The Long Way Around the Parking Lot (The Medium Sexy Loop)

Preamble

When I described this trip to my husband he dubbed this trek “The long way around the parking lot”, I call it the Medium Sexy Loop.

This trek starts at Road’s End in Sequoia King Canyon National Park starting on the North side of the parking lot, and completing 144km later on the South East side.  Quite novel to say the least!  The trek is dubbed as the Big SEKI loop, this is a shortened version (there are a few, I went with the middle in size option).  Much info around the web can be found for the “SEKI Loop”.

I really enjoyed this loop and soloed it in 7 days. It has enough solitude on the early Copper Creek Trail, then a ton of socializing up on the JMT, and  since it is a loop you don’t have to deal with logistics of getting too and from the trail head, or a boring out and back.

Next level goals – you can make this trek down past Whitney to Kern River and back across the HST through Bear Paw Meadow and out Bubbs Creek aka The Big SEKI Loop (googling this has lots of resources). This was my original goal but I had an awful cold for most of this trip and decided one week out in the wilderness was perfect.

The trek is harder than the JMT, in my opinion (some map reading/basic route finding when the trail gets a bit hard to follow on day two and three), but still I found it super easy from the mental perspective, so a perfect one to solo.

The Trek

Park: Sequoia King Canyon

InfoLoop details and caltopo

Total Distance: Approximately 88 miles (141.5km)

Starting at Roads End, Copper Creek Trail head. Looping up to the JMT and out lower Rae Lakes Loop at Bubbs Creek.

Time: 7 days September 2nd – 8th.

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The Gear

Base weight: 14lbs (stupid bear canister…)

Food weight: 13lbs

Lighter Pack: here

Forgot my spoon in my checked bag, oops… melted the end of my toothbrush handle into a flat spoon like shape. I guess that is a pro for not cutting off your toothbrush handle 😉

Probably not full on UL (Ultra Light), but solo traveling so had some extras. Loved my ULA Rain Kilt, that was a new addition to this trip. It made for a great “porch floor” next to my tent in the evenings.

Day 1 – Copper Creek Trailhead to Granite Basin

Distance: 11 miles(17.7km)

Elevation Gain: 6700ft(2042m)

Day one is kind of the worst. Bad sleep from being in the campground the night before on Labour Day weekend, full pack weight, 50+ switch backs, hotter than hell, little shade or water. Up, up, up… Water was a bit more scarce this year than previous years so I actually ran out of water on the lip down into Granite Basin. Where I expected there to be water there wasn’t, but fortunately Granite Basin was only another 20 minutes and tons of water to be found :).  I recommend 2L from the water source on the map on the way up, until you are in Granite Basin.

The view into Granite Basin – nice to see some water!

I found a secluded camp on a dusty patch near the lake, and it felt amazing to soak my feet in the water. The location felt super private but I did see a guy in the morning on the other side of the lake. Woke up to three deer walking through camp, not bad for day one!

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Home sweet home at Granite Basin

Day 2 – Granite Basin to Simpson’s Meadow

Distance: 14 miles (22.5km)

Elevation Loss: 4700ft(1430m)

Day two was beautiful. Had a spring in my step, made it over Granite Pass fairly early, it’s a super easy pass, and down through Lake of the Fallen Moon area which is one of my favourite areas on the trail.  Sunbeams like to peer through these small meadows and there are almost no people in this part of the park.

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Spring in my step going through these trails

Crossed the Middle Fork Dougherty Creek which last year I took a spur trail just before and was off trail for a good 45 minutes – this year it seemed so obvious… Ran into three people coming out from State Lakes which was nice to have some human interactions with, only ones of the day!

Made it down “The Bitch” which is what the switch backs are called in the Kings Canyon Pack Guide… many many switch backs and 4000+ feet of down down down – you get here in the early afternoon and it feels like you are so close to Simpson Meadow but this section seems to drag.  I cursed the pack gates as I am not very big and had a hard time opening and closing them.

