Pacific Northwest Trail Update 3: Bonners Ferry to Metaline Falls
On the last leg of my 1,200 mile hike on the Pacific Northwest Trail, I made it just under 250 miles to Bonners Ferry, Idaho. The next leg of the journey was Bonners Ferry to Metaline Falls, which takes you through 95 miles of dramatic steep climbs paired with long stretches along exposed ridge lines. All the while your eye is drawn to the striking exposed granite peaks of the Selkirk Mountains.
This section was marked by the oppressive heat we have been experiencing in the PNW. A once in a generation heat wave has gripped the region sending temperatures above 110 degrees. Only once in Doha, Qatar have I felt hotter air.
After leaving Bonners Ferry the trail takes you through the beautiful Kootenai valley full of green wheat and crisp yellow seas of canola gently blowing in the summer breeze. But everything good must come to an end as the trail forces you off the valley floor to deal with nine thousand feet of elevation gain over the next 19 miles. Most of these occurring in burn areas that haven’t had the time to produce new canopy cover and the priceless shade that comes along with it.
Day 2 was defined by a classic Cornelian dilemma. The Pacific Northwest Trail abruptly ends and you must choose between two equally unpleasant decisions; Continuing to bushwhack through 8 miles of river valley so choked with willows, creek beds and downed trees it resembles a jungle. Or ascending to Lions Head Ridge and scrambling along granite topped peaks with little to no escape from the sun.
From previous intel gathered, the choice was made to climb and hope for easy navigation and water. Lionshead was one of the more intense short stretches I have ever hiked. On another day it may have been a treat with scenery rivaling that of the High Sierra. But the day was marred by the extreme heat and cloudless sky.
Left with no sign of trail or previous travel, route finding was made increasingly tedious and slow. After eight long hours of hiking that saw ripped clothing, broken trekking poles and punctured skin the alternate ended at another run down fire lookout tower strewn amongst a sea of giant granite slabs and boulders.
Shout out Nashville Pack for keeping me light on my feet.
I also ran into these puppies along on the way. It honestly can’t get any better than these pictures: