Pacific Northwest Trail (alternate); ~mile 317

Thursday, August 15, 2019; day 26

I woke lakeside to the splish-splashing of creatures of the lake. Or maybe it was just the waves from boats. Upper priest lake was accessible by boat.

Laughter filled my tent.

Every moment of every day feels so rich, so raw, so blessed.

I enjoyed a wonderful breakfast of huckleberry sweetened oatmeal. I thought of Ruth and Daryl, of their kindness. Every day life becomes sweeter.

My legs ache. The bruises too, are becoming richer. The bushwhack took more of a toll on my body than I had realized, but it has also set my heart aflame. Each moment of happiness is only rivaled by the next.

Idaho, you have been one of my greatest teachers!

I packed up and sat at the nearby picnic bench to review the maps for the day.

I intended on taking the recommended Jackson Creek/Sullivan Lake alternate in to Metaline Falls. The primary was not recommended by the PNTA and required “extensive bushwhacking” along Leola Creek Road. Though I found my bushwhacking experience to be very rewarding, and the epitome of “type 2 fun”, I thought I would follow the PNTAs recommendation.

The Upper Priest Lake Trail was well maintained. The trees old, and bursting with wisdom.

At around noon I turned south on Upper Priest Road to begin the alternate.

When I could no longer stand the pain in my shoulders, I stopped for a quick break and ate lunch. The heat was tempered by a cool summer breeze. The breeze also helped with the bugs.

I turned to follow old forest service roads.

The tall grasses danced and swayed, little alveoli of the earth.

“How beautiful” I spoke aloud to Jackson Creek, to the old-growth cedars, the luscious ferns.

I stopped for water and rest and to enjoy it all. This was a place of magic.

A silk worm wriggled and danced, suspended in sunlight. What moves!

I watched, entranced, as the sun reflected off of the rippling creek, casting faint waves of illumination on the underside of the pines overhead

I was enamored. The mountain tops, the boulders and scree and crests and ridges– they are exhilarating. They excite and engage. The wooded forest floors, however, are filled with soul-soothing wisdom, nourishment and light; a place for rest and creation.

Jackson Creek Trail # 311 began it’s ascent. The climb began gently, allowing for huckleberry grazing.

There were some blow downs, but nothing like I had experienced on the Parker Ridge Trail. At one point I gasped in surprise as my leg sunk up to my calf in mud.

Then, I was in Washington!

In a sing-song voice I called aloud “hello Washington! Farewell, Idaho! And thank you!”

Huckleberries abounded. My fingers were soon stained a purplish hue.

I joined the unmarked Shedroof Divide trail and began the climb along the northeast face of Helmer Mountain.

Amongst the hauntingly beautiful burn region, I was feeling rushed as night was falling.

Then I saw her, rising from the east, pregnant with an orange glow. “Oh, how I have missed wandering the woods beneath your light!”

With newfound energy, I pushed forward.

I came to a tent-site and laid out my ground-tarp and unfolded my mat.

I will sleep beneath the stars tonight, surrounded by magnificent pines and high-reaching crests, 6,257 feet above the sea.

Oh, Washington! I have always loved you!

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