PNT Whidbey Island to Port Angeles

8/13 16.3 miles

The zero helped! My shin doesn’t hurt. Rick dropped me at the ferry terminal, it was a 45” ride to Port Townsend where I found the lovely old brick post office and collected my resupply box. With the food I had leftover from so many days staying in motels, I think I’ll be fine. From Port Townsend the trail was city street to a bike path along the harbor, gorgeous views. After awhile the trail was going to be Highway 20 again, but the Guthook comments described an alternative bike path so I took that. Turned out to be double track dirt road for the overhead power lines. After a few miles of easy walking, it turned into a blackberry, Devil’s Club and other things with thorns bushwhack. Arrgggh, too far to turn around so I struggled on, hearing highway traffic nearby. I finally saw cars flashing through openings in the jungle and made my way to an embankment above the highway. I slid down it somehow hanging onto whatever I could find and landed on the skinny shoulder covered in blood smeared all over my arms and legs from thrashing through skin ripping vegetation. I used my water bottle to clean up a bit before another 5 miles or so on lousy Highway 20 to 101 to Poppy and our agreed camping place at a great trail angel place on Uncas Road. Greg is awesome and has a privy, water and tent space along with a shelter if it was crummy weather and a warm greeting. Plus Poppy and Tex were there and we all cooked dinner, talked and admired the flint napping that Greg has been working on. So despite the bushwhacking and relacerated legs and arms, it was actually a fine day.

8/14 21.5 miles

A dog lot of mastiffs on the next property barked off and on all night. Earplugs helped a bit.

More paved road walking today to a nicely graded dirt road and finally trail. A good day all in all, about 12 hours in transit. I realized I’d done a stupid thing and am not carrying enough food for the miles. When I’d planned, I calculated going the shorter alternate route and didn’t check with Poppy what she calculated. It would have come up if we’d taken the same ferry to Port Townsend where she shopped and I got my box for this stretch. So my bad, I’m now rationing for 100 miles, not the 60 I planned. I’ll be fine, if a tad hungry.

8/15 18 miles

Beans is back!! We haven’t seen him since Mt Baker so it was awesome to camp and talk with him again. Also Poppy gave me her extra bagel to help with my poor food planning, yay!

Today was pretty much a green tunnel (all trees, no views) to a full parking lot and great trail, tons of people (30+ when I quit counting humans) and 9 dogs. Marmot Pass was beautiful although there weren’t any marmots, disappointing.

8/16 18.5 miles

Another gorgeous pass although the trail was crap going down the other side to the junction. The next 10 miles I leap frogged with Beans since Poppy takes off early in the morning and she’s gone till the campsite, the new normal now. Beans and I got lightly rained on for an hour or two and got wet mostly because all the vegetation next to the trail brushes your legs. He was feasting on huckleberries as he went and showed me the three different kinds—I had no idea and they really look different from each other. Cool.

Got to camp and Poppy showed me some tent sites near her. I was getting cold from being wet so set up camp and climbed in to get warm. She came over to visit and Beans and I made our dinners and we all chatted with me shivering in my tent snd them sitting just outside. Hikers!

I told her I wasn’t going to follow her plan starting tomorrow. I know she went to a lot of work to get the Olympic National Park (ONP) campsite permits and I appreciate it but I need a night in Port Angeles to recharge batteries and myself. Her plan involves hiking well past tomorrow’s permitted site, then dashing into Port Angeles for groceries and food, then hitching back out and walking 11 more miles. I asked why but there wasn’t an answer. So I will finish 1 day later than she will. I am still permitted for campsites, I just have to avoid the ones that have specific quotas which is only a couple. Hopefully it works out.

Another interesting dead thing

8/17 18.8 miles

Poppy was gone when I got up. Beans said goodbye as he headed out a few minutes before I did. Another incredible pass in the alpine with good ONP tread! Hayden Pass. Then a long 9 miles down to our permitted campsite at Mary’s Falls—I had it all to myself right next to the rather loud Elwha River.

