Bonners Ferry, ID to Metaline Falls, WA

July 17

We decided to wait until 11 to check out of our comfy room. Everyone else got an early ride out with the trail angel. We grabbed a fast lunch at Subway before hitching out of town. He joked it was going to be a tough hitch. A man quickly stopped to give us a ride out of town in his van that he lives in with his dog. He was a wonderful guy and is a woodcarver. He dropped us off at a junction that would lead back to the spot where Beacon picked us up. Our next ride was a younger man who moved a car seat for us to sit down. He hadn’t heard of the PNT, but was interested and went a little farther out of his way to get us back to our spot. I love hitchhiking. Yes, I know people find it to be scary, but I love meeting new people and sharing stories.

We could of walked down the paved road then back up another paved road or take a bushwhack down from the guardrail. That was our best option. We ended up finding a path after the steep path that connected us to the road we needed to be on. It was the original highway, but now no cars passed by. We walked a few other paved roads past farmland, cute homes, and lots of chickens running around. The trail joins a dirt road for a short section past a lake which was pleasant walking. We hiked together all day just talking about other possible thru hikes, dreams of places to travel, and other “real life” topics. 

We walked almost 11 miles to the base of the climb. As we were nearing the turn to the trail, Mermaid, Epic, and Beacon were walking towards us. They had got dropped off at this point this morning and had set up camp nearby. We joined them as well as Iron Eagle at the campsite. We got there a bit before 4 so it was an easy evening of conversation, laughter, and eating. The wildfire in the distance is causing the sky to be smoky, but we can’t smell it yet. We made it out of town and both of us are feeling strong. 

July 18

We said goodbye to the other four who decided to skip the ridge and stay along a creek for most of the day. Also, this area burned in 2015. The climb started up towards Parker Ridge on a beautifully groomed trail with many switchbacks. Many of the trees are burnt, but they are all still standing tall. We found the spring to be flowing nicely so it really wasn’t a long water carry like we expected. We climbed higher and higher towards the ridge. Huge granite slabs were along the cliff making the views extraordinary. We both agreed this has been the best section of hiking since Glacier. We reached the ridge after a 5,000 foot climb to be rewarded with mountain ranges all around us. Today included lots of exposed hiking so we both were drenched in sweat all day.

Lakes below us dotted the scenery. We even crossed a few patches of snow left over from the winter. Parker Ridge has been a magical hike for us. I love ridge walks! We both agreed this area could be explored much more. We grabbed some cold water from a melting snow bank before beginning the descent. We met two other thru hikers named Bessie and Billy on our way down. We came to another trail junction as the trail then became larger and better maintained. Lots of nicely constructed boardwalks as well. 

A steep 700 foot climb at the end of the day would lead up to our campsite. It was a bitch! After all the elevation gain we already had today this last bit really wore me out. It was also straight up from Pyramid Lake to our campsite. We finally made it to Upper Balls Lake after doing over 6,000 feet of climbing today. The lake was gorgeous and there were many options for campsites. We choose a spot where we quickly set up then went down towards the lake to eat dinner and enjoy the view. The water was chilly as I soaked my feet and rinsed off my legs. We ate dinner and right as were ready to go into the tent when Mermaid arrived. She had hiked 3 more miles then us on an alternative route with lots of water that avoided the ridge. She kicked ass today too. She joined us as Beacon, Epic, and Iron Eagle camped 700 feet lower at Pyramid Lake. It was chilly at our campsite as I wore my pants, my down jacket, and hat while eating dinner. We made it into the tent as it was just getting dark and we drifted off to sleep after one of our best days on trail so far.

July 19

Beacon came walking into our campsite around 7 and ready to conquer our next challenge. The trail enters a 5 mile “bushwhack” section. The four of us left together as we found a nice trail leading straight uphill towards the boulders we had admired from our campsites. The trail then disappears and you are left to pick the safest route across a slopped mountain with many rocks and loose sand. We hike a bit faster then Mermaid and Beacon so we left them at this point. I am also a bit anxious on this type of hiking, but I took cautious steps and did not panic. I sat and scooted on my butt a few time, I hugged trees, and I took baby steps most of the way. It wasn’t the worse hiking I have done so far, but still a bit terrifying.

(The photo above is the section we had to cross to get to the ridge walk)

We made it to the flat ridge where we waited and looked back trying to find the other two. As we were snacking, we heard Mermaid yell towards us words you never want to hear. Beacon, fell, hurt, bad, helicopter, and keep going! We did not think it was safe to turn around and go back since we could be injured as well. We took her advice and kept going. We worried most of the day about him and wondered what he had hurt. We found out days later that he shattered his left wrist after falling four feet. A rescue team walked up to him and helped him down to a trailhead. Accidents can occur at anytime and I’m fortunate to have had few incidents during the past 8,500+ miles. 

The ridge walk was the best and easiest part of the section. The trail then drops downhill to Lion Creek. This part was tricky. There was a trail for about half of the way downhill then we were pushing away large trees. I wore my only pair of long pants today which are long legged underwear. By the end of the day, I had three holes in them. We were getting beat up by branches and stepping carefully to avoid holes. It was super slow going. Once we made it down to the water it did not get any easier.

We spent 7 hours going a total distance of 5 miles. It was almost like a nightmare! We would find a trail then loose it. We climbed over dozens of trees and got attacked by hundreds of branches. It was exhausting! I’m glad I was not doing this section alone. I can only imagine the amount of wildlife living in this area. If I was grizzly, this is where I would live because hunters do not come out this far. We took a few breaks feeling defeated and slowly making our way out of the jungle. We escaped around 3 and took a well deserved long break along a natural rock slide. We watched birds swim, eat, and play in the water for an hour. It is very unusual to have only hike 5 miles by 4, but it was that type of day. 

After our nice break, we found pink ribbons on the trees which helped us find the poorly maintained trail. We then came to a huge campsite and an old forest road. The rest of the day was smooth sailing. This old overgrown road turned into a dirt forest road for many miles. We were able to easily hike 3 miles an hour. We passed the large Lake Priest where lots of people were swimming and camping. If it wasn’t so late in the day, I would of certainly went for a swim. We passed civilization and lots of cars along the road.

