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.

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