Mary’s Falls camp
Historic cabin along the Elwha River

8/18 15 miles

Pretty easy day. I heard from Catwater’s Kid on the inReach in the morning. She does have today and tomorrow off from work and will meet me for the night in Port Angeles, that message lit me up with joy. I’m feeling bad about ditching Poppy even though it’s the right choice for me and this happens in the hiking world often. One partner’s getting faster and the other is wearing out, or one has a different time schedule or goals than the other.

You have to walk off the PNT for about 2 miles to access a trailhead and road to the highway and town. I saw a hiker woman making lunch near the junction and went and asked her about the “bypass trail.” She was going to walk out too after her lunch and said, “I want to give you a ride to Port Angeles!” And so it happened, what a hoot she was, from Portland, and in a previous season she’d hiked 500 miles of the PCT. She dropped me at my motel, telling Sarah, “Your mom’s a badass!” which Sarah laughingly agreed with.

After being on short rations for the last stretch, real food and beer was especially welcome. And I try to learn from my mistakes, so I studied the trail ahead pretty carefully, bought resupply, a leg sleeve for my sometimes still sore shin and made a reservation for a night in Forks. Also the Super 8 has a resident cat, Douglas.

PNT Bellingham to Whidbey Island

8/9 23 road miles

Ravensong dropped us off on the road where she’d fetched us from yesterday. What can I say about today? Road, all road, through lovely flat farmlands with that wide open feel I love. Walking Highway 20 isn’t my favorite thing to do. But I’d reserved a lovely motel room in Anacortes—we had our own bedrooms which helps since we seem to be at the point of being constantly irritated with each other—too many weeks together. I don’t think talking it out will help. Feelings would be hurt for no resolution.

8/10 25 miles

A bit of trail in an Anacortes neighborhood to roads for a very long time. Feels like I have a shin splint on my left leg. A bad day when your hiking buddy walks off ahead in the morning and at the end of the day you find yourself ahead of her with some kind of accusation floating in the air. Did I pass her when she was in the little store at a road junction? Doesn’t matter, there was 1.8 miles, off trail, from the “trail” junction to our motel, downhill, but she did not want to walk it. (“I’m not doing 25 miles!”) I had an Uber OK for awhile but that went away. She caught up and flagged down a ride, amazing boldness, yay!

8/11

Annoyed with me again, this is getting old. My leg is hurting bad, and the shin is kind of swollen, so I’m not walking the beach but sticking to the road.

I let her know that I was going to stay with a friend on Whidbey Island and she was welcome too. But mid day I got a text that she was at a trail angel’s in Coupeville.

Rick and Mike (and Ellie the Weimaraner) picked me up around 3:30, handed me a beer, and whisked me to Rick’s house in Freeland. Ocean view! Quiet and comfy. It was so great to talk with these smart engineers. Plus they cook! And sweet Ellie let me pet her and scratch her belly.

8/12 zero

Lovely relaxing day. My shin needed this rest and barely hurts anymore. Rick cooked me King Salmon, yum! Thanks Rick! Thanks Mike! Hugs, scratches and doggy talk Ellie!

Poppy zeroed at Happy House and decided to take the early ferry from Coupeville to Port Townsend even though I’ll take the later, 8:45 am ferry because I need to get my resupply box during post office hours. We’ll meet at the end of the day at Greg and Heather’s trail angel place to camp.

PNT Sedro-Woolley to Bellingham

Catwater and Ravensong in Bellingham

8/6 13 miles

Ubered to Sedro-Woolley where we left off. Poppy mailed back the road walking shoes she’d picked up in the mail yesterday. She thought they’d suit her better than trail shoes since we’ll be doing so much road walking. Umm hmm.

We walked 8.5 miles up paved Highway 9 to join a steep gravel logging road. We camped in mist which slowly cleared for views over Puget Sound. And traffic noise from the highways below us.

8/7 17.7 miles

Picked up my resupply box at a new trail angel place near Alger. Nobody home but it was great to get a box on a Saturday, not worrying about post office hours in a tiny little place.

It rained all night and now all day. I pitched a wet tent and my fingers and toes are still pruny. Poppy hates not being able to dry her stuff, so as she walked she checked the Alger trail angel place, then the Alger Fire Department, community hall and church, to ask for a place inside to dry out. Nobody home.

