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“Wander a whole summer if you can…time will not be taken from the sum of life. Instead of shortening, it will definitely lengthen it and make you truly immortal.” John Muir

Month

July 2017

Day 27: Abercrombie Mountain

August 3, 2017

Miles: 18

PNT mile 370.6

Camp: Silver Creek dispersed camping

We had kind of a record morning for us today by getting on trail by 6:45am. It felt good to be moving early, and with a 10 mile climb we wanted to have it done before the day grew too hot. It stays cool for a while, but with the fires it turns into an oven by midday. It’s still really smoky which I think triggers allergies for me, sneezing and sniffling down the trail most of the day.

We climbed up Abercrombie Mountain in the smoke and haze, over 5000 feet to get robbed of the view. The mountains were cloaked in smoke.

We ate lunch on a saddle and began the descent. It didn’t take long before we stumbled upon a small primitive campground. We decided to cook dinner at one of the picnic tables and soon we decided to stop for the night. We were tired and don’t need to make any more progress to meet our goal of getting to Northport on Saturday morning. We could push harder and get there tomorrow night, but this way we get to be on trail longer. 

After wandering the campground we found Analeise camped on a picnic table in one of the sites. We joined her (by setting up our tents nearby) and are happy to be calling it a night. We aren’t in a hurry and that feels pretty good.

I can barely keep my eyes open.

Goodnight.

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Day 26: A Day in Metaline Falls 

August 2, 2017

Miles: 5

PNT mile 352

Camp: Flume Creek, Washington 

Waking up was extra exciting this morning because we got to go to a cafe for breakfast. I had a big pancake, 2 eggs, 4 sausage links, hashbrowns and a side of gravy. It is the meal I dream of and was just as satisfying as I remember.

We spent the day getting chores done, investigating the town and hanging out in Mary’s yard. It was relaxing and productive. As the day was very hot and smoky, we didn’t hike out until 7pm, but we got a bit of road walking out of the way.

It was uneventful. At the moment we are cowboy camping and little bugs are attracted to the phone screen so I must turn it off. It is late anyway.

More tomorrow as we tackle Abercrombie Mountain.

Day 25: Air Quality -Subpar

August 1, 2017

Miles: 17

PNT mile 322

Camp: Mary’s backyard Metaline Falls, WA

Morning came early and brought with it a veil of smoke from the nearby fires. As far as we knew, our trail was still open so we hiked on at 7am hoping to shorten the distance between us and town. We figure we have just enough food to finish this section, but we are cutting it close.

The morning was all road walking, but soon we joined a trail. The trail took us into a Grove of old cedars, some said to be almost 2000 years old. They were quite impressive and it was humbling to stand among them.

After leaving the trees behind, we followed a valley as it rose up to Helmer Mountain where we would follow a ridge for the afternoon. We had to make it to the other side of the ridge for water and there we planned to have dinner. We also crossed into Washington on our way up! Someone built a little shrine at the border:

The ridge was very smoky, giving me a slight headache, but we were determined to keep moving. 

When we finally reached the end of our ridge walk, we were met with a trail closure. All roads and trails leading from our location to town were closed. We didn’t know what to do.

I contacted another hiker who was already in town and she enlisted the help of a local trail angel. Mary, the angel of Metaline Falls made phone calls and pushed open some doors for us and within 2 hours we were being shuttled off the mountain pass by a fire crew.

We were forced off the trail in our very first fire evacuation. It was an unexpected turn of events for sure, but we are lucky to have found a way out of the fire zone. We were whisked to town and soon were eating burgers instead of our planned refried beans by the side of the road dinner. Life is crazy, but life on trail is crazier.

At least this catches us up to our schedule and we can continue moving forward…and we don’t have to worry about running out of food anymore. We are camped in Mary’s yard tonight and plan to get things done and back to trail tomorrow. Wish us luck!

Day 24: A Little Bit of Everything 

July 31, 2017

Miles: 20

PNT mile 304.5

Camp: Road 1013, Kinkusa National Forest – Last night in Idaho

We started out the day around 4 am when a goat paid us a visit. We shouted at it and went back to sleep for the real alarm at 5. It was easy to get up because it was light out, but I could feel yesterdays abuse lingering all over. I was feeling it for sure. 

