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Day 134 – August 15, 2022

Mile 2628.8 to 2647.2 (Hopkins Lake)

18.4 trail miles | 18.3 tracked miles | 3,518 ft elevation gain | 78.8 F / 26 °C

My goal today was to reach Hopkins Lake, the northernmost lake on the Pacific Crest Trail before Canada, putting me in a position to reach the border tomorrow and then turn back towards Harts Pass.

On a “normal” year, when the border is open, logistics are much more simple: there a nice campground, complete with pit toilets, just 200 yards north of the border. Also, Manning Park, BC (the first town on the Canadian side) is just 8 miles from the PCT terminus. In other words, if it weren’t for COVID, my PCT adventure would likely wrap up today. But for the time being, crossing the border remains illegal, and I am not going to take any chances.

With only 19 miles to Hopkins Lake and just 3,500 feet of elevation (which is child’s play for Washington!), I enjoyed a leisurely morning and hit the trail shortly before 7 am.

The morning stretch was a bit of a roller coaster, with numerous mountain passes—Foggy Pass, Jim Pass, Holman Pass (the lowest point on the trail today, at roughly 5,000 feet of elevation), Rock Pass, and then Woody Pass. Once again, the scenery was majestic, with spectacular views in every direction. It was a true blessing.

Woody Pass

From Rock Pass, the trail ascended steadily, eventually reaching 7,117 feet at Lakeview Ridge, the highest point in Washington. The views over the North Cascades mountain range from the ridge were stunning.

I am fortunate that the snow vanished a couple of weeks ago. This section is a backpacker’s paradise in the heart of summer but can be extraordinarily treacherous under less-than-ideal conditions. That’s one of the reasons so few hikers choose to hike the Pacific Crest Trail southbound, from Canada to Mexico: most of the North Cascades are blanketed in snow through late July, and then, by the time SoBos reach Southern California, water sources are scarce, among other challenges.

Near Lakeview Ridge, the highest point of the Pacific Crest Trail in Washington State

Today’s stretch will be forever etched in my memory. I was at my best, physically and mentally. The elixir of sheer happiness was running through my veins, and as much as I’m thrilled to be home soon, I wish I could press pause and re-live the last few days.

WA Section L is a backpacker’s paradise.

From Lakeview Ridge, it is literally downhill all the way to Canada. The terminus is situated at 4,733 feet of elevation.

The steep descent from Lakeview Ridge, dubbed the Devil’s Stairway—a series of tight switchbacks and steps against a backdrop of sheer cliffs—was impressive. I will get to climb it back all the way up as I return from the terminus!

South of the Devil’s Stairway

Mid-afternoon, Hopkins Lake came into view: a serene, inviting, gorgeously deep green oval preciously nestled between mountains. I veered off the Pacific Crest Trail and followed the spur trail down to the lake.

Hopkins Lake

It was early by the time I arrived at Hopkins Lake, and the campsites were eerily quiet. A few hikers had left their gear behind to tag the border, like I will be doing tomorrow (that’s “slackpacking,” in hiker speak). It was fun to think of all the happy souls on their victory lap.

I pitched my tent in a reasonably secluded spot, just a few hundred yards from the lake, then went for a swim in the pristine water and sat down on the shore to soak in the sun rays and process my emotions. I couldn’t think of a more fitting site to enjoy a final swim and my last night in the wilderness before reaching the terminus.

Tomorrow morning, I will reach the end of my northbound journey.

Distance to Canada: 6.4 miles

The Big Picture

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