For me though, it was not bad today, really, in full rain gear. It’s not cold but there aren’t many views, unless you count walking under the I-5 freeway. Lots of road walking, paved and gravel, until joining lovely trail, I felt fine today.

8/8 maybe 5 miles?

Ravensong! Poppy waterlogged her phone last night, but borrowed a day hiker’s this morning on our way to paved road to call Ravensong who came and picked us up and took Poppy to ATT for a new phone. But first we got second breakfast, all 3 of us, in Edison. Later Ravensong took us to her house for the night. We hung our wet stuff on the porch to dry, showered, washed clothes and visited! We walked from her house to the lake, then the falls where Chris took me when he was living in Bellingham a few years ago. And I suggested Aslan Brewing for dinner, which was great, probably still the dishes Chris created.

PNT Mt Baker Hwy to Sedro-Woolley

7/31 10 miles

My wonderful daughter took us to REI, then all the way back to where she picked us up yesterday before driving hours back to Seattle. We started hiking at 12:30 pm, me with new undies, socks snd bug dope.

It was the paved Mt Baker Highway uphill all day with quite a bit of fast moving traffic. I’d like some signage (a volunteer project for me?) saying something like “PNT National Scenic Trail, Believe It or Not”

We had a lovely stop at the ski resort cafe—cookies, beer and Gatorade at 3:30. Tex is back! He was standing in line ahead of me, haven’t seen him since Metalline Falls. He is an amazingly competent and independent 18 year old from South Africa living with his family in DC.

We made it through the resort and camped, smoky with rain in the forecast. Tomorrow will be trail downhill for quite a ways though.

More than ever, I want to snowboard Mt Baker next winter!

8/1 23 miles

It started early on lovely forest trail for awhile, then not so much. I did 2 awful “butt scoot” river crossings on logs after many hours of overgrowth and blowdowns. I tried to ford but the water was too fast and the hidden rocks too slippery. A lot of times the logs for crossings will have been cross-hatched for traction and have a rail to hang onto. Not these and with my tippy pack on, I just don’t trust that I won’t fall off the log if I walk it. So I sit astraddle and laboriously inch across. Then it was good trail to a short cut, about 9 miles on paved road. It was wet but not cold today.

8/2 20.4 miles

My battery charger is almost empty, it never charged properly in Bellingham. I don’t want my inReach satellite tracking (and SOS) device to go dead and my phone also needs to stay alive because of the maps snd books loaded on it. Yes I also have paper maps.

We walked gravel road uphill to a trailhead, why is it always uphill? And there were people! Beautiful trail around the other side of Mt Baker, even if it was a smoky, hazy, windy kind of walk. The tread was good all day except for the last mile and a half of blowdown. Goon Squad, last seen a few days ago, came in late and camped with us.

8/3 18.5 miles

Ick day. Blowdown to overgrowth, finally at 1:30pm—gravel roads—uphill in clear cuts. We’re now pitched in the worst of the 5 road turnout campsites we’ve used to date. We got woken up at 2:30am by logging equipment driving by, more or less continuously till we finally got up and started walking.

8/4 16 miles

Road walk to Lyman then the rail-to-trail segment to Sedro-Woolley where we went to the PNTA office. There we met Sterling, the trail crew boss and organizer who gave us a ride to Burlington and our comfy motel. We Ubered to downtown Mt Vernon for great pizza and beer on the Skagit River.

8/5 zero

Got a new Anker battery charger from Best Buy since mine, 2016 vintage, won’t charge anymore. Also about 2 lbs of See’s Butterscotch candy. Then Farmstrong Brewery, a short walk away, for great food and okay beer.

PNT Jumping Over Fires

PCT @ Stehekin to Mt Baker Hwy

7/25- 30

7/25 Slide Rule drove me to Chelan along the scenic route, which became more scenic as we encountered an unpublished road closure which forced us up through Republic (excellent lunch stop!). I shared a motel room with Beans and Poppy.

