Taco Tuesday and Kettle Crest
After having made good use of the pit toilet (well, there's a topic sentence for ya!) we headed out for our 17 mile road walk. That is of course, after our 5 mile road walk of dirt roads. Either way, the first 3 hours of the day I typically spend clacking along and trying to wake myself up, as the sun streams in through trees and the buzz of flies, chirping of birds and sounds of nature coming alive for another day fill my ears. Before long we had hit the pavement and thankfully there was a nice shoulder and light traffic. Little did we know that is was common practice to hitch this section of the trail and thus we walked the road in its entirety. We meandered along the Columbia River- an expansive body of water, flickering with light in the haze of morning and cloudy air from the fires to the north.
Time passed quickly and we arrived in Northport before long. We knew little of what to expect from this small, main street town, but it exceeded all expectations. From the moment we arrived everyone was overly helpful and accommodating. The librarian told us all the best spots to camp, the milkshake lady offered us the yard next to her business and we were finally charmed into staying in town by Larry, the fire chief, who pulled over, offered us a shower at the Fire Station and the greenest grass in town to pitch our tent. We couldn't say no. After washing up, we saw some fellow hikers -Tiny and Brainstorm- just finishing their resupply and we all headed over the Kuk's Tavern for taco Tuesday (2 tacos for $1.50). We ran into Night Rider who was already enjoying her tacos and spent the night drinking pitchers of beer and chatting with the locals. Eventually we all ended up on the firehouse lawn, passed out in hiker glory.
The next morning we got up and had breakfast at Mustangs, where again we were thanked for the "life" we brought into town, and fed generously. We hit the road and began a 42 mile road walking section of the trail. 99% of it consisted of meandering, lightly traveled dirt roads that followed a flowing creek, so no complaints. We put in some good miles as we could travel faster on the easy turf and settled in near the creek after a 25 mile day. Tiny and Brainstorm pressed on a bit further to camp at mile 420... :)
We woke rested and ready to get the rest of our road walk underway. Just after crossing the Kettle River, we were stopped by a Customs Officer (probably the 4th or 5th we've spoken to on this trip) who seemed quite interested in our travels. He had worked the night shift and come across Night Rider camping a few miles behind us on the trail. I guess he'd woken her and given her quite a fright. We heard about his family, how he'd carry a gun if he were us and his desire to do something similar someday. If only he knew how much weight a gun would add to his pack! We bid him adieu and began a steady 3 hour climb up dirt roads leading into a logging area. After passing a backhoe doing some heavy log lifting, we were met by quite possibly the dirtiest looking man I'd ever seen. He'd been chainsawing in a burn area- thus his entire body was covered in ash and oil from the chainsaw. His clothing looked weathered and worn. He said he'd rather be doing this than anything else... I'll never forget him.
The old forest roads we turned onto after our conversation wound through a recent burn area and the trees looked like still smoldering sparklers protruding from the ground. Everything was covered in soot and ash and the trail was littered with blow downs. As we threw ourselves over massive trunks, our clothes and skin grew dark with ash and we could have posed as coal miners for the afternoon. Overall it was an arduous day, but finally we found ourselves back on trail. The Kettle Crest trail leads mostly south and is well maintained with diverse terrain and snapshots of eastern Washington. It was an interesting afternoon, as for the first time in over 2,200 miles Jeff and I got a bit separated. I left him a note in rocks over a foot bridge and he found it and eventually we were reunited. We camped up high on a saddle with stunning views of a perfect sunset. Once again, all was right with the world.
Some logging endeavors
"road" through the burn area
Bridge out of Northport
2015 burn area of Kettle Crest Trail