Saturday, July 25, 2009

22 July 2009 - Mt. Baker Wilderness - Ruth Creek

Today marked the 40th day since hiking began in Glacier National Park. Below is a list of all the items I am carrying (minus food), and their current condition after 40 days.

[N = New Item purchased for trip, O = Old item used on previous trips]

  • Salomon Goretex Trail Shoes (N) - Completely shot. Laces broken. Large holes in both toe boxes make shoes look like sandals. All traction has worn off, making dangerous on up and down grades (which is all I do). Will buy replacement shoes in Bellingham.

  • Smart Wool Socks 2 pair (N) - Despite my efforts to clean a pair each day, these each carry a few pounds of dirt, are very stiff, contain awful odors, but have no holes.

  • Champion Running Shorts (O) - Three holes have developed, and they smell like sweat which shouldn't be a surprise considering they double as my underwear.

  • Black "diaper" wind brief underwear (O) - Rarely wear. Brough as a novelty to make other hikers awkward. Unfortunately, I have yet to meet another hiker while wearing them.

  • Rainpants (O) - 4 or 5 new holes, but they are still waterproof. Double as my only pair of pants and are effective at stopping mosquite bites.

  • Columbia Raincoat (O) - Has helded up fine. Primarily serves as a barrier against mosquitoes. Breathes poorly, making it impracticle on hot days.

  • Mt. Hardware Long Sleeve T (O) - Have worn for at least part of the day everyday. Breathes well. Covered in blood, tree pitch, and ash stains. Large hole on right elbow caused by fall.

  • Champion Long Sleeve T (O) - Only wear on cold nights. No change in condition.

  • Timex Watch (O) - Large scratch over the hour digit.

  • Tilley Airflow hat (N) - Wear constantly while hiking. Stained and smelly, but no major breaks.

  • REI trekking poles (N) - Completely scratched up, bent, one pole jammed so it doesn't change size, both baskets have fallen off, and a deer ate noticeable chunks out of both handles.

  • REI morningstar backpack (O) - Just as strudy as when I bought it in 2005.

  • Lycra gloves (O) - No changes besides odor.

  • Bear spray (N) - Unused but taken out of the holster a few times.

  • Rope (N) - Covered in pitch. About 1 yard was gnawed on by a deer.

  • Bear Bell (N) - Missing cover. Quit using.

  • Sasquatch Journal (N) - Intact but a bad journal to begin with.

  • Toiletry Items (N) - Smaller quantities remain.

  • Hiker Pro Waterfilter (O) - Need replacement filter. Used more than expected because Aquamira bottle/filter fell off of a cliff.

  • MSR Bladder (3 liter water holder) (N) - slight leak when full

  • Bungee cord (O) - good.

  • Harmonica in key of C (N) - Getting rusty

  • Spork (N) - good.

  • Plate (N) - have yet to use.

  • Bic lighter (N) - fell in pitch so doesn't stay lit long. I do not anticipate on making another fire for the remainder of the trip

  • Compass (O) - I sure hope it works still. I got this far.

  • Duct tape (O) - good.

  • REI Tent fly (N) - 1 hole that I ducted taped up. Other parts of tent are carried by Rachel and Dave.

  • MSR stove and fuel (N) - Good. Quit using. Only eating dry food now.

  • Passport (O) - I sure hope its intact

  • Wallet (O) - I sure hope its intact

  • Knife (O) - sand in the handle

  • Towel (O) - very stained

  • Kelty Light Yr Sleeping Bag (O) - smells worse

  • Thermarest Prolite small sleeping pad (O) - stained

  • Greatland headlamp (O) - Falls apart daily

  • Pink camo pocket bible (N) - Good. I'm into Chronicles.

Body Inventory

  • Feet - extremely dried out and shrunk. Calluses throughout. Left big toe is black. Right big toe in pain, shoots out puss.

  • Legs - there is not a single square inch that doesn't have a cut, bruise, or bug bite

  • Abdomen - Backpack tan

  • Arms - Large gouge on right arm

  • Shoulders - looks like one huge bug bite

  • Beard - Awesome. Roughly 1.5 inches long.

Cascades in the Cascades. I understand where the park gets its name.

Glaciers and cascades in the Cascades.

Cascades in the Cascades.

More glaciers.

A river that we camped next to. This is either in the North Cascades or it is the Pasayten River which we hiked in for hours.