7/26 11 miles

We walked a couple miles to the ferry terminal and sat on it from 8:30-1 pm, arriving in Stehekin where Poppy found the ranger and got us a campsite permit since we’re in North Cascades NP. We waited a bit, got the bus, stopped at the bakery and started hiking the PCT at 3 pm. This is my fourth hike through this section, I am home! Even camped where Puff Puff and I stayed in 2016 on the PCT SOBO. It was super hot climbing out of the bus stop, I just felt sleepy. Later on there were 2 bad bears, unafraid of us, not aggressive, just too comfy with humans. Pretty though. We hiked on and camped in the lovely and cool.

7/27 22 miles

Beat feet for 12 miles to make noon pick up at Hwy 20, thanks for the ride, Forest! We waited at the parking area for Ross Lake for Beans’ mom Susan to bring the resupply boxes we’d sent her. 2 trail angels in a single day, so thankful for the helping hands. Meanwhile Poppy and first time acquaintance Ravensong went and got us campsite permits for North Cascades NP, which somehow all 3 of us kind of forgot in the scramble to jump over forest fires. Ravensong is about my age and is the first woman to hike the PCT—in 1976! Plus she has a hiker hostel in Mazama, currently closed due to fire, and is just a delightful person. Susan walked a ways with me and Beans to the Ross Lake Dam and then we walked till 7 pm again for the second day in a row, whew.

7/28 17 miles

Dan’s birthday. Beautiful day: trail, trees, everything. camped again with Ravensong, Beans and Poppy. Saw mule deer and a huge toad and met hiker Goon Squad (who I later learned has a BS in Physics from Stanford—oh shades of my dad).

7/29 18-ish 6am to 6 pm

Just bored with walking today so I camped a few miles before Beans and Poppy. A lot of unmaintained trail—obstacles to be negotiated—including blowdown covered trail petering into washed out and dry creek beds. It was hot, the biting flies are undeterred by bug dope, even Deet, and the smoke is obscuring the views. Poor entitled hiker me.

Ravensong looked exhausted when I passed her at the tip of the steep climb up Whatcom Pass.

Another hiker, Allison, helped me pull across the hand tram to our side, then we pulled ourselves across to Poppy and Beans. I was annoyed that they didn’t know hand tram protocol which made me glad to camp by myself and calm down.

Ravensong came by my tent about 8 pm, worried by the increasing smoke in the valley. She was pretty traumatized by the fire in Mazama, flames behind her house. So she was intent on hiking over Hannegan Pass.

7/30 13 miles

Beautiful Hannegan Pass this morning, even as smoke filled the valleys below me. I got over and to yet another gravel road walk down to a picnic area.

I’d contacted Sarah aka Catwater’s Kid to see if she could drive up from Seattle area and take us to Bellingham, some 50 miles away for a night. So Poppy, Ravensong and I enjoyed sitting and visiting and admiring people’s dogs (and a cat in a backpack!!). Sarah got us, we ate dinner out, dropped Ravensong at her house, then did the hiker chores—shower and laundry—-before settling in for the night. I love my daughter!

PNT Bonner’s Ferry to Metaline Falls

7/15-7/21

7/15 16.9 miles

As usual, 6 days of food is heavy, especially on the sun exposed switchbacks after the not unpleasant road walk along highway then through the flat farm valley gravel roads. A little girl came running out to the edge of her driveway, barefooted, to tell about her sore toe. She was maybe 5, wearing bright girl colors but told me her favorite color was black, that made me laugh. Her final comment was that her family was selling puppies—good thing I didn’t see them because a puppy would really weigh down my pack.

We got water at a spring on the uphill, needed enough for camping and quite a ways tomorrow. Our campsite was marginal but at least it was flattish and all the standing dead trees were cleared. Later, Brennan walked in and camped too, I had no idea he had zeroed in Bonner’s too, so that was nice. Plus, in the morning he makes real coffee, how cool is that? I’m pretty sick of instant Starbucks Via doctored with protein powder and Instamix. Yuck.