The trail turned off the road and the mosquitos found it. We were moving over 3 mph at this point looking for a place to camp. We entered the land of large Cedar trees along a stream. We got to the stream crossing and we decided to set up camp and cross in the morning. We were surrounded by old growth cedar trees and the sound of running water. We both rinsed off in the stream before we ate dinner. We both have some bad chafe after all the jumping over trees and unnatural movements. So a quick naked rinse was what I needed. We ate dinner then jumped into our tent to relax and discuss what a wild day it had been. We were exhausted and ready for bed early tonight.

July 20

We woke up sometime after midnight to the sound of thunder, flashes of lightning, and rainfall. I drifted back to sleep many times to be awoken by a bang. He joked in the morning that we watched the lightning light up my face most of the night. When we did get moving, we crossed the stream to find no trail on the other side. So we crossed back then walked up the trail which led into the creek and across to the trail. We were surprised to find Idaho Centennial Trail markers. We cross three other long distance trails on this hike- CDT, ICT, and PCT.

The trail was beautiful and well maintained. We then walked along Upper Priest Lake for many miles. There were lots of campers along the lake and a few dogs ran towards us. This is a gorgeous section of hiking. We took a break at the end of the lake to dry off. Due to the rain our shoes and clothes were drenched.

 A few miles later we found ourselves on a dirt road where we were able to dry off. We walked this road for many miles before entering the land of cedar trees. Huge, stunning, and magnificent! I felt like a tiny speck. We crossed a stream where my feet got soaked. Then it was uphill for the end of the day.

We got concerned that there would be no where to camp until we got to the top of the climb. We found a semi flat spot right off the trail where we decided to set up camp. The bugs were nasty so we ate quickly then jumped into the tent. Bessie and Billy walked past us and scared me as I thought it was a big animal coming up the trail. We looked over our maps and made our game plan for tomorrow before falling asleep. 

July 21

Our alarm was set for 5:08, but we choose to sleep then cuddle until 6. We finally got moving on the trail a bit before 7. I’m glad we got an early start today. We crossed into Washington and again found no sign. I love this state. It was lovely hiking in the fall on the PCT here and I’ve been wanting to explore more of the state since then. A little while longer we came to our morning obstacle. It took us 2 long hours to hike 3 miles on nicely switchbacked trail. The only problem was there was at least 70 down trees along the way. Then it turned into a muddy trail with high bushes all around. I only managed to fall once and it wasn’t off the ridge luckily. I felt like a gymnast hurdling, crawling, swatting, and jumping my way through this section. This trail is teaching me patience as well.

We came to a four way intersection where one of the trails is closed due to fire, one lead to a ridge walk, and the other downhill to a creek. We choose the downhill to the creek. This trail was recently groomed and full of large cedar trees. I can’t get enough of them. We decided to cross the creek early by doing a bushwhack that would cut 3 miles or so. The downhill was a little nerve racking. I picked my own route so I ended up losing him at the bottom. I should of stayed with him because his crossing was a bit easier. I had to cross at knee deep and then scramble up large rocks to get to the forest road.

We took a nice break on the road and talked to some USFS workers who asked if we were hiking the PNT. They also wanted to be sure we weren’t using the closed trail. We then had a long dirt road walk that would eventually bring us to Metaline Falls the next morning. The walk was easy and along the creek. We saw two large owls fly across the road then perch in a tree to watch us. The closer we got to town the more campsites and other people we came across. We continued on planning to camp at Mill Pond, but we found out it closed three days earlier for the season. So we found ourselves on a paved road just a few miles out of town. So we took a trail uphill and found a slanted spot along a river to set up camp. We didn’t have the energy to hike the last few miles tonight so we will save town for the morning.

July 22

Our campsite was not ideal as I slid around to the bottom of the tent all night. We got moving early this morning with Metaline Falls in sight. Besides our quick trail walk back to the highway, it was all fast road walking. I ate a few thimbleberries on the trail this morning. Yum! We walked past many other car campers along a creek before hitting one of the “most dangerous road walks of the PNT.” Maybe, we have just done so many road walks in the past few years that the small shoulder, guardrails, and concrete barriers don’t scare us anymore. 

We walked down into the small town of Metaline Falls. There are a little less then 300 year long residents here. We ate breakfast at Cathy’s which is one of the two restaurants in town. We chatted with Billy and Bessie as well. We then checked out the trail angels house which is also on the main road which is 5th Ave. We met her lovely daughter who would later explain much more about this small town to us. We decided to get a room at the Washington Hotel which was built in 1908. The owner was super hiker friendly and does a load of laundry for the hikers as well. We had the option to pick any room. The rooms are on the second floor and each is adorable. We picked the one with the AC. Each bed has a beautiful quilt on it and the rooms have furniture pieces from that time period. The floors creek under your feet and the hotel has a lovely feel to it. We did our resupply chores, took a shower, and relaxed the rest of the day. We did spent a few hours at the library enjoying the free wifi. We also did the walking tour of town checking out all the old buildings. I love small towns, but I don’t know if I could live in this one. It is almost like a ghost town with more then half of the stores on the main road are closed and mostly for sale. 

More hikers rolled in to town including Mermaid, Epic, Iron Eagle, Davinci, Roadrunner, and Tinkerbell. We had a late lunch at the 5th Ave Bar and Grill which is the only place open after 2. We watched the last hour of Matilda in the sitting room at the hotel and mostly just chatted with the other hikers. After hanging out at the trail angels, we all went to the bar. I had a beer, Epic bought us all a fireball shot, and Mermaid shared her salad with us. It was a perfect nero into town spent with great people in a place where you don’t have to walk far to get anywhere. 

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Eureka to Bonners Ferry, Idaho

July 10

Neither of us slept great last night as the AC was noisy and we would wake up sweaty then cold. We both prefer the tent. I had to do a walk down to the post office to pick up my resupply. It was about 1.2 miles as cars zipped by on the road. I grabbed my 12 lb box and attempted to hitch back to the hotel without any luck. By the time I made it back to the hotel, I was sweaty and my arms were sore. I spent the next hour and a half going though my box, organizing my food, packing, taking a cold shower, and watching one of the 15 tv channels. 

