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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