The Endless Sparkling of The Ocean

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We spent a couple nights in Forks, enjoying the usual luxuries of a town and preparing for the end of our hike, which was too near. When we hitch hiked out, we were picked up by a nice old man, Tom and his dog Tinkerbell. We could sense that he lived only with Tinkerbell and was very happy to have someone to talk to. He was just on his way to his favorite bar to have a cocktail. He told us of his life on the Olympic Peninsula and took us back to the trail. I had a small feeling of sadness when we said goodbye, wishing that I could have given him more than a few minutes of conversation. As we hiked on dirt roads I could feel the ocean in the wind, but I could not yet hear it. The mountain ranges were behind us, there were none to climb – now we are going to find the ocean, our final destination. At one moment I heard a voice of a man calling out to us “Hello.. Hello”. I responded with a questionable “Hello” and he repeated hello to us a few more times, ignoring my response – which just creeped me out so our pace quickened. He was somewhere on another road nearby and had heard us talking. We reached a dead fall blocking the road, and once we passed it I felt safer knowing no cars could access me where I was, and whoever that stranger was, we would never meet.

I walked through knee high grass and saw a mosquito hawk fly out, disturbed by my steps. We took a short break here, as I witnessed the end of this mosquito hawk who had flown right into the web of a hungry spider. I felt a little responsible. We hiked to the end of the road together and found a single track trail that would take us to the ocean. Like a portal into another world, we stepped into this enchanted forest, with its mushrooms, banana slugs, giant trees, and beams of light.

For the first time in almost three months, I heard the waves flowing onto the beach. Soon after I could actually see the sparkles over the water shining through the forest. My first sight of the ocean. We hiked forward, toward this elusive beauty we had traveled so far to reach. The moist brown soil soft beneath my steps. I carefully walked through bushes of ferns and over large roots reaching across the pathway.

Suddenly, like the turning of a page, the soil turned to white sand, and the shady forest turned to bright open light and nothing but ocean and sand existed in front of me. We did it. We walked to the ocean from Montana! We did it! We are here! The Pacific Ocean! We walked here! We did!

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But the journey isn’t over yet. We still have three more days to get to know this ocean a little more intimately than we ever have – even being born and raised San Diegans! We have never known this ocean the way we will come to at our journey’s end. We are going to follow the shoreline to our final destination at Cape Alava, the end of the Pacific Northwest Trail, and the furthest western point of the Continental United States.

There weren’t any volleyball courts, no bikini-clad teens, no boardwalk, and no dog poop! This was a wild place. Coming from a city with densely populated beaches, this is uncharted territory. This was a real beach – this is what beaches used to look like before people built resorts on them and roads to them. This is wilderness.

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The tides are something I never tried to understand, but walking along the ocean for a few days will get you accustomed. I carried a small tide chart, but we barely followed them intentionally. Our habits made us lucky each day, figuring we did not have a lot of miles to travel, we would sleep in and enjoy the morning. Leaving camp around ten a.m. we were already on a wide beach, by the time we came to a headland, the tide was just coming to it’s highest – and guess what, it’s lunchtime! Our long two to three hour breaks would send us on our walk as the tide went back down.

In some places, we could only pass a headland at low tide, so often times we had to take the high route up and over the capes. Climbing ropes and ladders, and traipsing through what had become familiar rain forest. The walking was easy along the beach, and the climbs were exhilarating.

Each day we felt the sun moving over us from the east and finishing it’s show on the horizon to the west. I have always made it a point to watch sun sets whenever possible, and by the time we reached this big beautiful sea, I was deprived. We arrived to our campsites by the setting of the sun, and would eat our dinners on the beach to say our thanks to such a glorious day.

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Roadwalks. And you thought they were over! Nope. We had to walk a couple of miles into the town of La Push along a sketchy road. We munched on snacks at their convenient store and then marched through town to the Marina where we hoped to find a local fisherman to take us across the river where we could continue our journey North to Cape Alava. We were unlucky enough to arrive their after the Marina had closed and no one was around. Ted and I ate a meal of fish and rice for unreasonable prices at the restaurant next door. Then headed down to the beach where we would camp, hoping to find a ride by morning. We tucked our tent as far away from the ocean as we could, noting how far up the tide line went, and we managed to stay within just a few feet of the water at it’s highest.

In the morning we headed back to the Marina and met a nice man who happily took us across the water. He filled our heads with history and Native lore before sending us off onto the sea stack and drift wood covered beaches.

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We ate our lunch at a rock fondly known as “Hole in the wall”. It was covered in waves when we arrived, but we stayed so long that the tide completely went out and like children discovering a new land, we went in. We stepped lightly as we moved over tide pools full of anemones and crabs, enjoying the deep crashing of the ocean like the heartbeat of the earth, beating at my feet and caressing my toes.

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Little did we know how much more tide pools we would have to travel over. It took us all day to travel eight miles, the rocks, capes, and algae made for a slow-going day. But not an unrewarding one.. no ankles were twisted and no heads were bruised. We were headed toward an official camping area when we found a magically unofficial one about half a mile early. The beach was huge and the sea stacks invited us for sun set. Our campsite was in the forest on the bluff. We had to climb a rope about thirty feet up to reach a small flat space with a driftwood bench, a fire ring, and a tent space – not to mention a massive mushroom and a view of the sun set. We had this spot all to ourselves, and we could do nothing but ravish in it’s perfection.

Once the sun had set, we seemed to be thinking the same thing, when I said “I’m going for a walk, want to come?” We climbed down our rope and strolled barefoot under the clear black sky dotted with billions of stars and a bright milky way galaxy smiling down at us. The ocean in it’s ever-flowing sounds, wet sand beneath my naked toes, Ted by my side, and peace in my heart. We walked.

The next morning was our last full day of thru-hiking the PNT and we knew it. We enjoyed every last moment at our campsite, the literal best campsite of the entire summer. And when it was time to go, our feet took us slowly along the beaches and tide pools to our final camp site on the beach. Goodnight, said the sun. Tomorrow is our last day.