Paperweight, Turtle, and I took the short walk to the pizza place for the 11:00 lunch buffet. I had three helpings of salad, a few slices of pizza, and some fries. Not too bad of a deal for just $10. It was sad to say goodbye to Turtle who has been dealing with tremendous foot since the start of the hike. I truly enjoyed getting to know her and look forward to crossing paths again. Paperweight and I have been so happy to meet so many fellow thru hikers this year. We joke that we get sick of just talking to each other. A bit after noon we said goodbye to Turtle and the father and son. 

We decided to take the bike path out of town. It was a much safer option and allowed us to zone out into podcast land. I enjoyed all the quaint cabins along the walk. We dropped down from the road and under a bridge to join a rail trail. We found ourselves walking along a stream in the sand. It was very pleasant walking and a nice breeze. We ended up getting off the trail through since there were many paths. So we backtracked and joined a nicely oiled dirt road which rejoined to a dirt trail in the forest for a bit. After a quick discussion, we decided to just jump onto the paved road to make navigation easier. The trail would of joined the road shortly anyways. It was the typical paved road walk. Cars flying by, garbage tossed out of car windows resting for years along the side of the pavement, mile marker signs for me to know exactly how many minutes a mile I was doing, and the smell of the vehicles. 

We found Beacon a little ways up the road trying to get a hitch to the bridge. We continued onward and it was pleasant since there was a lot of cloud cover. The rain came quickly as we both put on our pack covers and grabbed our umbrellas. It rained on and off for the next hour or so as we stayed dry. The temperature also dropped even more making the evening miles pleasant. Our feet were sore and we knew we had to dip down from the road to get water. We walked along the guardrail then took a steep rocking route down to the water. We were sitting under a bridge along a highway filtering water and eating dinner. Four years ago I would of laughed at the thought of it. We each grabbed a bit over 3 liters for the next stretch before climbing up steeply back to the road.

We have slowly been waking closer to The bridge over Lake Koocanusa. This is the highest bridge and longest in the state of Montana. It is a beautiful bridge and even had a sidewalk for us to use. It is .4 miles long and the breeze was spectacular. I took my hair out of its braid and let it blow in the winter. I have done this on most hiking and it is such a freeing feeling. I loved this part of the road walk. We then joined a forest road climbing uphill towards our trailhead.

We finally left the road beginning the climb to Mt. Webb. Our guidebook told us where the first campsite was so we climbed uphill towards it. We found Beacon and Mermaid relaxing there. They had yogied some drinks and had saved us each a Bud Light. So after we set up our tent, we joined them as we drank a warm beer. What a day! We figured we did a little over 15 miles starting in the afternoon. I was exhausted and climbed into the tent to quickly fall asleep.

July 11

We all woke up around 2am to hear something running around the camp. I remember saying “it’s probably a deer” then falling back to sleep. In the morning, we had over 3000 feet of uphill to the top of Mt. Webb. I left last and took my time. There are a few ripe huckleberries so picking season is coming soon. The trail switch backed uphill for close to five miles as you get a better view of the large lake. I was dripping with sweat by the time I made it to the top. I peered into the windows of the lookout cabin and enjoyed the views from the porch. It was windy and I got cold quick as the sweat was still drying. We all had a nice snack break before getting back to the trail.

So many flowers are blooming! Along this path I counted 6 different types of flowers. The forest is colorful and berries are starting to ripen. We crossed a dirt road and walked a snowmobile path for a bit before stopping for water. We ate in the shade near the stream. The next part of the day we began climbing. It is a dense forest with tamaracks and spruces. The trail sent up then back down a few mountains. We calculated about 6500 feet of elevation gain today. At our next water stop, mermaid caught up to us. Beacon had grabbed a ride into town. There were lots of frogs in this water source as I counted five. The trail then had us climb straight back up followed by another steep down. We also did some log jumping as trees fall all the time on trail. 

We ended up finding a semi flat and not too overgrown campsite to set up. It was another tough day of hiking. We set up, ate dinner, and then slept the best nights sleep in a long time. 

July 12

The morning started with more uphill towards Mt. Henry. I love forest walking. We choose not to do the side trail to the top and took a ridge route options. Nice views along the way then the steep downhill. The downhill was at times on loose rocks dropping to Turner Creek. I took my time and felt some soreness in my legs this morning. When we made it down to the bottom, we sat on some rocks to filter water and eat breakfast. Iron Eagle and Epic slept in and came over to join us for breakfast. They are heading into Yaak today and we choose to skip it and hike 113 miles to Bonners Ferry, Idaho. Mermaid joined us as well as two USFS employees. The first guy was in charge of the chainsaw and were cutting down trees on our trail and other ones. We thanked them and chatted for a bit as they had a snack break with us. They said it’s nice to see people hiking this trail and they now cut down trees once a year after the snow has melted. We took a long two hour break here. Whoops!

The guys recommended we check out Turner Falls which was a short side trail. Wow! The water was falling down onto a pile of rocks almost creating two waterfalls. Gorgeous spot. The guys also recommended skipping the next PNT section to hike along the creek. The other part climbs uphill through a burn section where 6 foot trees surround you. We took the creek walk and crossed lots of nice wooden bridges. The sound of rushing water and the bright green plants was perfect. Also, the workers were ahead of us so no down trees to hop. The Montana section of this trail had been nicely maintained and better marked then I expected. Thank you to the forest service for all the work you do on this trail. 

The rest of the day was road walking for hours. We did take a late lunch along a stream as a few cars passed by us kicking up dust. The road was paved for a bit and this was the spot where we could of hitched into Yak. We wanted to save a little money and be out in the woods longer. Town is fun, but we live for the camping lifestyle. We passed lots of cute cabins and hunting properties. I noticed one for sale sign. We chatted to a man in a truck saying he was going out bird watching. It’s called “Yaak TV” to him. We slowly climbed uphill towards our next campsite.

