Friday, December 6, 2019

Day 18: Battle With the Blowdowns

August 2: I woke up and--as quietly as possible--ate breakfast and packed up gear. Ryan was still sleeping on the floor of my room and I didn't want to disturb him any more than was necessary. Just before leaving, Ryan was awake and I gave him the room key saying that he was welcome to stay until checkout although I wasn't exactly sure when checkout time was. Probably 10:00 or 11:00--those are usually the standard checkout times.

I left the room just before 8:30am--the time I had arranged for Gypsy to pick me up. I would have preferred to leave earlier and get in as much hiking when the temperatures were cooler in the morning but I still needed to mail my laptop ahead to the next town and the post office didn't open until 8:30.
I couldn't leave town before 8:30--that's when the post office opened and I could mail my laptop head.

Gypsy was already there when I came out and I hopped into his vehicle and off we went. The first stop was at the downtown post office which was opening just as I arrived. I mailed my laptop ahead then it was time to hit the trail!

Gypsy wanted to take a scenic route to the trailhead where he had first picked me up two days earlier that wound up following some gravel roads. At one point, we saw a gorgeous bald eagle sitting at the top of a tree alongside a river as if waiting for a fish to show itself. Gyspy told me about a fisherman he saw a couple of days earlier that would catch a fish and throw it into the air and an eagle would swoop down from overhead to grab it. It sounded really cool and I wished I could have seen the scene.

The scenic route took about an hour longer to get to the trailhead than the direct route, and while I enjoyed the conversation with Gypsy, I was anxious to get on the trail and get hiking. I was a little disappointed it took so long. Gypsy didn't realize it would take as long as it did either. It was still faster than walking, though! And probably faster than trying to hitch a ride! =)

This is Gypsy!

Eventually we reached the trailhead. Gypsy offered to drive me up past the road walk section, but I turned him down. Yeah, it was just a stupid road walk, but it was part of the trail and I was going to walk it.

We shook hands, took some photos, and I headed off up Highway 1. The first 8 miles of the day would be a road walk on mostly paved roads and temperatures were becoming uncomfortably warm. The forecast later in the week had temperatures hitting 100 degrees in Bonners Ferry, but they'd be in the 90s until then.

There was also almost no shade at all during the road walk as it passed through farm country. Except for that short section on Highway 1, though, at least the roads weren't busy with a lot of traffic.

An hour into my hike, a young girl driving a small buggy pulled up next to me asking if I was hiking the Pacific Northwest Trail.

"As a matter of fact, yes...."

Her name was Jess, if I remember correctly, and she lived in a farmhouse just up the road and saw me walking down the trail and jumped into the vehicle to chase me down. She liked having hikers sign her register (I was the 18th for the year--if I remember correctly?) and she offered me a cold half-liter bottle of kiwi-strawberry flavored water which I was happy to take. She asked about any other hikers who might be behind me and I told her about Ryan who would likely pass by later in the afternoon unless he decided to take a zero day in Bonners Ferry in which case he'd likely be passing through tomorrow morning.

This is Jess, who hunted me down on the trail to sign her hiker register and to give me a cold 1/2-liter bottle of kiwi-strawberry flavored water. (Those mountains in the background are the ones I'd have to scale later in the day.)
We talked about the trail a bit and I tried to convince her to do a part of it someday. Start in "Glacier NP and walk home!" I exclaimed. That would be cool. She could literally walk home! She didn't seem too interested in actually hiking the trail herself but seemed fascinated by the people who did. Then she told me about a trash can ahead where I could throw out the bottle and any other trash I had--then she was off, and I continued my walk.

I passed by a guy who was working on some farm equipment and he greeted me warmly and asked something about if his daughter had treated me well. "Yes, very friendly!" I replied. =)

I continued walking and a half hour later the father whose name I never got drove by on his way somewhere. He stopped briefly asking if I'd like a ride to the end of the road walk--apparently a lot of hikers take him up on the offer although many (including myself) did not. Nope, I wanted to walk the whole distance. No skipping sections--not even road walks!

