PNT to Oroville

Cumulative Miles Hiked: 482

8/5 Skipped a ton of road walking out of Oroville. Dan drove me to 6200’ so it’s a bit of a shock to the system, from blazing hot to pleasantly cool, from low to high(er), from bugless to voracious and noisy mosquitoes and flies. Lots of short haul backpackers out here, nice to see them.

8/6 I woke to a soaking wet tent, a lot of condensation since I camped next to a creek. It’s cool up here but the trail is beautifully designed and maintained. I made it to the historic Tungsten Mine and cabins for lunch, then it started to rain. And rained. For 3 hours over spectacular Cathedral Pass where the wind hit me and my hands got too cold for photos. Guess I’ll have to go back! I hiked down a bit lower before the ranger station and camped, crawled into my bag to warm up as the rain died and the wind didn’t. The rain cut the dust, the Pasayten is beautiful and Cathedral Pass reminded me of a kinder, shorter Pinchot Pass but with uniquely gorgeous rock formations.

Not as rusty as my old mine saw

8/7 I wore all my layers until 11 am. There were some beautiful views but the trail is not what it was. Burn area forever. Oh well. Dead trees, down trees, fried soil turned to ashy sand, no visible path in places. I got some water then found a flat stand of green trees off the trail for a peaceful night. Didn’t get as far as I wanted, so it goes.

8/8 I was in a cloud till 10, so there was no view from Bunker Hill. The blowdown burn area went on forever. In the heat and view less burn area coming down from Bunker Hill, I counted over 150 blowdowns an hour, all day long. Practice clambering over, under and around them makes perfect.

Finally I turned up from the old Pasayten Airfield into a lush living forest. Instant happiness even though I hiked another 7.8 miles just to find a tent site, a sweet little spot out of the blowdowns right next to the trail but with no dead trees threatening to fall on me. And with an annoying babbling stream talking at me all night. Took nearly 12 hours but I made my required average miles, 18, so as not to run out of food over the next couple of days.

See the sign for the trail junction?
Mellow stuff

8/9 Blowdown Showdown! I’ve invented a hiker contest.

All due credit for the name goes to Jason Borgstede, pro snowboarder and business owner (Blue&Gold Boardshop in Anchorage, Alaska—go there for all gear needed to slide sideways, summer or winter) who holds the Throwdown Showdown event for boarders every winter at Alyeska Ski Resort in Girdwood, Alaska.

Full disclosure: I declare myself the winner of my age group. Here’s how I did it. Basically it’s a freestyle event—you get points for getting through massive sections of blowdowns using a variety of skills, tricks and techniques. As this event grows and develops you may get bonus points for naming maneuvers. Getting through faster than another hiker gets bonus points, which may be offset though by excessive blood loss.

Try these for starters: Step over the little logs regular, then goofy. Limbo under larger logs. Belly slide under, then slide on your back face up. Creep on all fours, crawl on your knees. Lever your way over like mounting a horse, both feet off the ground. Now get on the horse from the wrong side. For those big piled up log jams, pressure your feet like a climber as you attempt to scale and see over 14’ of tangled branches, pine needles and busted up trees. With hands and without hands. What else can you come up with? No holds barred! Uh, literally.

More blowdowns, hours of them, and 3 big switchback climbs. After 3 days of nearly nonstop blowdowns, I reached the PCT! Tread, real tread, level tread, well designed tread, I nearly kissed that tread. I love the PCT. You really appreciate good trail when you’ve been dealing with not good trail for so long. Like I learned to appreciate a decent dirt road walk on the CDT. And carrying water weight in the desert.

Now that I was on the PCT, I met tons of people, a couple that said they’d started at the southern border in March. I didn’t ask about the Sierra because it sure seemed like enough time had passed for a NOBO thru hike! From Sweden, they said they flew from Europe 2 days before the travel ban. Cool!

I kept going, ecstatic to be back in the North Cascades, such views! I dry camped alone, despite the dozens of hikers I’d seen, at the junction of the PNT and PCT, completing the 14 miles the trails share.

8/10 Last day for the PNT this year and it was all PCT. 14 miles to Hart’s Pass where we’d started the PCT SOBO a few years ago, walking from Hart’s to the Canadian Border 30 miles away, and then turned around and headed back south for good.

Today in the 6 1/2 hours I was on the trail, I counted 39 humans coming towards me (including 1 baby which in some cultures is considered not quite human until age 5 or 6), 9 dogs, and 4 humans going my way, only 1 of which passed me.

PCT, I love you!

And then, back in the van for a few days, visiting Dave and Teresa in Chewelah and meeting Natasha at Hidden Mother Brewery in Spokane. And on a plane 8/14, me to the Sierra, Dan back home to Alaska.

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