I spent most of the morning agonising over the decision I have to make about the next part of the trail and trying to get my head around the options.
Here’s the thing: Stevens pass – where I am now – to the Suiattle river trail is open (76 miles), the next 15 miles of trail is closed because of the Blankenship fire. Then there are 20 miles after the closure to the next town of Stehekin. Stehekin is an unusual town as it is only accessible by foot or boat. Currently it is not accessible by foot because of the closed part of the trail. There was an option to get to the Suiattle river trail and take an alternate trail to lake Chelan where you are able to get the ferry to Stehekin skipping around 35 miles of trail. This alternate route is now closed because of the fires. The only way to get the Stehekin is to take the ferry from Chelan missing 100 trail miles. Another option is to hike from Stevens pass to the Suiattle river trail. Take the Suiattle river trail to the road where there is someone willing to give rides to Rainy pass. This skips 50 trail miles and misses out Stehekin altogether.
With me so far? (It took me weeks to understand this).
So my options are:
1. Carry on hiking North. Walk illegally through the closed section. Carry on walking North. Miss no miles. Risk a $2500-$10,000 fine if caught.
2. Carry on hiking North. Reach the Suiattle river trail. Take that trail to the road and get a ride to Rainy pass. Miss 50 miles of trail. Miss Stehekin.
3. Get a ride from Stevens pass to lake Chelan to get the ferry to Stehekin. Hike North. Miss 100 miles of trail.
Chris came by and said he was going to town for breakfast so some of us went with him. I was starving. Farmer and Bumble were there and they are going to Chelan to take the ferry. Chris was going to give them a ride. I went back to the Dinsmores and packed up my stuff. I changed my mind around 50 times in 10 minutes, alternating between wanting to carry on through the closed section and taking the ferry from Chelan. Eventually I made a decision. Go to Chelan.
After speaking to some people I trust the opinions of, searching my own heart and thinking about what I feel right doing, I decided the best thing in the current circumstances is to go to Chelan to take the ferry. This is the recommended route of the PCTA and what the majority hikers before me have been doing. I was very tempted by some other hikers who are planning to hike through the closure, but after a lot of thought I ultimately consider it disrespectful to the firefighters who are working so hard on the fires. The fires in that area are being left to burn while they concentrate their efforts on some more threatening fires. Fires are unpredictable and by the time I reach that area it may be too dangerous to walk through. I certainly don’t want to be ‘that person’ who gets into trouble and has to be rescued. The trail is closed for a reason. There is nothing I can do about it. The trail may be opened up again and hikers behind me may be able to get through, but I am here now and this is the way my hike has developed. The trail will still be there in the future and there will be an opportunity at some point to come back and do those 100 miles I hope.
But at this point in time the hike is about more that the miles. Doing it this way I get to finish with friends. And it’s the people that have made this experience what it is, not the number of miles. Although I will have still walked around 2600 miles which is a pretty big achievement, even if I do say so myself!
As I sat in the car I still struggled over whether it was the right decision. But it is what it is. And it’s my hike, my choice.
It took a couple of hours to get to Chelan. As we got closer we left behind the torrential rain and cold of Skykomish and moved into the blue skies and heat of Chelan. It’s good to see the sun again! Bumble, Farmer and I went out for food and I spent the afternoon updating the blog. We saw Bonus Miles. He’s coming on the ferry tomorrow too. Our finishing party is growing! We all went out for pizza. I have eaten an unbelievable amount of food today!