Day Ten: Five Mile Camp to High Bridge

Distance: 7 miles

We were eager to get the final day over with, yet I was reluctant to leave the wilderness and our secluded campsite. At this point, everyone had run out of ibuprofen except for my last two tablets. I knew that Kevin needed the painkiller much more than I did, so I gave him the last two pills.

Our plan was for an early morning start, getting to the bus stop by 11 a.m. According to the schedule posted on the Internet, the bus would arrive at noon and leave 15 minutes later. We'd get to the ferry dock by 1 p.m. and have a whole hour before the boat left at 2 p.m..

After our last breakfast we headed down the last five miles of the PCT and it only took us 1 1/2 hours to cover this stretech. We arrived at the river road, but didn't expect to see any cars. This is because the road suffered from terrific washouts. The bus could not even make it to this trailhead at High Bridge. We'd have to hike a mile to get to the place where the road was finally driveable.

We passed a ranger station along the way and then a road crew working on fixing the river road. A couple in a pickup truck stopped to offer us a ride, but since they weren't going all the way to Stehekin, we turned them down.

This was a mistake, as Kevin's foot hurt more and more. He had been using the treking pole Chuck recovered from the wasps' nest for the last three days, but it wasn't enough. As we continued on the abandoned road, he started limping. And there was no sign of the bus stop even after a mile.

I was getting frustrated and Kevin was getting more uncomfortable. Where was the end of the closed portion of the road? We were hiking near the river, and Kevin was about to take a detour to soak his feet, when we saw something orange in the distance. It turned out to be a sign that read "Road Closed." We finally were at the end of the trail, but not the end of the adventure.

We ate lunch by the river and waited for the bus. Noon came and went without a sign of any motorized vehicle. Bob and Kevin looked a little tense--Chuck and I said that the bus is on "mountain time" and not to worry. At 12:15 there was still no bus. This was supposed to be the departure time. Even I wondered if we would be spending an extra day in Stehekin. About 10 mintues later, sure enough, the bus arrived with a quirkly driver named "Eldon." He snapped our picture, loaded us up, and drove us 19 miles toward town and the bakery.

The Stehekin Pastry Company is legendary among hikers of the Pacifc Crest Trail, and the legend turned out to be true. Yes, there were pies and huge cinnamon rolls, but there were also lunch goodies such as sandwiches, salads and soups. We pigged out on the delights and then traveled the rest of the way to Stehekin on the bus.

Stehekin is really just a collection of cabins with a small convenience store and lodge at the ferry landing. We lounged in the sunshine waiting for the boat to leave. Kevin was astonished at the beauty of this village on the lake. You can't drive there--only walk, fly or take a ferry to get there. There are no telephones except for one satellite phone by the dock. "Why have I never heard of this place?" Kevin asked. Hmmm, if too many people knew about this place, it would be ruined, I thought. I was glad it was so undiscovered.

So we walked onto the boat along with some tourists and some townspeople and cruised for two and a half hours back to the parking lot and the car. It was the perfect way to slowly adjust to the modern world again, basking in the sunshine as we watched the lakeshore slide away from us.

"Civilization will seem different," I wrote in my journal. "Will American change as a result of the New Orleans hurricane? There is going to be grumbling and an economic shock if gasoline rises to $4 a gallon.

"Out here this all seems so petty. The wilderness is the reality of the world, not the TV news about Hurrican Katrina. It is sad that I can dip into this wild reality so rarely."

Return to Tom's PCT Page

Tom, Chuck, Kevin and Bob pose next to the shuttle bus that would take us to the bakery and Stehekin Landing.

Tom, Kevin, Chuck and Bob pose as the ferry leaves Stehekin for civilization.

A last shot of the Gang of Four after an amazing journey.