He continued on in his truck and I continued onward on foot. At the far end of the valley, the trail reached the edge of the farmland and followed along a tree-lined road providing a lot more shade than before. The shade was a welcome relief.

Just before the road walk ended, the trail passed Parker Creek and the last good, reliable water source for 16 miles. I took a long, two-hour break by the creek waiting until the heat of the day died down a bit before the long 4,000-ft climb up Parker Mountain. I also cooked dinner now while I had plenty of water available.

It was here when I realized I had made a horrible, horrible mistake.... In my haste to leave Bonners Ferry, I had left all my cheese in the min-fridge at the hotel. Shoot! Argh! How was I going to survive without cheese?! I had purchased three packets of individually wrapped cheeses (I only meant to get two but ended up with three by accident)--and now I had none of it! I hoped Ryan found it before he left so it didn't all go to waste.

I took a two-hour break by Parker Creek--just before the big climb back into the mountains.

After the rest, I started the long slog up Parker Creek Trail. It was steep and relentless. A few blowdowns blocked the route but I navigated over, under and around them without too much trouble.

Pushing onward, I was mostly in shade which was a welcome treat on an otherwise miserably hot day. The slope I was climbing was an east-facing slope and late in the day with the sun moving toward sunset in the west, then east slope was almost entirely in shade.

An hour into the hike up, however, the trail reached an old burn area and took a severe turn for the worse. Thick pockets of blowdowns started blocking the trail. Not just a tree here and there, but dozens of them, piled and twisted together forming impenetrable masses of burnt wood. One early section took me five minutes to get around and I thought I was home free before the trail turned a corner and there was another impenetrable mass. Argh!

The blowdowns in the burn area were awful!

It was an utter nightmare! I couldn't possibly count the number of blowdowns blocking the trail, but they undoubtedly numbered in the hundreds. Maybe even into the thousands for all I knew. At times, I could look around and see hundreds of trees that had toppled like grass after being inundated by a nearby flooded creek. The fallen trees were so thick, I sometimes lost the trail completely.

At times, there was literally no way to get around the fallen trees and I scrambled over them--a positively dangerous activity. One slip or fall and you could impale yourself on a broken limb or find your leg plunging into a hole in the trees breaking it.

I had a couple of close calls.

One of them, I fell head first into a jumble of fallen logs and reached out my hand to prevent my head or eye sockets from being impaled by broken branches and it tore up my hand pretty well. Another time I fell back and I was like the proverbial turtle on its back. I couldn't get up or flip over without unbuckling my backpack and taking it off first.

Fortunately, this was the worst injury I suffered. It could have been a lot worse, though!
Another snag caught my pants and tore a giant hole in it and branches continued to scrape and rip at my clothes.

It was terrible. Absolutely god-awful terrible. One of the worst sections of trail I had ever suffered. I looked for anything that might shorten the horror. The trail had switchbacks back and forth up the mountain and I tried cutting switchbacks. I still had to climb over blowdowns, but it was a shorter path than following the switchbacks. At times, I was able to travel over a hundred feet without my feet touching actual ground the entire time.

I was glad I had my SPOT device with me. It was the first time on the hike where I felt that investing in a GPS device that could signal for help was definitely a good idea. I just had to make sure I could still activate it in case of a life-threatening injury. If I knocked myself unconscious or paralyzed myself with a broken back, it would be useless. If I had a hiking partner, at least one of us would still be able to signal for help. I really needed a hiking partner for sections like this--just for safety's sake. I wondered if Ryan was somewhere not far behind me.

At one point I finished scrambling over a mass of blowdowns and reached the actual tread of the trail again and I broke down and cried. I was absolutely miserable. At that moment, I wanted to quit the trail. I was lonely and definitely not having fun. And I felt this scrambling was positively dangerous.

Can you even see the trail under all those blowdowns?!