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On the final day of our hike, we began to see day hikers. We also saw deer and found prints of coyotes in the sand. There was a lot of junk washed ashore, mostly from Japan. Plastic bottles written in Japanese is how I figured that out. A lot of plastic buoy’s, nets, crates, and all sorts of junk – as well as the huge bones of whales. Who threw a recliner into the ocean?

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Since the past few days had been traveled at unbelievably slow paces, we figured today would be no different. So we hustled. My parents were meeting us at the end of the trail and I had told them we would be there in the late afternoon. More and more people came into view and a family approached us to ask us about some petroglyphs at Wedding Rocks. I stumbled. Had we passed Wedding Rocks without seeing them? I looked around and I saw an island, one that I recognized. It hit me. We had passed Wedding Rocks two miles ago, and suddenly we were at the western terminus of the Pacific Northwest Trail. Our hike was over. How did that happen so fast?? It was unexpected and hit me like a train. Suddenly we had nowhere to walk. Our hike was over.

Not before a celebration with hot totties! We had packed in a bottle of Jack Daniels, some raw local honey, and a fresh lemon for this special occasion. We spent three hours cheersing, lying in the sand, sleeping, laughing and sharing a few tears. We did it. We are thru hikers.

But wait, we had such a long break that the tide went down again and there was land access to the ACTUAL furthest western point. So we stashed our packs and ran out along this strip. We circled the island before running up it’s practically vertical slopes. Nothing up there but pine tree’s and soft grass. We looked out over the ocean in great reverence for our successful journey through the Pacific Northwest. What an amazing walk!

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Our journey was 1,200 miles long which took us just under three months to complete, end to end from Glacier National Park all the way to the Pacific Ocean at Cape Alava.  Words can never express the challenges, the beauty, and the greatness of the personal rewards we reaped on our walk.

 

Thank you for following our journey! Stay tuned for my personal solo bicycle ride home from the end of the trail all the way down the West Coast and to my parents door in San Diego, California.

 

 

Thru The Cities and Into The Wild

While I was waiting for my clothes to dry in the laundromat in the old, run-down town of Concrete, I was given a handful of change by a young man with a toothy smile – clearly he thought I was homeless and in need. He had no idea just how fortunate I was to be so dirty, smelly, and vibrant from the true adventure I was on. He had no idea that I had voluntarily walked a thousand miles just to be there in that moment, every day, with all I could carry on my back, for the sheer joy of living life authentically in the most beautiful way I could think of. I took the change, because I could buy a soda with it. Root beer is my favorite, and I won’t turn down a cold soda on a long walk.

We walked out of town after a relaxing zero day, which marked the beginning of an urban hike. The path out of Concrete was an old railroad turned into a community bike/running path, which led us all the way into Sedro-Wooley. We saw locals using the trail with their kids, some on horseback, and solo cyclists and runners. The views were pleasant under the forest that engulfed the trail and the large river that flowed alongside it for some miles. The trail was so easy that we left at two o’clock in the afternoon, and traveled over twenty miles by the time darkness fell. We made it to Sedro-Wooley a little beat from the pavement, but eager to get through this urban section. We had no option but to stay in another hotel.

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We walked out of Sedro-Wooley on the rail trail, but it petered out after just a mile or two, and our path became the railroad. It was probably the worst walking I had ever done. The rocks used for railroads slip under your feet in each step and the sun was burning down on us, no views to speak of, and anxiety because we were probably breaking the law and we didn’t feel very safe being on the outskirts of big towns. I was struggling to stay positive until we came upon a funny little mobile coffee shop that was used by railroad workers. It was called “Perfect Ten” and had a naive eighteen year old girl working their in her uniform – a stringy bikini. We watched as a creepy old man lingered at her window for too long. We ordered drinks there and took a break under the shade of a bushy tree for a while. A few more miles and we reached our first sight of salt water just outside the town of Anacortes. This was a very special milestone for us. Although the walk was on a road, it was very pleasant compared to the railroad, and not many cars were passing by. Ted and I enjoyed each others company as we usually do, walking, laughing, and talking. We crossed an old trestle that was converted into a walking path that lead us into Anacortes as darkness fell. We could see the oil refineries on the other side of the water, all the lights reflecting on the water was strangely beautiful.

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Anacortes was a busy town, and I’ll leave it at that. We walked through some farmlands, residential areas, and along beaches of the Puget Sound where people were fishing. For me, the San Juan Islands were just a bunch of traffic, heat, roads, and just all around not that great. Ted and I were eager to get through it and into the Olympic Mountains. We are wilderness lovers, we walk to be in the wild – not in cities. The road walks were difficult for me. I felt like thousands of eyes were staring me down, judging me, but not knowing anything about the journey I was on. I experienced people at convenience stores avoiding eye contact with me because they thought I was homeless. These people were just normal looking people – who could have been my teacher, my friend, my coworker – but since I was dirty, they didn’t see me as a person who deserved to be acknowledged. This hurt me, as I imagine it hurts real homeless people every day who are treated like they don’t exist.

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Finally, a moment we were waiting for. We reached the ferry that would take us across the water to Port Townsend, our last town before going back into the mountains!

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We stayed in yet another hotel in Port Townsend which was a fancy little town on the water with a lovely food co-op with all kinds of wonderful things for sale. Ted and I walked to the co-op from our room and brought back bags full of kale, bananas, locally made smoothies, baked goods, and of course chocolate. We have trail-named ourselves “Team Late-Checkout”, because it’s true – there hasn’t been one single hotel where we didn’t dial 0 and ask for a late check out. How can we? We have a bed, a toilet, and a TV. That costs a lot of money, you know. Better use it up for all it’s worth!!

