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.
By 1030 the storm clouds were dissipating, and I stopped to remove my raincoat.
I hydrated with huckleberries as I walked.
The fresh, sweet, moist mountainside smells filled me with a passion for life. I giggled with happiness.
As I moved closer to the bushwhack, I felt less and less afraid. The wilderness welcomed me.
The mountain fog was hauntingly beautiful; captivating in its mystery. What was it hiding, carrying, cloaking?
I stopped at a tiny wooden bridge over a stream at a junction. Stopping made me cold; as did the cold stream water.
The sun slipped behind the clouds and back again, but I did not fear rain. I removed my wet socks and let my feet air out for a moment. Losing the nail of my pinky toe was a certainty at this point, it was just a matter of when.
I put on my rain-gear in search of warmth, and ate a small meal.
I moved forward. I gazed down at Pyramid Lake as I climbed.
I passed Upper Ball Lake, and reached Lower Ball Lake–the final way-point before the scramble and bushwhack.
I set up camp. I fell to sleep early. Tomorrow was the day I had been waiting for.
I rose to the sound of doors closing and footsteps.
I ventured downstairs to be greeted by Isabel and a hot pot of coffee.
I poured myself a mug and moved to a sitting area outside. I was introduced to Dani, and then Patches. I was inspired by their travelling lifestyle. We sat and chatted joyfully. Everyone was tremendously kind. We talked about the area and looked at maps and spoke of bushwhacking. We discussed how the thunder storm, though predicted to begin last night, had yet to pass through.
Soon, I heard Mikeys voice, “giggles, ya about ready to go? We are gonna head out in 5 minutes.”
“Sure thing, thank you!”
Mikey offered to take me all the way to the Parker Ridge trailhead. I thanked him, but told him that I had intented to pick up right where I had left off.
“Welp. That’s right here, then.”
Again, I thanked him. Not many people stop to offer help to others in the night.
I found the yard with the trampoline, and continued on my way.
The sky teases me. Still no rain.
As I walked I ate a bag of mushrooms and kale and rice cakes.
I picked beautiful rosey little apples on my way.
I found a ten-dollar bill on the ground!
I continued through farmland.
I crossed a bridge over the Kootenay River, one of the major tributaries of the Columbia River.
I watched as eagles soared high above me.
As I approached the trailhead, I felt excitement. I gazed at the mountains; they welcome me. The sun shines.
It seems to me, that turning in circles within the boundaries of cities and towns sensitize my nerves–in a fraying and dissociative manner. When I am moving by foot–and moving is my soul intention, I am calmed.
This trail is teaching me that there are no certainties in life, this seems to me, a magical thing
So many flying, hopping insects: locusts. They bounce off my face, and through the gap between my back and my pack.
I stop to admire the cycles of the tree: from erect and thriving, to a downed habitat for others, to part of the forest floor.
Idaho is beautiful!
I sat in the dirt facing a tree filled mountainside. Silence save for the sound of the wind through the valley, through the trees. I lean back and my body contours perfectly to the formation of rocks. It is the Earth’s embrace. I’m hard-pressed to find anything sweeter.
I carried on.
At 1411, thunder.
This was followed by rain.
The rain was followed by hail.
The downed trees on the Parker Ridge Trail was unlike anything I had ever experienced before.
For two miles I worked my way under, over, through, and around. Often I had to leave the trail entirely in order to press forward.
This was good training for what’s to come, I thought.
The limbs of trees latch to my shorts, propelling me forward when I release their hold; a nudge to push forward. I laugh aloud.
Dirt and ash and blood color my legs.
The hail regresses, becoming rain once more. It then ceases entirely as I moved to collect water from a nearby spring.
I notice I lost my nalgene.
Still more blow-downs; but less and less as I climbed.
I was cold. My feet were wet. The woods were beautiful.
At around 1830, I came to a tent-site.
A fire-ring and cut logs obstructed the center of the site. I broke down the fire-ring tossing stones and ash away, rolling away logs.
I erected my shelter and tended my sore body. On my right foot, the skin was turning green below the nail of my smallest toe. My legs were slashed with numerous superficial cuts and scrapes and mottled patches of black and blue.
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?”
“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!”
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.
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.
I woke to a wet sleeping bag and the buzzing of mosquitoes.