We came to the bridge and West Fork of the Yak River where we planned to camp. We saw a lovely campsite with firewood right over the bridge, but then we saw the truck. So we debated what to do before we took off our packs and went down to the river. I filtered some water and got ready to go for a dip. I went in with my shorts and sports bra. It felt nice to rinse off and clean out all my cuts and bites on my legs. We both cleaned up as Mermaid came across the bridge. The three of us set up camp a little way from the bridge. Paperweight and I spent most of the evening looking at our maps, guidebooks, and discussing our options. Before we knew it, it was past 10 and still light out. We drifted to sleep!

July 13

Neither of us wanted to get out of the tent this morning so hiking didn’t start till 7:30. I left first since Mermaid and Paperweight still needed to grab some water. We are still following a dirt road so it is easy and quick walking. The trees allow for a mostly shady walk. Around 4 miles in, I saw a large hawk flying above me with a dead bunny or maybe a squirrel in it’s claw. I have never seen that before. I have zoned out to Podcasts most of the morning as the miles fly by. I carried out 2 1/2 liters since we are unsure if some of the tributaries are dry or running.

Mermaid and Paperweight joined me as I took a water break at a tributary. My man and I started walking out together and heard a large crashing noise. It was a tree off the road crashing to the forest floor. We walked together until we zoned out to our Podcasts. We came to the junction to the lookout tower where we took a water and snack break. We are back to a trail for 3.4 miles to the next water and lunch break. We walked together talking about life adventures. The trail went up and down slightly through a lush green forest as lumpiness were blooming. The last bit was a steep downhill on rocks. We ran into a hiker coming East who started in Northport. We asked him a few questions about water and such before parting ways. We also ran into Heather who is doing her thesis on the PNT trail. The three of us took a nice shoe off lunch break in the shade. We crossed into the 200s today meaning less then a 1,000 to go.

The next five miles continued on a forest road and was easy walking. A 3 mile per hour pace as we both listened to our own podcasts. We came to the Yaak River which is a little bit off trail. It was about 4 and the three of us decided to call it a day. We had originally planned a bigger day, but sometimes a campsite is just perfect. Our spot is on the other side of bridge along a dead end road. You can easily walk down to the water as there is even a hand rail to guide you. I thought about a dip, but decided against it after soaking up to my lower thigh. The water was cold and refreshing. So the rest of the day was spent relaxing, typing up these blogs, and listening to the birds sing and water flowing below us. 

July 14

We had planned on getting on trail early this morning, but 7:10 wasn’t a bad start. We each packed out three liters since it about 18 miles without a reliable source. The hiking started out very steep in a dense dark forest. It seems as though we were in a horror movie taking place in the woods. It was beautiful. The sun began to shine in through the trees the higher we climbed. We crossed a few bridges and nice running water. Things are reliable this time of year thanks to the snow melt. We continued pushing uphill as we came to a ridge with expansive views including a huge snowy peak out in the distance.

Next thing we knew it we were dropping down from the saddle back into the forest. Oh the PNT is full of ups and downs around every corner. Our next climb began as the trail turned more into a path. Soon we were out of the large trees and walking carefully over rocks. Rock cairns marked the way as we crossed a few patches left of snow. What a gorgeous area! We grabbed a liter each of snow melt water and made the last uphill push to the saddle which is our highpoint. The flowers are blooming as patches of snow still lingers. The marmots were screeching and bugs buzzing all about. This is my type of hiking! This is what I live for. High elevation, ridge waking, mountain views, snow, flowers, and a destination in sight. We took a nice break in the shade along the saddle snacking and drinking water. 

The downhill was marked as a bushwhack, but we were pleased to see a well traveled trail. I rubbed up against hundreds of bear grasses covering me in pollen. The worst part is when you are talking and inhale some pollen. Yuck! We cruised downhill and came across the first log book on trail where we signed in. 6 days ago 11 hikers signed in so I guess we are in between the bubbles. The “bubble” is used to describe a large grouping of hikers.

We continued onward walking many miles before taking lunch in a new state. We crossed into Idaho finding no sign and a similar trail. We gained an hour today as we crossed a time zone so we ate lunch at 2:00 instead of 3:00. The trail seemed to be much more rocky in this state and we found no PNT markers the rest of the day. It was nice hiking as the miles passed quickly. We came to a road intersection to find Beacon. He treated us to a cold beer and fresh fruit! What a treat. After Mermaid arrived, we all decided to push another 8 miles to total 24 for the day to go to the Fiest Restaurant.

So we were off moving quickly along the trail. A few spots were pretty rutted. The best part was the huckleberries and blueberries. If I wasn’t in a rush for a meal, I could of laid down and ate hundreds of berries. Our feet began to ache on the last two miles, but we made it down to Beacon and his rental car in plenty of time for dinner. 

We all had the salad bar and a meal. I would of been eating oatmeal for dinner since I’ve ate all my other favorites over the past few days. We have really put in the miles and skipped over Yaak to get in more miles. We deserved a cooked meal and a spot to rest. The owner is a trail angel and ended up giving Mermaid a key to a hotel room for free. Thank you so much!!

The four of us found ourselves in a beautiful hotel room with clean towels for each of us. It was close to 10, but we all showered and charged our devices while drinking a cold beer. Mermaid and I shared the cozy queen bed as the guys slept on their air pads. No setting up the tent or having to unpack the pack today made the 24 miles even more worthwhile. 

July 15

I did not sleep great last night as I kept waking up and looking at the alarm clock. I got up first and snuck to the bathroom avoiding steeping on the guys who were sleeping on the floor. On the way back, I realized it was getting late and we still had quite a few miles to do until town. So I got on the floor and gave my man a little cuddle. Everyone woke up and we began packing up quickly and eating a quick bite. It was a bit after 7 when Beacon dropped us off at the trailhead. It was sprinkling so on went the pack cover and out came our umbreallas. We walked the road he just drove us on before crossing the railroad tracks. We passed some land for sale, a few ranches and cabins for rent, and saw a young fawn in a field. We came to the end of a dirt road and began the climb up Mt. Bussard. 