When we finally rolled out the door 10 minutes later than late check out, we realized it was time to eat more food. It’s always so hard to get the ball rolling… By three O’clock we were back on the “trail” which was the road, and then another “rail-trail” which lead to a crappy pipeline “trail”, which then lead to highway 101. Once we finally began heading west through the woods again we felt like we were trespassing but weren’t really sure. The “trail” was another pipeline that was right up against several backyards and just covered in berry bushes that pulled at me all along the way until we reached a forest road. The road was not on my GPS or the maps, but we both had a good sense of where we should be headed, so we walked on down the road and hoped it would lead to where we needed to be. The road did eventually take us back onto our maps but we weren’t able to get out of this web of roads in the Olympic National Forest before dark, so we had to find a flat spot to sleep that also had water. In my experience, a nice campsite is always just 20 minutes farther than the point where you feel like you’ve already gone too far, so I kept prodding Ted, “just a little farther”. Sure enough we found a creek under the road with a little flat spot on top of some cushy earth beneath moss-covered pine tree’s, hidden from sight of the road. We did our normal camp chores, cooking dinner, filtering water. I put up the tent while Ted prepared our food hang, as we do each night.

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The next morning was moist and foggy as we walked along the dirt roads. A truck drove by and stopped to ask us if we were okay. He was astonished to find that we had every intention on being where we were, and that we weren’t interested in a ride. As we followed tracks on my GPS, notes from our guide book, and our maps – we became aware that we were approaching a short section of bushwhacking. The route took us down into a creek bed and over a small ridge. I enjoyed the intimacy of bushwhacking. I had to touch the trees as I made my way through the forest, stepping gently on the mossy earth as it gave softly beneath my feet. Hiking off trail is very slow and deliberate, especially in the forest when you always have to be paying attention to which direction you are traveling. Since you cannot see your destination, it is easy to get off track. You know it is there – east, west, south or north. You just have to keep moving in that general direction – making your way around trees, ravines, and rocks. These cross-country sections of the PNT always keep the days interesting and exciting by challenging our skills and offering more sensations and connection to the land.
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After the bushwhack and a little more forest road walking, we came across a trail-head placed randomly in the middle of the woods which led us to the top of a mountain. It was cold and blustery, but we were hungry when we got to the top, so we found a protected spot among the trees sat down and ate some food. I could tell the rains were coming but what more could I have expected in the Olympic Mountains of Washington? Knowing a storm was on the way, we stocked up on warmer gear at the little outdoor shop in Port Townsend. That evening we made it to Gold Creek along an old road that hadn’t been used in what seemed like at least 50 years. It was now a single track trail, only passable by foot, horse, or bicycle. The only flat spot I could find to place our tent was completely unprotected from the coming storm, so I braced it the best I could and it rained on us all night long. In the morning, the wind gusts pulled out our doors. Lucky for us, we were up, dressed and ready to deal with it.  The storm soon died down and the skies opened up to the clearest blue I had ever seen. The clouds sparkled like gold and the trees danced with the remaining wind. We walked high into the mountains, being rained on here and there, but really enjoying the freshness and the golden sunlight in the forest.

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The beautiful weather turned on us at the end of the day as we climbed. The clouds returned and so did the wind. It ripped through my rain gear and slapped me across my face. I just kept thinking, “almost there, just a little farther”. I grasped my neck warmer over my nose, braced my umbrella, and squinted my eyes as I pushed forward to the idea of a warm shelter within a protected valley. As darkness began to fall, I caught sight of a small cabin, then as we got closer a ton of tents came into view. “Oh, no!” I thought, tents mean the shelter is full. As we arrive, we see our friend Flanders setting up his tent next to the shelter, and the shelter itself full of happy weekend backpackers drinking rum and sharing stories. We all sit around sharing food and drinks, telling the weekenders of our long journey to get there. Eventually, we ask what others plans are with sleeping in the shelter – some polite words are offered and ultimately the people who may have camped inside the shelter decided to set their tent up outside. Ted and I waited around to see what would happen, and somehow ended up being the ones to sleep under the roof. It was a miracle!

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There was no privy at the shelter. Who builds a shelter with no privy? Come on Olympic National Forest, get it together. Because of this, I discovered poop and toilet paper as I searched for my own “spot”. (Public Service Message: Bury your poop, and PLEASE pack out your toilet paper! It is your duty! No pun intended)

We were some of the last people out of camp that morning, as usual. We said goodbye to Flanders as though we would see him again, but we didn’t know it would be the last time before our hike would be finished. That day was cold, cloudy, and windy but not much rain came down onto us. We climbed up and back down only to climb back up into the cold, wet clouds. As we headed down into a valley, we searched for a shelter that was mentioned on our maps but never found it and ended up backtracking to a campsite with accessible water, but no shelter. The next morning we were unpleasantly surprised by a beautifully built, brand new shelter just another two miles down the trail that was not marked on my GPS or our maps. Signs showed that Flanders had slept here, probably expecting to see us.

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We hiked through another moist day of off-and-on rain, trying to stay positive even though our toes were numb and our spirits wet. We came across one person today, a solo woman on holiday. She was happy to see us, as she too had been alone for a while. She was considering ending her trip early because of the rain, having spent the night on a Park Ranger Stations covered porch to stay dry, we told her of the Bear Shelter that we wish we had known about the night before. That porch became our destination. Ignoring the signs, we tried with all our might to get inside when we finally arrived. We were desperate to be warm and dry after days of being wet, wet, wet! We failed and made home on the porch where we were able to dry out mostly. The water source was a big river filled with glacial silt. Not the best for drinking, but it was all that was available to us. I filled my water in the darkness next to the silent river, imagining creatures spying on me from the other side. I teased with the idea of how easily one could go missing with one slip into this muddy body of water, with nothing but the sound of a small splash.

 

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The rain slowed us down quite a bit and were behind on our permits for Olympic National Park, which we had traveled double the time we had intended to. Today’s hike was a mission to get into town for a respite from the storms. We had originally planned to bypass Port Angeles since it would be quite a hitch, but we both agreed it was well worth it. The morning was wet but the skies began opening for what seemed like the first time in about a week. We curiously explored old shelters as well as one hundred year old homesteads that still stood out there in the wilderness. We found old apple and pear trees planted there by pioneers, which were still fruiting! After feasting on fresh fruit, I pocketed the seeds like they were gold. In this time of Genetically Modified Organisms and Monsanto (and other corporations) trying to own the seeds of the world, these untouched seeds were precious! I found the purest seeds of them all, and I was happy about that. Thanks to the brave pioneers building their homes in wild places.

