Now I know you have only just begun…remember that song? Gene and I hope all the best for you…one foot ahead of the other…Zola

    1. Day one was twelve days ago!!! No wifi and this is super slow, so you’ll be getting a flurry while I take a zero and heal my chafed feet (sopping wet feet for days!) ‘she’s only just begun…’

  5. Oh, SO good to hear from you. I have been looking and waiting for word. And, honestly, until you stated it here, I had not thought how much MPR crushed the afterglow joy of your Te Aurora walk. Here’s to you, my BFF and warrior sister. You are vibrant and strong…you will find your way through the wilderness of the now and be even more or who you are.

    1. Wahine toa!!!! people LOVE my backpack art. And it’s got me moving…eleven more days coming! Yes, soooo hard to celebrate the TA, but now into my ‘new life process.’ love you, BFF 🐥👣🎒

  6. Wow, Ali, you look so G-R-E-A-T to start the PCT right after the Te Araroa in NZ.

    That smile shows you are in your element.

    I was dissapointed that Classical Public Radio didn’t have a spot for you upon your return. I didn’t believe in Karma but if I were 99.5FM muckity-mucks, I’d be on the lookout for bad karma sneaking up.

    1. haha, well whatever karma is at work, she got me right back on trail. insane, badass, fantabulous! I’m making lemonade out of those muckity-mucks lemons!! 🐥👣🎒

  7. I knew when you were going to start but not seeing a blog made me wonder about what was happening! So yesterday when the blogs started coming, I was so happy. We are at a reunion of friends and now is my first time to check in! I am so excited for you and my support will be with you every day!

  8. I’m a little late joining the comment party – I’m sorry. My parents have been visiting from near Seattle, Washington. Ahh.. .the pictures of home! Thanks for sharing. I wish you well. Breathe deeply and take it all in.

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