The hiking continued uphill for a little over 7 miles on switchbacks. There were lots of ripe blueberries and huckleberries to munch on during the uphill. I felt very strong and motivated by town. The uphill trail continued on and on before joining an old road which is not traveled by ATVs and dirt bikes. At the top, we took a break waiting for Mermaid and to have a snack. I tried to dry off as well since my shirt was soaked all the way through. Even though there was lots of cloud cover it was humid. Mermaid showed up and shared fruit with us that she packed out from Beacon. What a treat to have watermelon on the top of a mountain in Idaho. 

The trail lead downhill to the highway. We traveled a trail with new wooden bridges and concrete slabs in the mucky areas. Then we found ourselves on a steep loose rock slid towards the bottom. There were parts with many rocks and then an old overgrown forest road. We passed a guy sleeping in his tent and lots of people out picking berries when we met a more traveled road. The rest of the day was a one lane dirt road past lots of people out picking. The trail dipped lower and lower into the heat. The official route cuts across Brush Lake, but the guide book says to avoid. It is a tough bushwhack. I did not even see an easy spot to attempt it along the road. I zoned out to Podcasts and walked quickly to get to town and also avoid mosquitos. Beacon was waiting for us at Highway 95 where he whisked us away from the mountains and into the town of Bonners Ferry.

We descended into town passed the old town with a new casino before entering the new town. We headed straight to the Oriental Garden for a Chinese dinner. Yum! Then a quick stop at the grocery store for beer and of course ice cream. Then we were off to the hotel where the four of us split a room. It felt wonderful to shower and clean my gear. We all chatted drinking beers and eating ice cream before bed. Tomorrow we zero.
July 16

Today was a perfect zero day. Thanks to Beacon’s rental car we barely had to do any walking. We did walk to a breakfast spot, the grocery store, and laundry mat, but none of them were more than .1 miles. We decided to get our own room for tonight and was surprised for $5 more at a cost of $64 a night with tax we could get the room attached to the hot tub. She locks the main door at 9pm and we would be the only ones allowed in past that time. Score!! Beacon drove us to the gear shop and we even scored a free hiking shirt for Paperweight in the thrift store bin. So we did all of our chores and checked into our room around 3. The four of us headed back to the other part of town for dinner at the casino. It was a delicious meal with larger portions then I expected.

The rest of the day was spent lounging in the large king sized bed and playing on the wifi. A bit after 9, we took full advantage of our hot tub while drinking a few beers and discussing our future. It is looking pretty bright with many more places to explore.

Polebridge to Eureka, MT

July 5

Polebridge was a tough town to leave. We woke up early and packed up our life. We had a quick breakfast and said goodbye to Oliver, the hostel owner. We began the road walk out of town. I’m thankful the roads are not paved yet. We walked the gravel road out of town as it is still part of the PNT. Lots of cars went zooming by and one guy yelled out “enjoy your hike!” We turned to our right seeing our second PNT marker and up on Haystack Creek also a dirt road.

We both zoned out to our podcasts on the road making the miles fly by quickly. We passed a creek and came out with 100s of mosquitos surrounding us. Thanks to my friend Amanda for dropping off my bug spray it saved my life. We took a quick snack break to eat some huckleberry bread from town.

Then more road walking! We were slowly climbing higher and higher. We came to the junction where the road ends at a trailhead. It was nice to be on a trail again even if it was a former road. The grasses are high and flowers are everywhere. We walked together and chatted. It was a nice stroll that turned into a ridge walk with lovely views of new places. We chatted with Peter and Charlie for a bit before we parted ways for the day. We continued uphill as they camped at a nearby lake that we later learned was beautiful. We found Turtle set up past a water source. We took a long break here filtering, chatting and relaxing as Mermaid joined us then Bear Claw and Iceberg. We walked a little less then a mile crossing one large patch of snow before Mermaid, Paperweight, and I called it. We camped near the Jack Link trailhead parking lot. We had a view of a sessional lake. It was a peaceful site and no cars would be driving up there due to the large snow bank on the road. Polebridge was fun, but it’s nice to be back on trail.

July 6

We joined back to a trail and began an uphill climb. Quickly, we were traversing patches of snow. I only managed to sink into one spot up to my knee. Since the CDT I am much faster and confident on the snow. It was fun climbing uphill along trail and snow. We slowly made up way up to a ridge. We could see for miles including the next climb waiting ahead of us. I love ridge walking. It is challenging, but the views make it worthwhile. We took our first break at the top of the ridge with 360 views into Montana and Canada. We could see Turtle ahead of us climbing the next hill. It was a pleasant break.

The rest of the day continued with steep downs then another uphill to the next mountain top. It was a calf burner for sure and we were happy to already have trail legs thanks to the AZT. I was leading at one point following footprints in the snow when we realized the trail was faint. We followed a game trail for a bit climbing uphill before realizing we were off trail. We consulted our maps as the three of us wandered around a mountain we never had to climb. We found our way back to the trail in about 45 minutes. This time I noticed an arrow before the snow patch ended leading to the left. We simply missed the turn. Oh well. We climbed back up before taking a break at a junction.

I had underestimated my amount of water for the day. I knew it was a long stretch, but didn’t account for the amount of sweat this type of hiking creatures. I left them first in search of water finding only a huge bear print and puddles of water near snow banks. I ended up scooping up a liter of water using my tent netting piece to filter out the big chunks before filtering with my Sawyer. These type of miles were fairly slow going. Later on we came to a small running stream thanks to the melting snow where I drank 2 more liters and packed some out. All day we had wonderful views, patches of snow to walk on, wild flowers blooming all around, and the strong smell of a pine forest.

The last climb of the day was towards Locke Mountain. I was dripping in sweat and fairly exhausted. We made it to the turn deciding we didn’t want to do the extra .2 to the summit which I regretted later. The next part of the trail was down down down to the river. My knees felt it and I took the lead moving fast downhill. There were a few fallen trees to jump over along the way. We ran into Bear Claw and Iceburg at the first running water source then we moved on to the bigger creek.

We found Turtle near the crossing of Blue Sky Creek. I forded it with my shoes on and the snow melt water was chilly. We had planned to hike another 5 miles, but decided to call it a day since we were all exhausted. Peter and Charlie, the father and son team, two fast ultralight guys joined the four of us. It was a nice evening of conversation before I retired early to the tent to continue reading my book. Another lovely day on the Pacific Northwest Trail.