David and Rachel taking a cable car across river.

Taking a cable car across a stream in the North Cascades.

Got to have more harmonica.

21 July 2009 - North Cascades National Park

I don't believe in luck, whether good or bad. Instead, I believe things happen. Based on the situation, there is always some probability of a desirous outcome. Lately, the odds have been in our favor....we've had plenty of times where the odds weren't.

While detouring our route due to a forest fire, we passed by a ranger cabin. The ranger viewed our plans and recommended an alternative trail that would shave two days off our detoured route and one day off our original route. We took the suggestion because we risked running out of food by going the extra two days. We had shipped food to Ross Lake Resort, and we could now resupply quicker than anticipated. We beat the odds.

Ross Lake Resort is the only privately owned entity within the Ross Lake National Recreation Area--a narrow park which serves as a buffer between the Pasayten Wilderness and the NOrth Cascades National Park. Ross Lake is more appropriately called a reservoir. While the lake's three dams were being built, a floating city was created for the construction crews. The city needed to float because the water level was always changing as the dams grew. The Ross Lake Resort is all that is left of the floating city.

We arrived at the resort yesterday evening. We picked up our food and requested renting one of their floating cabins. Typically, all cabins are completely booked for months, but one group had to leave early, creating the extremely rare vacancy. We got the cabin, beating some extreme odds.

The resort is only accessible by boat or by hiking. For this reason we were going to dine on our trail mix that we had shipped to the resort. The resort owner was intrigued by our trip, so he invited us to come to a staff party. At the party we had free fillet mignon, corn, potatoes, cake, beer, wine, and liquor, leaving us full and drunk. This was a big improvement over trail mix. Again, it seems we beat the odds.

Today was in the 90s. We were able to follow a shaded trail all day. Additionally, we walked along a glacial river. The river was so cold, the surrounding air must have dropped by 20 degrees. The shade and the cool river made the hike tolerable. We didn't luck out. You'd expect some days like this.

Rachel appreciating a food bridge and not another fording opportunity.

Rachel's foot resting on the deck of our floating cabin.

19 July 2009 - Deer Creek (Hart's Pass) Pasayten

It's truly been an adventure in the Pasayten. For most of yesterday we enjoyed easy walking with spectacular views. At one point we sat atop Bunker Mountain when a helicopter flew over. I imagined that he was looking for fires. About 15 minutes later another helicopter--perhaps the same one--flew over and began circling us. I feared it was a rescue crew, so I tried my best to signal that no help was needed. After the fact, I started to think it was Border Control considering at that time we were within a mile of Canada, and I looked highly questionable wearing just black underwear, a ranger's hat, and a bushy beard.

We proceeded down the mountain through an area of a 2006 fire, which left all the trees charred and the ground thick with soot. Nevertheless, the trail was clear. Just as we reached the bottom of the trail which went into a river valley, we noticed that the whole valley was enveloped in smoke. There was a fire.

All of the neighboring mountain sides were covered in smoke, making us uncertain what to do because we didn't know where the smoke was originating from. The direction we were heading looked the clearest, and we decided to accelerate down the trail. We rushed along the trail to a bridge crossing the Pasayten River--nope, the bridge had burned in an earlier fire. We forded the river and found our trail to be completely covered in blow down. We later learned the three mile stretch of trail had roughly 1,000 downed trees. We tried bushwhacking through the woods, but there was too much blowdown. We didn't want to go back because of the fire, so we headed to the river.

We walked in the river until the sun went down, gradually working against the current, trying to move three miles up to our next trail. By sun down, we had progressed little and were exhausted. Fortunately, the smoke had dissipated, making us feel safe to camp along the bank of the river.

That night while laying in the tent I realized that my body was covered in cuts, bruises, and bites. Not only that but my feet were coimpletely numb from having trudged through the ice cold river. I was so focused on moving down the river and through the blowdown, my body had shut off all the pain receptors. Sometime while I was asleep I redeveloped feeling my legs.

This morning we all reluctantly awoke, knowing a morning of bushwaking awaited us (we decided against walking any farther in the river because the water was too cold). The bushwhacking was awful. I hate bushwhacking and plan to never do it again. At time there would be a wall four high of huge trees surrounding me. I'd have to climb up the wall, hope none of the trees would come loose, try to carefully climb down but more often fall that last yard into chest high brush (uncertain what may be hidden in the brush...jagged rock, hole, skunk), and ultimately learn that I now have a five tree high pile waiting for me.