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Oh how I loathe you pack animal gates – you are heavier and more unruly than you look!

Made it past Simpson Meadow – note it is not signed and there are a few spur trails through the meadow. I hugged the right one that follows the granite rock slope and that is the one that is correct. I assume the other ones go to stock camps. I hiked about half mile or so past Simpson Meadow and found where the river was fairly close to the trail and setup camp.

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This is such a bomber of a wee tent!

Wandering through the woods near camp there was an old drift fence in the trees, so I guess this had been setup a bit more in the past.  I had to tie a guy line to my pot to collect water, as the bank was about a four feet steep drop to the river but it was fine. Quiet night here, no wildlife or people seen, however a big storm rolled in early so I just had a bars for dinner and it was a bit spooky.

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What a way to start your morning

Day 3 – Simpson’s Meadow to Glacier Creek

Distance: 12.6 miles (20.2km)

Elevation Gain: 3000ft(914m)

Day three was also one of my favourite days. I had a bit of apprehension because I did this section of trail last year and found it to be a bit of a challenge. The trail itself isn’t particularly long or difficult elevation wise, but it is not well maintained and gets quite overgrown. I had heard there was a washout somewhere past Cartridge Creek, and last year was a huge snow pack year and the Palisade Creek Crossing was challenging. Though so far the water sources were pretty scarce, so that worry was quickly squashed!

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Do these pine cones make my feet look small?

Climbed up and and up, this section is filled with grand views, hanging meadows, and stunning granite vistas. About half a mile before Devil’s Washbowl I was in extremely over grown brush and making the occasional bear call. All of a sudden I hear crunch crunch above me just off trail and sure enough about four feet away, a huge healthy black bear and I make eye contact. This was the closest I have ever been to a bear (even living in bear country). I talked to the bear calmly, “Oh why hello black bear, nice to see you today…”. He looked at me as if to say “what the fuck are you”, and slowly ambled off. It was a great experience overall and he seemed to have a healthy disinterest in humans.

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Squint you may see a bear!

Devil’s Washbowl up to Cartridge Creek was stunning and uneventful, then I hit the washout about 1-2 miles before the JMT and there were actually trail crew working on it. One of the crew members mentioned that it won’t be fixed this year, but from what I could see they were doing a great job.  I was able to just hike up the side of the washout 4-5 feet then scramble across, it really was no big deal. Up the rest of the trail to Palisade Creek the crossing was super easy this year. Managed to rock hop 90% of the way then had to take two above the knee steps into the water to get over to the bank. Dried out, had lunch it was only 1:30PM!

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Why hello!

Feeling quite pleased with myself, it was now time to hit the major freeway that is the JMT and prepare to get overwhelmed by all the socializing. I hiked the remainder of the evening to Glacier Creek, just before the Golden Staircase. In hindsight I should have just busted my ass another hour up to Palisade Lakes, would have made for a more enjoyable day four.

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Sensory overload on the JMT!

Day 4 – Glacier Creek to South Fork King River

Distance: 12.2 miles (19.6km)

Elevation: Approximately 3000ft to Mather’s Pass (914m)

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Golden Staircase views!

Day four was a bit of a slog for me. Golden Staircase flew by but the trek to Mather’s Pass felt unending. There was some dicey weather rolling in and I really didn’t want to be caught out high on the pass. I kept questioning if I should keep moving up the pass or hunker for a bit, finding solace in the cheese snacks I picked up at the SEKI store at Road’s End as an impromptu buy, I decided to keep on.

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I am actually on the moon here

The trail after Mather’s shlepped through the forest down down down, and it started to rain. I found a campsite down low by the South Fork King River and ended my day early around 3:30 PM. This area was a bit sad as I reminisced the fact that a lovely young PCT’er passed away earlier in the year at one of the river crossings.

Once the rain finally let up, it turned out to be a fun night as I met some awesome folks from the UK and US, built a fire and we had some laughs.

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Hiding during the rain, love this Park’s Canada buff!

