Thru-Hiking Southbound along the PCT
Our scout heads out on the PCT.
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Captured from Woody Pass in the Pasayten Wilderness [photo by Tyler Socash]
Alpine flora in the Pasayten Wilderness [photo by Tyler Socash]
The final approach towards the U.S./Canadian border and the Pacific Crest Trail monument [photo by Tyler Socash]
After 19 miles of hiking, our group made it to our first campsite!
On June 24th I quit my job. That evening, I finished typing up the final papers for my master’s degree. Throughout the night I packed my Osprey backpack with the essentials: sleeping bag, headlamp, water filter, medical kit… At 4am on June 25th I found myself at the airport with a one-way ticket to Seattle in my hands. Tired and nervous, I gave my brother a goodbye hug. I took off in a tube in the sky towards Washington State. My adventure was only just beginning!
When I hatched my plan to hike the Pacific Crest Trail, I knew I would have to thru-hike it southbound. Starting in the southern Californian desert in late June would have been difficult, as I would have had to contend with an early Washington State winter by the time I arrived. Instead, a southbound journey put me in Washington during the glory days. My only worry would be making it through the high Sierra before winter comes. And winter is coming…
Due to the fact that it’s illegal to enter the United States through Canada along the PCT, southbounders (SOBOs) have the additional challenge of starting at Harts Pass. The southbound trek begins with a 33-mile northbound approach to the northern terminus of the Pacific Crest Trail. It is an arduous trek, but the effort is well worth the energy! After leaving Harts Pass, you enter the glorious Pasayten Wilderness in the Northern Cascades. Rugged peaks stick out like spires as far as the eye can see! You’ll find most of the glaciers in the continental United States here in the Northern Cascades of Washington. The Pasayten is also famous for its denizens: lynx, moose, deer, marmots, and more!
Every step towards the border monument is stunning. In fact, this first wilderness area still ranks #1 in my list of all 9 wildernesses that the Pacific Crest Trail traverses in Washington State. The best part about going southbound, initially, is that you get to walk through the Pasayten Wilderness twice! (Usually, northbounders walk through the Pasayten in September and October when the rains come.) These are some of the best views on the trail, and I’m certainly glad that I had three days of sunshine during my journey to the border and back.
The highlights of this section were numerous: skinny-dipping in Hopkins Lake, viewing two sunsets from Woody Pass, pristine green valleys extending around every highpoint, and encountering a few marmots along the way. The Pasayten Wilderness is a special place, and experiencing it has inspired me to advocate for wilderness preservation for the rest of my life. I’m excited to share what it’s like to hike southbound on the Pacific Crest Trail with you all. There isn’t much material out there on “going SOBO.” I hope to provide a lot of insights, pictures, and stories to inspire you and your next journey into the Great Outdoors!