It is rainy and foggy out there. It is just after 0900. I sip hot coffee in a sea of emergency blankets. I had placed them below and upon my sleeping bag in order to keep it safe. I realized that the little drip-drip-drips from the ceiling of my single wall tent add up through the hours of the night. The blankets are of no use though, as I inevitably toss and turn. The next time I greet the mountains of the Pacific Northwest in the fall, I may consider a bag that is not 100% down, and has not already seen over 2,000 miles.
Swift creek awaits, just over a mile south.
As I packed up I sang “I can do it, I can do it, just gotta put your mind to it, boop-boop-boop-boop-boop-boop-boop-boop” on repeat.
…And it will feel great!
I put on my wet clothes and rain gear, packed up, and set off.
With the recent heavy rains, the creek certainly was swift!
I unbuckled the hip-belt of my pack, and hung my fanny pack around my neck.
I attempted to ford where the trail crosses. The water reached well above my waste, and the current was strong. I was forced to turn back.
I bushwhacked downstream. I made one very serious attempt. I used rocks as footholds, leaning in to the current as I side stepped. I was only feet from the other side, but I could not reach it, the current was too strong. I struggled to return the way I came, but I managed.
I looked around a bit more, scrambling along the boulders upstream. After I was satisfied that I had given it my all, I turned around and hiked back to my campsite from the previous night.
I would try again in the morning. Otherwise, I would be forced to find an alternate route.
I rose, packed up my things, and headed back to the picnic bench. I would try my hand at my new stove.
Success! How lovely it was to have hot coffee in the morning!
I followed the road across the dam.
I decided to stop in at the Ross Lake Resort.
I used their wifi to follow-up with Lowa. I had sent them a picture of the holes in my boots, while in Winthrop. To my delight, I had received an email response asking where my replacement boots should be sent. I called them up and asked them to ship them “general delivery” to the town of Concrete.
I continued along the trail. I paused, saddened by a dead toad that lay in the middle of the path. As I considered whether I should move its little body to the side of the trail, it hopped off. I was thoroughly impressed by its ability to play dead.
I joined the Beaver Creek trail. The trees were so powerful. I found myself stopping many times just to stare, to press my flattened palm against their wizened trunks.
The mountains soothe my soul.
The trail was surprisingly populated. Twice I was referred to as “you guys”, when there was clearly just one of me.
I came to Luna Camp, after night fall. All of the tent sites were occupied. I moved on.
I arrived at Beaver Pass Shelter.
I was relieved to find it empty. Well, save for the mice… but I hung my pack on a nail, and they left me well enough alone.
Spurts of gentle rain came and went through the night as I slept.
I opened my eyes at 0830 to realize that my headlamp was still strapped to my head, the light still on. In my exhaustion–once inside my tent–I had disregarding all but sleep.
I was still tired.
I considered sleeping, just a tiny bit more. Maybe a coffee nap. Drink some caffeine, take a 20 minute nap, and that’s it. I had not set up camp until around 0230, after all.
No. No time for napping. I ration my food, instead. Just under 50 miles until a road crossing. I am getting there. I am doing it.
In less than 5 miles I will connect with the PCT. I will have the joy of travelling along the beloved trail southbound, for 13 miles. This is a portion of trail I missed when I hiked the PCT in 2016. Due to dangerous snow conditions, I opted for a roadwalk along Route 20 from Rainy Pass, connecting lower elevation trails in to Canada. Needless to say, I was ecstatic!
I felt a bit giddy. As if I were heading out for a night on the town. I will certainly see other people, other hikers.
…Not just hikers, but hikers only 3.5 miles south of the northern terminus, and the completion of their epic journeys. Part of me was tempted to go touch it. But not yet. That time will come.
I consider the intersection of journeys in life, how the old mission was calling me back. I consider how symbolic, how strong in archetypal energy, a terminus of a long-distance trail is.