Day 5 – South Fork King River to 1.5 miles before Dollar Lake

Distance: 14.3 miles (23km)

Elevation: Approximately 2000ft to Pinchot Pass (600m)

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Pinchot my favourite pass – what a breeze!

Day five was fantastic, I loved Pinchot Pass!  It wasn’t a slog and I had great views! The other side of Pinchot was never ending lunar landscape of arid terrain.  I even met the superintendent of the Park who took my picture for me at the top of the pass, we had a nice chat and shared a snack.  I took a very leisure day (the kilometers don’t show it but it truly was a saunter) and just slowly trekked through enjoying the sights. I made it past the suspension bridge and saw the zoo that is that first campsite with a lot of familiar faces over the last couple days.  I decided to keep going as I really don’t like the busy areas with the toilet paper messes and the loudness in nature.

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My stretch goal was to make Dollar Lake, but I got lazy and decided to pick a kind of shitty camp spot just above this wooded meadow (which in hindsight had nicer camp spots but I was too lazy to walk back down the way I came up because that just feels wrong!).

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The nature, of nature.

This camp spot had no water, and was on mostly granite so pitching the tent was a bit trickier but I was getting much better at it.  Another bar only night, but it was peaceful and a deer roamed through camp right before I went to bed.

Day 6 – 1.5 miles before Dollar Lake to Junction Meadow (Lower Rae Lake Loop)

Distance: 12.5 miles (20km)

Elevation: Approximately 2500ft to Glenn Pass (762m)

Day six, Rae Lakes are gorgeous and a great place to have second breakfast 🙂 Climbed up Glenn Pass, which I felt was a more mentally challenging than Mather’s Pass mostly due to the fact that you can see everyone on top of the pass and they look like ants the whole damn time.

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So nobby!
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This picture gives me PTSD – the people are up there, the size of 1px x 1px!

I have a mental ‘game’ where I tell myself I can take a drink of water every 5 or 10 switch backs (depending on how exhausted or thirsty I am, and barring how much water I have at the time). That game definitely helped me on this pass!

Once over the pass down and back into the woods towards Charlotte Lake, the trail crews were doing some blasting. aI was fortunate to be the last hiker through before the blast so I didn’t have to wait 30 minutes! Phewf!!  I wish I had spent some time exploring Charlotte Lake  and side trail in hindsight as that area was gorgeous and I felt a bit rushed.

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Stunning sounds of water!

Finally veered off on the Bubbs Creek Trail at Lower Vidette Meadow and said goodbye to the John Muir Trail. Down towards Junction Meadow, to the left there is a fork to go to East Lake, there are some great camp sites near the river.  The river crossing itself looked a bit gnarly however some people were crossing upstream.  Apparently the other side is where the bear bin is located, but if you have a bear can it is irrelevant.

If you want to push on a little further the next good sites are around Charlotte Creek another two miles down hill.

This night was a sweet campsite as I was first to arrive.  Also some good company with the two Steve’s who were brother in laws were there.  I had met the one Steve earlier in the day on the other side of Glenn Pass, and we had chatted and had a good laugh.  This evening we all ate dinner together. Steve 1 was a song writer/poet and rapped me an amazing song about hiking, it sounds cheesy but it was the coolest fucking thing I had heard all trip and was legit pro. Honestly I wish I had recorded it!

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Curious what this sounded like when these rocks landed here!

Day 7 – Junction Meadow to Roads End

Distance: 11.5 miles (18km)

Elevation: Back down to 5000ft from around 7000ft

I woke up at five AM with excitement for an upcoming shower today and broke camp by 6am. I loved walking down Bubbs Creek Canyon, the grade was easy. I saw six trail runners with day packs coming up the trail, those guys are hardcore – curious if they were doing Rae’s Lake Loop?! Passed through the Bubbs Creek Fire burn zone from a fire earlier in the summer. Right as I finished this I saw (no offense bear), this ugly, scrawny, scrappy adolescent bear. He had zero interest in moving off the trail and I wasn’t sure if he still had a momma bear near by or if he was on his own – tween bear… I was yelling at the bear and backed up slowly. He gave zero shits about me and went right on foraging. Finally after 15 minutes he fucked off, and I was able to move on. I mentioned it to a ranger that this bear might need a hazing… and the ranger seemed to know the culprit.

