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!