Day 116: something like absolution

August 18
Mileage 44.5 (14.5 miles to the Canadian border + 30 miles back to Hart’s pass)
Mile 2645.5 to mile 2660

At four a.m. in the still-dark the Hexamid beside us starts to rustle- there is no water, no white noise and so the sounds are like sharp cracks in the night and we all wake but it doesn’t matter, it’s like Christmas morning and we couldn’t fall back asleep if we tried. The monument today, the monument today. Canada, Canada, Canada, what will it feel like to be finished with this great thing we’ve all been rushing towards and what, if anything, will come after.

I leave camp first just before six, determined not to be in the back today. I want to hike with people on my last day, goddamit! These motherfuckers are so fast, with their long legs, just stomping all over the earth. Woody is a long bendy straw that travels at the speed of light, trekking poles flailing, and Tiny and Brainstorm are built like gladiators, at least seven feet tall. Guthrie has the most awesomely muscular legs we’ve ever seen and can go exactly as fast as he wants. Guthrie told me the other day that he never gets tired anymore, his feet just sometimes hurt. And Twinkle is a jack russell terrier. If you’ve ever hung out with a jack russell terrier you know what I mean.

Sometimes I can keep up with Krispies, which is a consolation, as she started on May 8th and so is actually faster than everyone anyways.

I’m going to miss these fools.

It’s 14.5 miles to the border and Krispies and I get to slack-pack there, which is cool. Slack-packing is where you don’t carry all of your gear. Krispies and I are turning around at the border instead of going into Canada so we’ve left our shelters and sleeping bags in camp- our plan is to hang out at the border for a while with everyone and then hike back to this point, for a 29 mile day. My sleeping bag and shelter together weigh about two pounds so I don’t feel that much of a difference without them but it makes my pack look really small, which I like.

I’m alone for the first couple of miles and I stop on a ridge to watch the flame-red sun work its way up over the horizon. My last sunrise on the trail! I almost start to cry but then I say not yet, not yet, it’s too early for that. I wonder how I’ll feel after finishing but then I stop wondering, and just focus on the hike. I’m tired this morning, and I feel slow. I’m hiking a narrow trail along green, verdant ridges, climbing or descending or climbing again, the jagged peaks of Canada in the distance. The sky is warming, the plants are wet where they brush against my legs. Soon Tiny, Woody and Krispies catch up to me, and we walk in a little group. I feel like no-one wants to walk alone this morning, we all want to savor the last of this camaraderie that we’ve built. I find myself wishing, again, that Chance was here. We left the Mexican border together, we should be finishing together. This whole summer we’ve been NotaChance and the Pink Blazers, following her down the trail like little ducklings, whether she liked it or not. We couldn’t help it. She’s just so good at hiking, and she gives no fucks. Now her and Mac are a day or so behind, as they took a few days off to wait out the rain and figure out the logistics of the Pacific Northwest Trail, which they want to follow west to Bellingham after completing the PCT. As I hike I remember the times Chance and I walked together, the way we’d gossip and talk shit and commiserate. The way she understood everything that was in my brain, the way we’d turn over the Irreconcilable Contradictions of the Universe (As Seen From the Viewpoint of a Woman Who Thru-Hikes), handling them and passing them back and forth until they were at least familiar and well-worn, if not any closer to being solved. The group has always been almost entirely dudes, and while they’re very nice dudes, Chance provided much-needed badass female solidarity in times of strife, and that helped me more than I can even say. Now, hiking towards the monument, I feel that there’s a Chance-shaped hole in my PCT universe and I wish, more than anything, that she was finishing with us. But of anyone in the group, she’s the one I’m most likely to actually get to hang out with after the trail, so that’s cool.