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The view of civilization down there (and showers)!

Down some last sets of switch backs the midges became annoying – first time on the trip that bugs were… bugging me.  Finally, the long flats back to Roads End with all the day hikers passing you, it’s only 1-2 miles but feels like it goes on forever… I just want that damn shower!! (Talk about a motivation). Exited around 1PM not a bad 18km downhill haul!  Showers ended up being free for some unknown reason so I was able to take as long as I wanted – talk about luxury!!

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I am surprised these people got close enough to me to take a picture.

Woo hoo loop completed! Hope this was mildly interesting 🙂 Happy Hiking.

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Obligatory tourist picture of this HUGE FUCKING TREE!!!

 

Hiking the Chilkoot Trail

Note I do not receive any compensation and this is just a review of my experiences on the trail.

What is the Chilkoot Trail?

The Chilkoot Trail is a 53km (33 mile) trail that crosses from Alaska, USA to Northern British Colombia, Canada, just south of the Yukon Territory.  You will follow the same path prospectors from the 1890’s followed to head to the gold fields!  Tons of historic signage and artifacts along the way.  If you are a history buff, or love multi-day treks, this one is for you!    Parks Canada Overview

Preparation

The challenging part about planning to hike the Chilkoot Trail is organizing the travel to and from the different trail entry/exit points.  Not overly difficult, however some careful planning is required as the trail end point in British Colombia is only accessible by float plane and train.  The train does not operate every day, requires pre-booking, and the schedule is such that you will need to start with the exit train and work your way backwards to figure out your start date.

Travel

Being Canadian, I found it easiest to travel to Whitehorse.  There is a 2.5 hour flight multiple times a day from Vancouver airport.  There is a free airport shuttle at the Yukon airport for each domestic flight that takes travelers to the various hotels.  We stayed at the Yukon Inn which has a restaurant on the premise.

WPYR is the company you will work with to sort out your train/bus to Skagway and the train/bus back from Bennett (the terminus of the trail).

Permits

You will need to get a Permit from Parks Canada (this will cover you for both the Canadian and the US side).  You will select your camp sites and make the reservation.  More info can be found here.

Camp Sites

There are nine campsites along the Chilkoot Trail.  Each one has bear bins and toilets, most have tent pads and fully enclosed cook shelters.  Most people strategically camp at Sheep Camp, the closest campground before the main pass of the Chilkoot Trail, additionally most people then camp at Happy Camp, the closest campground after the pass.  A list of each campsite and the elevation profile and their locations can be found here.  We camped at Sheep Camp, Deep Lake, and Bennett.

Gear List

I try to go fairly ultra-light, but since we were going to be on a tent pad I brought my free standing two person tent.  In total I weighed in at about 23lbs for my pack, including food and 1L of water.  Water is plentiful along the trail.  Rain gear is recommended (it rained almost every day on our trip).  I did the trip in trail running shoes which I normally hike in if I am not going off trail.  Hiking boots are also recommended.  Here is my complete gear list.

The Adventure

Traveling to the Trail

We arrived in Whitehorse around 11:30PM and took the free airport shuttle to the Yukon Inn hotel – checked in and slept.  The next morning we grabbed breakfast at the Yukon Inn restaurant and walked over to the WPYR bus station office, which is about a 20 minute walk from the hotel.  We booked this leg of the journey here (it was hard to find the exact bus/train we needed, but a quick email had us sorted out).

Here we met up with our bus driver and a few others and headed off to Carcross.  We had a 30 minute layover in Carcross which is a beautiful little village, we grabbed a coffee from the cafe there and wandered around taking pictures.  We will re-visit Carcross on the way back for 4 hours so I will dive deeper into that town later.