How much longer would these horrible blowdowns continue? Turning back was an option I considered, but I knew the horrors that were behind me. What if the worst was mostly behind me and the easiest way out now was ahead? I had no way of knowing so I continued pushing forward.

When I started up the Parker Creek Trail, I had a goal in mind--a campsite listed in my guidebook--but the blowdowns slowed me down dramatically. If I was making one mile per hour, I'd be surprised. I was probably doing a half-mile per hour. The sun started setting and I knew I wasn't going to make my goal for the night so I finally stopped at a section of the trail that was mostly barren of trees. There wasn't a lot of blowdowns only because there hadn't been many trees to begin with, and the area was a little breezy which helped keep the mosquitoes at bay.

But I wound up camping directly on the trail because there was just nowhere I could find that was flat enough and not covered with rocks and fallen trees to set up camp.

The view from my camp was nice. I could see far up and down the valley I had trekked across this morning. I imagined Jess and her family sitting down for dinner and her telling stories about the strange hiker she saw passing by today. They were probably right down there in plain view. If they had a telescope, they could watch me wallowing in self-pity. I wondered if Ryan was out there, camped at the base of the Parker Creek Trail not having any idea about the horrors that he would soon be facing.

I had never felt so lonely or angry with a trail, but I was glad to have a break from the battle with the blowdowns. I wasn't sure how much more of the blowdowns would be further up the trail, but for today, I was done with them. They had won.

Back on Highway 1, the road walk that started the day.

Kootenai River
The valley around the Kootenai River is lots of farmland, but the trail will head into the mountains in the distance.

At the edge of the farms, this road finally had a few trees to provide some much needed shade.
The first blowdown seemed like just a minor obstacle. Little did I realize the horror that was approaching....

Looking back at the farms I just walked through. The trail came down from the mountains on the other side of the valley, crossed the valley, then up the mountains I'm in now.
The blowdowns definitely numbered in the hundreds, but I wouldn't be at all surprised if more than a thousand of them blocked the trail. It's going to take a massive amount of work to clear this trail!

The view from my campsite of the Kootenai River valley was quite pleasant!

Wednesday, December 4, 2019

Day 17: The Bonners Ferry Day Off

August 1: I slept in late. It was my day off! I had no reason to wake up early! But when I did wake up, I had absolutely no idea what time it was. Without any windows in my room, it really messed with my sense of time. Was it early and still pitch dark outside? Or was it noon already and the sun was high and shining? I had no idea when I first woke up and had to check a clock. It was late, but not super late.

I watched a few Netflix shows and caught up with emails and messages. I wasted a few hours before deciding to head out for lunch. At the front desk, I asked where I could do laundry and the desk clerk pointed me south down the road. I was hoping there was an option to do it at the hotel but alas, no, I needed a laundromat. I googled for laundry and couldn't find a location to the south of the hotel--only to north. Did the desk clerk try to send me in the wrong direction?!

Gypsy and I lunched at the Rusty Moose
I had also searched the Internet for information about getting a ride back to the trail. I didn't want to stand around waiting for who knows how long to hitch a ride, but I couldn't find anything online about taxis or other transportation options. I asked the desk clerk if this was correct--that there really was no way for me to get transportation back to the trail and he confirmed that that was correct, there were no taxis in town. I hoped he might offer to provide a ride in town--even if it was for a fee, but he had no interest in that. He did say that there was a trail angel in town who often provided rides, but he didn't know who it was or how to contact them. Sounded like I'd have to do some more online sleuthing!

I got the sense that the guy really didn't want to be bothered. Not exactly hating hikers, but not very supportive of them either or our unique needs.

I filled my backpack with dirty clothes to do laundry but first, I started walking toward downtown to look around. The downtown core was about 2 miles away so I planned a 4-mile round-trip walk to explore the town. The laundromat was between the two.

The temperatures were miserably hot, but at least I didn't have to hike far and would be able to escape the heat in air-conditioned buildings along the way.