Osprey in her nest

7/16 12 miles

Positioning for the dreaded bushwhack tomorrow. It was a beautiful ridge walk most of the day, although it was quite the long haul to water. I was ecstatic to find pools of water after 9 miles this morning. There’s a trailhead that gives access to Pyramid Lake, then Upper and Lower Ball Lakes which all have campsites. Quite a few locals are camped nearby. Poppy was ahead and met a group of women on a girlfriends’ weekend. “We all hunt and fish,” said the friendly one. All 6 had sidearms “for people, not bears.” Guns don’t bother me, but stupid attitudes do so I did my best not to show my contempt for these chicken shits. At least their dogs will be an early warning system for bear when they enter the girlfriends’ messy camp.

7/17 8 miles or longer

End of the bushwhack

Brennan caught up to us in the morning so we all did the hellish bushwhack together. Turns out one of those women pulled her gun when he turned up at the lake, a totally not scary, harmless guy. I wish I could go all Mama Bear on them, I’m outraged. But I’m not hiking back!

Anyway after about 8 hours, we emerged on an actual trail, bleeding from scratches and punctures. I rolled my ankle, which I’ve done before too many times to count. It hurts for a few minutes, will swell and stabilize, and I’ll continue hiking. So it goes.

We three camped soon after, right near another trailhead that many families were using to hike a short ways to a waterfall.

All of a sudden a helicopter was circling overhead, obviously Search and Rescue (SAR). We all checked to make sure we hadn’t set off our inReach SOS by accident. Then there was another helo with a guy hanging outside on the skids outside looking. Pretty soon a volunteer SAR crew came down the trail from the parking lot with a stretcher. A minute later they came back. I went to talk to them.

After mobilizing 2 helicopters and 2 ambulance crews, it turned out the injured person (head injury in the Falls) was being carried out to the road by a parent.

The Bonner’s Ferry SAR woman told me they’d successfully lifted a PNT hiker with a broken leg the day before. We wondered who it was, just a day ahead of us.

Beans

7/18 12.7 miles for me, 20 for Poppy, LOL!

I started first and immediately made a mistake looking for the trail along the river. I backtracked and Poppy was gone, ahead of me. A few miles later on the road walk, I made another mistake. I missed a switchback 1.5 miles behind me. I checked my maps and stayed on the perfectly excellent gravel road that led downhill mostly to the Priest Lakes and the campsite location we’d talked about. I got there by noon and relaxed at a picnic table, watching the boaters and sunbathers. I went for a swim and rinsed out my clothes. Poppy arrived later and also swam after her much longer, arduous day and we settled in near the privies for a quiet night.

7/19 22 miles

A lovely day! Walked from Upper Priest Lake into old growth cedar forest then onto gravel road.

I was dreading coming off the road and onto trail and the heat and smoke made me worry about having to evacuate possibly. Our Guthook app had recent comments about a very long road walk alternate that would put us into Metalline Falls on schedule, rather than having to spend an unplanned extra night on trail. I got ahold of Poppy, ahead, on the inReach, and we decided to do the road walk.

My day was made better when a Sheriff’s K-9 unit came screeching to a halt in front of me. Deputy Darren leaped out of the driver’s seat, grabbed a cooler snd offered me fresh cherries! And I got to pet K-9 Leo! We had a great conversation and I walked on. I knew Brennan was behind and hoped he got the same experience, but Poppy missed it, bummer.

We all 3 wound up camping on the road just downhill from the Pass

K-9 Unit Darren and Leo with trail magic!

7/20 18 miles

Pretty nice gravel road walk this morning turned into a quite painful paved downhill in the heat into Metalline Falls. Like my feet are killing me as I eat a fantastic meal at the Farmhouse Cafe with a tall glass of huckleberry lemonade. Life is great! Met Tix and Nick. The discussion was about Washington DNR closing all recreation on their lands to the west of us and east of North Cascades in 2 days due to worsening fires and heat.

Slide Rule rolled into town in our ‘97 4WD Ford Sportsmobile and took Poppy and I to a motel.

7/21 zero

We loaded the van with Ken, Honey Sticks, Best Western, Poppy, Beans (née Brennan) and drove to Spokane. We’re going to bounce a little ahead of what we’d planned, due to the threatening conditions. Brainstorming logistics, resupply, and routes for a few days. I think we’re going to get a ride to Chelan, take the ferry to Stehekin, walk up the PCT to Highway 20, and walk up that and rejoin the PNT on the west facing side of the North Cascades. Should be cooler and less smoky. I hope. Got to figure out resupply and send some boxes.

