Technically, I was done with the PCT, but I still had 5 more miles to go to get to Manning Park and the road, where you could get to either Vancouver or Seattle. The morning was foggy, but not significantly cold. (It had been a while since I woke up this low in elevation.) My camping companions from the night before were all still sleeping soundly. And a few more tents had appeared in the night; more thru-hikers who wanted one last night outside or who didn't want to push the miles the night before. They were all sleeping soundly, too. I did my usual thing; I was the first one up and out of camp, just as the sun was climbing over the horizon.
I was anticipating a tough hike into Manning Park. All along the PCT, I had mixed feelings about how well maintained and gently graded it was. On the one hand, it's nice to not be constantly climbing over downed trees and balancing on rocks. On the other hand, hiking is not SUPPOSED to be a walk in the park. After the terminus yesterday, I had crossed into Canada on a trail that was no longer officially the PCT. And the next four miles were rocky and steep and uneven and rollercoaster-y. Suddenly, it wasn't a walk in the park anymore. I got up early and got moving partially because I expected the last 5 miles to be just like that.
Fortunately for me, the last 5 miles were not like that at all. I was racing the weather to Manning Park and i was happy to get any advantage I could against the threat of rain. 1.2 miles into the day, the trail joined Windy Joe Road, a dirt road that ran down toward Manning Park. It was graded for vehicles and made for quick and easy hiking. Very thoughtful of you, Canada!
As I got closer to Manning Park Lodge, I had an unexpected surprise: runners! There was a trail race going on and as I hiked down toward the lodge, they were running up toward the peaks of Windy Joe and Frosty Mountain. All the way down to the last one mile section of paved road, I was saying good morning and high fiving runner. They congratulated me on finishing; I wished them luck in the race. So far, Canada was turning out to be great!
Once I found the lodge, I quickly located the restaurant which I was told had a great breakfast buffet. Since I am an early riser, I had to wait until the dining room actually opened for breakfast. I made the most of the time by washing up in the bathroom (one thing indoor living does have going for it is running water!) and reconnecting with the rest of the hikers waiting for the restaurant to open. I ended up eating with Toe Touch and Spreadsheet. Breakfast was delicious and filling. And when I left the restaurant, the first drops of rain were starting to fall. Impeccable timing once again. Thanks, Canada!
To get to Vancouver from Manning Park, there is a bus that comes at 2 am. I wasn't thrilled about such a long wait. But since I had arrived on a Saturday, I figured that my chances of hitching were better than usual. I had been looking out the window during breakfast and noticed a lot of Subarus and Jeep vehicles on the road. (Drivers of those cars are more likely to pick up sad looking people with their thumbs out. Ask any hiker you know) I found myself a piece of cardboard and a sharpie to fashion a sign for hitching. "PCT hiker to Vancouver or Seattle", it read (mentioning a trail greatly increases the chances of a ride). I took my sign and stepped out the front door of the lobby, and got a ride. I didn't even have to go to the road! No, I just stepped out the door with my sign and a guy said "Trying to get to Vancouver? I can drive you. Are you okay waiting until the end of the trail race?" Canadians...they're awesome!
Now, since I had a couple hours to kill before hitting the road, I inquired at the front desk to see if there were showers that hikers could use, perhaps for a fee? Not just showers, but a whole spa building complete with a pool, hot tub, steam room, and sauna. (There was a workout room, too, but I felt okay skipping the treadmill and weights today). All were at my disposal for the price of $5.00 Canadian. I love Canada!
What a great way to end a great hike.