We had about 2 miles to Lookout Mountain and the end of our bushwack. It was all bouldering moves up steep slopes, but with the best rock for the job: granite. It was the kind of rock that makes you feel like spiderman, even with a pack on. It is super grippy so it is easy to trust the rock for traction and it can be quite fun. I definitely enjoyed our boulder jumping this morning.

We took a long break at the summit and reveled in the end of the bushwack. It was very challenging but I’d choose it again every time. We saw things that very few people have or may ever see. We pushed our own limits only to find they were expandable, our skills even stronger than before in map reading and bushwacking in general. I feel stronger.

The summit was quite impressive, sheer cliffs dropping out from below. Peaks in every direction and going on forever.

After our break we reveled in the glory of a trail for the rest of the day. It was so well graded at times that I felt spoiled. To top it off, we were walking through cedar forest all afternoon. The trees were so majestic, surrounded by ferns and other old growth ground cover. It felt like walking through a fairy tale after the harsh conditions of yesterday. It was like a dream.

We skirted the shore of Upper Priest Lake and I wished that we had planned to stay there. Every campsite was straight off of a postcard and some even had bear boxes. Alas, we have to meet some mileage goals so we don’t run out of food. We aren’t going to push ourselves, but we don’t have a lot of time over all. There is a balance in when to stop and enjoy something special and when to make miles. Sometimes food dictates both. 

We found a camp on the river at about 7 pm and decided to call it. We are both spent from yesterday, and even though today was mostly breezy it did start with a 2 mile scramble up a boulder field. We feel it in our bones.

Tomorrow we hope to get about 23 miles done…more if we can. The terrain looks a whole lot easier to manage and we feel strong, especially with our dwindling food supply (our packs are really light). It should be just 2.5 days into town where we can freshen up and eat all of the things.

Can’t think about food now, it’s sleep time.

Goodnight

Day 23: Real Adventure 

July 30, 2017

Miles: 9 (?)

PNT mile Off trail but roughly 284

Camp: Lions Head Crest, Selkirk Mountains, still Idaho

Today was by far one of my favorites. We woke up at 5:30 and we’re on trail by 6:50. I would have liked to leave sooner, but we spent some extra time filtering water today. We are carrying capacity (4 liters each) because we have no idea when the next water is on the alternate. We can see blue on the map about halfway through the day, but you don’t know until you get there. 

The morning was very slow going even on trail as we battled the raw forest for passage. Dense thickets of brush stood between us and the next thing; stabbing, scratching, clawing. We swam through the bushes to our best ability but speed was not on our side. It was very slow going.

The bear grass went from a thing of beauty to a nuisance here. It was releasing it’s pollen into the air as we passed and I could feel it in my lungs, not to mention it clinging to everything turning us and the world a pale shade of yellow.

Finally atop the ridge, we had hoped for smoother sailing, but the ridge laughed as we fought plants and hopped through giant boulder fields. Nothing was moving very swiftly, though we knew to expect a day like this. It is the most notorious day of the PNT, “the bushwack.”

We opted to follow the ridge that is above the actual trail, but both require 10+ miles of struggling through thick vegetation and other obstacles. The lower route is longer but follows a valley, the higher route is more challenging and really requires some skills; map reading being the most obvious, but also technical skills like bouldering with a pack on or traversing steep dropoffs. You should also not mind getting stabbed in the legs…or at least bring pants. I had pants but they didn’t fit right so I got rid of them. Today I would have given anything for any pants. All I have are wool sleep pants and those wouldn’t do much for me, so my legs are sliced up every which way.

“The bushwack,” and the bouldering we had to do led to an excellent series of sound effects all day as well. We huffed, puffed, moaned, groaned, heaved and hoed our way around the brush and boulders. If someone was following us with a microphone it would be funny to play back!
Regardless of the hard work we put in today (9 miles in 13 hours -with breaks of course), it was really quite spectacular. Today was the kind of day that hiking is all about. I think all of our skills were called upon today, including teamwork and communication. I am so thankful to have a good hiking partner, someone who is equally skilled and also gets tired and hungry around the same time. We encouraged each other a lot today, helped guide each other through tough spots and took turns leading through very challenging terrain. It felt good to have such and epic day be a shared experience. 