The road into Bonners Ferry

I didn't make it very far, however, when I passed Gypsy sitting in his car a few blocks away. He saw me before I saw him and I offered to take him out for lunch as thanks for picking me up the day before. It was the least I could do!

I kind of wanted to walk into town--to stretch my legs a bit--but it seemed more complicated to try meeting somewhere downtown in a half hour so I jumped in his car and got a ride into town.

We stopped at The Rusty Moose, a cute little place where I ordered the Philly Steak--filling and delicious! We chatted for a couple of hours sharing our war stories on the trail and he offered to give me a ride back to the trail in the morning which I was happy to accept. Yes, that will work!

After lunch, Gypsy offered to drive me back to the hotel--or even the laundromat--but I turned him down this time. I still wanted to stretch my legs! So we parted ways. I walked around the downtown core a bit to explore and take a few photos then headed back on the main road toward the hotel.

The road had a lot of construction happening which complicated the walk, but I eventually reached the laundromat. The owner/attendant was there, a friendly fellow who even gave me a soap pod for free. I threw my clothes in a washer and sat down at a table to write in my journal and write some postcards while waiting for my clothes to finish.

Time to do laundry!

When the clothes did finish, I shoved them into my pack and hit the road. I didn't bother to dry them--they tended to dry quickly on their own.

Back at the hotel, I laid out my clothes to dry then headed back to Two Tone's Cafe for dinner. After my great experience there the night before, I had to hit it up again. T.D. gave me a big welcome having remembered me from yesterday evening, but it was another waitress whose turn it was to seat me. T.D. still checked up on me regularly, though.

The outdoor patio of Two Tone's Cafe was wonderful!

Afterwards, I headed to the Safeway across the street to get some grocery shopping done. The clerk there also remembered me from the day before and greeted me like I was a long-lost friend. I'm making a lot of friends in this town! =)

When I returned to the hotel, I saw a car pull up and a lanky person step out of the passenger side just before the car drove off. He looked a lot like a hiker to me. Maybe even a thru-hiker?

The lobby was locked and closed for the night and the guy stood at the door seemingly unsure of what to do, and I walked up and asked if he was hiking the PNT.

Yes, he was, and had just arrived into town. My first thru-hiker sighting! After 17 days on the trail, I finally crossed paths with another thru-hiker! In town, of course. I still had yet to see a thru-hiker in the wild. He introduced himself as Ryan, "No way!" I replied. And he was looking for a place to set up his tent to camp out overnight and had heard that the hotel here allowed hikers to set up camp.

But he didn't actually have permission to do so and didn't know where he should set up. I didn't either. There was an "emergency" number listed on the door and I suggested calling that and asking. It wasn't particularly late--maybe 9:00 or so.

For dinner, I ordered a Mexican-theme dish. Delicious!

He called the number but nobody answered and he left a voicemail about his situation and a number to call back. Then he asked me about nearby eating options. I told him that Two Tones was absolutely wonderful but, alas, I think they had just closed at 9:00. We walked over anyhow and the place was closed, but it looked like they were doing some sort of shoot. I wasn't sure if it was a commercial or a photo shoot of the food or what, but the place was hoping and it wasn't with customers.

I didn't know which restaurants were open this late in the evening, but suggested the Safeway across the street had plenty of food and was open. And that's what he ended up doing.

I also told him that if he didn't get a response to where to camp, he could crash in my room for the night. "Just knock. I'm in room #5."

We parted ways and I headed back to my room. About an hour later, there was a knock at my door. Ryan was still homeless for the night and planned to take up my offer of staying in my room.

We ended up chatting for hours until I realized it was 1:00am and I thought, "Crap! I need to get some sleep!" Gypsy was scheduled to pick me up early in the morning and I needed to be ready on time!

I only took this photo because of the giant, inflatable turtle on the wall. I really wanted to keep him!
The giant American flag could be seen all over town!

Monday, December 2, 2019

Day 16: The First Bushwhack!

