THE PACIFIC NORTHWEST TRAIL: 249.5 MILES DOWN, 900 MILES TO GO
I started the Pacific Northwest Trail on July 15th with a group of friends I met hiking on various other trails. The Eastern Terminus of the PNT begins in Glacier National Park which is among the most beautiful places the United States has to offer. In case you missed it, check out the prologue to my trip here.
The plan was to hike 50 miles through the park to the town of Polebridge. Park rangers were hesitant to approve our itinerary for various reasons including the high daily mileage we requested and recent report of high snow levels on Stony Indian Pass. What rangers failed to inform the group about was the river feeding into Waterton Lake, which was moving far too swiftly to safely cross. Discouraged we were forced to hike back the 28 miles to Chief Mountain where we had begun.
Luckily we met an amazing hiker named ‘Yeti’ who was a quick favorite of the group due to the fact he is 83-years-old and had hiked over 40,000 miles in his life. Yeti selflessly drove us the nearly 100 miles around the park to Polebridge.
The next three days we fought through tough miles of deep snow that often concealed the trail while climbing steep inclines in the Flathead National Forest. In the snow you could see the sign of moose, wolf, whitetail and grizzly bears. One morning I found myself standing on the US/Canada border staring at a 20 yard gap in the middle of the forest wondering how an imaginary line has so much socio and economic impact.
Despite the hostility of the environment the forest is beautiful and summer is inching ever closer.
Eureka, Montana to Bonners Ferry, Idaho was four days and 110 miles of tough climbs. Multiple 3,000-4,000 ft. elevation gains leave you feeling dead in the legs but reward your hard work with ridge line walks among the blooming wildflowers high up in the Kootenai National Forest.
Much to the appreciation of any hiker, the snow from the first 150 miles seems to have all but disappeared other than small patches above 7,000 feet. This made reaching the two majestic fire lookout towers in the section a treat rather than a chore. The first is maintained and booked solid by tourists months in advance, while the second stands as it did the day it was abandoned by the forest service.
Fellow hiker @plantgrant and I, pushed by an insatiable hunger and a realization that we had crossed into Idaho and pacific standard time pushed 38 miles on day three to set ourselves up for early food and comfort the next day in Bonners Ferry. Since we had gained an hour the previous day, the sun rose at 3:45 a.m. thus deepening the problem of lack of sleep we have been experiencing.
Around the same time a freight train rumbled through the valley and a dawn thunderstorm produced cracking strings of lightning. We were very thankful we had spent the night under a covered picnic table at a trailhead parking lot.
I’ve called the second week of a thru-hike the hardest because your body is finally coming to terms with having to move long distances every single day. My feet and knees hurt much more today than they did a week ago, yet the body is an amazing machine and will generally do what you ask of it with only minimal care and maintenance. Now if only I could get a bit more sleep! @nashville_pack.
Today, we hitched a ride with some Mennonites and their scary dog which turned out to be a much needed move. It was 86 degrees in Bonners Ferry, without a ride from a friendly passerby, I would have been walking 20 miles down a hot highway to the next trailhead. After sitting around for an hour, a lady circled back and picked us up. Just finished walking 28 miles, 32 miles, 38 miles, and another 18 miles to get into town.
I’m now at Mile 249.5. Roughly 950 miles left to go.
Shout out Nashville Pack for keeping me light on my feet.