Day 177 (Oct. 14): Mile 829.6 – 810.2

The Day I Completed the Pacific Crest Trail!

Beginning Elevation = 8,350
Ending Elevation = 10,750
Elevation Range = 8,050 -12,100
Weather: Sunny and clear, high 60°F

Seems like I’m getting into a bit of a routine here with another 5:55am wake up and 6:45am start time. That’s when I left my rock outcrop off-trail campsite at least, I had a little walk to get back into the PCT.

I’ve been feeling that my pack is lighter having eaten 4 ish days of food now. That, and a gentle downhill stroll made for a pleasant morning. I suppose the beauty of the towering peaks above, Grouse Meadows, the Middle Fork of the Kings River meandering along near the trail, and the occasional grove of the colorful Aspen trees helped too.

Around 7:45am, I came to a junction where the John Muir Trail/PCT turn and go east up a different canyon rather than continue downward. After some contemplation, I agreed with John Muir that “up” was indeed the correct way…

The trail continued it’s gradualness and the canyon appeared quite similar to the one I’d come down yesterday (and earlier this morning). I was now going along with Palisades Creek. There also semed to be more Aspen trees. And they were mostly small. My theory is that a fire burned up the area and these were the new growth that fit the niche and took over.

I felt like I was pretty aware of my surroundings and so was surprised when some deer startled me…3 large deer. It was a repeat experience of the time I saw 3 large bucks hanging together just prior to stopping into Mammoth Lakes…

Breakfast was had on a lovely flat rock outcrop with this super view down canyon.

And this super view up canyon, in the direction I’d be heading…

I had a half-hour of walking before the trail decided to change grades and begin a series of steep switchbacks. I kept taking pictures looking back down the valley I’d walked up…

And then came some even more steep switchbacks. I was fine going up them, but I kept thinking of the folks who went through when the snow was still around and what it would’ve been like for them and for me had I attempted to continue onward through. Yikes! Surely this part of Mather Pass would’ve been a tricky one. Looking up it…

And back down at it…

And once again looking far out, down the valley where I’d come…

Atop the switchbacks, things became more gradual up to Palisade Lakes.

The lakes were bright blue…spectacular!

That way! That’s the way to Mather Pass (turns out it actually was, my guess was accurate and that “v” is the far off pass)!

Here’s the last few miles up to Mather. Firstly, looking back…

And then ahead…

Things got little icy at times (micro-scale)…

I was certainly feeling the effects of the high elevation and recruited the music of Michael Jackson to assist with the last mile!

Once again, I conquered the high pass! Woo hoo! Here’s my “summit” video…

And my “summit” pose…

Daniel LaRusso – Crane Kick, Mather Pass, 1:30pm”

And one shot looking back towards Palisade Lakes from Mather Pass…

It was about a five and a half mile walk down from Mather Pass to the South Fork of the Kings River. Most of the way was a nice gradual stroll, but I once again felt the fear for folks who went over this when covered in snow. For me, it was some nice winding switchbacks, but I imagine this was a wall of ice for those back in the snow season. It made me very thankful once again to have gone out and skipped like we did!

When I looked back after descending down the switchback onslaught, I truly feared the wall of Mather Pass…

But going forward for me today, things were quite relaxed…

Up until this stretch, I’d kept thoughts of finishing out of my head for the most part. The thoughts were creeping in now and I was starting to believe that this was actually happening. The realization was setting in that in just a few miles I’d be reaching the Taboose Pass junction at Mile 810.2, the exact spot where I’d detoured off the PCT with Snickers, Cheer, Calzone, and Kool-Aid to bail out of the snowy June Sierra.

Following the crossing of the South Fork of the Kings River, I had about a mile left to go until all three of my sections were tied together and I completed the Pacific Crest Trail! It was uphill, rather steeper than I’d anticipated, and I powered up it! It seemed to have no end in site or resemble the area I remembered much. Then, quite suddenly, things flattened out a bit and I saw a large boulder that I recognized. And then, I saw the Taboose junction sign!

I started laughing. I thought I’d start bawling, but nope, just laughing and smiling. It was weird, on the way down from Mather I’d been thinking about it all, even shedding a tear or seven possibly, but when I got there to the junction, I was sort of dazed. It just didn’t sink in at all that this finished the trail for me. I’d done it, walked the whole dang thing, but it all just seemed normal. I took a seat and tried to soak in the moment. After a bit, I did a little celebratory photo shoot.

Here’s the same spot back in June…

I’d arrived around 5:00pm and after the initial festivities, took some time to explore and reminisce. I found the rock I slept on the night before exiting the PCT in June and I couldn’t believe my fellows had slept in such a terribly slanted and rocky location…


Vs. now…

There were so many boulders around now that had been covered in snow. I thought long and hard about sleeping on the rock again, but instead found some very nice premium flat spots nearby along the Taboose trail.

I also found the remnants of the missing ranger station that we’d searched for back then. I’m thinking it was out of commission this entire season…

Eventually, I set up my tent and then walked out to the nearby meadow for dinner. It was lovely having time to explore and cook/eat in the daylight. I was still in regular hiking mode. Since Taboose Pass was closed due to a fire earlier in the season (I had expected this and planned on it), I still had about 27 ish miles to hike until “off-trail.” So, tomorrow I still had a full day of treking to look forward to, so not much had really changed at this point. I didn’t plan to be finished and out for two more days.

Today’s Music:

Shawn McDonald – Live in Seattle

Michael Jackson – Thriller

7 thoughts on “Day 177 (Oct. 14): Mile 829.6 – 810.2

  1. Luke Medema

    Wow Stevie-Wonder…very impressed! What an accomplishment, journey, and life-changing adventure for you. Thank you for putting in the effort to share it with all of us readers of Proud to call you my friend Stephen James Hoekwater!


  2. Ruth Prins

    SO COOL! That last summit pass pose and the end-of-trail celebration pose were perfect! If I were you I would develop all your summit pass poses into at least 5x7s and make a wall arrangement…….to celebrate each accomplishment and all the joy of the adventure. 🙂 It would be a neat way of bringing your ‘natural home’ into whatever current home you reside in.

    It was great too, that you showed the before and after photos taken in the same place. With snow…….without snow. Such a good decision to bail and then revisit.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. jamestsmit

    Congratulations, Stephen! Way to go. It’s been a blast keeping up with you on the trail via the blog. The pictures were awesome and I really enjoyed the funny poses during the last stretch.

    So what’s next for ole Stevie Wonder? Rest up for the winter and then hit the Appalachian trail in the spring?


  4. Christine Nydam

    Congrats! I’m so going to miss your posts & updates. I loved how you described everything & the pics were beautiful. I almost felt I hiked the PCT! Maybe there is a way to make your blog into a book? I’m glad we got to meet when you started & hopefully we will keep in touch.


  5. jimnewheights

    Your perseverance has paid off with personal dividends that will last a lifetime. I look forward to talking with you someday about your trek. Chris said a nobo hiker had to call 911 this week in Oregon because of the snow, cold and losing the trail. I will send you the link.


  6. Brian Beach

    Yeah! Congrats! So glad you had this blog going for me to live vicariously through. Such an incredible accomplishment. Ain’t nothing going to keep you down, you stud!


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