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As  we neared the road to town, I looked back at the Dungeness Valley we had come from. The storms receding, allowing the hills to shine in all their glory. As we got to the road, we immediately got a ride from some construction workers who were working to make the river more accessible to spawning salmon, after the controversial destruction of the dam that prevented their migration for many years. It made me smile to know there are people who fight for goodness and balance, thanks to them, the salmon are once again migrating their ancient routes. The construction workers drove us all the way into Port Angeles, a very lucky hitch. In fact, straight to the door of our hotel where we promptly hung all of our gear throughout the room so that it would finally air dry.

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After another wonderful town stop full of good food, beds, showers, and laundry, we hitch hiked out of town at a busy stop light. About twenty minutes later, we were offered a ride by a large, bald man covered in tattoos. Ted reminded me “we don’t HAVE to take all the rides that are offered to us”. I had a good feeling about this one and headed towards the car. He took us all the way back to the road we had hitched on, after hearing stories of his adventures as a prison guard. He was a kind man, who had seen a lot of things in his life. Our first stop was at the popular Olympic Hot Springs. We had just showered in town and were not keen to the idea of getting dirty on our first day and staying dirty all week so I just soaked my feet. Silly, I know. A sweet couple of older women who had been close friends for many years were on a road trip when they hiked to the hot springs. Their spirits were young and they were bright and free. They asked me to take pictures of them in the hot springs, and their comfort with me gave me a feeling of feminine connection to them. Wildly free women going on adventures! I am going to be a lot like them when I am their age. Ted and I were hurried out by the sleepy sun, still seven more miles until our destination on top of Appleton Pass. It was almost dark when we arrived, and the sky was open with the brightest stars I had seen all summer, but the freezing wind forced me into my sleeping bag inside the tent.

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Morning was met by a deer who wanted to eat my pee out of the ground, lucky for me, she made for a nice picture! We were in the high country in the Olympic National Park and since the storm was finally gone, I knew we were in for some epic views.

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We hiked into dusk, all the way through the high country and down, down, down into a deep valley – sadly realizing it was the last valley we would descend. After crossing many mountain ranges and descending countless valleys, this one, the Bogachiel River valley was our last. Where had the miles gone? How could we be so close to the end of our trail? The berry bushes flourishing in reds and purples, the high mountain foliage quickly turned into deep, dense, dark forest. It started to rain.

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We camped at an old shelter site which had long ago been destroyed by water. Again, the rain came down on us all night but by morning had cleared. We were surrounded by mushrooms and big green ferns covered in rain drops. Even when the sun was shining, it was impossible to dry off. Water is coming from all directions! We hiked down to the bottom of the valley where we followed alongside the Bogachiel River. Our planned campsite that night was in a nice meadow with a couple of logs to sit on. We ate dinner at the shore of the river that night, watching the clouds turn pink and then blue…

 

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The next morning we hopped over innumerable dead falls from the recent storms, but these fallen trees were huge and climbing over them was no simple task. The benefit of this, was most people wouldn’t make a great effort to pass them, so we had this walk all to ourselves until we neared the trailhead where we knew a parking lot would be. This parking lot was our chance to hitch into Forks, Washington – our last town stop before the end of the trail. We happened to be exiting at the same time as some older folks were headed home. They packed us into the back of their astro van and drove us into Forks where we took a zero day to deal with logistics and prepare for the final stretch…

 

 

Stay tuned for my end of trail blog, coming soon! Thanks for reading.

 

Chasing Rainbows in the North Cascades

We walked out of the scorched town of Oroville, not sure what was ahead. The maps say we are about to go into the North Cascades, and particularly, the raved about Pasayten Wilderness. Are the maps wrong? We are in the desert, how could we possible be going into a place with tree’s, rain, cold temperatures, and real mountains? Seems like some kind of mess up to me… But as we hike through private property that we got permission to pass through, I find myself having a good time. There is shade, and the huge Similkameen River with massive fish in it, and tons of people camped along its shore panning and dredging for gold. We walked through a very long tunnel that was very cold inside, a nice place to take a break from the sweltering 100 degree heat outside of it. We saw bald eagles and golden eagles flying together, giving us a show. We got a birds eye view of the Newbie Fire that had already been burning for a month by the time we could see it. Apparently, it was self contained and we had nothing to worry about.

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We walked through the old “town” of Nighthawk, after first being caught at the wrong moment. Like I said earlier, we had permission to walk through private land, however we still had to jump a huge deer gate, and not all the people in the area knew we had gotten permission, so the fence hop was nerve-wracking, especially when a truck started to approach from behind – of course during the only moment we are doing something that appears to be sketchy. We get over the fence and the truck comes through and asks us what we are doing. We explain, and the two men in the truck are like “Well if you got permission, we don’t care, see ya!” We saw them and the man who gave us permission on our way out.

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The valley we walked into next was probably the most peaceful valley I have ever seen. Wildlife bounded. We saw deer, eagles, and beavers! We were actually enjoying this road walk, barely any cars came by and it was just Ted and I, laughing and talking all along the way. We got to a campground and saw our friend Flanders tent set up so we stopped by to say hi. Ted and I decided to camp there too since the area was mostly private property and we didn’t want to camp illegally. The next morning we all hiked out together, Ted and I stopped in the tiny town of Loomis to get our packages and then headed up the Chopaka Grade to our high alpine campsite at the Cold Springs Campground, the beginning of our North Cascades adventure.

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Thus begins the epic beauty of the mountains and forests of Washington! The Pasayten Wilderness is everything it’s cracked up to be. Lots of open meadows and views for hundreds of miles all around. The trails were nice and we even saw some actual human beings out there. We walked behind the Newbie Fire on an alternate route to get around it, and saw the burn area as we passed.

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The weather got cold and blustery, but not a lot of rain. I had trouble staying warm while doing regular camp chores (getting water, cooking food, cleaning up, etc.) But we’re tough! As we walked, the moss got greener, and the tree’s were bigger, and the leafs on the forest floor were unusual sizes – what is this the rainforest?!