We all congregate for a snack break on top of the last climb before Canada- it’s a beautiful ridge from which I can see wild mountains going on for forever, valleys draped in light, weather gathering on distant peaks. I find a spot behind some trees to dig my last cathole (before Canada) and am treating to what is probably my best pooping view of the entire trail. Then down, down, down back into the forest and the wet, tangled brush. We cross the infamous Washington Washouts, which happened last year during the record-breaking September rains- whole sections of the scree slope turned into ravines. The washouts were much worse last year and have been partly repaired by trial crews but they still slow us down, and add a little excitement to the morning. No-one’s GPS is working today so we can’t obsessively check to see where we are, how many miles we have left. We’re just walking, and talking about this and that, and feeling tired, and picking a ripe huckleberry, here and there, and then we see it, the narrow clear-cut rising up the ridge opposite, delineating the boundary between this country and the next, and then we round a switchback and it’s there, that damp wooden monument, and I start to cry.

“Can you take my picture?” says Woody.

“I’m sorry,” I say. “I just need a moment.”

Woody gives me one of the best hugs I’ve ever had.

“We met five minutes after leaving the Mexican border and now we’re here, at the same time.” he says.

“I know,” I say. “I know.” Then it’s hugs all around and people pull out the celebratory sticky buns and pabst blue ribbons they packed from Stehekin. It’s a different feeling, being here with people, versus last year when I showed up before Raho and had a few quiet, shivering moments alone in the rain with the monument in which to contemplate everything I’d done that had brought me to this point. This year, sitting in this damp clearing with my friends while they eat their sticky buns, watching the sun work its way above the trees, everything feels lighter, less serious, less final. More than anything I feel very, very tired- I haven’t been sleeping well and we’ve been doing high-mileage days, crushing our way through Washington to get to this point. We did all of Washington in just 20 days, including a zero in Stehekin! And 116 days for the entire trail- I never thought I would hike it this fast. I eat various things from the dregs of my food bag and think about the long 14 miles back to camp. Now I kind of wish I was going into Canada with the others. But no, I wanted this. I need to walk backwards, I need the introspection.

We take turns passing around the register, a cheap paper notebook pulled from the base of the monument. (Note to people behind us- the register is in the metal monument, and you have to lift the whole monument off its base to find it. It’s heavy. And no, there isn’t any weed in there. At least that I saw.) There are something like 35 northbound thru-hikers in the register who finished before us- out of a thousand or so who started. In the register I look for friends, remember the people who are just behind us. I wish they were here. Oh that I could see them again! I write in the register-

8/18/14, Carrot Quinn. This must be what it feels like to be a river that’s reached the sea

Krispies and I say our goodbyes at 1 p.m., after hanging out at the monument for two hours. More epic hugs (why didn’t we hug more on the trail? Now I wish we’d hugged every day) and then we’re hiking south, away from our friends, away from everything, back the way we’ve come, and it all seems so sad, and glum, and empty, and I start to sob. Still I can’t tell if I’m crying from feeling or from exhaustion- I sob like a four year-old when I reach a certain point of weariness and right now I’m so tired I just want to sit down on the trail and give up. I walk alone, crying and crying, my insides a convoluted soup of emotions.

I’m climbing back up the tilted green slopes we just hiked down, feeling more weary and sad than I can bear, when it happens- a gentle lifting of the weight from my heart and, as though coming from all directions, a feeling of peace- peace coming from the sky, peace coming down the gentle slope of the mountain, peace coming from the lupine bunched up against the trail. Peaceful clouds, peaceful forest, peaceful warm august air. Peace everywhere, rushing in to fill that space that’s been vacated now that it’s all over- I’m not in a competition, or a fight for my own survival. I’m not rushing towards anything. I’m not a thru-hiker worrying about miles, or interpersonal dynamics, or the turmoils of my own heart. It’s over. It’s all over, and I’m just me. I’m Carrot.

I’m Carrot, and I’m a fucking badass. I’m a badass but I’m also vulnerable. And I’m working on my humility.

And then I realize that the peace isn’t coming from anywhere- it’s been here all along, waiting for me. And something like absolution. A kind of euphoria, a lightness, mixing in with my low blood sugar and sleep deprivation, and then suddenly I’m not weary anymore, and the climb feels easy, and hiking feels like the most natural thing I’ve ever done. Walking is what I do, it’s what I love. I’m a motherfucking thru-hiker and I love to walk. Turning the earth beneath my feet, turning the wheel of life. And this peace, everywhere, moving through me. I’m free, I’m free, I’m free.