Next our bus continued on some way until we switched to train.  This train took us all the way to Skagway.  It was a scenic train with a narrated guide through the White Pass trail.  You can stand outside the car to take pictures and it was truly an enjoyable time!

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Once arriving in Skagway, we picked up our permits at the trail office, picked up fuel and bear spray at one of the local hiking shops, grabbed some lunch at Glacial Smoothies and Espresso (10/10 delicious!).  Puttered around town, did some last minute grocery store shopping, and had dinner at The Red Onion (old brothel turned restaurant – would rate 4/10, service was good but food was meh).

We then met up with our shuttle driver Anne who was wonderful and drove us to the Dyea campground – her info can be found here.  The campground, as of writing, is 10 dollars a night (either Canadian or US which is handy!).  We set up our tent, played some cards and hit the hay.

Day 1 – Dyea to Sheep Camp – 15 miles total (with loop and extra from camp)

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Photo in front of the trail head – Courtesy of my hiking buddy Ming!

From the campground it is a half mile trail walk through the woods to the Chilkoot Trailhead. We snagged a picture in front of the sign and met up with a girl we met in town the day before.  At around 9:30am, off we went towards Sheep Camp.  We were warned by the ranger that the first mile of the trail is kind of the worst.  If you look at the elevation profile you will see a large hill right off the bat.  Sure enough up up up then down down down.  It wasn’t too bad overall but I always fine in the first mile of any hike my body is like “what are you doing?! grr this is terrible!?” before it reluctantly goes “oh, I guess my complaining isn’t changing anything – fine I guess this is our life now”.  Once that hill was done, we were in the flats.  Through wet lands and coastal rain forest it was easy sailing for the first half of the day.

We stopped at Finnegan’s Point for our first snack break.  There is a gorgeous old tree here which greets you like a Tree Ent from Lord of The Rings.  Onwards we went to Canyon City.

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Beautiful tree at Finnegan’s Point

Our next break here was quick, as we wanted to check out the Canyon City Ruins.  We hiked across the sketchy suspension bridge and hiked the loop.

NOTE: This was not advertised as a loop and I was wondering if we were going to forever keep hiking away from the main trail (not literally but was questioning the route a bit in my head).  Sure enough it loops back to the beginning where the suspension bridge meets the other side of the river.

The overgrowth hid most of what Canyon City Ruins had to offer, but I am happy we checked it out and there were some gorgeous glacier views from a river lookout spot.

We met back with the main trail and kept on hiking!  The next section I would say is the worst section of the whole trail.  Probably because it was a 13-14 mile day, but this section from Canyon City to Pleasant Camp was less then pleasant! It was rocky and elevated and undulating.  I was pretty tired at this point and we sat in a pretty big huff at Pleasant Camp.  Last stretch to go we made it to Sheep Camp around 5:30pm- a welcome site that was!

The ranger came around at 7PM to spook us into the trials and tribulations of the upcoming day as well as to share the history of the trail.  He said however long it took you to get to Sheep Camp, on average that is how long it will take you to get over the pass to Happy Camp.  He asked who was heading further on to Deep Lake and three parties, ours included, raised hands.  I was a bit alarmed, realizing many people take multiple days to get to Happy Camp, but I think he was just setting a realistic expectation in that the following day was going to be a tough one!

Day 2 – Sheep Camp to Deep Lake – 10 miles

Funny story about this particular morning.  After waking up and leaving my tent , I noticed there was no tents erected on any of the tent pads!  Worried I had over slept, I checked my watch and it said 7:30AM.  I guess everyone heeded the rangers guidance and set out super early!