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We found berries again! And they were delicious, just as we suspected. Our trail took us through a very smokey valley, and then up and over Frosty Pass which was clear of smoke. We descended toward a trail we know too well, the Pacific Crest Trail! Hello long lost old friend!! We got to share 13.3 miles of the PCT on our thru hike of the PNT. It was very exciting. The walking was easy and smooth on the PCT, unlike the varied terrain and unmaintained trails that make up the Pacific Northwest Trail. It really put into perspective how different these trails are in difficulty. The Pacific Northwest Trail is almost half the length of the Pacific Crest Trail, but it is much more difficult mile for mile, and I am happy to be hiking a trail that makes me so tough!

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It rained a bit while we hiked along the most northern section of the Pacific Crest Trail and we saw a HUGE rainbow, we could actually see the pots of gold, but the trail called so we kept on walkin’. The scenery was amazing, classically PCT.

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As we finished up the PCT portion, we said goodbye at Holman Pass and immediately started walking over deadfalls and a much narrower trail. The PCT is so loved, it is very obvious by how well it is maintained. What an amazing trail! Back to the PNT, we met a girl named Jodi who had just begun her section hike of the PNT after doing 300 miles or so on the PCT. She was doing 25-30 miles a day on average while working on her thesis on National Scenic Trails for her Masters in Resource Management. As we hiked over the Devils Dome I enjoyed conversation with her, as the only conversation I’ve had with anyone besides Ted in what seems like months, and then we parted when Ted and I stopped to have dinner at a creek. Flanders was at our campsite and as always, we were happy to see his smilin’ face yet again. He said goodbye with words in the dirt above our tent because he always gets up hours before we do. That day we hiked 20 easy miles to the Ross Lake Resort before 4:30pm and were devastatingly disappointed when we found the rumors were true. They have no food for us to eat, no showers, no laundry, and no place for us to sleep (besides back on the trail). I said, screw this, lets go to town, I need a day off after 150 straight miles without a break or a shower or a meal with real food. Yeah, I am going to town! We got a boat ride across the lake where we hitch hiked for no more than 5 minutes when a solo guy living out of his van picked us up and brought us all the way in to the town of Marblemount where we were treated like second class citizens by the owner of the Buffalo Run Inn who shoved us into a hostel room when we wanted to pay for a nice private room with private bath. We weren’t allowed to eat the continental breakfast, and they even kept the second bathroom locked so seven people had to share one bathroom (after he had said there would be two bathrooms). Not to mention he was nowhere to be found when we needed him. He did show up eventually just to yell at us for not being out by check out, after we waited hours just to shower. We were definitely not going to get another night there, so we started hitching to the laundromat down the road. A young girl with purple hair picked us up, gave us some blueberries, and dropped us off a mile down the road. We hung out in the laundry room at the RV park as our clothes washed and some young guys started to filter through. We didn’t know there were all friends, working together for a raft company, or that they had passed us hitch hiking on the highway, until they told us and apologized for not picking us up. They invited us to go on a whitewater raft trip with them the following day. We took them on their offer and hung out with Akram, Randy, and Matt for the night and the next day. They were a fun trio who worked together leading raft trips for tourists. We were lucky to run into them and we had an awesome day rafting with them. Unfortunately we didn’t get any photo’s – but it is a memory we’ll both have for a lifetime!

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As we hiked on the west side of Ross Lake we hustled to get through the smoke from the fires all around the state and the new fires forming near the lake itself. The Beaver River was white and milky from glacial flour. I wanted to swim in it, then when I did, I was spooked because I couldn’t see what was beneath the water… river monsters!! As we walked into the North Cascades National Park, we got a few glimpses of glaciers before a big storm came in and blanketed everything with clouds and rain. We walked over Whatcom Pass in the pouring rain and camped at the Graybeal camp where we were rained on all night. Luckily the rain stopped by morning, but not soon enough for anything to dry (at all). It was one of those lovely days when we get to put on soaking wet clothes. Since it wasn’t raining though, our clothes kind of dried on our walk out of the park that day. We hiked up and over Hannegan Pass then got a ride into the town of Glacier to dry out. There were no rooms available, but a guy nearby took pity on us and offered us a shower and a place to camp at his place. Lucky again.

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Cable car river crossing in the rain!

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So we said goodbye to the national park and walked into the Mount Baker Ski Resort, the familiarity of the chair lifts was heart warming. Hi Mammoth! We miss you! Then we hiked on over to the Wild Goose Trail, bringing thoughts of wild geese running amok to my mind. We connected to the Lake Anne trail, walking through the enchanted forest that is western Washington, then to the Swift Creek Trail where we found a beautiful little flat spot to camp deep in the woods next to a creek. We learned quickly to be careful walking not only off trail, but on trail too – because there are HUGE spiders in theses forests that like to make their webs right where your face conveniently lands as you walk.

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The Swift Creek trail ended and we began a road walk to connect to the next trail about 7 or 8 miles away, the Baker Lake Trail. This trail is often bypassed by hikers because there is a “quicker, more efficient route” that happens to only be 8.5 miles, as opposed to 25.5 around the lake. That shortcut is a highway walk. Yeah right, I am walking around the lake. The lake was amazing. We saw no one on the trail and camped alone on the shore. Our campsite had a privy and a bear locker! The simplest of luxuries allowed us to lounge around camp the next morning, really taking in the beauty and solitude this area offered us. When we finally hiked on, we stopped for a swim in the turquoise blue lake before getting to the road that would lead us into our next resupply town of Concrete Washington.

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We are happy! We love hiking, only a few more weeks left, but we don’t want it to end. We are just loving the Pacific Northwest Trail. Hike on!!