I pass the spot where we took our last break, the ridge where I saw the sunrise. I feel like I’m walking backwards with a pushbroom, pushing ghosts off the trail. I’m free. Already I’m missing the others in the group, and it’s only been a couple of hours- the things they’d say, their hilarious idiosyncrasies, even the way we’d bicker and annoy each other. Maybe especially the way we’d bicker and annoy each other. Maybe that’s what love is- the loyalty that’s left over at the end of the day, after everything else is gone.

As I walk I realize that, rather than feeling like I’m hiking south, it feels like I’m hiking the trail inside out- all the downs are up and the ups are down and the views are all backwards. The trail, I realize, has no inherent cardinal direction, and is fully functional both ways. I file this fact away for my potential future yo-yo attempt. I cross the washouts again and this time there is a trail crew there, shoveling rocks- so the washouts will be much less annoying for the thru-hikers who come after. That’s cool. I catalogue the state of my body now that this thru-hike is over-

Foot pain- none
Blisters- none
Ibuprofen taken in the last few months- none
Digestion- off and on

I am getting good at this, I think. I realize that I’m proud of myself, for lots of different reasons- proud of myself for doing such high-mileage days, for completing Washington and Oregon so fast, for continuing to walk in all those days/hours/moments when I felt like I couldn’t walk any further. For keeping up with a bunch of tall dudes who make everything seem easy, as silly as it sounds. I’m proud of myself for not skipping a big chunk of Oregon to go to a wedding, even if it meant hiking by myself for a hundred miles.

I catch up to Krispies at camp where she’s sitting on the ground, going through her pack. I pull out a bag of salt & vinegar potato chips and happily stuff them into my face. The only other people here are a few members of a trail crew, sitting on damp logs around the fire pit, waving at mosquitoes. It’s so peaceful here, sitting on the ground next to Krispies, eating snacks. There were about twenty people at this site last night but now it’s quiet, empty.

“I’m running on something,” I say to Krispies. “I don’t know what it is, but I’m running on something. I feel good.”

“Yeah,” says Krispies. “Me too.”

It’s 6:30 p.m. and we’ve gone 29 miles. We’re 15.5 from the campground at Hart’s pass, where we’d planned to hitch out a ride out in the morning.

“I keep thinking,” says Krispies, “that if we went all the way to Hart’s pass, we could make it by midnight.”

That would make a 44.5 mile day- more than either of us have ever done, our biggest day on the trail. I look at my watch.

“Nah,” I say. “I bet we could do it by 11:30.”

And we do.



IMG_20140819_151654 ..




Clockwise from bottom left: Guthrie, yours truly, Twinkle, Tiny, Brainstorm, Woody, Rice Krispies. Photo by Tiny

Clockwise from bottom left: Guthrie, yours truly, Twinkle, Tiny, Brainstorm, Woody, Rice Krispies. Photo by Tiny


More photos on instagram

53 thoughts on “Day 116: something like absolution

  1. Congrats Carrot! I’ve enjoyed following you as you journeyed up the PCT. Thank you for writing about your trek, it’s an inspiration and helps people to connect to the trail even when they may not be able to make the journey themselves. You rock!

  2. Fantastic journey and amazing journal Carrot. A very big well done 🙂 Thanks for sharing your last 116 days with us X

  3. Mother-f*&king thru hiker, absolutely! Congratulations, and thanks for chronicling your journey so very well. I hope that you put your hikes into book form (and re-release your train stories). Your writing is so great! I promise to buy anything you publish! Thanks again.

  4. I’m 59, I’ve seen the world, I stood on mountain summits alone but I will never forget my summer I followed Carrot and her pod from Mexico to Canada.
    I love Carrot!