July 7

The first five miles to the dirt road was quick and slight downhill on an old mining road. The trees and bushes have began to overtake the road, but there is still enough room for one person to brush through the plants. It was a pleasant morning walk. Everyone took a break at the next bridge and water source. We got to know Bear Claw and Iceburg a bit more. 

The next few miles were on the gravel forest road before turning off it to the left back to an old road that is also overgrown. We took another break at the bridge to rehydrate and relax while taking with Turtle. The next bit of hiking led us uphill towards Foundation Lake. The was a beautiful spot and Paperweight went for a dip as I choose to only rinse off my legs. Turtle, Charlie, and Peter choose to camp here tonight as the rest of us continued. The trail climbs steeply up towards Mt Wam. I mean steep as my calves burned I was reminded of the AT climb. This time Paperweight, Mermaid, and I did more climbing to the very top to check out the lookout tower. A husband and wife were there and they booked the tower back in July. In the summer, you can rent out many of these lookout towers for a small fee. They told us we could stay, but we just wanted to check it out. It had seen better days, but was a unique building. The views made it a magical place along with the flowers near the top. We said farewell and climbed back down from the Wam Lookout as the clouds looked a bit threatening and a few roars of thunder were heard. 

The afternoon miles ended up being much more difficult then we expected. We encountered large patches of snow that really slowed us down. My feet were also in a lot of pain as blisters were forming near my heels. I moaned a lot and moved carefully and slowly along the trail. We took a dinner break since we were getting exhausted. As soon as we sat down, it began to downpour. It did this on and off for the next thirty minutes. We hid under our umbrellas and ate dinner. I love my umbrella.
The break did not help my ankles, but made it worse. I moaned a lot and wanted to just set up camp, but also wanted to be closer to town for tomorrow. It took us an hour to do 1.5 miles so the map said. We came to the next stream which was flooded, still had snow piles on it, and remnants of an avalanche from this winter. So my feet got wet one last time as we claimed a spot near the bank along with Bear Claw, Iceburg, and Mermaid. We had hiked almost a 20 mile day through tough terrain after a difficult day the day before. We camped at an unnamed lake at the bottom of a rock face. We watched mountain goats walking gracefully along the rocks. 

The PNT is already proving to be a difficult trail in many ways, but that is why I love it already. I like not knowing elevation profiles from an app and simply having to climb what is ahead of me. It is strange to not have a water report like my last three trails, but I’m becoming better at reading maps. I don’t mind the forest roads that connect back to trails possibly only traveled by thru hikers. Montana is gorgeous and it’s great exploring it by foot for the second time on a National Scenic Trail. 

July 8
We woke up before 6 o’clock this morning to get our miles in. The end of the day yesterday was really tough and we assumed this morning would be the same. We started hiking around 630 and encountered many patches of snow. I was still exhausted from the day before and it took me a while to warm up. I managed to fall twice in the snow and once on a rock. I think I finally learned how to fall down gracefully. We crossed many flooded streams along the way. We climbed a bit above 7300 feet. We were rewarded with huge views of the Canadian mountains.

This section of trail is beautiful. We climbed up to the highpoint to find marmot scurrying around on the rocks. Then it was a quick dip down back to the wildflowers and the tall grasses. We didn’t stay down for long as we climbed up to the next saddle. We love the Kootani National Forest and would love to explore more of this area. We began climbing down hill over rocks and roots and a few over flooded streams. I haven’t had dry shoes in days. We passed an old mining operation and then joined the old mine road. We had really pushed the morning miles.

We turned a corner and saw Beacon sitting in the shade. He had hiked up to meet us and we caught up with him for a little bit. Then we all walked about a half mile together to the clear-cut that separates Canada and United States. We decided not to cross into Canada so we didn’t have to deal with border control. The trail took long switchbacks down the mountain often nearing the border again. It was a gradual descent. We took a half an hour water break at a steam resting our feet. Then it was a mad dash towards town. We hit the gravel road and began more downhill into the heat reaching the 90s in town today. 

A truck stopped to chat with us. It was a man in his late 70s who then told us he was a player for the Yankees. He gave us his baseball card and even though I’m a diehard Red Sox I will cherish his gift. We busted the miles listening to Podcasts again. The lower we got the less big trees to give us shade. I haven’t sweat this much in a while. Looking ahead I only saw one more patch of trees so we took one final break.

After our short break, I looked back and saw him talking to someone in a car. The next time I looked back he no longer had his pack on. Before I knew it the car was pulling up to me and Mermaid and Beacon were inside. She insisted they take my pack for the last 4 or 5 miles of paved road walk into town. It actually felt very nice to slack pack this section. It was in the 90s but there was a slight breeze every once in a while to make it bearable. We walked past farm land and some huge cows as we looked back at the mountains we came down from. The last 3 miles were excruciating for me. My feet were aching and I was so thirsty for some cold water.

The last 2.2 was on the main highway as cars were flying by at a high-speed. I considered hitching, but I sucked it up and made it to the hotel. Beacon welcomed us into the hotel and bought us a soda. We will be camping in the back of the RV park tonight but he insisted we take a break in his room. We both took a nice shower, lay down in bed, and rehydrated in a cool air-conditioned room. My feet were aching and looked pretty nasty. We managed our way down to the RV park where we set up our tent for $20. We didn’t have the energy to walk far so we crossed the road to the restaurant/casino. I had a huge chicken salad that hit the spot and way too many glasses of water. After dinner, we hung out in Turtle’s room for a bit. We hiked about 22 miles today and our feet feel the pain. Around 930, we started our laundry and hung out at the RV park. Around 1030, we wandered back to our tent and called it a night. We could hear the sound of the highway and the full moon lit up our tent, but we both crashed quickly. 

July 9

We choose to take a zero day in Eureka! It got very hot this morning as we are laying inside of her tent. A few minutes before 8 o’clock we decided to start packing up. I had taken down the rain fly and put a few things outside of the tent when suddenly the sprinklers went off. We were in a rush to move all of our stuff away from the sprinklers as we got a little wet in the process. The Internet in of the tent was completely drenched, but I guess it needed a wash. We spent the next hour or so laying in the grass letting all of our things dry out. About 15 minutes later, I was laughing about our situation.