We are snug in tents now, 2 miles from where we had hoped to get today … but we both knew when to say when. The sun was setting and we found a fantastic spot on top of the crest. We ate mac and cheese while watching the crimson sun set. Now it is the time I’ve been waiting for…sleep.

After a day like today, it should come easy.

Another hiker made a video of his trek on this route. Let me know if the link works!

Lions Head Crest Video

Day 22: My Kind of Hiking

July 29, 2017

Miles: 11

PNT mile 273

Camp: Upper Ball Lake, Idaho

We intended to wake up early, but the late night caused us to hit the snooze button. Fortunately the sun came up and cooked us out of our tents by 7am. Not terrible since we had a short day today. Tomorrow is a notorious bushwack that is 10 miles long and may take all day. Tonight we could only go as far as the start of the bushwack, so we could afford a little bit of a lazy day today.

We were on trail by 8:15, walking through an area that burned in 2015. This is supposedly why people avoid this section, but it wasn’t that bad. Although burn areas sadden me, they also offer up a special kind of peacefulness. They are super quiet places, yet abuzz with the new life of a young forest. I heard at least 3 woodpeckers communicating with a series of knocks. They seemed to surround me in the stillness of morning and it was fun to stand and hear them “chat.”

I think something about the burn area woke me up again; it offered me a peace, a moment of stillness that reconnected me to the trail. Right before I got sick I felt a little off and disconnected from the hike and today brought me back to life. 

The burn area didn’t last long and we were soon walking through alpine forest and meadows. It was a hot day, but we managed to find shade and stopped to enjoy occasional breezes. We carried ample water and stopped frequently for breaks and snacks. We don’t know if we have enough food for this section, but we can’t really tell how long it will take until we complete the bushwack tomorrow. That is the wild card. Until then we are trying to feed our newly growing hunger. 

It’s finally happening! I’m hungry again! The kind of hungry where I fantasize about food all day and nothing I eat is enough. I want to eat everything. This is one of my favorite things about hiking because I love food. Now I can eat all I want for 2 short months so I better enjoy it. I am so on the opposite end of sick it feels great.

The hiking was generally easy today, but we took our time because of the heat. Time was on our side, and we even made it to camp by 5pm. We walked through some really beautiful and stark terrain, granite peaks all around, the trail following the top of the Selkirk Crest. It was the reason we took the route we chose and we are so happy we did. That kind of terrain is my kind of hiking. I felt on top of the world all day and the views were persistently stunning.

Our camp is on Upper Ball Lake and it is pretty picture perfect. Pink called it the kind of campsite you write home about. It’s right by the crystal clear water, cliffs rising in a cirque that is filled with white granite and yellow bear grass. The air is cool and calm as night approaches.

It is almost hiker midnight and for the first time on this trail, I’ll be ready to turn in early. Today was pretty great.

Early alarm tomorrow.


Day 21: Back in Action

July 28, 2017

Miles: 10

PNT mile 262

Camp: Parker Ridge, Idaho

We got up and moving this morning, heading straight back to the states to accomplish the chores we couldn’t do in Canada. The rest and relaxation was much called for under the circumstances, though we are both itching to get back on trail.

We decided not to make up the miles we missed in this case and had LB drop us off up the road a ways. The terrain ahead is challenging and with temperatures pushing 100 this week, we need to focus on the next section without adding from the last one. The miles missed total about 11 and they are all on roads so we aren’t missing any trail per say, just the chance to connect our footsteps. This doesn’t bother either of us, as we have both learned that isn’t what matters. We did what we had to do to address illness and now we are back on track. Purists, we are not…though we intend to hike every mile that we can, which will hopefully be all of the rest!

That said, we still had about 3 miles of road to walk to reach our trail. Our packs were heavy with resupply but we were light with the excitement of getting back to the business of hiking. We stopped at the base of our trail to collect water for the climb when a car pulled up.

“Which route are you taking?” A woman asked from a subaru.