PNT Eureka to Bonner’s Ferry

7/8-7/14

7/8 14.5 miles

Another brutal day carrying 5 nights of food, steep ups. Mosquitoes, not too hot though. I’m sleep deprived, I don’t know why I couldn’t sleep in the comfortable, cool Silverado Motel in Eureka. I woke up with a sore throat which sometimes happens when I don’t sleep much or it can be the start of a cold. Really? A summer cold? I”ve never had one but nobody is wearing masks anymore so I guess it is possible. My pack weighs too much but my legs are strong and my breathing and heart are good, I’m just freaking slow on the uphills! And it’s always uphill with too much weight out of a town stop.

7/9 17.8 miles

We walked up to the Mt. Henry lookout. Wonderful views and I found a pair of sunglasses. It was a horrible, rocky steep 4 miles from the lookout down to the creek, then a tough 3 miles up again on one of those pieces of trail that really has never been constructed–so your feet are slanted with the contour of the hill. I finally got a second wind chasing down Poppy who needed water. We camped in another turnout on the gravel road just before you can hitch or walk into Yaak. We’re not going to.

7/10 19.9 miles

Easy 15 mile road walk to Garver Mountain Lookout. This view was kind of unimpressive to me, maybe because of smoke and wind. We continued on through rocks and second growth and hit another dirt road where we camped (again) in a turnout. There were deer everywhere but just a few cars that petered out before dark. A hot, thirsty day and it’s the third day with a sore throat. Smoky too.

7/11 17.8 miles

News of the day! I found the trowel I lost last year. This was my super secret mission of the day–to find the perfect campsite I’d used last year when the big winds and rain hit me on the ridge and I offered Petra and Retune the spot next to me but she rejected it as “unsuitable” and wound up camping a couple miles away and getting their tent flooded. Ha ha, good times.

I guess the sore throat is a cold, not hay fever. Sigh. Today was road to road to trail up through thick green, then rolling up and down ridges and sidehills except for the short rocky bit to Rock Candy Mountain, a lovely granite cirque. I’d love to spend a week there on a volunteer trail crew to build trail where there is none.

It’s just 12 miles to Fiest Resort tomorrow, I hope it’s open for food and drink. And it’s just 27 from our campsite tonight to where we will hitch to Bonner’s Ferry and the beautiful casino/Best Western right on the river–a respite I loved last year!

7/12 13 miles

With a stop at Fiest Resort. Hazel and Brennan were there too! The cold is not better, Advil helps so I got some food then hiked out to the base of tomorrow’s climb to pitch my tent and relax. Poppy was thinking about waiting till it cooled a bit at 4 pm and then walking uphill for 5 miles and camping. I just didn’t want to, plus it doesn’t really cool off at 4pm, it’s more like 8:30 when the sun gets low in the west.

7/1316 miles

Not bad, a well graded up (which is why I didn’t remember it I guess) and a continue down the other side to State Route 95. Just as short a day as last year. I caught Poppy on the road downhill and waited at the junction for about 20 minutes. She went blasting by me to the highway while I hurriedly threw on my pack and followed. No sooner did she get on the highway than a car came into view, she jumped up and down, waved her arms, made begging hands and they stopped!! I think I’ll keep her around, that was amazing. Nice people from Boise had never picked up hitchhikers before. And by 2:30 pm we were in AC washing clothes and ourselves, getting food and cold beverages, picking up her new shoes at the post office and generally utterly thrilled with ourselves.

7/14 zero

Slide Rule arrived and took us shopping. I found a rayon Aloha shirt at the thrift store for a buck! Then we went to visit with the bros, Doug and Dave, up at their fishing camp. We drove back to Bonner’s, picked up Poppy and went out to dinner. Also, Mucinex is helping the stupid cold resolve.

PNT Polebridge to Eureka

Hot Flash

7/2-7/8

7/2 18 miles

Now I’m on trail that’s a repeat of last year. We camped in a turnout where the “trail” (gravel road) has a junction with the Red Meadow Campground. We hauled water only 2 miles to make it possible. It’s been a hot day being pestered relentlessly by an assortment of mosquitoes, flies, and bees. Oh joy!