We hung out for a bit by the bathrooms and laundry area organizing our maps and doing some town chores. Around 10 o’clock we were able to check into our room. Turtle joined us for an 11 o’clock lunch that actually turned into a brunch. I had a delicious omelette and enjoy their company when we saw Peter and Charlie coming in too. It’s great having so many hikers around there’s always someone to talk to and share stories about our hike. They told us they saw lots of mountain lion tracks which we hadn’t seen. That means it must’ve been behind us.

We made a quick run down to the grocery store to stock up on a few essentials for a day off including a six pack of beer, chips, and a few other treats. We spent most of the afternoon laying in bed watching TV uploading the blog and downloading pictures. It is in the 90s outside so we’re not planning to go out again. Okay except for dinner which was fun with 6 other thru hikers. We ended up having a party back in Turtle’s room as we hung out with two other thru hikers. We heard the rest of the hikers were at the other bar so 9 of marched in that direction. We ended up finding them in a casino, bar, and bowling alley. Enjoy the group photo. Iron Eagle, Bear Claw, Paperweight and I played one game of bowling while downing a few draft beers. I love days like this and the community of thru hikers. So many like minded individuals living a wild life together. Paperweight and I wandered back to our room where we ate our left overs then passed out.

Glacier to Polebridge on the PNT

June 30-Amanda, Ava, and Aaron drove us all the way from Columbia Falls to Chief Mountain Trailhead. She took the Going to the Sun road which just opened three days ago. I rode in the back of the truck between the two kids enjoying the views. We are so fortunate that Amanda wanted to drive us to the trailhead. We really appreciate her kindness and I feel it is the start of wonderful trail magic on the PNT. It took about 2 1/2 hours to get to the trailhead where we took our time getting ready and playing with the kids. 

A bit before 11 we embarked on our thru hike of the Pacific Northwest Trail. The first six miles were the final six miles of our CDT hike last year. The only difference is the season making the trail full of green and blooming flowers. We also crossed many streams on the footbridges where last year they were all dry. It was an easy start to the hike with mostly downhill as we slowly neared the mountains and the Belly River. We made it to the junction where we would begin hiking new sections in Glacier. We came to a suspension bridge and took an afternoon snack break listening to the water and songs of the birds. We must still have our trail legs since we can still walk 6.5 miles without a break.

I am back to my happy place again. Surrounded by mountains with snowy peaks and glaciers, a large variety of wild flowers, the sound of rushing water, and lush green grasses all around. I also saw two marmots playing in the grass and letting out their squeals. We both are excited for this hike and instead of exclaiming “to Canada!” as we did on the CDT. We can say “to the Ocean!” What a concept a trail that starts in Glacier and ending on the Pacific Ocean. Just one of the many reasons I wanted to hike this trail.

We had to cross the suspension bridge one at a time as I swayed about making it across quickly. We came to the junction of Gros Ventre Falls where three hikes offered to watch our packs so we could check out the waterfall. We later found out they are hiking the PNT as well. The waterfall was spectacular being deep blue from the glaciers and snow melt. 
We passed a variety of flowers that I could not identify, but we learned about bear grass. We took a water break near a stream enjoying our first filtered bottle of the trip. So much better then tap or bottle water! The three hikers passed us again and we realized we had met the woman for sure. In the Wind River Range, we crossed paths with a male and female thru hiker who had flip flopped. We chatted to her for a few minutes and it was the same woman, Mermaid. She is also hiking with Beacon again this year and Turtle has joined them as for ell on her first thru hike. Yes! We have already met three thru hikers on day one.
We passed by gorgeous blue lakes and the first one is named Cosley Lake. We came to Glenns Lake where we would be camping tonight. We walked along it for a bit before coming to the Glenn Lake Head campsite. In Glacier National Park, the campsites are set up in a specific way. There is a food prep and eating area, a bear hang, a privy spot, and a few campsites. We hung out at the food area as required. A deer came close to us and watched us for a while. Mermaid, Beacon, and Turtle joined us and chatted for a while. They are camping .5 miles father up the trail from us.
The mosquitos were pretty nasty during the day and they got very bad in the evening. We retreated to our tent that looked out at the lake and the huge mountains ahead of us. It is a beautiful spot! As I said in my last blog, I was unsure if I wanted to do another thru hike. My smile and spirit were high today and I couldn’t be happier. I’m not a desert girl, but rather a mountain woman! I live for the flowing water, lush green grasses and flowers, and mountain views. This is where I am meant to be. I am eager to explore this trail, but recognize how quickly time will go by. I will cherish every moment and continue to dream of future adventures and life goals. We fell asleep back in our two person tent for the first time in 5 weeks full of happiness.
July 1
The first time I woke up a deer was licking our tent. I first asked Paperweight if he was making a noise before I yelled at the deer to get away. We drifted back to sleep until 6 when he kindly woke me up and we got moving. We meet two fellows who arrived late last night and chatted during breakfast. A few hundred yards from our tent site I glanced to the water and saw something. It looked like a brown log floating, but suddenly it moved. A large moose head emerged from the lake as he came up for fresh air. The water pour off his antlers as he gazed at us before dipping back under to continue his breakfast. It was a magical sight to see and took my breath away. What a special way to start the day. 

