BY: GLEB VELIKANOV
With the closest road approximately 30 trail miles away, on the U.S. side of the Canadian border, this is probably the most remote official crossing along the entire 5,525-mile border in the Lower 48.
The longest international border in world, it has no fences or walls, only a nearly imaginary separation. It has no barriers, check points, or border guards—only the trail, a 20-foot wide clear-cut area in terrestrial wilderness, and two monuments. The only catch to this surprisingly lax border security is that, while it’s legal to walk north into Canada, it’s completely illegal to walk south into the U.S.
To get here, the journey, along the Pacific Crest Trail, is a staggering 2,650 miles. For those brave enough to attempt a continuous “thru-hike,” starting at the border of Mexico near Campo, California, the trek often takes five to six months.
“The PCT is a textbook example of a North American adventure,” says former thru-hiker Jack Haskel, who works as the Trail Information Specialist at the Pacific Crest Trail Association, a non-profit dedicated to protecting, preserving, and promoting the trail. “Reaching the northern terminus and crossing the border is a symbol of personal change and achievement.”
The trail traverses the mountain ranges of southern California, the massive Sierra Nevada Mountains in central California, some smaller mountains in the northern part of the state, and finally the Cascades in Oregon and Washington. On any given year, more than 500 people will attempt to travel the entire trail, with about a 50 percent success rate.
“Reaching the Canadian border is an entirely surreal and exciting experience,” says Haskel.
At the end of the journey, hikers reach Monument 78, a post with a removable top bearing a notebook. There, they jot down personal reflections or words of wisdom, this register being the only “paperwork” documenting the international border crossing. No passport necessary.
This distinctive way of crossing the border makes one wonder about the nature of international borders. Are they just invisible lines falsely impregnated with politics? As the ink from my pen carved ink into a blank page in notebook, I realized it’s much easier to draw a line than to erase one once it’s already there.
For more information on the Pacific Crest Trail and details about crossing the border into Canada, visit www.pcta.org.