After two plus hours of dangerous, exhausting bushwhacking, we reached an area with little blowdown. Just as I began to celebrate the easier bushwhacking, we encountered people! We never encounter people, so this was huge. These people weren't just casual hikers but were trail crew and the Ranger clearing the trail. The trail had been impassible since 2006. We finished the section of the trail just as crews came to clear it. In a few weeks, that trail should be spotless.

We spoke to the crew and inquired about the fires. Apparently there was a forest fire, and all the trails we planned on taking were closed (though there were no signs saying so through where we'd pass...only in parking lots). If we hadn't seen the park ranger, we'd have taken the trails and found ourselves in a forest fire. What a good time to run into the Ranger. If we wouldh ave been a day; earlier or if we would had hiked in the river in the morning, we would have taken those closed trails.

From memory, the Ranger (Dan Rogers) kindly drew us three pages of maps depicting an alternate route which avoided the fire. The maps proved to be spot on.

Now I am in our tent at a place called Deer Creek. This is a very appropriate name as there are tame deer here that won't leave our campsite.

Me standing atop of Bunker Mountain.

From afar, one of the helicopters which circled over us, thinking we might be terrorists.

Trail descending into the river valley...which we found to be covered in smoke.

Dan Rogers drawing us the famous map which we relied on for multiple days.

One angle of Hart's Pass.

Another angle of Hart's Pass.

Sign for the Pacific Crest Trail...a National Scenic Trail that actually has a "trail", unlike the PNT. We were constantly jealous of people who were walking this trail and the Appalachian much easier to follow.

One of the deer that wouldn't leave us alone. Photo taken from our tent.

16 July 2009 - Tungsten Mine

Today we hiked into the Pasayten Wilderness Area. Like all other days, we encountered no one else, but we did find an immaculate trail that is flat and easy to follow. Even though the trail has little elevation change, it is at 7,000 feet and is completely surrounded by mountains. Unlike many mountain trails, a good portion of today's route went though meadows, free from obstructions, leaving fantastic panoramas. The meadows were all full of a sea of wild flowers, helping make this my favorite day of hiking yet. Our guidebook raves of the Pasayten, and I can see why.

While walking thorugh this designated "wilderness area," it wasn't hard to grasp the wildness of the land. At certain vistas I could see for well over 100 miles through numerous mountain ranges. From afar, the ranges were all gree with blotches of snow and exposed rock. As the mountains got closer, individual trees became visible. Closer yet, gaps formed between the trees. More or less, we are walking through a huge land of wilderness, free of man's touch for miles in all directions...or so it seems.

Tonight we are cmaping outside some old bunkhouses associated with an old Tungsten mine which is a short walk from our tent. The mine was active circa WWI. Now all that remains are some old buildings which are used as shelter by the rare passerby. Apparently, this area isn't that wild if I am camping oin an old mine. Who knew what this land looked like in the past and how many times it has been altered? I'm sure it has been mined, logged, farmed, and only recently allowed to be wild. Can it even go wild in a land so touched already?

Following a cattle trail that leads into the Pasayten.

We carved our names on one of the doors inside the shack.

15 July 2009 - Cold Springs Camp Ground

Today was a hot, tiring day. In total we climbed over 4,000 feet from our starting point. This climb was made more difficult by the intense heat from the sun which constantly shined on us, free from any obstructions such as trees or clouds. We stopped for some much needed water with the intention of hiking a few more miles today, but after a brief rest, we unanimously agreed to quit for the day. It is the early evening, and I am ready to sleep.

Our walk today was also slowed by the state of the trail. At one stretch, our guide book suggested we follow the "often indistinct" trail. I'll admit, an "indistinct" trail is more like no trail. This stretch of trail could have been avoided by taking a much flatter road which had the same endpoint but a much shorter distance. This is typical for the "trail." For example, tomorrow there is a flat, well maintained trail exiting our campground, but our guidebook leads us "high for the views," taking an extended, hillier route on a non-existent trail.

