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!

Pacific Northwest Trail; mile 299.3

Wednesday, August 14, 2019; day 25

I rose with the illumination of my tent.

I stepped out to relieve myself. I paused: day hikers. I smiled and waved hello and waited for them to pass.

It rained very slightly.

I gathered some huckleberries, and some water. I could see why the area was so popular with the locals. It was quite beautiful. I watched the water cascade down the slabs of stone.

I reviewed the maps. I had an option. I could continue to walk on the upcoming Forest Service Road 423. FS 423 meets East Shore Road, rejoining the PNT at Lionhead Campground. This route would bypass Lookout Mountain. It would also shorten my journey by nearly ten miles.

The rain comes on lightly, then fades, then repeats.

I need to make up all the time I can, when I can. I will walk the road.

As I walked, I entertained the option of gathering more food. Ten miles south on East Shore Road sits the Idaho State Indian Creek Campground and general store.

I consider my food-stock. It was very meager. Perhaps part of me is socially hungry. Along the PNT, this would be my last chance to engage with Idaho as a people, as a culture. Maybe I wanted more.

I reached East Shore Road and stuck out my thumb.

The very first car stopped. The lady inside was extremely kind. She had just been visiting her son who was camping with a large gathering of friends. She was now headed south on East Creek Road, on her way home to Spokane.

At the little shop I was able to find some instant rice (cold soaks just fine) nuts, hummus, tortilla chips, fresh greens, and canned corn.

As the sweet volunteers rang up my order, we discussed the trail. They were so happy I had stopped in. They even gave me a hot coffee on the house!

As we chatted I heard one lady tell a young girl “see what you can do!”. This made my heart soar. I have a longing to influence those entangled in doubt, or popular belief, or uncertainties, or sexism, or youth; to encourage the discovery and exploration of that inexhaustible potential within us all; to encourage the embracing and nurturing of the unique and unknown as places of growth and creation, not of cowardice and fear. I believe one encounter, one conversation, can change the course of a lifetime.

I settled myself at a a little metal bistro table that sat store front, and organized my things.

Soon a very pleasant, lively conversation started with Ruth and Daryl, campers who had stopped in to the general store for an ice-cream cone.

They were so jubilant, vibrating with life and curiosity. They asked me numerous questions about the trail. They told me that I was welcome to come sleep at their tent-site and get a hot shower. I thanked them, but told them that I needed to find my way back to the trail. They offered to take me. I was elated.

They went to get their truck. They returned with a bag full of huckleberries and nuts and assorted snacks. On the outside of the bag, Ruth had written her number…just in case. I was touched.

The ride back to the Lionhead Campground was full of conversation about trail-life and survival, sponsorship and funding, and a dramatic regailing of the recent bushwhack.

The truck pulled in to the lot and parked. We all got out. They wanted a picture with me. They made me feel so special. They stepped to the side and spoke softly for a moment, then turned to me with their hand outstretched “here, here is our ‘Go Fund Me'”. Their kindness was revivifying, uplifting, encouraging– emanating love and inspiration.

I approached the trail/road again, all laughs and giggles and fuzzy warmth.

I joined the Floss Creek trail. I came to a small fording. I could not be bothered to remove my boots.

I joined the clear and well-defined Idaho Cenntenial Trail.

I continued, joining the Upper Priest Lake Trail.

The trail skirted the grand body of water, gentle and glorious in the surrounding blend of softening light.

The lake offered tiny, illuminating points of reflection cast by the setting sun, soon to inspire la luna llena.