Heading to the cook shelter as a few stragglers were just leaving, the only people remaining just so happened to be from the three parties who were heading to Deep Lake camp today (the one beyond Happy Camp).  We all laughed among ourselves, joking that us longer mile people just needed our beauty sleep. 🙂

Off we went heading towards the looming pass, up, up, up, meeting some of the other folks from the night before along the way.  We started to get above the tree line and that is when the views began to open up.  Waterfalls galore! We hike through some stream crossings before heading to the scales.  This is where the miners gear was weighed showing they had 1 tonne of goods to enter Canada.  Here we could see the pass and a few dots of people hiking it.

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That pass dead center top is where we are headed!

The pass was tough but manageable.  It was rocky talus and boulder fields, you could hop one to the next.  I found the terrain completely fine however the winds were gusting I would guess around 30-40kph, and I found sometimes that unnerved me a bit. However brave children and older folks were doing no problem so I pressed on, not to be outdone.

The top of the pass had some snow patches before the warming hut.  We hung out up there for around 45 minutes taking photos and warming up.  Finally we began to descend into the Canadian side of the trail.

This side of the trail felt more rugged.  Lots of rock fields, water crossings with no rock hopping, cairns to follow.  Feet did not stay dry, and I was very grateful I wore trail running shoes and not dry gore-tex boots!

Once we got to Happy Camp it was around 4:30PM.   Since there were no cook shelters at Deep Lake, we decided to make Cup of Soup in the cook shelter at Happy Camp.  We met up with a few groups who were also going to continue on to Deep Lake.  Finally we went off on the last 2.5 miles we needed to finish that day.

Deep Lake was dreary as we had started to get a fair amount of rain, however it was not without beauty.  Wild blueberries and huckleberries abounded.  The wind howled most of the night however it was a quiet camp and I am glad we chose to stay there.

Day 3 – Deep Lake to Lake Bennett – 10 miles

Deep Lake to Bennett was a welcome change of pace.   There had been a bear restriction so we had to travel in groups of four between Deep Lake and Linderman City.  We sat by the junction nomming on wild blueberries until some travelers from Happy Camp strolled by.  Sticking out our thumbs, we got in line and started marching along behind.

Taking a break at Linderman, we checked out the interpretive tent, had a morning snack, and picked up our trail completion certificate.  There we met a Canadian ranger who said the bear restriction is now lifted so we slowly peeled out of camp one by one and headed off.

This section of the trail takes you back into the woods and the views are a bit bland (in the grand scheme of things).  Marching along up and down rock/trail until you finally get to Bare Loon Lake.  This camp site is gorgeous and overlooks a lovely lake.  Many people stay here for their final night and it is not without merit.

We chose Bennett Lake to stay our final night so off we went.  The final stretch of the trail hits sand – lots of sand! Makes for an odd final slog but the views are stunning.

Finally you get to a panoramic sign and hop up on some rocks – be sure you do because wow!

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Overlooking Lake Bennett

 

Traveling Home

Taking the train out of Bennett was straight forward, as it is a few minutes walk from the camp sites.  They put all the stinky hikers together in one car, the sight seers are in the other cars.

Travelling back to Carcross we had a four hour layover before bussing to Whitehorse.  Here we went to The Bistro (10/10 busy but food was great), which had a fantastic poutine and some great local beers on tap including a nice Kolsch!  Here we did some shopping – there are many local First Nation artists with gorgeous and reasonably priced hand made items.  I found the shopping here to be much more unique and less expensive then in Skagway.  After our layover, we hopped onto the bus and back to Whitehorse.

Once back at WPYR bus station, we walked over to the Yukon Inn and cleaned up and grabbed dinner.  Great success!  We donated our bear spray to the front desk to give to any other hikers who may want some.

The Recap

Overall, easily doable trail if you are in shape and train on some mountains/hills/stairs.   I met an amazing gentleman from Tasmania of the spry age of 72 who completed it.  He found the going tough and had a much more paced itinerary then ours, but mission complete!  Trail runners can complete this trail in one day, though that sounds like it would be hella tough and not sure how logistics would work.  Going solo is fine, you will meet lots of people each night if you want to.  We didn’t see any bears, though lots of bear poop!

Happy Hiking!

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