Today marks the beginning of the end--the end of my ride, that is. Once more, I parked at Stevens Pass, where both vehicles are now waiting for when my mom comes to pick up one of them in order to help me trailer Shyla back from Canada. Then I headed north, riding towards Stehekin and Rainy Pass, and then the last push to Canada from there.
The ride today was uneventful, even a little boring (not that boring is a bad thing, necessarily!), especially because I know that I am facing some difficult terrain on the way to Stehekin. When I was last through here in 2014 there were many, many trees blocking the trail, and although I hope that some of it has been cleared since then, I am concerned that it will still present some daunting challenges. But I am also grateful that I have some really wonderful people pitching in to help me out along the way . . .
First, in Stehekin, Cragg Courtney from the bakery and the outfitters in town has kindly agreed to get some hay and other supplies to the High Bridge campground where I plan to take a break and rest with Shyla on the 16th (assuming we get through okay). My mother mailed a box with bags of Shyla's Special Blend pellets and other supplements, and Cragg is bringing us some hay so that she will be well-fed and rested for the last push to the border.
Then, when we get to Rainy Pass, there is another waiting re-supply for me that has been held at Goat's Beard Outfitters in Mazama, WA, since early August. When my mom went to the family reunion (the one I had to miss, unfortunately), she made a detour there and left some hay and all the supplies we would need for the last few days of riding north from Rainy Pass. I had planned to hitchhike into town from the trailhead at Rainy Pass, but then I made some new friends at Cayuse horse camp earlier in September, and one of them lives not too far away in Winthrop. Nathan volunteered to pick up the supplies and bring them to me at Rainy Pass, which is a great relief, as I was concerned about putting Shyla on a highline and leaving her behind while I went into Mazama. I don't like to have her out of my sight unless she's in a more secure situation, such as a corral, and I don't think there is one at the trailhead (although I heard a rumor that there was . . . guess I'll find out when I get there!)
Finally, in a truly generous act of goodwill, a fellow PCT hiker that I met back in April, when we were both on a section of the trail south of the 14 freeway in Acton, has offered to bring a bale of alfalfa to the corral at the Manning Park resort so that Shyla will have food when we arrive there on Wednesday, Sept. 21st. Dave Smail was hiking with a friend when we crossed paths and chatted a bit, and later my mom also talked to him when she was driving the horse trailer and he asked if she was related to me. He mentioned that he lived in Canada and (probably jokingly, poor guy!) said that we should contact him when we got to the end of the ride. So, that's exactly what my mother did . . . she called him out of the blue when she was trying to figure out how to get some food to the resort, which has a corral but no nearby feed stores. Since she can't get there until a day or two after I arrive (because of her teaching schedule and the need to fly to Seattle, then get transportation to Stevens Pass to pick up one of the trucks, then drive to Manning Park), we were concerned about being able to feed Shyla once I got to the end of the trail. I can carry feed for her while we are on the PCT, but I couldn't bring enough to get us through perhaps several more days after that. But Dave gallantly came to our rescue, even though he has a long round trip drive of over 300 miles from his home to Manning Park and back. He and his daughter Mackenzie are dropping a bale of hay to await our arrival.
This truly is a journey, not only of 2660 miles, but also of a thousand friendships and acts of kindness, great and small, from many, many people along the way. It is a trip that evokes the beauty and majesty of nature in all its many forms, and the natural goodness within the human heart as well. I have learned so much about myself, and my horse, and this world and the people who have touched my life along the way and who have opened their homes and their hearts to us. It is exciting to be getting close to the end of the trail and the border with Canada, and yet it is also bittersweet to know I will soon be saying goodbye to something that has come to mean so much to me. But maybe it is not really an end, but only a beginning of another and different adventure, and a new sense of who I am that will forever mean that I am carrying this ride on the PCT with me; wherever I go and whatever I do, this journey will have affected who I am and how I see the world.