Day 16: I woke up and got my earliest start yet! I was hiking by 6:00am! Of course, I had an extra hour helping me out since the time zone changed when I crossed into Idaho yesterday. Several miles west it was already 7:00am and a pretty normal start time.

I had stopped yesterday evening couple of miles before I originally planned to--the site was too nice of a spot to skip (or so I thought). So I spent the first couple of miles this morning checking out other possible campsites and was happy that I found nothing better than where I did stop for the night. I had made a good choice where I stopped. *nodding*

Much of the day was on nice, easy gravel roads. It wasn't spectacular or particularly noteworthy except for being relatively quick and easy. The heat of the day was my biggest obstacles with temperatures expected to rise to nearly 90 degrees.

Until.... the gravel road leading to Brush Lake.

The gravel road makes a long U-shaped turn maybe a couple of miles long. That's not the primary PNT, however. No, my maps showed the primary route cutting directly across the U shape between the two endpoints. It was shorter--no doubt about that! But there was no road between the two endpoints either. In fact, there was also no trail. It was a bushwhack. A one-mile bushwhack--the first bushwhack of the trail.

It was completely avoidable since the gravel road curved around it and there's not really any reason for the bushwhack except, perhaps, to put hair on people's chest. It might make sense if it was a busy, paved road, but the gravel road was practically empty of cars and they weren't a big deal.

But it was the primary route and I wanted to stick as close to the primary route as possible so--I decided to go for it.

The beginning of the bushwhack didn't look so bad...

From the road, it didn't look so bad but almost immediately I had to push through the overgrown vegetation. Lots of logs blocked the route which required scrambling over and around. I reached a steep, slippery slope and had to hunt around a bit looking for a place to scramble down safely. Near a creek, the grass grew as tall as the top of my head and I couldn't see more than a couple of feet in any direction, but I pushed through the grass.

Rather than checking my GPS constantly to make sure I was walking in the correct direction, I took note that my shadow fell just slightly right of the direction I needed to go and used my shadow to stay on track. Every 10 or 15 minutes I'd check my GPS to see if I was still on track and it worked pretty well.

But the route was exhausting! A half hour into the bushwhack, I stumbled onto an actual trail and practically hugged it with excitement. Where did it come from?! Where was it going?! I didn't know, but as long it was going in my direction, I planned to follow it. It was easy to walk on!

I followed it for about 5 minutes before it was definitely going in the wrong direction. I reluctantly left the trail and continued the bushwhack.

Definitely getting a little harder to walk through....

Progress continued to be slow and difficult. At one point, I reached a large rocky hump and scrambled to the top for a view and to get a better sense of my location. I knew what direction I needed to go, but there was a steep cliff in the way. Should I go around it to the south or north? I didn't know. The guidebook and maps I followed said that the bushwhacks displayed weren't to be followed precisely--they were generally a mostly straight line around the edge of a lake between the endpoints but that hikers should meander as needed.

I decided to go around to the north, which I later regretted as I scrambled up a steep slope. But for all I knew, I would have regretted the southern route as well. When it comes to bushwhacking, there is no correct route! *shrug*

The heat of the day continued to grow and I was positively miserable, cursing the trail and wishing I had just followed the gravel around this section. Ugh!

Then I saw it--another hiking trail. A real trail! And it was heading vaguely in the direction I needed! I started following it toward the road for Brush Lake and finally made it to the road and the official end of the bushwhack. I had survived! It took me over an hour to cover just one mile. It felt kind of like a test. There were more sections of trail ahead that required bushwhacks, and they were a lot longer than this one. It seemed like this was a test--if you couldn't do this one-mile bushwhack, maybe you shouldn't be doing them further up the trail.

I was never so happy as when I stumbled onto this trail! An actual trail!
But I survived and was pumped to have made it out.

The gravel road continued onward and my pace picked up dramatically--but the heat still bore down.

The gravel road eventually connected up with Highway 95, which I followed north a short way before jumping over the guardrail and doing another short bushwhack to Old Highway 95. This bushwhack wasn't too difficult, though, without all of the vegetation and logs to slow me down. It was also a lot shorter!