“Parker Ridge.” We answered, already excited that we had chosen the higher, more difficult route to start the section. It goes up to follow the Selkirk Crest which is supposed to be a highlight of the PNT. There was a fire on the ridge in 2015 which makes it extra hot and exposed, plus the approach trail gains 3300′ in 4.4 miles, then continues climbing more gradually for about 6 miles. It’s listed as one of the PNT’s “epic climbs.” We can’t wait for the reward for this one!

The woman strongly encouraged us to do the alternate instead. It is 9 miles longer through a shaded canyon with ample water. She said another hiker had a tough time up there and came to her for help, but we had no interest in that. She continued to press the issue of the heat in the forecast, and I politely told her we had done our research and had our minds made up. We had a plan and are also both capable of a lot in extreme conditions.

She wasn’t convinced, but drove off telling us to come to her house if we changed our mind. After thanking her for what I’m sure were the best of intentions we continued on with our original plan. We are only planning 7 more miles today (it was already 5pm) and a short day the next 2 days to enjoy the hike and also take care of ourselves in the heat. We are confident in our decision.

Thankfully, we did begin the climb at 5pm. The sun had just hidden behind the ridge providing us with permanent shade. The trail started steep and despite the assistance of switchbacks, stayed steep. Sometimes you could only climb on your toes, but it all felt good, I felt good.

I can see where a climb like that would be particularly daunting with a full resupply in the full sun. We were dripping sweat on the shaded trail, the sun would be murder. It made me happy that we made the decision to come this way, it truly feels wonderful to climb a mountain again. 

We kept catching views of the valley below, still lit by the days sun, growing farther and farther behind us.

Finally, we reached a small spring where we planned to eat dinner. Unfortunately the spring was occupied by a million mosquitoes, so we had to eat 50 yards away. We would have to collect all of the water we could carry after dinner too, so we needed to stay closeby.

After dinner we hiked in the dark to camp. It gets darker earlier now…it would stay light until after 10 before Idaho, but we have changed time zones and it is now dark at 9. We hadn’t planned for that, but we had a late start so a little night hiking wasn’t going to hurt.

We set up to cowboy camp and as I lay mesmerized by the stars, it soon became apparent the mosquitoes weren’t going to let us sleep. We had to get up and set up our tents real fast for bug protection. 

Though I can no longer see the stars very clearly, it is okay. Sleep should come easy and I’m ready for it.

I feel really, really good and really, really happy to be back on trail.

Goodnight.

Days 18-20: Recovery

July 25-27, 2017

Miles: 0

Camp: Boswell, BC, Canada By the shores of Lake Kootenay 

As I am a lucky lady, despite the sickness that overcame me, we were picked up early the next morning by our friend LB. His family owns a cabin just over the border in Canada and he swept us to its glory and comforts. His family welcomed us, fed us, let us bathe and do laundry, let me sleep a whole day away in a bed and so so much more. 

We traveled the area a little bit and got to see the absolute stunning beauty of British Columbia. I am in complete awe of this entire area and the kindness of this country. There was even a street sign that said, “be kind to one another.”

Between the country people, LB and his family…and their sweet little pugs, my heart is full and I finally find myself on the right side of hunger. The meals have been too good to refuse, but I haven’t been able to dive in with my usual hiker fervor. It took longer than anyone expected…but Pink and I will make up lost time in an easier section. This upcoming section looks challenging yet off the charts amazing. I cannot wait to get back out there!

Pink and LB found themselves a bit under the weather today, our expected date of departure, but a much milder form of my illness. It seems I may have carried a bug that took me down due to the stress I was putting on my body and they were lucky enough to already be resting when it hit. Here’s hoping tomorrow is productive and ends up with miles gained.

Until then here are a few shots of the lovely place I was lucky enough to see and recover in. 

Three cheers to the Gillans! (And Canada)

Day 17: I Lost My Huckleberries 

July 24, 2017

Miles: 13.5

PNT mile 247

Camp: A field next to a hotel in Green Mountain, Idaho

Morning came too soon when a logging truck drove by our roadside camp at 6:30 am. The driver hopped out to check on us and tell us he needed our bed space to turn his truck around. I had cloudy visions of protest, but ultimately had no energy for such shenanigans. We quickly collected our gear and fled to the trail. I felt ultra wiped out and my chafe was screaming. I didn’t mention the drama of that last night, but it was bad. I had wrapped my leg in an ace bandage for yesterdays hike in an effort to hold off the feeling of glass shards poking into my leg. It worked great! That is, until I removed it. The thing was stuck to my leg and when it detached, my chafe had started bleeding. I had quite a job of dealing with that at 11pm and had difficulty finding a comfortable position to sleep in all night.