Hot Flash stopped by to say good bye–we’re going to miss him, but he’s doing 30’s and we’re not.

7/3 16 miles

I didn’t pick up enough water this morning at the last water source which was just a mile from our turnout camp. A couple miles on trail after the dirt road ended, I heard dirt bikes coming at me. They are absolutely forbidden on this trail and it is clearly marked. And the 3 of them were quite rude. The lead guy was barreling uphill at me, didn’t even attempt to cut his speed, give me the right-of-way, get off the bike or do anything. I had to leap off the trail so they could continue to tear up the tread. Not a nod, not a wave, nothing. Jerks. Real men walk on their own two feet.

There’s a few snow patches so I melted some to add to my water supply but there was a lot of climbing and descending until finally we headed up the last climb of the day to Mt. Locke. Poppy and I both found a big snow patch and got out our stoves to melt a couple of liters to get us through the heat of the day. I quickly downed a liter in the heat and bugs and continued down to our campsite. I found the trail I’d searched for last year, now marked by 3 cairns. Poppy didn’t believe the official PNT guide book was wrong so decided to follow the guide book directions. A while later I got her inReach text that she’d cliffed out and was coming back the way I’d gone. Fortunately, the worst blowdown section of all 2020 was cleared! Trail crew rules!

7/4 17 miles plus up to Mt Wam lookout and back to the trail

I was tired today. Started with 5 easy miles downhill to a paved uphill roadwalk, then trail to a miracle find campsite around Poppy’s desired 16 mile day. Bugs, heat, uphill. My big toes from Day 3 are actually blisters under the nail, painful but no way I should pop them–they’ll reabsorb the fluid hopefully. I need to figure out the water–drink more, carry more, it’s freaking hot!

At Mt Wam lookout I found my name in the trail register from last year, with One Gallon signing in after me. I found a plastic spoon for Poppy too since she lost hers and has been eating with a tent stake. The register claimed there was a rabbit living under the shelter but Poppy swore later she saw a kitty. However, she was almost delirious with the heat so I’m hoping there’s not a feral cat living on the top of a mountain all by herself.

7/5 15 miles

This was a beautiful day, walking the cirque, no snow, unlike last year, to the little lake that I blew my sleeping pad on last year. We’re now camped just 12 miles from town, Eureka, our next stop, right on the border. A previous hiker commented that a creature was yelping and growling right outside his tent at this spot so I’ve been yelling “Arf! Grr!” at frequent intervals.

Still incredibly hot, but the bugs are somewhat sparcer. These “low” mile days are actually pretty great. I’m thinking ahead and hoping Slide Rule can help us slack pack the walk between Eureka, along the rail-to-trail stretch and across 1972’s most beautiful bridge to the trailhead just off the road, a 19 mile stretch.

7/6 12 miles to town

Another easy quick day. I got turned around when the trail routed through a golf course (what??), but Poppy caught up and we made it to the Silverado Motel. Sadly, when she was ahead of me earlier, she came across a deer with a broken leg, suffering. She flagged down the next car. “It’s Montana, he was carrying a gun, and was able to put it out of it’s misery.”

We got to town, checked in early and dashed across the street for a wonderful breakfast, second breakfast! Slide Rule arrived later, so after showering and doing our laundry, we all went for dinner. Town days are good!

7/7 19 miles slackpack

I listened to Hamilton, “sang” along, danced and generally enjoyed the quick hike west to east (EABO) back to Eureka. And then super yummy pizza and beer at Fire and Slice in Eureka. So no zero for us but we got the miles done.

Poppy

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.

Pie Town to Grants, New Mexico

5/5-8: 58 miles

A bunch of us left Toaster house in the morning, freeing up bunk space for the incoming wave. Hikers are on the trail in record numbers.

We gathered after 16 miles at the TLC Ranch where the family set up a shady area with chairs and coolers full of water. They wanted us to stay for dinner and have us camp but it was only 3:30 so we moved on.