Sunrises, Giant Burgers, and More Roadwalks

After a lovely night at Jami and Josh’s, the Pacific Northwest Trail’s new trail angels of Northport Washington, we learned of a fire in the way of our hike in the Kettle Crest Range, which is said to be a real highlight of the trail. Reluctantly, we decided the only thing to do was to get to the next access point beyond the fire closure, which was Sherman Pass outside of Republic. The local doctor, Craig, of the tiny town is a friend of our angels and he offered us a ride the next morning. Josh lent us his truck and kayaks to pass the day paddling at the Sheep Creek mouth into the Columbia river. I kept my distance from the swift waters of the Columbia, a little too deep and powerful in my opinion. It looked like that river could swallow me up without a trace. We stayed near the calm currents of Sheep Creek and even took a nap on a beach. We are grateful for the generosity of the people we meet along the way who give more than we could ever imagine. Thank you Josh, Jami, and Craig!

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Another hiker had caught up to us, he caught a ride to Sherman Pass as well. We all hiked along into the afternoon and evening along old dirt forest roads. We found a campsite with a nice view and decided to call it a night after about 15 miles, with a late start. Our hike the next morning brought us through mostly forest along dirt roads with the occasional view which always reminded me of home. Eastern Washington has a very similar climate to the mountains we have in San Diego. Dry, hot, hilly, yellow grasses, and pine forests. The only thing missing was our oak tree’s! We ate dinner at the Thirteen Mile trailhead after scaring off a group of people with our backpacks and huge calf muscles. The idea of people walking out of the woods and no car parked at the trailhead is just mind boggling. We started a short 3 mile paved road walk along the highway 21 out of Republic, which would only take us an hour, when the most bizarre thing happened! There wasn’t much traffic, maybe two cars passed us in the first 20 minutes. A red car coming toward us with a busted headlight came to a screeching halt and suddenly turned the car around. All the while I am bracing myself for who knows what, something strange is about to happen. I look over and all these smiling faces are looking at me through rolled down windows. They start to yell “WE KNOW YOU! CASCADE LOCKS!” over and over again until my glazed look transforms into a glimpse of recognition. These people I had met at the Bridge of the Gods while hiking on the Pacific Crest Trail two years ago! We had sat together and talked for a couple hours, and Stacey was the girl who walked me across the bridge. It was a chance reconnection, that couldn’t be merely coincidence. We visited in the road for a few minutes before they sped off in the direction they were headed and Ted and I began walking towards our next camp at the abandoned Ten Mile Campground a couple miles down the road. We were flabbergasted, completely blown away by what had just happened, laughing all the way by the irony of life.

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After another day or so of walking, we were at another road to get into Republic, the very long highway 20. We decided that we didn’t have enough food to get all the way to our next stop in Oroville, so we hitch hiked into town. Many people passed us, one was a young man, who I remember thinking he looked like someone who might pick up a hitch hiker, but alas he did not stop. About ten minutes passed and we saw his car coming back with his hazards on, he turned around and picked us up. He was on a solo road trip along the highway 20 and for some reason was pulled to come back and give us a lift. We were grateful. He dropped us off and I was charmed by this tiny town – everything within 1-2 blocks. An all natural, organic co-op! A mercantile/hardware store, a grocery store, pizza place, a hotel, laundromat, just everything a hiker could ever need. I was especially pleased with the co-op, that’s what made it stand out from the other towns. We reconnected with our friend Mike who started at the same time as us, we met him getting off of the same train in Glacier National Park over a month ago. After just one night we got a ride back to the trailhead with Mike.

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We had a nice trail to walk on for a little while, with good views, then we were back on the road again, walking along lots of private property. There were no houses, just lots of junk and trailers, we were a bit spooked by the people who lived there. They didn’t appear to have many hobbies other than perhaps drinking beer and target practice. When we reached the road intersection, there were real houses and people outside. They offered us a spot to camp for the night and we did. Mike was camped closer to their house and we could hear the one older man, who might have had a bit to drink, just talking his ear off for hours. Lying in our tent, I felt for the poor guy who was tired and wanted to sleep just like us. We talked for a bit before we fell asleep, and Mike’s trailname finally hit us. Flanders. We must name him. We fell asleep right then and there. Ted woke up with his water bottle left open. We were beat. As hikers usually are at that hour. Just done.

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Goodmorning more roadwalking, yay! We can make the best of it, at least it is fast walking. We even saw a bald eagle getting harassed by a smaller hawk. Flanders had headed out earlier than us, as usual and we were determined to catch up to him. In passing, a farmer called out to us, “You’re only about 30 minutes behind that other guy!” We kept hoofin’ it till we got all the way to the Lake Bonaparte Resort, where low and behold, Flanders was there. Just as I suspected…We ordered a meal as he packed his things and headed back to the trail. Ted ordered the Bonaparte Bloater, a food challenge. It was a burger with three 1/4 lb beef patties, with bacon and cheese in between each patty, with onion rings on top and fries. He opted for a salad instead of fries, thinking it would allow him to succeed in the challenge which would award him the burger for free if he finished it in 45 minutes or less. He stopped at about 2/3 of the way though, feeling the cholesterol pumping through his veins. Stupid idea, he thought. Digestion is a real cause for slowing down. We had a huge climb ahead and tons of food in the bellies. We took three hours to get out of there, three hours! Then hiked at an unreasonably slow pace all the way to the top of Mount Bonaparte, where we would spend the night. With a very serious effort, we made it to the top of the lookout tower within just seconds of the sunset.

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The lookout tower was full of neat stuff but the door was locked, dangit! It had a nicely made bed, binoculars, naturalist books, food, and anything a fire lookout keeper would need to stay up there for a while. Their job is to sit up there and look. I think I want that job. Note taken. The almost full moon moved over us through the night, lighting the valley below. We camped so that we would be able to see the sun rising, we set our alarm for 5:18 am, the earliest we’ve woken up in our entire lives, but it was worth it to see the day begin. I pooped happily in the keepers privy, relieved to not worry about digging another hole for a day. We loved this campsite, and because we got up so early, we were set to hike a nice big day of miles, getting almost all the way into town, but not before camping at another great spot on a ridge above the valley with the towns of Tonasket and Oroville.

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The walk into Oroville was over 100 degrees and we are here now watching the hillside burn up in another wildfire that we hope won’t get in the way of our route to Loomis, our next stop before we get into the North Cascades National Park. We are very excited for the second half of this trip. We have walked roughly 600 miles and have roughly 600 more to go! All is well out here with Ted and I.

