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.

 

 

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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