I woke up around 3am. I know this because I looked at my watch wondering how long I had for the rain to possibly stop before I had to get up. Probably not long enough given that it had been raining all night.
I drifted in and out of sleep before deciding to start getting ready at 4:30am. I had 10 miles ahead of me. It was supposed to be mostly downhill, though there was clearly some uphill and I had no idea what type of terrain to expect. I had a train to catch at 3pm and given the rough terrain I had come across, I wanted to leave plenty of time.
That didn’t mean I had to wake up at 4:30am; but I was awake and would rather wait at the end then at camp.
I ate breakfast and made coffee in the rain. Deep Lake, my campsite, is the only one on the trail without a covered shelter. I wasn’t complaining given that most backpacking experiences in my life have not involved covered shelters. It felt like the way it should be. I was glad to get some rain, and also admittedly glad that it was the last day so I didn’t have to worry about the tent drying out, etc.
I did however bring my coffee back to my tent to enjoy under cover while I slowly began packing up and dressing my feet with mole skin. Just as the day prior, I left camp about 6:30am.
I didn’t awake with the same energy or recovery as day 2. Instead, my feet started hurting from the start. Fortunately, despite the achy feet, I was able to enjoy the wonderful scenery. Unfortunately, because of the continued rain, I do not have any pictures of the last 10 miles I hiked on my final day.
It took me 1.5 hours to hike 3 miles to the next camp, Lindeman City. This appears to be two different campsites, but they are both off the main trail and I didn’t see either of them. It took me another 1.5 hours to hike the next 3 miles to the Bare Loon Lake campsite. This section had considerable up and down (at least it felt that way in my achy state). Bare Loon looked gorgeous. The sites sit right on the lake, and I would love to spend a night there sometime.
I trudged along for the remaining 4 miles. It wasn’t difficult terrain, but it felt very long.
I was very pleased to see the train station at Bennett!
The rain had stopped at this point but the wind was howling. The train station is a very large building, and I was excited to get inside! On my way down, a group of travelers informed me that it wasn’t open. There is a final campsite nearby and all the hikers waiting for the train were packed into the cooking shelter or bundled up outside of it. I arrived at 11:30am, 3 hours before we were supposed to check in, and there were many hikers already there and many more who would funnel in.
With so many people, it was overwhelming to meet more. I had a couple of conversations, but mostly the 7 of us who had hiked from the same campsite that morning stuck together. I did see in the group we joined, the first dog I had seen on the trail. A rather small dog. Many dogs hike the trail, but I really can’t imagine it. While our little dog would probably do better than me going over the pass, I would be too nervous to do it with her. We also met a couple who hiked the trail with their 9.5 month old baby! And one woman ran the entire trail, starting at 3am that morning.
The train came before 2:30pm. We loaded up packs and then climbed on board. It is a scenic tourist train. They keep the hikers in different cars than the cruise ship passengers! It’s about a 2:45hour ride back to Skagway. It is lovely and was enjoyable, but also a long time to sit, traveling very slowly, and wanting to move onto other things.
I caught my flight home less than an hour after getting off the train! Good timing. I even had time to get an ice cream cone before checking in. It was far too windy for a comfortable flight, but fortunately we landed safely and I was home in time for a late dinner.
It was a great trip! I love backpacking and want to do it more often. I intend to maintain it as a priority and to get out at least a few days each year, probably traveling on this trail again, as well as finding others. I feel alive in a way that I don’t in my day to day life. Triathlon taps into this same place for me. I think I naturally thrive with a LOT of movement, and triathlon provides the motivation (? maybe, or structure?) for me to do it in the ‘front country’ on a regular basis. But this trip reminds me that it isn’t a precise substitute and I want both long distance triathlon and backpacking in my life.