"I knew Typo would make it" (Part 6 of 6) (Posted 21 November 2012, 05:01am)

Typo and Waldo at the border.

It was the coldest night of the trip and I woke often because it was so chilly. I could hear Waldo snoring nearby, which at least let me know he was still alive. The alarm went off at 6:30 am and I looked up at a layer of frozen condensation lining the inside of my tent. There was fresh snow outside but mercifully only a few inches had fallen overnight. As expected my boots were frozen stiff. I had trouble getting them on despite having opened them wide the night before. I had the luxury of a dry pair of socks, which was just as well since the pair from the day before were also frozen solid and resembled overcooked pieces of bacon. We packed up quickly to make the most of our 11 hours of daylight. Canada was 12 miles away and then we would have to walk a further eight miles beyond the border to the nearest road at Manning Park Resort.

We had breakfast, put on our snowshoes and set off towards Woody Pass. The snow was reasonably thick but we were recharged and made good progress. I was pleased we had decided to stop when we did the night before. As we crossed Woody Pass the weather deteriorated and a whiteout suddenly surrounded us. I caught sight of a tree in the distance just before the weather closed in completely, and headed in that direction. Thankfully it lifted before we became too disoriented. We were generally able to find our way by sight, as on the previous day.

I was thirsty but my drink bottle had frozen solid overnight. Waldo still had a little water, which we shared. We came to a pass which I mistook for our highest point. I spotted some blurred footprints in the snow - left by Wolverine. It was reassuring to know that he had made it that far but the prints soon strayed from the trail. I wondered what the conditions were when he passed and if perhaps he had attempted it in the dark. I knew that Wolverine was travelling alone, without a GPS, and that he had been out for much longer than us. We were incredibly lucky again and the weather was mostly clear.

After another short climb we reached our highest point. The snow was thick at the top and there was no sign of the trail. I cut across in what I hoped was the right direction and thankfully found the trail. I was relieved to see Wolverine's tracks again, but the relief was short lived as they soon left the trail. They had become so random that I wondered if he was delirious. I was consumed by worry. I realized I was no longer concerned for my own safety - it was now all downhill to Canada - and that my anxiety had shifted to Wolverine. We descended the "Devil's Stairway" and once again found Wolverine's tracks. I could tell he was cutting the switchbacks and pictured him slipping and sliding down the steep valley. It went a long, long way down. I imagined him huddled somewhere needing our help. Should we be following his footprints and looking for him? I spoke my mind to Waldo but thankfully he had more sense than me. I couldn't wait to get to the border - not to finish my journey, but to search the register there for Wolverine's name.

Everyone knew the story of a hiker, Gourmet, who had broken his ankle just six miles from the border and been airlifted out. This was also on my mind. Almost exactly six miles from the border there was a log across the trail, just above knee height. As I stepped over it my snowshoe swiveled forward and the front poked straight into the snow, preventing my foot from planting flat. I had already shifted my weight over and couldn't stop myself from falling. I lay sprawled on the ground. My first thought was for my legs and ankles. If they were all right I would make it to the border. Thankfully my arms had taken most of the fall and I was left with only a torn jacket and bleeding elbow. We removed our snowshoes and Waldo took the lead. I had been leading for too long.

We continued down past the turn-off to the frozen Hopkins Lake. There were various tracks zigzagging over the trail, mostly animal tracks but perhaps Wolverine's tracks as well. We were at a lower elevation and the snow was thinner on the ground. We came across running water and filled up - it was a relief to drink. Three miles from the border we spotted the melted shape of a tent print in the snow under a tree. I made it into the shape of Wolverine's tent. Surely he was safe. I charged on ... so close now.

The last few miles flew by in a snowy blur. I rounded a corner and there it was - a break in the trees, the wooden northern terminus, the metal border monument and Canada beyond. I burst into tears. All of the challenges I had faced and overcome, but had been unable to process, caught up with me. In the final days I had been so intent on survival that I hadn't prepared myself for this moment. Suddenly I was standing at the end of the Pacific Crest Trail and I had walked every step from Mexico to Canada.

I went in search of the register and found it inside the metal border monument. It was soggy and falling apart but I found the most recent page and there they were, the words I had read so many times before but was never so pleased to see as then: "Wolverine, Detroit, MI." I remembered the morning I met Wolverine in Northern California. He was walking slower and shorter days, and I thought I probably wouldn't see him again. And now he had finished a day ahead of me, through the storm, on his own after we had lost him at Rainy Pass. I had underestimated him greatly.

Waldo arrived and we signed the register and took photos. It was around 2 pm and cold and we needed to keep moving to get to Manning Park before dark. It was a struggle to do a further eight miles now the trail was finished, but it was a good track and provided time to reflect. Waldo was having trouble with his new snow boots so slowed down and told me not to wait for him. I came to a road ... almost there ... one last bit of road walking. The only traffic I saw was a lone cyclist in the dying light.

I came to Manning Park Resort and found the rather grand entrance. I was covered in snow, half frozen, and had my snowshoes strapped to my backpack but I walked in anyway. I asked if there were other hikers there and was directed to a couple of cabins. I could see a large glowing window and walked towards it. On the other side was Astro's father. I had never met him but recognized him anyway. His face lit up and he rushed to the door. "Are you Typo?" They had been anxiously waiting for me all day. My friend Astro rushed out. His journey along the Trail had been a remarkable one and it was a miracle to see him safely in Canada. I was starting to break down and only managed to demand, "Where is Wolverine?"

Astro said Wolverine was in the cabin next door so I staggered over. Light streamed out of the window and I looked in. There, sitting reading, was Wolverine. Alive! I will never forget the look on his face. He threw what he was holding into the air and flew out through the door. We exchanged our stories. He had thought Heehaw and I were ahead of him the whole time, and had stumbled on, driven by fear. I told him we would have waited, of course we would have waited. Every emotion I was feeling was expressed in tears and I was a wreck, sobbing uncontrollably. Astro joined us and today, exactly a month later, I can still hear him saying, "Hell yeah, Typo made it, of course Typo made it, I knew Typo would make it."

Waldo, Astro, Wolverine and Typo at Manning Park Resort.


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Blog Archive

30 True to the thru (Part 4 of 4)
30 The waiting game (Part 3 of 4)
30 Something was wrong (Part 2 of 4)
30 A story that needs to be told (Part 1 of 4)
21 "I knew Typo would make it" (Part 6 of 6)
19 Throwing the Hail Mary (Part 5 of 6)
10 Up and down, but not out (Part 4 of 6)
06 Crossing Cutthroat Pass (Part 3 of 6)
03 Warming up in Winthrop (Part 2 of 6)

30 We're sleeping in a toilet (Part 1 of 6)
25 Another radio interview (Audio)
21 I made it
04 Nearly there

29 Trail Magic
19 Walking with Mum

28 Cold food
28 Hello Oregon!
20 40 miles in one day
08 Official trail name: Typo
06 (Humbolt) Summit Fever
06 Road walking around a wildfire

30 Two trail birthdays
18 A picture is worth...
10 Pain and gain in the Sierra

28 Hiker hunger
27 The inquisitive marmot
19 Stage one survived
05 Live from the Mojave (Updated)
04 I just walked 500 miles...

31 Current nemesis: Poodle dog bush
23 Mexico to McDonald's
23 Gear review: Sleeping pad
18 Hot and getting even hotter
12 Videos
12 Wildlife
10 People on the trail: Sunset
05 Eagle Rock
03 Hiker discount: 100%

30 The beginning
25 Final preparation
17 Blogging along the way
16 No publicity is bad publicity
08 Walking before the walk
08 Maps for the trail