Pacific Northwest Trail (PNT) 2021

In 2015, Poppy and I met at the San Diego airport while being picked up by Scout and Frodo’s volunteers for a stay at their trail angel home before starting north on the PCT. She met me and hiked the Glacier NP part of the CDT with me in 2018. In 2020 she’d intended to thru hike the PNT but since Glacier and Olympic NPS were closed she opted out but met me at Bonner’s Ferry for a visit. I told her if she hiked the PNT in 2021, I’d love to join her. And so we are hiking!

6/27-7/1 Glacier NP to Polebridge, MT

Poppy

Misinformation Creates Mistrust

We applied for and got GNP campsite permits months before. Arriving at the Wilderness Center in Apgar, the permit people had no current information about conditions in the park. Social media posts were few and incomplete. We were told to carry ice axes for Stoney Indian Pass and a bear canister for Waterton camp since there might be snow so high up the bear hang that our food wouldn’t be safe. We were told campsites were overbooked. None of this turned out to be true. On Day 4 in beautiful Glacier NP we reached the Polebridge ranger station on the west side of the park and I tried to update the ranger there as to conditions—the suspension bridge over Waterton had been hung and 3 miles of trail cleared of blowdown. She brushed me off and said, “we just came off winter status yesterday,” apparently having no idea, along with the permit office 5 days earlier, that trail crews had been organized and deployed. That doesn’t happen on the spur of a moment. Oliver at the Polebridge hostel commiserated with us and said there had been a massive loss of GNP experienced personnel and new people had inadequate familiarity with the system.

Anyway….

6/27 13.4 miles

Hot but good trail. Poppy and I got a good tip from a hiker coming at us crossing one of Glacier’s tippy suspension bridges. Walk one foot in front of another, not wide spaced like you do to stabilize. Light bulb moment! We camped as per our permit at MOJ (acronym for designated campsite Mojowanis on our permit) and met another PNT hiker—Tennesteve.

6/28 13.9 miles

Well we started at 7:30 am and camped at 7:30 pm but Poppy is being careful not to reinjure her knee and is making sure her feet stay healthy, so we took several “shoes off” breaks. We were worried about snow over Stoney Indian Pass, carried an ice axe and spikes. Then we worried about no bridge at Waterton (WAT), but it was put in! The problem was from the Pass down— dreadfully overgrown, couldn’t see my feet, then the blowdown, heat and bugs. Amazingly, the last 3 miles from campsite KOO ( campsite acronym for Kootenai on our permit) to WAT ( campsite acronym for Waterton river) were clear. We camped alone in the designated campground despite being told it was booked solid. I woke to slugs on my tent and in my shoes. A first.

6/29 15.8 miles

Somewhere up Brown Pass I caught my foot on a root and now have a bruised finger, a big old hematoma on my right shin and a black-and-blue elbow. In other words, normal Catwater. Beautiful views, great trail but the incredibly steep downhill to our third and last camp in Glacier Park, BOW (short for Upper Bowman Lake) destroyed my big toes—the usual black toenails will ensue and take approximately 1 year to grow out. Poppy and I are talking nail polish at a town in the future—she’s sporting baby blue polish at the moment, which is somewhat better than what my now red, blood blistered below the nail toes look like.

The best campsite so far, a breeze off the lake kept the temperature cool and the bugs down, yay! There are 6 or 7 other people here, a group who hiked in from the bottom of the lake. As I was relaxing in my tent, one of them asked if I had any antihistamine for an allergic reaction he was having. Oddly enough, I have been carrying a few prescription pills left over from ankle surgery in 2014 that were given to me to fight post-op nausea if necessary. I didn’t need it at the time so they’ve been in my first aid kit ever since. A nurse in his party vetted the meds and they worked to stop his reaction.

6/30 15 or so miles

A crazy easy hot day to Polebridge. We stopped at the Mercantile and got a free pastry just for being PNT hikers! Then we walked to the North Fork Hostel where we sent resupply boxes snd decided to stay in the dorm for 2 nights. We saw Tennesteve again and met Brennan snd Grant, all hiking the PNT, as well as some bike packers and regular people staying in hostel owner Oliver’s eclectic assortment of teepees, cabins and trailers. Grant had come in with heat exhaustion and Oliver took him down to the river and stayed with him while he got in the water and cooled down his body temperature. What a good man. We ate at the Saloon next to the Mercantile after showering and sitting in the shade. It’s so incredibly hot.

Oliver
Oliver

7/1 zero

Tennesteve and Brennan left today. I hung out with Poppy and Grant. It was now just the 3 of us upstairs in the dorm and it was cooler when we figured out the airflow. Oliver is the bomb and his cat Oliver is gorgeous and perfectly catlike.

As Poppy and Grant and I chatted we were exploring trail names for Grant. He has problems with his Sawyer water filter and Sawyer “Squeeze Breaker” came up but then I told the Beth and John (CDT) story, how she proposed Hot Flash for her name due to time-of-life issues and I told her “no.” All 3 of us shouted “Hot Flash” and it’s now Grant’s trail name—how perfect is that name for a super tall, mid-20’s, nerdy guy who has just recovered from heat illness? We all laughed.

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