We spent the day on gravel roads for 22.1 miles to a wonderful solar mill with clear, tasty water and many campsites protected by trees and flat once I kicked the desiccated cow pies out of the way. Lovely night camped with OT, Jacobi, Sugar Mama, No No, Gray, Tinman, and late arrivals Top O and 13.

After the first night there are optional alternates. Gray, TM and I decided to stay on the highway which is really hard on the feet and legs. There was a trail you could take up onto the cliffs for about 4 miles but as it got later and our feet hurt worse, we just continued on the highway to stealth camp at the Arch. We pitched tents after 22.2 miles then hauled our stoves and food bags to the picnic tables to cook dinner. Kidnapper’s family of 6, plus happy dog Muir, came scrambling down the cliffs from the trail we didn’t take. They were stoked about its beauty and stopped to cook dinner with us, then continued down the paved highway to a water source and hopefully a spot to camp.

Gray wants to get to Grants in time to clean up and be ready to greet the local VFW who are lined up to greet and support the Warrior Expedition hikers as they make it to towns. So he’s going to take the highway another 20-ish miles in the morning and get in a night before me and Tinman.

Day 3 Tinman and I took the Bonita-Zuni route for a few miles through lava on the ancient route between Pueblos. It connects to gravel road and a back way into Grants which does not involve walking blacktop. I’ve done the route before and prefer it to the highway the Ravens and I walked in 2017.

He hated the lava but loved the deserted gravel road through beautiful country and another perfect windmill water source for clear, cold water. In fact he told me his entire journal entry for the day, after injuring his toe and foot on the lava, was “f*ing rocks!” I moved slower through those 6 miles and didn’t fall, whew.

We camped off the bigger gravel road in a lovely canyon within earshot but not eyesight of the semi-busy road for a 22.5 mile day.

The next day was all downhill and Tinman wanted to get to the post office for Saturday hours that closed at noon which we made easily. Hikers are clustered at the numerous motels near Walmart, Walgreens and Denny’s by the freeway. I ate dinner with OT and Jacobi who got in a day earlier and so will leave the next day while I zero and decide what to do. Probably the last time I see them so we exchanged hugs and contact info.

May 9, Mother’s Day while I’m taking a zero. I don’t really care about these invented holidays. I bought resupply and then wandered back through the deserted and decrepit Route 66 through Grants just to keep in motion.

What am I going to do? I knew I’d have to get back home after a month, that’s fine. But it’s easier to leave from here, Grants, take a bus straight to Albuquerque where I have a flight booked. On the other hand, I can hike on to Cuba, another amazing 100+ mile stretch. I’d already texted a trail supporter there a week ago and he said he’d find someone to give me a ride (for Uber prices) but the time frame feels too tight for me.

I looked up the bus schedule and flight changes. I can spend a few days in Seattle with my daughter Sarah and her Sam! The bus leaves tomorrow at 6 am, ugh, and if it doesn’t run, I could hike to Cuba instead. The indecision is agonizing, so I told Tinman I’d probably decide at 5 am. Meanwhile….

Hikers gathered at Motel 6. Injured Lady Bug is here in Grants for a week to let her foot recover. She, Tinman and I went and got take out from Denny’s and went back to Motel 6. Warrior Expedition members (Earl) Gray (Goose) and Blues Brothers are rooming together, now joined by Jabberwocky, who I met night one in the Bootheel! We chatted away, I know some of their stories—the PTSD, nightmares (“I’m pointing the gun but it won’t fire.”), insomnia, survivor’s guilt. As they turned to go back to their rooms, they looked at me and Lady Bug and said, “Happy Mother’s Day, if you’re moms!”and opened their arms for big hugs. They hugged me tight, thinking about their moms, I could have cried. What if these men, in their 30’s and 40’s were my sons? I’d be proud, heartbroken, worried. Being a mom is the hardest job ever and I know that I’m a mom by proxy for some hikers on trail, but this? Heal well, all my sons. I send you onto the trail, fare well. Farewell.

You can’t Hallmark this shit. I’m so sad to leave this trail and these people. But there’s another trail soon in June. And another after that. And another.

https://warriorexpeditions.org/expeditions/warrior-hike/