The trail, in this section, passed three different roads that lead southward to the town of Bonners Ferry and my next resupply point. Highway 93 was the first option, but the vehicles traveled by at a high rate of speed and it seemed like a difficult place to get a hitch. I didn't know that the road crossings ahead were any better, but I figured I'd give it a try. I wanted to maximize my miles today when my pack was empty of food than do it after resupplying and my pack was heavy with food.

So I pushed on, but Old Highway 93--although a paved road--was completely empty of traffic. Absolutely nobody was driving up and down this road and I pushed onward following the road to its intersection with Highway 1.

This intersection was the closest that the trail would get to Bonners Ferry and there was a nice, wide shoulder where cars could pull over to pick me up. Vehicles wouldn't be driving as fast here as they did on Highway 95 either. It seemed like a good place to hitchhike. And I definitely needed to hitchhike because the town was 15 miles to the south. I was not going to walk 15 miles into town!

Come on... daddy needs a ride into town! (The road behind my thumb is Old Highway 95 where I came from.)

The traffic on Highway 1 wasn't super busy nor super empty. It was moderately busy--by my count, 43 vehicles passed me during the first hour.

But nobody seemed interested in picking me up. I grew more and more desperate as the time wore on. What if it got dark before I got a ride? I pulled out my cell phone--I was more than happy to call for a taxi if that's what it took, but I got no service. I couldn't call my way for help. I needed an actual person to stop and pick me up.

"I know some jokes!" I shouted out at one car. "I'm funny!" I pleaded with another. "I have a lot of interesting stories I could tell you!"

I wondered if holding out a $5 would help my chances. The worst part of this hitch wasn't the uncertainty of how long I'd be out here, but rather the heat. There was no shade near the shoulder of the road and I roasted in the brutal sun on the heat-baked pavement. I set my pack down and would try to sit in the shade of my own pack when there was a short one or two-minute break between vehicles.

Not a lot of shade to enjoy at this hitch. The heat was brutal!

Then a truck pulled over... going in the wrong direction. Argh!

He asked if I was thru-hiking the PNT. Well yes! That was a promising sign if he already knew what I was doing out here!

He knew I was trying to get to Bonners Ferry and had passed me earlier but wasn't going to Bonners Ferry and left me behind. He went to some sort of overlook at Highway 95, but after doing that, he felt sorry for me and backtracked to offer me a ride (assuming that I was still there at that lonely intersection--which I was.)

I don't remember his vehicle driving by earlier (I also stopped counting them after an hour), but apparently he could see my sad little face as he drove by earlier and left me behind.

In any case, it was a ride! He'd take me into Bonners Ferry! Awesome!!!

I threw my pack into the back of his truck and got into the passenger seat. He introduced himself as Gypsy, a triple-crowner who did his first thru-hike on the Appalachian Trail in 1990. He lives in Baltimore but was spending the summer doing the nicer parts of the PNT and skipping the long road walks and other boring areas.

We chatted all the way into town comparing notes about the Pacific Northwest Trail and our previous thru-hikes. We stopped briefly in downtown so I could pick up my mail drop from the post office, then he drove me 2 miles further to the south side of town where the lodging options were located. The first hotel I hit said it would cost $99/night--which I choked on a bit. That was a lot of money by my standards for a hotel! I said I'd check another hotel a quarter-mile down the road first and did that, but the second hotel also was offering rooms for $99/night.

I liked the decor of the first hotel better, however, and returned there, but then the desk clerk said he had a windowless room available for $79/night and I jumped on that. It was still more than I wanted to pay, but it was better than sleeping outside again!

He hadn't planned to rent out that room and needed to remove some groceries that he was storing there. Once I was alone in the room, I went to use the toilet. Shortly thereafter, the wife of the desk clerk knock on the door because she had left food in the mini-fridge that her husband hadn't known about. Literally caught me while I was on the toilet. *sigh*

I finally got my burger and "road fries" at the Two Tones Cafe--perhaps my favorite restaurant ever. *nodding* =) I really can't say enough nice things about this place!