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Howling Wolves, Huckleberries, and Bushwhacks

As we walked away from Eureka Montana, our pace was slowed by the lazy river inviting us to cool off. I got wet every chance I could to keep cool in the sweltering humid heat. I used my umbrella to shade me and with the wet clothes I was pleased with the air conditioning effect I created. We did a lot of road walking, some of it on a busy highway. We were rewarded with views of the massive Koocanusa lake. As we crossed the Koocanusa bridge I was mesmerized by the distance between us and the water, imagining what might happen to a person if they jumped from there. A boat floated under the bridge and all the people in it saw us and waved. The lake was still in view at our camp that night at the base of Webb mountain. The moon was almost full, making the lake glow through the night. In the morning we climbed up and up and lots more up until we must have summitted what felt like a dozen mountains before collapsing on the peak of Mount Henry for the night. Our first 20 mile day on the Pacific Northwest Trail. Before setting up camp, we watched the sun set over the mountains of Idaho, where we would be very soon.

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Before long we walked into Yaak Montana, our last Montana town stop. We made it by fourth of July and enjoyed watching the locals swim in the Yaak river while we ate and relaxed our bodies. We took another zero day because Ted needed to wait for a package to come in, which was delayed by the holiday. Temperatures were going down, as well as the biting bugs. We were having a lot more fun without them. We got a little cabin there for cheap, with no water or electricity but that was fine. Once the package arrived in the late afternoon, we hit the trail again.   As the afternoon faded into the night, we were startled by the sight of a big brown butt running away from us. After a good look we realized it was a young moose. Spooked by the encounter, knowing critters big and small were all around us, we kept walking along the old logging road until we found a small creek and a flat spot to sleep. It rained long and hard while we slept, clearing by morning as if to say, okay I’ve rained enough now it’s time for you to go on a nice dry walk. The clouds were refreshing, keeping us cool all day. We came along two hillbilly type guys logging along the road we were walking, in the middle of nowhere. The tall skinny man was standing with a beer in his hand. He called out to us as we passed, “where’s yer rig?”. Ted, pointing to his backpack, replied “right here”. Without a smile, the skinny man said “that’s straange…” a chubby man sitting on the ground next to his cut logs just watched quietly as we passed. Feeling vulnerable, we were relieved to be on a trail just a few minutes later. Most people don’t walk far so we feel pretty safe out in the roadless wilderness.

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We camped high on a ridge just before our first cross-country route began the following day. We loved navigating the ridgeline without a path. We had a 360 degree view of mountains for a hundred miles all around. We had a lovely day, giving ourselves a sponge bath when we finally found a flowing creek. We took a long break at the creek to say goodbye to Montana and hello to Idaho! We were on the state border. After another 20 mile day and a new state we got to our campsite just before a small town stop. Ted went to fetch water at the creek a few hundred yards away. It was dark and I could hear him calling to warn the bears, as we often do, “Hey bear!! Heeey bear!!!” We are always a little spooked when we get into camp late and have to do chores in the dark. Lions, wolves, and bears! Oh my! We felt sticky, soggy, and smelly the next day, so before going to pick up our resupply boxes at the Feist Creek Falls Resort, we washed up in the Moyie River. Smiling and waving at the locals who stopped on the bridge to stare at us. I guess we are a sight to see! We were treated like family when we arrived. The owner, Cliff, sat with us as we ate. He brought us homemade food for us to try and even gave us a free hotel room to stay in for the night. I called my Uncle Roger who lives in Idaho and invited him to come visit. He was glad I had called, jumped in his car and was sitting with Ted and I by a waterfall drinking a beer 3 hours later. It was nice to be in the presence of family. Seeing him made me see my dad, his brother, who share a lot of similar features. I never really noticed before. I had always seen my Uncle with family, never one on one as an adult. We hung out for a few hours before he headed back home. It was very sweet of him to drive all that way just to see me.

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When we finally got out of there the next day, it was three o clock in the afternoon and we had a big climb and a long dry stretch that we knew would be unreasonable to start so late in the day, so we camped at the base and started the climb after a night spent painting, listening to Ted’s ukulele, and sleeping next to a babbling brook in a green, moist forest. It was foggy all day and there were huge purple Huckleberries everywhere slowing us down as we climbed. We are finding it difficult to move quickly on this trail. It is nothing like the PCT which is a hard packed, continuous trail all the way to Canada from Mexico. The PNT is a collection of many trails joined together all the way to the ocean from Glacier National Park. It is more of a route with trails, roads, and cross country/bushwhacks connected together. We stop at almost every junction to be sure not to stray from the route, we hike slower because of rugged, extremely steep trail, there are so many berries that we can’t refrain from eating, and overall we just hang out too much! I am feeling the itch to start traveling more efficiently. I am also feeling strong and ready to make more miles. My mental state has evolved from an overwhelmed scatter brain in transition to the trail bliss I once knew while hiking the PCT two years ago. I am feeling good. Strong. Happy. Now let’s get some miles!!!!

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Wait no, how about another town stop? We got to the road that led into Bonners Ferry and decided it would be smart to go into town, the biggest town near the trail for about 600 miles. I had lost my bear spray and Ted had lost his compass and a few other important items. We rushed to and from town, hitchhiking and shopping took us 5 hours and we found ourselves back where we had left off, walking across the Kootenai river valley until evening. Clouds hanging over the Selkirks and miles of farm land in all directions. We slept near Parker Creek, then spent the day climbing about 7,000 feet. Once we reached the crest, we were surrounded by huge storms in the mountains all around us, but we stood under a clear sky. The sun shone gold on the hills and tree’s around, and black clouds marched through the sunshine. It was so dramatic I couldn’t believe my eyes! We camped that night at Long Mountain Lake where we watched the sky light up from the storms and listened to the song of thunder.

