Koocanusa and Cascade
Hi again everyone,
We're writing to you today from Bonners Ferry, Idaho, our one and only stop in the spud state (its only about 40 miles across this far north after all). This stretch from Eureka was a bit of a mixed bag; some grueling road walks and some fantastic views. In that regard, it seems to be representative of other relatively "young" trails in that the more scenic areas haven't been stitched together by public right-of-way paths yet, and a lot of asphalt is required to make up the difference.
This was the case as we made our way through Eureka, but not before stopping at the fabulous Cafe Jax, a little retro style establishment with a Rosie the Riveter style staff and some of the best goddamn biscuits and gravy I've ever had (seriously, why isn't this a thing back east). Our trek started nicely enough as we followed a trail pinned between a heavy freight railway and the Tobacco River. We were envious of a group of tubers floating down the water in the mounting heat of the day, but forgot our cares as we approached Lake Koocanusa, the massive, 90 mile long reservoir that serves as a recreational hotspot for the area. We tracked around a number of hoodoos (dry, eroded hills that were the remnants of glacial till from eons past), past several campsites, and a marina before starting our next dreaded road walk on a hot highway. It was only 6.5 miles, but somehow pavement always seems so much longer than trail, especially when there is traffic flying by. We filled all our water containers to the brimfrom a roadside creek, anticipating a dry camp that night, and soldiered on. Our next landmark, the Koocanusa Bridge (the highest AND longest bridge in Montana) finally swung in to view like a mirage shimmering over the lake. As we crossed, a veritable armada of swallows erupted from underneath, no doubt enjoying the updrafts. We trudged on eager to find camp once off the road, and were rewarded with one of our favorite sites yet; a bugless, terrace overlooking the lake and bridge.
Outside Cafe Jax
Train tracks aside the trail
Our perfect campsite
We awoke the next morning to a family of deer munching near our tent, and set off before the heat of the day set in. The elevation profile for the day was... worrying to say the least, as our track contained multiple long climbs and steep descents. Just as we reached the top of one peak, we raced back down, and vice versa. Our first climb was Mt Webb, where a firetower-turned-cabin-for-rent was occupied. A series of ups and downs followed as we headed towards rocky My Henry. In the meantime, we came upon a note left by another PNT hiker named Dirty B warning us of a impassible alternate route. We then met the self proclaimed dirty man at a spring aside the mountain we were climbing. He was as described, with a light pack bulked up by a ukulele and an unbuttoned soiled shirt. We spent the last of the day leapfrogging with him until we set up an early camp and he decided to head on.
In the morning, we descended into a jagged gorge where we once again ran into the grimy guy himself as he was breaking camp. He had spent the night at the Turner Creek Falls, where we took a short break as he pushed on ahead. The fall we pretty magnificent for their size, tucked as they were into a basalt crag with an impressive logjam at the bottom forming a large pool. The coolness of the area would not last us, however, as we began yet another climb and descent to cross the Yaak River. At this juncture, it was possible to travel south a few miles for resupply at a local mercantile, but we had planned to skip it and instead pushed on. Another road walk ensued before we stopped for lunch on an upper branch of the river while a family played in the stream nearby. The last of our day was spent climbing yet another gravel forest service road. Thankfully the wind picked up to cool things off, but also toppled a random tree in the process, confirming one of the hikers' greatest fears; being ignominiously squashed by a tree in the night. We ultimately threw down camp amidst the woods anyway, tired from the days' exertions.
Turner Creek Falls