Throughout the Okanogan--the last week or so--we encountered a lot of free range cattle. Most of the time they run away, but the occasional horned bull can cause some hesitancy. The biggest nuisance is that in this drought, the cattle all gravitate to the recommended water sources, making our water highly suspect as it is covered in cattle shit. There has been so much cattle that we started calling this the PNP--Pacific Northwest Pasture. Early tomorrow, we enter the Payseyten National Wilderness Area. There should be no cattle there.

Me sharing the road with some cattle.

14 July 2009 - Palmer Lake

Yesterday we spent the day in Oroville, Washington. It marked the 31swt day since we began hiking, and it served as the first day that we took off, completing zero miles towards our route to the Pacific.

We were all looking forward to a free day. Besides giving our bodies time to recover, I was excited to do the three leisure activities I originally planned to dedicate time to this summer: writing my novel, learning the harmonica, and bettering my knowledge of religious texts. So far, I have been able to work on at least one of these each day, but with the day off, I figured I'd get to all three.

With zero miles on the agenda, I allowed myself to sleep in the latest I have all summer. Upon waking, I remained in bed and watched a mediocre TBS movie. Later, I wandered the town until I procured an older edition of the WSJ. Having received absolutely no news in the prior month, I did not mind an outdated newspaper. With the Journal in hand, I spent three hours reading every single word and then completing the crossword. Throughout these tasks, I took breaks to gorge myself with food (I had two pints of ice cream in the evening) and to taste some beer, wine, and margheritas.

By late evening I realized that I had wasted the day and had failed to spend any time on my three activities. I still had some time, but my body was so full from all the food taht I found myself incapable of anything besides rolling up in a ball and watching a documentary on Ted Kennedy.

Out on the trail, I don't have the meaningless distractions: tv, alcohol, etc... I may be distracted by the natural beauty or wildlife, but those inspire me and add value. I have yet to find much value in tv. I'm happy this trip has already afforded me 30 productive days.

Tonight we are camped along the shores of Palmer Lake. It is the first site we have had all trip that is conducive for swimming: warm water and easy access.

Sitting in Palmer Lake.

Monday, July 13, 2009

10 July 2009 - Bonaparte Lake, Washington

Today was day 28 on the trail. Despite being roughly half done, we have yet to meet a single overnight hiker on the trail. I am surprised by the complete lack of trail use, not just by PNT through hikers but by anyone. Aside from our very first day in Glacier, we have not seen a single other person hiking, period.

Even though we have encountered no other hikers, we have met more travelers than I expected. IT feels like half the people we meet are on their own adventure. I'm not sure if there are always this many travelers in a ny given place, but I've never noticed. It's probable that because I obviously look like a traveler, other travelers notice me and vice versa. Additionally, I am probably spending more time in traveler popular areas (places with clean water or washroom facilities).

For example, yesterday I sat in a city park for about an hour. During that time about four groups of people passed through the park. Two sets of those people stopped to talk with me; both sets were travelers on road trips doing tent camping. Today at a conveinence store, I talked to the one other person there. He was biking from Anchorage to Seattle.

The world is full of people out doing amazing adventures. It's easy to think that everyone is just fulfilling the status quo. I will never think that again. Instead, I'll be approaching people hoping to hear their story.

Having fun with my harmonica.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

7 July 2009 - Trail 13 Kettle Range

I'm sitting on the side of a mountain. I am being pounded by hail. I can't feel my hands, and my feet have been water logged since morning. I still have over two hours of hiking in the rain until I camp for the night. Did I quit my job for this?

The rain and cold don't matter. I am sitting on an open mountainside surrounded by thousands of wildflowers--orange, yellow, and purple. I am at one of the highest points in hundreds of miles and through the clouds, I can see rain falling on at least a dozen other mountain peaks. No one else has this view. No one else can appreciate this like me. You could climb this mountain 1,000 times and never get the same weather and corresponding view that I have. I quit my job for this.

Over the next few hours I will descend from the mountain. Throughout the hike, the temperature will rise, the rain will soften, and the clouds will break up. The sun will start shining through aperatures in the clouds, heating up my neighboring mountainsides. Moisture will rise from the forest floor and schools of fog will race over mountain ridges, joining up with the other ascending clouds. Finally, all evidence of a storm will have dissipated. Only I will have witnessed the transformation from a mountaintop storm to a idyllic sunset. Only I will experience this awesomeness. Yes, I'm happy that I quit my job.

Some clouds above and below us.

Hiding from the hail.

Campsite after the rain and hail stopped and after we descended a bit from Copper Butte.