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We wandered out of the high country and down into the woods where we had our first bushwhack, that means no trail at all, through bushes, and down a steep embankment for a total of about 5 miles. It was really rough. When we got to a road we walked by a busy campground full of screaming people swimming, drinking, eating, and being merry. We stood out like a sore thumb when we stopped to use the bathroom. A few miles later we saw a family in the wilderness on a bike ride who recognized us from our short moment in the campground. They were excited to hear about our journey and shared their food with us. It was our first on trail trail magic, and it was wonderful. We hiked a few more miles that day on a great woodland trail that no one else was on because of a ton of blown down trees made it very difficult. We didn’t mind hopping over tree’s. It was easier than bushwhacking. We came upon a tiny campsite along this huge lake. We swam and watched the sunset. The next morning we saw a moose! Who politely moved off the trail for us to pass.

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After quite a bit of road walking, we were back on the trail again in an ancient grove of cedars. That night we heard wolves howling as we lay down in our sleeping bags to sleep. It sounded like a moan in the wind, and I couldn’t quite figure out what it was until Ted said it. “Those are wolves…” My body was motionless. I even stopped breathing, trying to hear the sound with all of my being, and being afraid of the possibility of a confrontation. I knew my bear spray couldn’t deter a pack of wolves, but I comforted myself with the thought that there is plenty large game out here. They don’t want to eat me.

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After some more great berry picking, we realized that we crossed over the Idaho state border again, and into Washington, our third state. Very exciting! Again lots of road walking and people looking at us like we’re crazy. We arrived in Metaline Falls Wa and Ted’s Mom and husband Rich met us there on their way home to Texas from their long journey (by vehicle) across Alaska and Canada. They fed us and we hung out together for a couple of days before we parted ways again and headed back into the wilderness. Backpacks full of goodies! Our first day out was climbing up to the peak of the second highest in NE Washington, Abercrombie Mountain. The views were beautiful, and there was even a recliner built out of rocks!

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Now I am sitting in Northport a couple days later, writing this blog from the computer of a young man and woman who took us in for the night. We were sitting by the post office opening our packages when Jamie saw us and brought us home, giving us showers, laundry, food, and great company. We are well fed, clean and ready for the next stretch. Hopefully I will find more opportunities for blogging as this journey continues. Thanks for reading!

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Swimming With Moose and Blood Thirsty Insects

Frantic to finish our preparations for our 3-4 month trip, we were up until 3 am and then got about an hour of sleep before getting on the train. We had a very quiet and peaceful 2.5 day train ride to chill and relax until the walking began. We arrived in East Glacier just outside of Glacier National Park, and began our walk across the Pacific Northwest, starting at Chief Mountain border customs right next to the Canadian border.

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Our first day was exciting and had our feet moving quickly. We had plenty of water, never having to think about where we might find it next, just taking it when we needed it. We met several other hikers on our first day, which was refreshing on a trail we expected to be almost entirely alone on. The walking has been nice, the trails in Glacier are well made, and it was a nice way to ease into this very difficult trail. There were designated campsites with poles built into food prep areas for handing our food, which made life pretty easy.

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We were blessed to meet our first ever moose! He was busy eating grass at the bottom of the lake, and enjoying fully immersing himself and bobbing up and down in the weightlessness of the water. We kept our distance, remembering someone saying that moose are some of the most dangerous wildlife. Feeling safe down the trail, we came upon a perfect jumping rock directly into deep turquoise water. We jumped in reluctantly, and swam out as quickly as we had fallen in. Glacial lakes are not anywhere close to body temperature. The moose, still 200 yards away in the shallower part of the lake, still busy dunking his head and munching. Butterflies were flying around, and the mosquito’s couldn’t find us with all the cold water on us. What a refreshing swim with Mr. Moose! We have had no issues with bears but have found their tracks, scat, along with scarred tree’s and turned over rocks.

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After having a beautiful, but steep, descent out of the park (damn that went by too fast!), I was reluctant to leave the last campsite at Bowman Lake, afraid of being in a crowded place full of people, but I went anyway. I was pleasantly surprised when we walked into the tiny “town” of Polebridge, where we were treated kindly by the locals at the Polebridge Mercantile which had all kinds of deliciously made baked goods among other food treasures. We stayed two nights at the North Fork Hostel that was so pleasant and quaint. A kind man by the name of Oliver owned the hostel and it felt like we were staying in his home – a rustic old cabin tucked into the woods next to a mighty river. We hand washed our clothes and enjoyed conversation with Oliver’s helper, Amy. She was a humble cyclist who worked seasonally and used her bicycle to travel across the country to all of her odd jobs in beautiful places. I enjoyed her big smile and wished I had gotten to know her a little more. We spent hours by the river, I read books about grizzly bears from Oliver’s library, and Ted made some music. We sat there for so long that many animals passed by. We saw geese, osprey, hummingbirds, and even an otter! In the community kitchen we met other people staying in the hostel who gave Ted and I their fruit, and Oliver gave us some kale – making a fantastic breakfast that we are so grateful for. It’s not always easy to find fresh food in tiny towns like this one, so it was truly heaven sent. Our first trail magic on the Pacific Northwest Trail. Polebridge was probably the coolest trail town stop yet!

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We hiked out, doing some road walking, the trail is not complete, so there are lots of roads to walk on that connect to other roads and or trails along this journey. I personally don’t mind them, because they are level and easy to walk on, unlike what we experienced going into the foothills of Montana. Water became scarce, temperatures hovered in the 80 to 100 degree range, trails had no switchbacks and went straight up and down the mountains, not to mention hundreds of blood thirsty insects constantly berating us. Here in Montana, I have experienced some of the steepest, most difficult terrain I’ve ever walked on. It’s been two weeks now, and my legs are getting BUFF! They better be, after all this crazy climbing.

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We took another zero day in Eureka Montana, to rest our feet and let our bodies adjust to the intense hiking. We briefly hiked with a woman trail named BloodyMary who is really fast, and I think we got a little excited and pushed ourselves beyond what we are used to. She is fresh off of the PCT, finishing a southbound hike last December, we have been sitting on our butts for months, so we are reminded to listen to our bodies and take it easy until the bigger miles come more naturally to us. As of now, we are averaging 15 (hard) miles a day. Here we go, back into the hot hot hills of Montana. I’ll post another blog when I find another computer. Love and light from the trail.

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