Pacific Northwest Trail; mile 515.5*

Sunday, September 1, 2019; day 43

I rose at 0600; began hiking at 0730.

I would stop back in to Republic today. With such a slow start en route to Oroville, my food stock would not comfortably carry me the remaining 77 miles.

I feel a bit silly, as I spent so much time there a few days ago, but it seems to me the smartest option. The hitch is close, and I know what they have.

As I walk, I hear the sound of a chainsaw . A figure in the distance plays catch with a lab. Two young men stand beside a pick-up truck.; two more are on the hillside with a saw.

I moved towards the truck and addressed one of them curiously “Are you cutting downed trees for fire wood?”

I could feel his friend staring at my legs. Most likely the dirt…and the hair so long it lays flat against the skin.

“Yeah, and sometimes we cut down dead ones, like that one.” he said, pointing.

“Isn’t that dangerous?”

He shrugs. “We grew up doing it.”

I smile. I respond when they ask my story. I continue to walk.

Oh, my life seems it has been filled with so much road, and only hints of trail!

Cows and calves run down the road ahead of me. It saddens me, how much a domesticated creature fears humans.

I reached Highway 20, just before the Sweat Creek Traihead.

I stuck out my thumb. Soon a truck stopped for me and I was storefront in Republic.

I notice a bike leaning near the front entrance of Anderson’s Grocery. It had a Therm-a-Rest mattress strapped above its rear tire, and two bright orange saddle bags on either side. It was exciting to see signs of other travellers.

I moved in and out of the grocery store quickly. I sat storefront and made peanut-butter/raisin/tortilla rolls.

I did not feel judged. Most people smiled as they passed. Some people engaged me.

As I moved towards the eastbound entrance to highway 20, I saw the bike-packer. So swiftly and fluidly he rolled on to the freeway entrance. I thought to call out “where ya headed?!” but my voice would have been lost in the space between us. I watched him glide away, admiring his ability to move in and out of towns so quickly, so independently. I found myself slightly disappointed that I had barely missed an opportunity to connect.

I picked my post and stuck out my thumb. Only 5 minutes or so had passed before a man I had chatted with earlier that day drove up. He was on a return trip to his campsite after a town run. I smiled widely when I recognized him. I hopped in the back of the pick up truck. Oh, how I adore sitting in the open truck bed of a pick-up, wind pushing against my existence in recognition of my reality, the scenery whizzing by!

I saw the bike-packer. He was focused, struggling to make it up the hill. Now I was the one moving so swiftly. I gave him a wide-arching wave as we passed.

Three hours in and out of town, and I was back to where Highway 20 meets the Sweat Creek Trailhead.

It was very hot.

I joined the trail. It began with a steep climb.

Sweat drips from my forehead. The wind blows. I am enveloped in a sweet sensation, and I smile.

I continue.

The climb grows steeper. Suddenly a motocross bike zooms down. We nearly collide.

I stand beside the trail, waiting to let all pass.

The third rider was surprised by my presence. He –very slowly– ran his bike in to a tree. It was not enough to cause injury. We both saw it coming as he wobbled on his machine in slow motion. It did jar him off his seat a little, clearly causing some embarrassment. “I’m sorry” he said as he stabled his body and bike.

“No. Don’t be. You certainly did not expect anyone to be standing here.” I then apologized, for startling him.

As we both stood there, the last rider appeared. We all chatted briefly and then went our way.

The hike was hot and dry; all golden grasses and clear skies and beauty.

I collected from a spring and ventured forth.

The sun was soon to set. In just a few miles, the PNT would connect to Cougar Creek Road. I had read that shortly after joining the road, the trail travels through private property. There would likely not be any place to camp.

I found a lovely little flat space just before the descent. I spread out my tarp and sleeping mat to lay beneath the stars.

* NOTE: Mileage on the Guthook Application and in the PNT Guidebook no longer match the PNTA Mapset. For continuity, I will continue to refer to the mileage listed on Guthook and the guidebook. The difference is roughly 5 miles (PNTA Mapset mileage for this post is ~521)

Off of Pacific Northwest Trail mile 249

Friday, August 9, 2019 day 20

I rose, packed up, and checked out of the motel.

Once again, I headed to the library.

On my way, I stopped to admire a young woman painting a storefront mural.

…and again, to take in a message:

I settled myself in at a corner computer with my pack, and got to work.

After some time, a woman entered. She had a messenger bag, and a lavender bandana tied around her head beneath a full brimmed hat.

“Are you hiking the trail?”

“I am!”

“What are your plans…do you have a place to stay tonight?”

“I’m hoping to hitch back to the trail.”

“I would love to give you a ride.”

“Oh, thank you! I still have a few hours of work to do here, though.”

“Oh, so do I.”

We exchanged words briefly; words of trails and studies and passions. She asked if I knew of Peace Pilgrim.

“She was the first woman to hike the Appalachian Trail. It was very spiritual for her. After that, she became a pilgrim, walking over 25,000 miles across the country in the name of world peace.”