8 July 2009 - Republic Washington

Today I learned that Jen Woods-Ubowski has an extensive knowledge of Rollie Fingers.

Our bathtub in the one available hotel room in Republic.

5 July 2009 - West of Northport, Washington

Dennis Dial was born in 1933 and grew up around Ogden, Utah with his parents and five siblings. After high school, Dennis got married and purchased a number of acres bordering the Columbia River outside of Northport, Washington. Dennis wasn't the first occupant of his land. For years, native Americans resided on the land. When they left, the Hudson Bay Company opened a post there. When they left, Chinese laborers--barred from living in Northport--established housing there. All these prior inhabitants left a mark on the land, but none as much as Dennis would.

Over the years, Dennis became the premiere seller and driver of snowmobiles in NE Washington. He became legendary for his daredevil hijinks such as snowmobiling across the open water of the Columbia. Dennis would introduce generations of Dials and Washingtonians to extreme adventures, many centered around his home on the Columbia.

On December 29, 2008, Dennis died. Shortly after his death, his granddaughter Marcie and her husband James moved into his house on the river. On the many acres Dennis owned, they found 58 broken down snowmobiles and scores of other artifacts left by Dennis, a number far superior to any of the previous inhabitants. Marcie and James quickly went to work cleaning up the property and converting it into an eventual poly-culture organic farm. Besides just growing produce and raising goats, they have begun to take advantage of the bounty that naturally sustains itself on the property: walnuts, morels, trout, geese, etc...

As summer came along, Dennis' family planned a party to celebrate his life. The party was set for July 4 at the city park in Northport. In preparation for the event, the family booked all the hotel space in Northport.

On the morning of July 4, three hikers entered Northport looking for a hotel room after nights in a tent. The travelers first attended a firefighter's pancake breakfast and then proceeded to find a nice place to stay. Unfortunately for the hikers, there was no room at the inn; the Dials had reserved everything.

Not and tired, the hikers retreated to the city park where they encountered the Dial family, preparing for Dennis' celebration. When Jame and Marcie saw that the travelers looked like hippies, they instantly invited the hikers to stay at their place, Dennis' former place. The hikers rejoiced and gladly accepted the offer.

For the rest of the morning and early afternoon, the hikers acclimated themselves with Dennis' land, walking the many acres, examining the goats, drinking beer, hearing stories of Dennis, and seeing the supporting photos. After a few hours, they felt they knew this man and his family. They showered and went to the life celebration.

The travelers spent five hours at the celebrations. They became well acquainted with most of the family. There was Dallas who married his second wife's daughter. There was Lorraine who got so hot in her black outfit that she had to hose herself down. There was Heather the flight attendant who married Dennis' brother's long lost Honduran son. There was the band "Free Whiskey" who were called "Whiskey Free" by their Mormon groupies. There was Maggie who worried for the travelers like they were her own kids.

After five hours the travelers had met the family, consumed sufficient alcohol, and decided to head back to Dennis' in the back of the suburban of some guy name Dave. Dave kindly shared numerous beers with the travelers, but they needed to rest up for 100 miles of hiking over the next four days.

The morning the travelers quietly exited Northport, continuing on their journey. Though there stay was brief, they will all remember Dennis and the celebration of his life on July 4, 2009.

James showing us his goats, Stardust and Moonbeam.

Larry showing off an old snowmobile.

3 July 2009 - East of Northport, Washington

We are in a groove. Twenty miles is coming much easier each day. We have scaled countless mountains and have walked numerous anonymous roads and trails. As I grow accustomed to the long days and the climbing, I feel more certain that this is a life I could live. Not even half way into this journey, and I am thinking of future potential routes to walk.

Nothing is more basic than hiking. You rest when you are tired, and you stop when you find a nice spot. There is no concern of property. I am losing any hesitancy to just camp anywhere. For example, tonight we are camped amongst the ruins of an old ranch. I imagine this is public land, but even if it isn't, I doubt anyone else will pass through this area for weeks. Who should care if someone puts up a tent and enjoys a view?