This morning it was still very tender and now an exposed wound. I did what I could with my first aid kit to make it through the next big climb (3100′ in 4 miles). I was feeling queasy and forced down a cliff bar for the walk down to the valley. At the base we stopped at a picnic table for breakfast where I choked down oatmeal, my stomach feeling extremely unsettled. It took a while to finish my slop, a real chore to get it all down…but I knew I needed the calories if I wanted to climb Mt. Bussard today.

We walked across the valley to the approach and were met by a pack of llamas! They were so sweet and bucktoothed and mop headed, the delight of the meeting was a great distraction from my uneasy stomach.

I put on some music for the climb to help me get going and kept a slow but steady pace. Halfway up I stopped to sit in the shade and eat some huckleberries. Pink came along and picked a whole bunch of berries which he shared with James and I. It was about all I could eat, but I figured I needed the sweet treat for energy.

Finally at the top of the climb I ran into Judd and Righton. They had been there for awhile and were, per usual, full of energy. Younguns! 

I, on the other hand laid out my ground cloth and had a nice lie down while I waited for Pink so we could have lunch. I was feeling more nauseous and hoped taking a rest would make the feeling pass. When Pink arrived I was actually feeling worse for the wear as he cooked up some lunch. 

As the smells wafted my way the nausea increased until I had to run into the bushes to throw up. It was mostly liquid, but crimson red from the berries which was a bit concerning. Pink ate both of our lunches and we decided that we had to hike the 4 miles to water at the very least…meanwhile the vomiting increased in frequency and intensity.

Soon, it was every half mile that I had to stop and empty the contents of my belly. Once the huckleberries were gone it was stomach acid and water, which I was forcing down just to have something in me. Every time I had to stop, I felt like collapsing, but between the two of us, we didn’t have enough water for the situation. I powered through, barely conscious, constantly heaving. 

At one point I figured we should have been there and found us a mile off trail. We had to backtrack, adding 2 miles total to the day. All I wanted was to lay down and shut my eyes. But I had to hike.

Then, just as we were finally approaching the supposedly reliable creek…it was dry. I fought back tears and continued to retch in the bushes. This was quickly becoming my worse day on trail. Ever.

The next water was yet another mile, making it a total of 7 miles and no guarantee of a flow when we got there. The day felt like it would never end. I wanted to give up but knew I couldn’t. I kept hiking and puking. Puking and hiking. I wanted my mommy!

Pink stayed close and kept an eye on me the whole way. He was patient and brave enough to look and what came up to make sure I was okay…but once I lost all of the huckleberries, there was no more red color which was our main concern.

We made it to the next water which was a couple of stagnant pools in a streambed. I immediately flopped to the ground and shut my eyes. Pink found some women picking berries and asked them if they could take us to the nearest town. They were happy to help, but one of them had an immune deficiency and needed me to ride in the bed of the truck. 

I laid down and wrapped myself in my ground cloth for the cold and bumpy ride, half conscious and fully relieved to know it would soon be over. A hotel room with running water, beds and blankets would soon be mine. I’d almost made it.

They dropped us off at a motel after a very bumpy ride that felt like eternity. They were very sweet and made sure we were all set before driving off…but as it turned out there was no room at the inn, or any inn for that matter. Bonners Ferry was fresh out of hotel rooms.

I puked in the bushes of the nicely manicured grounds while Pink negotiated with the front desk. They said we could set up in the woods by the hotel as long as we were out of sight. This would have to do. They gave us water and said we could even come in for breakfast in the morning. They were all too kind.

Once my tent was pitched, I grabbed my cooking pot and proceeded to drink water and gatorade (Pink walked to a nearby gas station) only to have it come right back up. I was sick for 12 hours straight before finally succumbing to sleep.

I have no idea what caused this sickness…food? Water? Over exertion? Exhaustion? A bug? All I knew is that LB was nearby and he would come and rescue me in the morning.

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