  5. Congratulations————I have lived the trail through you. Thank you so much and keep on treking and writing. You are great at both.——————–

  6. fantastic. your writing is so authentic, and often, as when reading a good book, I take my time finishing a post, not wanting it to end. you’re carrot, and the world is better off for having your badass self in it. i’d comment on every single post to encourage you, hoping to give your heart another shovel full of coal, but I’d look like a rabid fangirl. thank you for writing so honestly and thoughtfully about your life. XX

  7. Gosh, that was fun. I know that it is a whole lot of work writing this trail journal day after day. As a reader, I loved it. I hope you do it again when you continue your adventures. If you do, I’ll be there with you…reading. Ed Abbey said: “Better read than dead”. You are read. Enjoy the off season…

  8. Carrot I am so grateful to have been able to share this journey vicariously thru your words. Days I felt as if I were there smelling the smells and hearing the sounds. Thank you your story will forever be in my mind.

  9. Wow, I can only imagine the feeling of reaching Canada, but what a fantastic way to end. The seemed exactly the right move, and being able to hike back, on your own (part of the way), and have that catharsis sounds splendid.
    Thanks for your willing to share with us, so much of what you’ve been through.
    Happy Trails,
    Scott 2

  10. Found your blog serendipitously on a budding ADK46er’s blog and loved every one of your posts.

    A bit sad that it is over…and curious about your post-PCT days and how you re-adjust to life off the trail. A few days worth of posts might make for interesting reading.

    Take care and keep writing.


  11. Ahhhh, congratulations. Have loved following you. You are not only a great writer, but so very honest. Thank you for sharing yourself–the good and the bad, the easy fun times and the tough times. Here’s hoping that your transition goes smoothly. Find something that you love, do something that you love in a place that you love. Outside if you can.

  12. Hi Carrot, congratulations on your finish. I’ve been following along as you’ve crushed the miles. What an amazing accomplishment…. Again. (Yes I got through all of last years blog also) If you are still going I hope to follow along for your CDT hike also. I am in the planning stage to do the PCT for 2016. Working out gear and logistics.
    Thank you for making the trail seem so magical yet throwing in those reality checks (physical and mental) where needed.
    Best wishes for whatever endeavors you have ahead of you.


  13. Cheers!!!, your awesome, a big thanks for all you give us readers. i hope to meet you on the trail someday 🙂

  14. Hi Carrot,
    Thanks for sharing your summer adventure with us all. Love all the inspiration, honesty and the photos. I keep an a saying at hand that I read most days, written by Gil Bailie, that reminds me of your daily journey: “Don’t ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive and go do that, because what this world needs is people who have come alive.” Congratulations and best of luck in all your endeavors. You are truly ALIVE!!!

  15. I had thought that your post on crossing Pinchot and Mather was my favorite but this is the best one. I think that you REALLY GET the trail. The euphoria, the exhaustion, the community, the loneliness all happening on this little ribbon of dirt that goes on and on. Nobody else writes about it as authentically as you do and I thank you for carrying me along on your journey. I hope for the best for you and offer my help if I can ever do anything for you (I am Seamus’ mentor teacher and friend).

  16. You’re so awesome! I have been following your blog the last two years and it’s been very nice getting to know you .( It’s the ONLY blog I follow) Thank you for sharing your adventures with us. I’m looking so much forward to following you next year. I hope everything turns out as you expect between trails. From Norway with best wishes Lars Sent using CloudMagic

  17. Excellent. I have enjoyed reading about your hike this summer and hope you will find the focus to write your book.
    You are a thru hiker but you are also a writer. Congratulations.

  18. Congratulations Carrot!
    From now on I’ll have breakfast without reading your daily adventures. So, I also feel sad. Thank you so much for sharing your daily adventures, not only the nice things but also the sad things.
    I wish you all the best!
    Mother of another thru-hiker

  19. What I love most about your story telling Carrot is not so much that you tell a great yarn – which you do – but that like a good song, your words touch me and make me feel something. I think it’s the pain and beauty of being human; you describe it so well that it cuts right to the bone. Thanks for all of it – you rock! Can’t wait to see what you do and write next. Best regards, Jenni

  20. My boss will be happy now that your hike is over. Less time on the internet :^) Best wishes on your next adventure!

  21. Two years of your blog now and it’s better than ever, you’ve definitely hit your stride on all counts. You are one lean MF’in badass Carrot indeed. Congrats on all your journeys.

