Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Day 8: The 49th Parallel

July 23: Despite the drama overnight with the thunderstorm, by morning, the storm was gone and I woke up to a beautiful sunrise. Sleeping in the fire lookout tower had been a cozy experience and it was still warm and comfortable so I lingered enjoying the comfort until hitting the trail at 7:15.

Sunrise from the fire lookout tower!

The trail was rough at first and despite being early in the morning, I sweat like a pig on a roast on a hot day in the sun. It was uncomfortably warm and humid, and--even worse--I had to ration my water because I was near the start of a 10-mile dry stretch. I thought I had plenty of water for a mere 10 miles, but it was a lot warmer than I expected!

Late in the morning I reached Bluebird Lake where I could finally resupply my water and no longer had to ration it.

There was a large, scattered campsite set up that, at first glance, I thought might have been trail workers given the size of the camp and how spread out it was, but then I noticed smaller details like they had left items like soap and sunscreen sitting out--obvious bear attractants. An officially designated work crew would never have been so careless to leave bear attractants sitting out in the open and unattended. It seemed like an incredibly stupid thing to do. Nobody was around so whoever they were, they were off hiking somewhere.

I decided to cook my dinner here. I needed a good, long rest and there was plenty of water available--which I did not expect to have where I planned to camp tonight. I was just finishing up when the people at the campsite had arrived. It was a large family and I chatted with one of the people who kept asking me "What would you do differently?" in regards to the camp setup. It felt like a trick question--as if he knew he wasn't supposed to leave all those bear attractants laying out unattended and wanted to pick a fight over it. I didn't want to play along, though, and instead suggested one of those slip-and-slide things would have been a nice addition.

After that, I was anxious to leave the family behind. They were making me uncomfortable. Or at least the one guy was making me uncomfortable.

During the rest of the afternoon, I also ran into two other sets of hikers. Both of them were couples with a dog. It seemed like a dog was required for hiking in this area! They were out on day hikes from a campground a few miles off trail. The trail was positively packed with people compared to the previous few days! It was a gorgeous area, though--much prettier than the previous few days since leaving Glacier NP.

Near the end of the day, I headed down the Blacktail Trail which had numerous annoying blowdowns to get around, but at least it was largely shaded in the trees and much cooler than being exposed in the sun.

The Blacktail Trail passed an old mine with old mining equipment littering the area as it headed toward the Canadian border--and it was definitely heading toward the Canadian border. The trail would come right up to the deforested path marking the border and my guidebook suggested that it would be a bad idea to enter the deforested area. I thought that was absurd--but I did look around for hidden cameras or sensors in the area but I didn't see anything. Doesn't mean they weren't there... I just didn't see any!

The US is on the left, Canada is on the right.

The view down the US-Canadian border was awesome! I pulled out my GPS which, in the middle of the deforested area, showed my location as being 48.9998 degrees latitude. The official border is supposed to be 49 degrees. Maybe at the far end of the deforested area? I was happy being in the middle of it and didn't really want to touch Canada. Just in case there were sensors or cameras watching, I didn't want border patrol to accidentally think I was trying to sneak in the US from Canada. Or that Canada thought I was trying to sneak in from the United States!

I sat down for a break and pulled out my phone to see if I could get a signal. I was getting near the town of Eureka. I planned to camp as close to town as possible so I'd have all day to resupply and relax, and on this slope without trees to block the signal, I figured there was a good chance I could get a signal, and I did! The first cell phone signal I got since starting my hike!

The first place I tried calling was the Silverado, a hotel in town, to make a reservation. I was a little worried they might be full. The family I had chatted with said that the hotel often fills up with construction workers during the summer since it's the only place nearby for people to stay. Seasonal construction workers come into town to maintain roads and such and stay at the hotel. It never occurred to me that that could be an issue until he mentioned it, and now I was a little paranoid that I'd walk into town and not be able to find lodging!

But they had space and I booked myself a room for two nights. I was definitely ready for a shower, a bed and some real food after more than a week on the trail. And a day of rest. I definitely deserved a day of rest!

Dark clouds started rolling in and distant thunder rolled through the mountains before a few sprinkles fell. I had wanted to hike a couple of more miles, but not if it was going to rain. Again! Argh!

I quickly pulled out my tarp and set it up right next to the US side of the deforested area. I had trouble hammering my stakes into the ground since the ground was an old gravel road that switchbacked sharply at the border. Getting stakes into an old gravel road is not an easy process! At best, I could get the stakes just a few inches into the ground. When a windstorm picked up, I was concerned that my tarp could, quite literally, blow away, so I collapsed the tarp to rest directly on the ground with me under it. A half hour later when the wind died down, I restored it to its original raised position.

The rain stopped, briefly at least, and I thought about packing it up and pushing on a couple of more miles but ultimately decided not to. It was starting to get late now and I was comfortable. Camping right on the border like this, I totally expected a visit from border patrol during the night, but they had to know this was part of the Pacific Northwest Trail and I certainly looked the part! Except for waking me up to question why I was there, I didn't think it would be a problem. Nothing suggested that camping here was actually illegal or anything. =)

And that was the end of my hiking day--going to sleep with dreams that I'd be woken in the middle of the night by border patrol shining a flashlight in my face. =)

Hello, Canada!
The cleared area behind my tarp is the deforested line marking the US-Canadian border. The trees behind that are Canada. I'm so going to get a visit from border patrol during the night....

I see a face in the stump. What about you? =)
The moon is up!

The day hikers I met had camped by the lake in the distance. It's off trail for me, though, and I wouldn't be hiking by it.

Old, abandoned mining equipment near the trail.
The lake in the distance at the bottom of the valley...? The trail will cross it in another 30 miles or so.
Lots of "boulder turkeys" on the trail! (Yeah, I know it's a grouse, but I've always called them boulder turkeys which I think is a much better name.)

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