Soon my giddiness turned to nerves. I was not sure if I was ready to see all of those people, all of those reflections of what they saw in me. The anticipation of other people already had me engaging in the hike differently. The PNT is truly a gem of solitude.
As I crossed paths with each hiker. They congratulated me. At first I corrected them, explaining that I was on another trail entirely. When that became too much, I just smiled and congratulated them in return. I laughed, realizing just how out of sync I was with the hiker fist-bump.
Stepping over a mountain pass is like hopping in to a new dimension. It is nothing short of magic.
What an expense of trail! So amazing to see the route zigzagging ahead!
I continue in to the night. It only rains in gentle spurts, then clears. I keep gazing upward in hopes of glimpsing a burning star. No. Just beautiful wisps of dark cloud, and the silhouette of proud pines.
I continue. Just before I reach Holman Pass, and the junction that leaves the PCT, the rain turns fierce.
The PNT descends towards Canyon Creek. There should be a tent site in just under a mile.
I reach the site and quickly erect my tent in the rain. I throw myself and my gear inside.
There are still 29.8 miles until I hit Ruby Creek, and access to Route 20.
I feel very happy to be back on the PNT. I feel very happy to be alone, once more.
I woke to the sound of a car driving down the paved road behind me. So many car encounters on this journey. I went to retrieve my charger from the bathroom. It is now 0604, I am sleepy.
I begin to pack up my things and collect water from the campground spigot.
Soon Asa was packing up as well.
It felt nice to wake up in the company of another.
He took spoonfuls of peanut butter, and I drank an instant coffee/protein/maca shake as we sat around the picnic table.
Asa was familiar with the Pipsissewa Trailhead, and offered to walk me there.
We chatted a bit longer, exchanged contact information, and hugged goodbye.
“I always tell other cyclists to ‘keep the wind at your back!'”
“That’s a nice thing to say! Thank you!”
I wished him the best of luck in his amazing journey.
Then, we both set off!
I gazed down at Bonaparte Lake.
I travelled through a logging area, and a section where the trail had been cleared of many blowdowns.
As I hiked, I decided to follow the Original PNT Alternate. I would follow the Mount Bonaparte Trail, then join the Antoine Trail, which reconnects with the Primary PNT.
The trail was clear, and I was able to move quickly.
Soon the PNT briefly meets the little community of Havillah. There is a church there that is only .3 of a mile off of trail. It is said to be very hiker friendly, providing hikers with water and snacks and a place to camp. I hoped to make it there before dark. The miles immediately proceeding Havillah were roads, flanked by private properties.
Havillah is a beautiful little community.
As I approached the church, two graceful young bucks and a doe leaped over a distant fence.
The trail magic was more than I had anticipated. They had a little bulletin board at the side yard of the church, welcoming hikers to collect water and camp either outside, or inside the unlocked building.
I was elated.
It was dark, I moved around inside with the red light of my headlamp. Atop and inside the fridge were containers labeled “For PNT Hikers”. They contained a variety of snacks and food and fresh apples! There were even frozen meals for hikers, in the freezer! I could not believe it. It was certainly some of the best trail magic I had encountered on any trail. I was extremely grateful.
I enjoyed the fresh fruit and microwavable meal of quinoa and grains.
I placed my things to charge and set myself up for sleep on the soft carpet.
I fell to sleep in a space of good-heartedness, filled with thanks.
I surfaced to consciousness with the lightening sky. So peaceful.
I turn to my side within my down cocoon and watch as the sun lifts and expands its radiant light.
I packed up quickly. I was still interested in visiting the Bonaparte Lake Resort, 15 miles away. I had read that they offer free showers to hikers.
I was glad I had stopped a bit short and slept within the woods. It coos my drive and motivation…unlike paved roads; like those I was about to hike along.
I began the descent towards Cougar Creek Road.
An owl soars within my line of path. Graceful in its heavy silence, it lands on a branch ahead.