We found ourselves attached by mosquitos and thrashing through overgrown plants. I decided on only hiker shorts and long legged underwear so it looks like my legs will be torn up as usual. The trail began a gradual climb up to the first pass named Stoney Indian Pass. 
We entered the land of waterfalls! We looked up towards our pass seeing patches of snows and multiple waterfalls. Everything I love about hiking can be summed up in this pass. We climbed gradually uphill towards the pass over water patches. We came to the first bridge that was a board across the water and I quickly walked across. We caught up to the other three hikers and moved ahead of them. We came to the next water crossing that did not have a log so we forded the cold glacier water. We then hit the patches of snow. Thanks to the San Juans and CDT I felt confident moving quickly over the snow. A few spots were over a stream, but we did not fall in luckily. It was fun hiking!
We came to the top of pass which rewarded us with a new view of what laid ahead. We considered taking a break, but we wanted to get done with the snow travel. The downhill was a bit more iffy as we ended up on a cliff having to backtrack. It was after 11 so the snow was getting soft. We skipped switchbacks since they were covered in snow and made our way down. A few more snowy patches over streams were easy to pass. We came down to the lake where it is so full that it covered part of the trail. Another water filled with snow melt water felt nice on the toes. There was one last sketchy pass and I was worried about falling into the lake. But we survived the pass so we took a long break staring back at the pass while drying out our feet.
The rest of the day was a breeze besides the pesky mosquitos and high weeds. We were only able to take one break at a stream due to a nice breeze. We pushed on to the Goat Haunt Shelters which was magical. The border patrol agent ran out asking where we came out. She told us to continue down the paved path to the shelters. We walked .25 miles along Waterton Lake which is spectacular. We found the shelters which are concert with three walls. It was a perfect place and it is also a spot where a boat arrives from Canada every few hours to the International Peace Park. 
We hung up our food then set up our semi freestanding tent on the concrete with large rocks. We made our way down to the sitting area and a man came running up to exclaiming “Sass.” It was One of Us a hiker that I met on the PCT. Today is the first day of his CDT thru hike. So it was a wonderful evening of sharing stories. We also met a father and son who will be in 10th grade this year also thru hiking this year. It was a lovely night of conversation with wonderful people. We did not go to bed until close to 10 even though it was still light out. Day two complete and I couldn’t be happier.
July 2
We were the last ones to wake up this morning. So I think I’ve done a great job getting Paperweight to sleep in. I got to use a flush toilet, charge my phone, and enjoy breakfast staring at Waterton Lake. One of Us enjoyed breakfast with us and more great conversation until we parted ways. 
We got back to trail a little later then we had planned, but it was a nice warmup. We walked through more tall brush and over another long suspension bridge. Everything is blooming and the scent of the forest is intense. It was a nice stroll as we neared the start of the climb to Brown Pass.
On the way uphill, we had to do some quick foot steps in loose mud due to a huge snow bank. If you slip, you fall into the snow melt lake. As we were ascending the switchbacks I noticed something large and brown way out in the distance. It moved slowly as we decided it was a bear, but so far away it was hard to tell. The climbing was gradual and before we knew it we reached Brown Pass. There was a small pile of snow at the top meaning just 5 quick steps over it. The view was nice, but yesterday’s was much better.
We took a quick break, but the downhill was steep and slow going. I walked across one of the fast flowing streams, but he just walked across it balancing on a dead log. We were both successful. The switchbacks were quick as we dipped lower and lower into the brush. Water is raging and waterfalls are all around. We took a break at a stream as the mosquitos harassed us. Then we were off to our campsite for the night.
We made it to the Bowman Lake Head campsite to find Mermaid and Turtle setting up. We all shared a spot tonight and Beacon joined us later on. I loved soaking my feet in the lake. I still feel strong with no aches yet. We enjoyed dinner at the designated cooking area with many other campers. It was another wonderful evening. We did not put on our rainfly so we were able to sleep under the stars. I love cuddling up next to my man while reading a book in the wild. I’m back to my happy place! 
July 3
I woke up at 5:30 as the sky was already light and Paperweight was snoring softly next to me. I drifted back to sleep until 6:30 when we both staggered out of the tent and quickly packed up before heading to the food prep area. Turtle and Beacon were headed out, but Mermaid and another hiker out for the weekend joined us for breakfast. We began hiking a bit before 8.
We have a little under 15 miles to the first trail town of Polebridge. The first half of the day was a nice walk along Bowman Lake. There were a few uphills and a couple puddles to jump over. We chatted most of the way enjoying mountain views and the songs of the birds. We did not take more then a quick water break. We came to the campground where we took almost an hour break looking at Bowman Lake. It was pleasant and peaceful. 
We began the second half of the day which was a gravel road towards the town of Polebridge. Cars came zipping by as dirt blew in our faces. We both zoned out to Podcasts again only taking a water break. We crossed out of Glacier National Park saying goodbye to the park for a few months. We continued walking over three miles an hour motivated by town. We made it there a bit after 1 and still feeling strong.
We picked up a soda, a bear claw, and got a free pastry for hiking in. Delicious! We then made it into the hostel which is magical. It is a gorgeous log home and the five of us are sharing the “family room.” We went back downtown to drink a beer and pick up our box. We spent most of the afternoon showering and lounging in the living room on couches and rocking chairs.
My friend Amanda, her husband Adam, and their two children Ava and Aaron drove in to Polebridge from Columbia Falls to treat us with dinner. Adam grilled up some burgers for us as I played with the kids. We enjoyed delicious burgers, macaroni salad, cold beer, and sharing stories. So grateful for their kindness! Life is wonderful! We wandered back to the hostel played a quick game of Skipbo then retreated to our comfy bed. 
July 4
We woke up to a strange sound thinking it was a mouse in our food. It was the hostel owner’s cat, Oliver, and he was playing with my backpack’s straps. So I spent half an hour giving him some loving! Mermaid, Beacon, Paperweight, and I walked the .2 miles to the Mercantile for breakfast. I savored a cold Coca Cola, a bacon, hash browns, egg burrito, a bag of chips, and their famous bear claw! The four of us spent a long time chatting and waiting for the 4th of July celebrations to begin. 

The Fourth of July in Polebridge is a big deal. Only about 40 residents live in this town year round, but the summers are busy. It is a gateway into Glacier National Park and a small town still unpaved with just a Mercantile and a restaurant/saloon. They had a fun parade full of laughter. I really enjoyed myself and the creativity of the floats and outfits. A plane flew overhead as well during the parade and the best part is the parade comes back so you can watch it twice.
We then returned to the hostel. I counted 17 PNT hikers at the hostel tonight and am surprised at such a large number this year. It is wonderful to meet new people as the last few trails we only saw a few other thru hikers. Later in the evening a group of us ate dinner at the Saloon before the last walk back to the hostel. Mermaid, Paperweight and I sat by the North Fork River and saw an otter swimming upstream. Then we camped out in the front yard for the night. Another 4th of July spent in town and this is one I’ll never forget.