Then I took a much-needed shower and walked to the Two Tones Cafe a few minutes walk down the road where I finally ordered a burger with fries--something I'd been hankering for ever since yesterday's failed lunch/dinner. The food was awesome, the restaurant charming and the wait staff was absolutely amazing. They didn't seem to know anything about the Pacific Northwest Trail but found the idea interesting and asked me all sorts of questions, refilled my Coke over and over again and I left an hour or two later (I stuck around to write in my journal, look through maps and plan the upcoming section and relax).

By the time I left, the sun had already set and I felt like I was best friends with the entire wait staff. Especially my waitress, T.D. Short, she said, for Totally Dangerous. "You have a trailname?!" I exclaimed. =)

When I returned to the hotel, I noticed the "no vacancy" sign was lit and was glad I got the room when I did! I didn't realize that Bonners Ferry was such a hopping place on a Wednesday night.

This is something I've never seen on a backcountry trail before... Mud was definitely not a problem here, though!

Bonners Ferry is out there... somewhere....
On the bushwhack, this looked a bit too steep... I should find another way around this rock!
The end of the bushwhacking!
The trail is about to intersect Highway 95 just ahead.
Highway 95--time to cross!
The bushwhack from Highway 95 to Old Highway 95 didn't have a lot of bushes or whacking involved! Thank goodness!
Old Highway 95 was completely barren of traffic. This would be a terrible road to hitch on!

Friday, November 29, 2019

Day 15: Welcome to Idaho!

July 30: I woke up and hit the trail a bit after 6:30am. I might have lingered later except the bugs were terrible and the sooner I got moving, the sooner they would stop annoying me.

A little way up the trail, I hit the first trail register on the trail and saw that there was a hiker named Skeeter who signed in the day before. Perhaps this was the hiker the trail angel I met yesterday dropped off on the trail head of me? I couldn't tell if I was hiking faster or slower than Skeeter, though, and had no idea if I'd cross paths with her.

The trail continued upward, eventually reaching Cauck Peak about two hours into my day's hike where I discovered a tent set up behind some trees.

"Hey!" I shouted out. "How's it goin'?!"

The mysterious tent of Cauck Peak

I wondered if it was Skeeter who I knew signed the register just the day before. There wasn't a time of day listed for when the register was signed. If it was late in the day, she might have stopped and camped here. The views were certainly nice!

But I heard nothing but silence from the tent. Was it someone who died? A really deep sleeper?

"Is anyone in there?" I asked, not quite as loudly in case they really were trying to sleep despite the sun already being up for a couple of hours. It sounded like someone in the tent rolled over but--again--there was no reply.

Hmm.... Maybe it was Skeeter--a woman--hiking alone and didn't want to engage in a conversation with a weird guy she didn't know in the middle of nowhere?

Whoever it was, it seemed clear at this point they wanted nothing to do with me so I stopped for a quick snack break then continued onward. I never did find out who was in the tent or what they were doing out there. I could still say that I hadn't seen a single hiker on the trail since leaving Eureka--but I did finally pass one! I was a little disappointed that they didn't want to chat, though. Especially if it might have been another thru-hiker which seemed like a good possibility.

The Montana-Idaho border was near!

Later in the  morning, I approached the Montana-Idaho border. I pulled out my GPS and zoomed in as far as it would go to pinpoint exactly where I crossed the border. There was no official sign or anything marking the point which seems like a missed opportunity; when I identified the crossing with my GPS, I drew a line across the trail and made my own photo op.

I've crossed the border!

About 15 seconds further down the trail, I saw a board that someone had place on the ground next to the trail marking the MT-ID border. I wondered if that's where their GPS sent them or if they just estimated where the border was located.

Another hiker left this on the side of the trail a hundred or so feet away from my marker.