I joined the road, and as expected, cut through private property.
I could see a group of people gathered in chairs around a fire. There were beautiful tapestries of cool colors and moonscapes.
One person who was seated, turned and looked my way.
“Hello” I say. “Sorry, I think the trail goes through here…”
“It does”, replied a woman standing beside the tapestries and make-shift kitchen.
The woman introduced herself as Lynn, and offered me a hot cup of coffee.
I never refuse a cup of coffee.
I removed my pack and sipped the hot beverage and chatted with Lynn and Jay and their loved ones. They had purchased the property a while back, and they were slowly moving in. I asked her how she felt about the trail running through their yard. She said that she did not mind the hikers, that it was the hunters that left trash.
I left the encounter smiling.
I continued along the roads.
The air is dry. Locusts cause crackling sounds in the brush. Sweat drips off my body. I dream of a shower.
I move along the pavement, a wavy being wading through heat induced delirium.
I turn on to Bunch Road, greeted by cattle and blinding white gravel.
I close my eyes and lilt as I walk.
Eventually I joined a forest service road. The road was slightly overgrown, which made for a pleasantly cushy, shaded hike.
I soon hit the asphalt of Bonaparte Lake Road and headed to the resort.
I bought a 35 cent bar of soap, and was told where I could find the shower.
A very social guest of the resort spotted my pack and told me that there was someone travelling by bike out on the patio. “Why don’t you go say “hi”, she encouraged.
I instantly knew it was the bike-packer I had seen earlier.
I went to the patio and introduced myself to Asa.
We chatted for a long while around a table on the deck of the restaurant, then we returned to his camp site and chatted some more. We spoke of our journeys (he had started in DC and was also travelling to the coast), and how one seems to enter the travelling community when they pursue these adventures more than once.
We relayed fresh stories of adventure as I let my external battery pack charge in the nearby public restroom.
We spoke of the mantras we repeat to ourselves, and how the locals have been friendlier to him since he started wearing a camo hat.
Asa paused in conversation and looked to the surface of the picnic bench where we sat. “We have certainly covered this table, haven’t we!?” We both looked at the bottles and plastic baggies and maps and sleeping pads that sat in disheveled display. We both began laughing hysterically. My eyes began to water and my belly ached. It was the hardest I had laughed in some time.
I decided to accept his offer to stay at his site. I star-camped, gazing at the night sky and listening to the beautifully haunting call of loons on the lake.
It was the first night I had spent on trail in the intentional company of another.
What a glorious nights rest! …Oh, the stars, the crescent moon! Such a clear, cool night with the slightest hint of breeze.
The sun kisses me good-morning; then is overtaken–hidden behind a blanket of grey.
It becomes so cold. I must put on my long wool stockings and balaclava to slip out of my down cocoon comfortably.
To Sherman Pass!
The wind howls. A lone wolf through the clouds. Haunting, beautiful, chilling. It plays my nerves like a violin.
I continue along the Kettle Crest Trail.
At times I have to will myself to continue. Oh, the struggle, the push. I realize that the feeling of freedom, however defined by an individual, never comes without sacrifice.
The sky clears.
I discover huckleberries along the ascent towards Copper Butte. Oh, thank you! I move slowly, eating my fill.
I break up a gathering of grazing cows. I am positioned between one and the group. It “moos” deeply, angrily, desperately. I continue, side stepping the plethora of cow patties at their various stages of decomposition.
I no longer find the cows amusing.
The trail, however, was clear and fantastically beautiful.
I came to a piped spring and trough. It was fenced to keep the cows out.
I took a short break by the spring and continued.
I made it to parking lot of Sherman’s Pass. I got a visual of Route 20, and where I would hitch from. I then walked back to the trail head in search of a flat spot to camp. I found a small space that would suffice. I spread out my tarp and mat. I would hitch in to the tiny town of Republic, first thing in the morning.