Today we hiked a rural road that despite being public was gated off. Near the end of the road was an apparent spring. Being another scorching day, I set off into some brush to find the spring. I heard some water flopping--which I assumed was the spring spurting out from the ground at an uneven tempo. There I saw the bush move. I stopped approaching the spring, and a moment later, a bull moose came running out of the bushes. He ran up a hill away from us, and then we all sat and stared at each other. He eventually grew bored of our staring contest and retreated into the woods.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

1 July 2009 - Metaline Falls Washington

Backpacking helps remind you what is truly important. When out on the trail for an extended period of time, you completely forget about the stresses that typically keep you up at night. None of those matter, and they never should. Instead, everything boils down to what truly matters.

A few days ago we lost the trail while hiking up a mountain. Originally I was frustrated that we weren't going to make good time up the mountain side. When it became evident that the climb would take all day instead of just 2 hours, my priorities completely changed. All that really mattered was that I had some water. It didn't matter how long it took to climb or where I would potentially have to sleep. Those issues would work themselves out. I just needed to find water.

We had planned on hiking 150 miles in 7 days, and for this reason we each carried about 7 days worth of food. When the trail became nearly impassible, causing us to greatly slow our pace despite many long hours on the trail, food became the only concern. I did not care about anything else. We have since revised our route, allowing us to pass through another town to resupply (Metaline Falls). I just needed food.

The other night it was getting dark, and we were still out on the trail. I was exhausted and needed to rest. I was more than happy to lay in a swampy field. It didn't matter that I got wet and dirty. What really mattered was rest.

I love spending time in the wilderness, and I love exploring by myself. Despite this desire for solitude, I realize that the best part of all my travels has been the people that I have encountered. The people have a bigger impact on my life than any beautiful vista. Companionship is a requirement.

It's too easy to worry about things that really don't matter. When it comes down to it and your life is on the line, all you really need is food, drink, a place to rest, and some friends.

Besides the clothes that I am wearing, I have been caring a sleeping bag, water filter, water bladder, some food, lighter, stove, tooth paste, a rain fly, some extra socks, and compass. In the last 18 days of hiking, I have not thought of a single other thing that I would need. Instead, I've been trying to think about what I can jettison on the trail...I don't need all this stuff to be happy.

Gun club or golf clubs?

Chili burger in Metaline.

30 June 2009

Today we crossed into the state of Washington, our third and final state of the hike. For the last day of June, we encountered a fair amount of snow occupanied by snow melt rivers. For awhile I was bothered by the frigid water, too cold for any leisure activity. Even drinking too much is a shock to the system. Now I'm trying to accustom myself to it.

When fording or wading in a glacial river (temp roughly 1 or 2 degrees above freezing), the body sends out millions of nerve impulses telling me that the water is unsafe. My limbs completely go numb, and I don't even realize all the cuts and bruises that I am receiving from the sharp rocks of the river. After leaving the water, my body still aches, but my feet are in sever pain. I don't understand why my feet would be so much more painful than any other body part exposed to the water.

With running, I was able to teach myself to ignore certain pain. Pain exists to tell us something is wrong. If we know that the pian will be short-lived or that it isn't damaging, we should be able to ignore it. I was successful in doing this for running. Now I need to do so for cold water.

29 June 2009 - Idaho/Washington Border

Tonight is a perfect evening. These are five words I never thought I'd say tonight. I'm currently sitting next to a fire with a small stream flowing about two yards behind me. To my right is a long snow bank which rings the perimeter of our wilderness campsite. Inside the ring of snow is a field of wild flowers and our tent. Times have been light hearted for the last hour. Dave and I even stripped down and made some snow angels in the snowbank. I then tried to clean my body, but the river was intolerably cold, probably with in a degree of freezing based on its proximity to the snow.

I am surprised that I have said the above statements. Our day faced many trials. We were hoping to leave Idaho today, but we should have known it wouldn't be so easy. This morning we woke early on the base of a mountain. The mountain, Little Snowy Top, is very steep--perhaps the steepest on the whole PNT--requiring a windy 4.5 mile trail to ascend to bit over 1 mile. Our guidebook raved about the trail, calling it a "masterpiece" and "well maintained." Perhaps that was the case in the 70s. We are now veteran trail hikers, and we quickly lost the trails. Words can't describe our day, but we ultimately reached the top of the mountain--all one mile--after 11 hours of steep uphill bushwhacking. We were all covered head to toe in cuts and abrasions, and all our skin is black from rolling through so much charred forest.

Idaho is beautiful but I am happy to be just a few minutes walk from the border.\

Taking a break from bushwhacking. I already have a fair about of blood and ash on me with most the day still ahead of me.