She offered me a small, card-stock bound booklet.

I accepted. I had every intention of carrying it with me.

Here are the first two pages:

She sat at a computer near mine, and we both carried on with our work in silence.

Hours passed. I felt like, though she also clearly had work to do, her time at the library that evening was extended for my sake. I found this very touching.

At a quarter to seven, just before closing hour, I began to pack up. As I did, so did she.

We began speaking. She told me of the work she was doing in bee conservation. She told me, with amused bewilderment, that she “had been a plant nerd, [she] never thought [she] would be an insect nerd!” I learned that though the bumble bee is native to North America, the Honey Bee was actually European. We reviewed maps of bees and their specific territories within the US, her fingers pointed and dragged down the glossy encyclopedia pages as she thumbed through self-made tabs. It was fascinating, the organization of bees. Certain bees only live near the coast, or only very far north, or only at certain elevations.

Her passion for her work filled me with joy and inspiration.

I loaded my things into her truck and we headed towards US Highway 95, where I would reconnect my footpath.

She mentioned that we would be passing where she lived, and that she would like to stop and collect some fresh raspberries for me.

As we drove towards her home she told me of how her and her ex used to have an organic potato farm there; that it was sort of a big deal. She described potatoes as “little jewels” that you get to dig up.

We entered the house and she went downstairs to retrieve the fruit. She mentioned that I could stay the night if I liked. We decided to check the weather to aid in my decision. She turned on the radio and we listened to a NOAA broadcast. It sounded like the storm would climax on Saturday night.

We hit the road.

We pulled in to where Brush Lake Road meets US 95. I asked her about Old US 95. We crossed the new highway together by foot, and she pointed out through the brush, the old one.

I thanked her.

We returned to her truck and I put on my pack. We hugged. “Oh, Brooke, honey.” She said, as she kissed me on the cheek.

She wished me luck. I thanked her.

Lynn was one of the most beautiful women I have ever met: inside and out.

I crossed the highway, then the brush, then Old US 95, then Idaho Highway 1, and kept walking.

I turned southwest on to Copeland Road.

I gazed at the old farm buildings; the yards with greenhouses and trampolines and old pick-up trucks parked on lawns.

Night fell. I continued to walk.

I began to wonder where I would sleep that night, and if it would rain on me before I got there.

A truck stopped and offered me a lift. There were two older men inside. I explained that I was hiking the Pacific Northwest Trail and that I was looking for a place to camp, that I had not realized that it would all be private properties along these roads.

“You can come back and camp at my property.”

I asked if he could take me back to that very spot in the morning. He agreed.

I crawled in to the bed of his pick-up, squeezing myself and my pack through the open space between the tailgate and the hard-top shell it was tied to with rope.

He dropped off his friend, who came around to the bed of the truck and told me I could sit up front.

“I’m okay back here!” I called out. I have always enjoyed rides in the back of trucks.

“C’mon up front” the man called, “I wanna know who I’m takin’ home!”

Fair enough.

I crawled out and moved to the passenger seat.

Mikey and I introduced ourselves to eachother. He played music loudly and drove quickly up the road that bore the same name as his own “Duff.”

The home was over 100 years old and had been in the family for three generations. As we pulled in to the property, a giant yellow school bus came in to view, followed by streams of light and loud banging. Mikey parked and we got out. He called out to a group of people “I picked up a hitch-hiker! Here, help her with her bag, will ya.”

A man who I later learned was called “Patches”, headed over to assist me. I warned him that my pack was very heavy and that I could get it just fine. He insisted and carried it by its straps causing a pendulam-like gate as he moved. He headed towards an area beside a rather large hole in the ground, and leaned it against a wall beside an entrance to the home. I thanked him, and he returned to his work.

Mikey joined me. Told me that this area would eventually be his mama’s room. Then he took me inside to meet mama.

Isabelle Huff was tremendously kind.

“Have you had supper?” She asked. She offered me rice and collard greens and zucchini, and after that, pickles and huckleberries.

Mikey told her the story of how he came to pick me up. He asked if I could sleep in the spare bedroom.

“I’m the executive, mamas the CEO” he said.

She said that would be just fine. I thanked her cheerfully. Mikey left the two of us to chat, then returned to where the others were working.

Isabelle mentioned that I was very brave to be doing what I was. “Though,” she continued, “I have met some women who venture out on their own. One, well now she studies bees.”

“I’ve met her!”, I exclaimed.


“Yes! We met at the library. She gave me a lift back to the trail!”

I marveled at the vastness of the world made small by the interconnectivity of it all. It pleased me very much.

I asked her about the school bus and the people I saw working. She said that they were a group of eight travellers that had been living in the school bus. Mikey found them penniless at a gas station selling jewelry. He brought them home, giving them a place to stay in exchange for work.

How wonderful.

Isabelle showed me to the room I would be sleeping in.

What an unexpected pleasure!

I fell to sleep in a state of peace and appreciation, excited at the prospect of hot coffee and conversation in the morning.