Nestled in the woods just on the border between Idaho and Washington, we packed up camp to the sound of a nearby creek and the pitter-patter of rain on our tent (for the first time!). It was just a passing storm though and we didn't even bother with rain gear. As the new "Primary PNT" trail lead through what our book called "Hell on earth", we opted for the more Southern alternate route which followed the old PNT. Up through some logging roads and heading through some thick vegetation covered in dew, we made our way to the Jackson Creek Trail. This trail would ultimately lead us out of Idaho and into Washington -woo! we walked through a state! The trees in this area were ancient, giant pines that could give any Redwood a run for its money in girth. We had been warned that there might be some overgrowth and blow downs (trees on the trail) in this area, but that was quite the understatement. We found ourselves swarmed by mosquitoes to the point that hiking in full rain gear seemed the better option and the trail was thick with encroaching Alder. We threw ourselves over massive tree trunks that blocked our path and eventually broke free from the unmaintained trail... in Washington!
After a short break, the trail led up into an old burn area and a gorgeous ridge walk. We meandered amongst the mountain peaks with 360 views around us due to the lack of vegetation. Yet, what made for lovely trail in the early afternoon, turned into a startlingly reality check when about 7 miles down trail, where we could see a current forest fire in action. Luckily our route led down the peak a few miles before the burn and we avoided what could have been another dicey bushwhack to safety. We camped near Noisy Creek in a space barely large enough for our tent while the sound of helicopters dumping water on the blaze of Hall Peak whizzed above.
The next morning we hoofed it down trail to the Sullivan Lakes camping area where we were eager to hear about trail closures. Luckily, we had made it out just in time and had we been hours later we would have had to find a re-route. The trail and weather this morning were lovely and we had the prospect of Metaline Falls (the absolute best trail town) beckoning us onward. We followed a gorgeous trail around the Lake and then had a short 7 mile road walk into town.
Now, as hiker, we enjoy walking, but only when it's necessary. Thus, a town that has accommodations, a Café, a bar and a grocery store all within 1 block is total bliss. We arrived in town and had heard that the 'Historic' Washington Hotel was the place to stay, and boy it was! Arlie, the owner, showed us the upstairs (a long hallway of eclectically decorated rooms with double beds) and told us the rate was $40 and he did our laundry. SOLD!
We showered up and headed to Cathy's Café for lunch, which was bustling considering the size of this town. It didn't take long for us to realize that EVERYONE we'd heard of on trail and some we hadn't were all going to be here for the same night! A wonderful trail angel in town named Mary hosted the hiker hang for the evening and we all sat around drinking beer, homemade huckleberry liquor and swapping trail stories. An absolutely perfect evening.
Many of our comrades elected to take a 'zero day' (no hiking) and hang around town for the premier of Game of Thrones, but we headed out after another amazing meal at Cathy's and hit the road. We knew we had a significant amount of road walking to look forward to in the next section of trail and we started our day on 13 miles of it. Luckily, most was dirt road and we knocked out a significant portion of a 4,000 foot climb on relatively easy grade. Once on trail, we made moves towards Abercrombie Mountain (thankfully devoid of airbrushed models). The hike up was perfect, complete with the clearest spring water we'd ever had. The views from the top were even better, and gave us an eerie look to the north towards British Columbia and the smoke covered mountains suffering from vast forest fires.
We opted to make our way down, knowing we had a 17 mile road walk into Northport the next day and needed to make it into town before the post office closed... so I could get my NEW BOOTS!!! (thanks mom) We stopped at a small campsite near the base of the mountain, complete with picnic tables and a toilet- ah luxury. :)
Light on the morning trail
Just made it through!
Hall Mountain Fire
My legs after a bushwhack
Party at Mary's place
in a Sandman Sandwich
A man and his milkshake