28 June 2009 - Extreme NW Idaho

The last two days have brought some extreme physical tests, including much time on our feet. Two days ago we hiked 26 miles, including a power hike the last 8 miles when we ascended over 3,000 feet. Despite our speed at the end, we still didn't stop until after the sun went down.

Yesterday was another exhausting day, but its content was quite unique from the day before> We began hiking a bit after 7 am, and a series of adventures kept us on our feet until nearly 10 pm. The day startd with a beautiful hike to a picturesque mountain lake. We then continued up a trail to a mountain ridge, following a trail that was completely ice and snow covered. The switchback on the snow would have been impossible without trekking poles.

Upon reaching the ridge, we began our day of bushwhacking. The PNT is a network of trails. Sometimes there are no trails, so you have to bushwhack between trails. Most people never have to do so, juist the few of us who are doing the whole route (a handful a year). We began by finding our way along the contour of 1 mountain. After laboriously climbing over a boulder field wh ich looked all too ready to re-adjust, we reached the top of another mountain. This summit offerred spectacular vistas with mountains all around, allowing us to see 100s of miles in all directions thanks to clear skies.

The top was all snow, and we slid our way on the snow from peak to peak. Eventually we needed to descend from the mountains into a small river valley and then fight our way through the valley to an eventual road. We needed to find a good spot to make our drop into the valley; unfortunately we chose poorly. Trees blocked our view of a good potential route, so we all started down together, and at our first cliff we fanned out, looking for a good way down. I found myself on a rock face which had a pretty steep decline which led to a straight drop off onto a small plateau rougly 7-10 feet down followed by anotehr drop-off of unknown heights. I decided that I'd lower my bag down to the plateau and then carefully follow. Despite my plany, gravity took over first. Before I knew it, my bag was sliding down the ledge, dropping off the cliff. My bag took a few bounces and then stopped partially hanging over the next cliff. My water bottle and filter flew out of the bag, and I watched as it bounced 100s of feet down the mountain out of sight (it reminded me of the Jack Handy quote: If you drop your keys into molten lava, forget it man because they are gone). Before I had much time to react, I began sliding off the ledge. I desperately tried to grab onto anything but it was inevitable, I was falling off the cliff.

I don't know how far I fell, but a lot of thoughts flashed through my mind. I was very lucky to have landed right on my butt in a small patch of moss. No other place on the entire mountain face could have offered a softer landing. What a relief.

After my fall, there was no way I was going back up. We cautiously made our way down the mountain face, sliding in the snow, using rope on the steep parts, and very carefully scouting a route. We were so relieved to get down, that we didn't care about the bushwhack ahead of us. After hours of trudging through a dense forest, our thoughts had changed.

It took us over 8 exhausting hours to bushwhack 8 miles. We then walked 7 miles in 2 hours via road. With our pre-bushwhack miles, we had a very tough 20 mile day. Today we needed to sleep in and were lucky to find ourselves on a well worn trail which was soft and simple to follow. Twice we had to ford icy waters, but I didn't mind if it meant no bushwhacking.

Tonigth we are camped on a point on a bend in a river. The cool water temperature greatly lowers the surrounding air temp, another opportunity to test the warmth of my sleeping bag.

Today's walk also brought a complete change in the forest. Yesterday's bushwhack had dense young pine trees and think fields of thickets. Today we had old, mammoth trees (I'd estimate well over 100 years) with a forest floor blanketed in ferns.

Looking for food in our bag while on top of some mountain in Idaho. This was the mountain that we bushwhacked down the side.

26 June 2009 - NW of Bonners Ferry

Yesterday we resupplied in Bonners Ferry, and today we are back heading NW. We will have roughly 150 miles to cover in the next seven days before we get to our next town to stock up. Our bags are wegihted down with a weeks worth of food. In this next week, I don't anticipate that we will encounter many people. We have yet to meet anyone hiking yet.

We are all getting so acclimated with living out in the wilderness with the fresh air that last night in a hotel was difficult. The air felt so stale and the artificial lights felt articifical. It is nice to be out in the fresh air again. It's also nice to see some wildlife. Today we passed through a National Wildlife Resrve and a Nature Conservacy Reserve and entered into a new National Forest. In the process we saw a mosse and many deer, primarily from afar.