At the border, I changed timezones and needed subtract an hour from my devices, but it wasn't a priority. Out in the wilderness like this, knowing the actual time was useless. My day revolved around sunrise and sunset--not by clocks. With each passing day, the daylight hours became a couple of minutes shorter. My start times would gradually shift later and later in the mornings while my ending times would gradually shift earlier and earlier. Hiking westbound, the daylight hours as a whole would shift later in the day, but slower than the daylight hours were shrinking. I was losing daylight hours in the morning faster than I was losing them in the evening. Not that I could notice the difference from one day to the next, but after two weeks, I definitely noticed a difference!

From there, the trail descended 3,000 feet toward the Moyie River. Temperatures soared as the elevation plunged and by the time I reached the bottom, I was sweating bullets and loathing the sun. It was so hot and humid....

At the bottom, the trail came out at a trailhead off Moyie River Road. The trailhead, I was pleased to note, included covered picnic tables and I was thrilled to lay down for a break at one. A family of three were picnicking at the other one and seemed surprised to see me come from off the trail from seemingly the middle of nowhere, dirty and grimy and looking homeless. When they found out that I had hiked there all the way from the east side of Glacier National Park, though, they were full of questions about the trail that I was happy to answer. I was happy to have an actual conversation with people! I was getting lonely on the trail.

Covered picnic tables! What a wonderful place to escape from the burning heat of the sun!
Eventually I continued onward--and the beginning of the road walk section of today's hike. It started as one of those awful paved roads and I took a 1/4-mile detour to the Feist Creek Falls resort which my guidebook described as "a hiker friendly bar/restaurant and lodge." I couldn't wait for a cold Coke and a burger with fries. I'd been saving myself for an epic meal that I hadn't been carrying on my back for most of week! It was going to be a late lunch and early dinner.

But when I arrived, the doors were locked, nobody appeared to be inside and a help wanted sign stood in a window outside. Whaaat....? I looked through the windows with disappointment. Nobody. There was absolutely nobody around that I could find.

The Fiest Creek Falls Resort
I sat down at a bench outside next to a small pond. It was a nice place to take a break despite the disappointment. I ate some snacks from my pack in place of the burger I had hoped to order, threw out some trash (in a nearby trash bin) and filled up my water bottles from a spigot on the side of the building.

Rested and refreshed--but still disappointed about the locked doors--I returned back to the trail. From here, the road turned gravel (yeah!) and I followed it a few miles across the valley bottom before I reached the trailhead for Bussard Mountain.

It was the end of the road walk and my minimum goal for the day, but I still felt strong and there was plenty of daylight so I decided to push onward--despite the fact that the next few miles included a 3,000-ft climb up Bussard Mountain.

I think it was a good call, though. It was late enough in the afternoon that the entire east-facing slope was in the shade allowing me to hike up without the sun pounding down mercilessly. The day was hot and hiking uphill on a hot day in the sun is horrible.

View looking down from partway up Bussard Mountain. The Fiest Creek Falls Resort can actually be seen in the photo if you know where to look. (Just to the left of the white building a little left of center.)

I made it most of the way up the mountain before stopping late in the afternoon--and a little earlier than I planned on. I reached a small, grassy clearing that looked absolutely wonderful for camping and couldn't be sure if I'd find anywhere better than that up ahead.

So I stopped and set up camp. There was no water at the camp, but I packed for a long dry stretch by filling up all of my water bottles. I was prepared for a "dry camp."

My streak of setting distance and step count records stopped at two. Today was a big day--at 21.7 miles, it was my second-longest day on the trail. Only yesterday was longer! And my step count came in at 57,452 steps--and again, second only to yesterday's step counts. But today's terrain was considerably more difficult with a lot more ups and downs so I was pleased with my progress.

Sunrise! And it was already getting hot....

The first register on the PNT!

I see you, Idaho!
It might not be obvious, but we've entered Idaho! It looks a lot like the terrain we've been passing through in Montana.

Moyie River