  22. Congrats! What an accomplishment! You have so much to be proud of…thanks for letting us share in your amazing life experience here! I look forward to following the future Journeys of Ms. Carrot Quinn! Regards Chuck

  23. Congratulations on your second PCT journey.

    I just got an email from Indiegogo about your book and the “” link goes to the dead zone of “404”. You may want to let them know that it needs fixing.

    Enjoyed reading your journey this year. One of the things I would have liked you to include more would have been the naming the places you commented on using the names mentioned in the data book. I have done the PCT and kept having to reference back to my data book to see what river crossing, saddle or pass you were going over, and where you slept or rested. When you do the book, I would like to see those references so I can read it without referencing back to your mileage posting and my data book.

  24. My daughter and I have enjoyed your last two years adventures! You have stoked her to the point that she is constantly begging to go hiking. We just finished the Vermont Long Trail.
    I agree with Roger above, do what you enjoy in life.
    You appreciate that you are living in the “DASH”. Our headstones will have our birthdate, date of leaving the earth and our whole life is the -.
    Thanks for sharing.

  25. Thanks Carrot, for your honesty and sharing a part of you with us. I believe that we do not choose the trail, she chooses us.
    Steve class of 2015

  26. Wow. What an amazing ride. Thank you for taking me there with your writing and allowing me to share a bit of what it’s like to be surrounded by Big Nature. Helped me breathe. Someday I want to do this. You rock!

  27. Congrats on your 2nd through hike and thanks for sharing it again with us this year. Best PCT blog two years running. Looking forward to following your CDT adventure.

  28. Well done! If you ever want to isolate yourself to write your book in a little bunkhouse on a ranch in Northern California amidst swine and cattle, we’ve got the spot for you. Congrats and Best Wishes! -Tj

  29. I loved reading your blog. I have no idea where you found the time to write but am very grateful that you did. Best of luck with the transition of the trail!

  30. Carrot, Congratulations on your success. Your experience you shared with beautiful words resound with a golden heart. You are truly an inspiration. May your dreams live on for ever.

  31. Congratulations, Carrot!! You are truly an inspiration, and I have enjoyed every minute of your blogs last year and this year. One day I WILL thru-hike the PCT!!

  32. many congrats Carrot. yours is the best travel blog I’ve ever come across. Compulsive reading. Much luck with your transition to ‘normal’ (huh!) life.


  33. Congrats Carrot, woohoo !
    I completed the amazing 500 miles from the Atlantic to the Mediterranean on the GR11 thru the Spanish Pyrenees on the 13th.
    I’ve loved your blog, Terry Tramp x

  34. Kudos for breaking with Gossamer Gear. Nothing against them of course… but as another anti-capitalist hiker, I admire the principled approach. Oh, and congrats on your second epic trip of course! Thanks for the great writing.

  35. I just read your article in the PCTA magazine and looked you up, wow, I’m so happy for you and I don’t even know you!
    (your writing is very good, be a writer)

  36. Oh Carrot…I feel so so so moved by you – all that you are, all that you have achieved and all that you give to the universe. THANK you for writing all of your physical, emotional and ethical adventures down and sharing them with us! I was all shivers-up-and-down-my-spine reading this, a common occurrence in reading your words over the past six years and all the more appreciated because your writing continues to affect my spirit, soul and body in such tangible ways. Your post card arrived yesterday; my girlfriend found my fan-girling “omigoddesscarrotQUINNtouchedthisinkandthispostcard” highly entertaining. I wish you a safe landing back in Not The Trail world and I hope you manage navigating the post hiking blues wisely and well. Sending you the warmest gentlest most congratulatory virtual hug from over here in England, and lots of love.

  37. Wow. I didn’t want this to end so I put off finishing it until tonight. This post may be your single best ever. Thank you again for taking us with you on this amazing journey. You are a badass!

  38. Oh carrot. I just melted into a puddle of nostalgia soup reading some of your blogs. The trail is real life and the rest of the world is a mess. Thanks for sparking a lot of memories of this year’s thru-hike- I can picture in my head almost all the swim holes, mountain tops, and campsites you mention. many memories.

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