The calls were placed - one to the American Border Patrol and one to the Canadian border authorities. While they waited, they chatted amicably about various and sundry items. The officer said that the Indians had illegally been collecting mushrooms and had close to a $1,000 worth of the fungi. He removed them from the bed of his truck and threw them into the woods as he talked. He also didn’t know a lot about the PCT, and Coincidence was more than happy to fill him in on the specifics.
Before long, the American Border Patrol called back to say they had no issues with the American, but when the Canadian border authorities returned the officer’s call, the response was,
“Arrest the suspect on violation of the Emigration Act.”
The jovial and amicable manner of the Conservation Officer immediately changed and he said, in a most authoritative tone of voice,
“Sir, I need you to turn around and place your hands behind your back. You’re under arrest.”
“Whoa,” said Coincidence, “I didn’t see that one coming.”
“Neither did I,” said the officer.
It was a long ride to the town of Hope in the back of the police cruiser, made even more difficult having his hands cuffed behind his back, but Coincidence prevailed.
In Hope, he was taken to a detention facility of the Royal Mounted Police and placed in a small cell, but not before being searched. Later that evening, he was transported to Vancouver, and was somewhat upset when he overheard his guards mention something about a "hearing." Coincidence recounted that before being taken to the transport, not only was he again handcuffed, but he was also shackled with leg chains, which made it difficult to walk in his bare feet.
The ride to Vancouver was long, over an hour, and upon arriving, he was again placed in a small cell, where he remained for the night. As he drifted off to sleep, he found it ironic that he started the morning walking through the forests, and ended the day in a jail cell.
The morning interview Coincidence had with a Canadian border official centered on the small detail of why he had deviated from his planned border crossing at Manning Park, and also, the nitpicky detail that his permit had expired by two days. Coincidence explained to him the difficulty of crossing the snow-covered mountains.
“So," said the official," you just want to go home?”
“Yes,” replied Coincidence.
“Well, we really have no need to keep you further; I’ll see that you’re released as quickly as possible.”
Later that afternoon, a cab ride was provided for Coincidence to the U.S.-Canadian border where he quickly passed through. Once on the American side, he placed his hand on a large sign that said, “Welcome to America,” then turned to face Canada, flipped it the bird, and walked away.
In retrospect: Thru-hikers, particularly those crossing into Canada at Manning Park, carry two official documents with them; first, the Long Distance Hiking Permit issued by the Pacific Crest Trail Association; and two, the Canadian Identification Permit for entry into Canada.
Either permit can be requested for examination by the appropriate authorities. Chances are, a hiker will never be asked to show their permits, but there are consequences for not having them. Personally, I had a Forest Service ranger ask for my Long Distance Hiking Permit while hiking to Fuller Ridge in the San Jacinto Mountains, and as Coincidence found out, the Canadian permit is valid only for crossing into Canada at the border crossing specified on the permit – which is Manning Park.
I’m Fine’s Ending
Like Ernest Shackleton, I’m Fine wasn’t about to give up. Even after having rescued himself and making his way to civilization at Stehekin, one would think that being as close to death as he was, he would have taken the heavenly opportunity to flee the snow and icy-covered mountains and frozen wilderness and beat a hasty retreat to the comforts of his parents' home in Pennsylvania.
But I’m Fine, like Shackleton and most PCT hikers, carried within himself the ever-smoldering embers of the “Wanderfire,” that never say “never.” I marvel at and applaud the indomitable spirit of I’m Fine who, rather than take the easy way out by saying,
“The path ahead is too hard, I’ll pass,” recouped and plunged back into the mountains, with as fierce a determination as I’ve ever encountered, to complete the journey he started.
No one would have faulted him for leaving the mountains; he had given his best and the mountains had nearly snuffed out his life. But I’m Fine is of a particular breed of individuals, not uncommon to those found hiking the Pacific Crest Trail, where determination, courage, commitment, and vision are required qualifications for even considering a long-distance hike. I’m Fine persevered, prevailed, and conquered even as did Roald Amundsen and Ernest Shackleton.
Although I’m Fine, and Coincidence endured a bit more on the trail than the average PCT hiker, they nevertheless typify the strength of character most hikers bring to the starting point at Campo. These are the type of people who would have sailed with Amundsen and Shackleton, and these are the type of people future PCT hikers might want to compare themselves with along with the character strengths of the twentieth-century polar explorers; doing so will give the aspiring PCT hiker a good barometric reading as to the feasibility and potential success of their anticipated 2,665-mile adventure.
Richard Jones (Trail name: Rabbit Stick) Pacific Crest Trail Thru-Hiker, Class of 2013
P.S. I still have a one-owner, low-mileage, only driven on Sunday trans-oceanic rowboat for sale, as well as a bear vault.