I ate breakfast, drank coffee, and prepared lunch.
I shook my sleeping bag, feeling a bit sad as its wet feathers clung to its surface and gathered in limp clumps.
Every morning when I put on my boots I tell myself aloud “you can do it, you can do it, you can do it”.
Trail 35 was like a breath of fresh air. So clear and clean with easy tread. I could relax and enjoy the view.
I stopped to gather delicious huckleberries.
Then the trail hit the road. I turned southeast in search of a nearby spring. Though it was a bit hidden, and did not make much sound, it was clear that it was nearby when the foliage turned so green and lush. The spring was such a light trickle that I had to use my Nalgene bottle to collect little bits at a time and transfer it to my Smart Water bottle. I was able to collect an additional liter doing this.
The descent from the road was steep and hurt my feet. I stopped for lunch at the bottom. I am unsure of what bit or stung me yesterday, but my body certainly did not like it. A swollen red circle has formed around the bite.
Soon my shade refuge was overtaken by sunlight, and I carried on.
Further on, I followed a jeep road off trail to access Kreist Creek. I drank a liter and took an additional two and a half to go, then continued towards Moyie River Road.
They were paving the bridge over Moyie River as I passed . It smelled awful.
I was already hungry and thirsty. It was time to climb Bussard Mountain. Fearful of a strenuous ascent without water, I climbed up a dry creek bed to where water still flowed. I gathered water and had another meal.
I knew I must hurry, however, if I wanted to make the descent before dark.
The climb was pleasant. How I adore those moments when you can gaze down upon from where you have come!
As I continued the ascent, a large deer kept me company, grabbing huge mouthfuls of leaves, scurrying up the trail, then stopping again to eat until I got within 20 ft or so.
Some of the trail was lined with concrete. I had never seen this before.
The views were stunning, causing me to laugh with joy.
As I descended, and neared a road, I saw headlamps and heard tires screech in the distance. I was growing tired of camping roadside. The trail I was following was large (quite wide enough to sleep on), but covered in tire tracks. The signs of vehicles made me uncomfortable.
I was very pleased to come upon a sliver of clear level space, within the woods, just big enough to star-camp.
I woke up roadside, packed up my things, and continued down the pavement towards the Midge Creek Trail.
In just .5 mile I came to a roadside water source, adding nearly 11 lbs to my pack.
I was cold. I stoodd briefly in a sun patch to warm my bones.
My mood shifted so quickly as I climbed to Midge Creek: tears for lost love and friendship, comfort through an especially loving and welcoming stretch of woods, joy from the simple nourishment of a food-bar and freshly collected water, appreciation for all I have experienced thus far in life.
I stop at a stream. Water is reportedly scarce for the next 18 miles, and the trail is reported to be faint or disappear in the next stretch near Rock Candy Mountain.
I watch as bugs mate on the shaft of my ice axe.
Sometimes I consider whether I am having fun on this trail. I am certainly enjoying myself, the challenge. It is invigorating to spend so much time in the wilderness.I am unable to relax as much, however, as I always need to be certain that I am heading in the right direction. The thru-hiking culture is faint. These obstacles, however, cause me to grow stronger. These lessons are harsher, they teach me more.
Just as it sometimes does with a soul-stirring song, determination too can rush over me in a powerful wave that causes my skin to rise in goosebumps.
I can do this.
As my motivation rose, as I seemed to transcend the struggle, feel almost out-of-body with determination, something stings or bites me, and I am brought right back.
I continue on towards Rock Candy Mountain Trail for a bit longer before I stop for a break.
I consider who I am as a person. Thru-hiking is interesting because you get to witness yourself slowly adapt and change to your environment. This is what helps me to understand who I am, recognizing the “constants”, regardless of time or space.
Every bit of water is so precious. I mix my instant coffee with the tiniest bit possible.
I fall back on the trail. Lay there for a moment. Gaze at the sky. I sit back up. Sip some coffee.
Ok. Let’s go.
As I continue, a faint junction appears. I see sticks blocking one of the pathways, so I follow the other. The trail disappears. I find my way back up. Maybe I should stop thinking those sign are for me.
As I climb, it is hot, I am thirsty. I am afraid, however, of drinking too much.
I spot a pond by the ridge line ascent. I stop to collect. Its buggy and foggy but it’s another liter, just in case.