Monday, December 16, 2019

Day 22: Good morning, Washington!

August 6: I woke up before sunrise to hit the trail early--just before 6:00am! I wanted an early morning start since it was supposed to be another scorcher of a day and this particular day required a pretty long uphill climb that I wanted to get done as early in the morning as possible.

The trail rambled through a majestic forest of enormous cedar trees. It would have been a pleasant place to camp except for the mosquitoes in the region. They didn't bother me too much as long as I kept moving, though.

Massive cedar trees!

The trail veered left onto Trail 311--these trails I was on now were so remote and unused, they appeared to have no real names. Just numbers! I had been making pretty good progress until Trail 311. It was a steep uphill to the Idaho-Washington border, but it was also badly maintained with blowdowns and muddy bogs to slow me down, and sunny areas were severely overgrown and scratched at my legs as I passed by.

As I approached the Idaho-Washington border, I pulled out my GPS to mark the exact location having absolutely zero faith that there would be a sign to mark the border. It's really a shame that the PNT doesn't have official signs to mark the state border crossings. Yeah, it's not really important for hiking purposes, but it's a photo op! It's free publicity by every thru-hiker who passes the sign and takes a selfie with it. And it's fun for the thru-hikers. Another state down! Two states down and only one left to go! Of course, this last state makes up about 75% of the trail. I wasn't even near the halfway point yet.

I marked a line in the trail where my GPS showed the location of the border to be and took a photo of my foot crossing over it, but a couple of hundred feet later I found a much better display that a hiker ahead had created made out of rocks and sticks and decided to make that the "official" border even though my GPS showed it being off a little bit. I would have stopped to make a better one myself, but the bugs were horrible so I didn't want to linger. I took a quick photo and moved on!

My GPS showed this marker for the Idaho-Washington border as being in the wrong place (just a little bit!), but it was much better than my line in the dirt! I'd have done something better except the bugs were terrible!

Near the end of my hike on Trail 311, the trail suddenly became wide, clear and absolutely beautiful! There had been a trail crew out here, and it wasn't very long ago. My struggle through the overgrown vegetation, over blowdowns and through muddy, soggy trails had come to an end and my pace picked up dramatically. It was an awesome trail! I only wished they had time to fix all of Trail 311. I only got to enjoy maybe 10 minutes of the cleared trail!

Trail 311 intersected with Trail 512--the Shedroof Divide Trail--and I missed the junction--but I didn't realize it at first. I did find *a* junction with 512, but it seemed to be going in the wrong direction. I theorized that the trail overlapped with Trail 311 a short way before it veered off at another junction and assumed it was further ahead on the trail.

But then the trail started going downhill and, according to my maps, I should have veered off before then. After about 5 minutes where I felt like I was going in the wrong direction, I finally decided to backtrack. I passed the intersection I had seen, then walked a sort way where I found the junction that I had missed. I could totally see how I had missed it. It was a little overgrown at the area and the junction formed at a sharp angle that hid the trail until you were just about to walk past it--and if you weren't looking to the left, you'd miss it. And that's exactly what I did.

Argh! I probably wasted 15 minutes walking in the wrong direction. I had places to go! Things to do! I couldn't waste time walking in the wrong direction!

Trail 311 was muddy, boggy and overgrown. Not easy to walk through! At least not until the very end before the PNT veered off onto Trail 512.

Trail 512 climbed a steep slope before entering a burn area that exposed the trail to the burning sun. Temperatures were miserably hot and the views--although expansive and beautiful--looked very hazy. Especially hazy towards the east. At the top of the slope, though, the trail largely leveled out and followed a ridge. The trail was in pretty good condition--not perfect, but good--and my progress went well.

I bumped into a couple of day hikers who were taking a break and I joined them for a quick chat. They were an older couple named Kathy and... I forget the name of the guy.  They seemed as surprised to see me as I was to see them. They had deliberately got a very early morning start to beat the heat of the day and now planned to turn back and go back to their car.

They eventually got up to leave and I did the same, but I walked at a faster pace than them and pushed ahead. Kathy said something about my hiking so fast but I told her that they'd probably catch up when I took a break--which is exactly what happened an hour later. I was getting hungry and tired and needed a break so I took rest at a nice overlook and they passed me by about 15 minutes later.

Eventually I got up and pushed onward, enjoying the great views of the ridge even if it was uncomfortably hot.

The views from the ridge were great! Although a little hazy....

The trail eventually landed on forest service road #22 which was the trailhead where the older couple had started from. They were at their vehicle getting cold drinks out of their ice chest when I arrived and they offered me a beer. Ugh. I thanked them for the offer but told them I didn't actually like beer. I'd be happy with a soda if they had one, though!

No, they didn't have a soda, but they did have cold water. I had plenty of water in my pack but it definitely wasn't cold water anymore and I was happy to take it off their hands. Kathy popped open the beer to drink

I needed a rest and laid out my groundsheet in the shade on the side of the road and chatted with the couple some more. About five minutes later, I saw a guy hiking up the dirt road. Was that... a thru-hiker? The guy was distant when I first saw him but as he got closer, I could tell it was Ryan--the thru-hiker I met in Bonners Ferry several days earlier.

"Green Tortuga!" he shouted to me.

"Ryan!" I shouted to him.

I was a little confused about his approach, though, because he wasn't even on the trail. He wasn't even on an official alternate of the trail. Where the heck was he coming from? Did he get lost or something?

A thru-hiker in his natural habitat! The first one I've seen ON the trail! Well... kind of... =)

He explained that he had some maps of the forest service roads and realized he could take a shortcut by following the road to the trail. He wanted to reach the trail town of Metaline Falls tonight and needed all the help he could get. I didn't intend to reach Metaline Falls until tomorrow. He had camped at one of those beautiful campsites at Priest Lake. Priest Lake to Metaline Falls in one day? That was insane! No, I definitely had no intention of doing that!

I also asked him if he happened to find a bunch of cheese in the mini-fridge at the hotel in Bonners Ferry before he left. I had left three packages of cheeses there in my haste to leave and had been kicking myself for it every since. No cheese! The horror!

He said that yes, he had found it, and it's been delicious! He thanked me for the food but admitted that he still had one of the individually-wrapped units of Tillamook cheddar cheese in his pack. He pulled it out and threw it to me. Cool! I got less than one ounce of my precious cheese back! =) Good thing I didn't run into him an hour later--the cheese would have gone completely!

Cold water, hot cheese.... life was good! And a thru-hiker on the trail! Well, actually, technically, not ON the trail. He was hiking up a road that was definitely not part of the trail, but he'd leave continuing to follow the gravel road which, at that point, was on the trail.

The older couple drove off and Ryan and I caught up on our adventures since leaving Bonners Ferry--especially the area just out of Bonners Ferry with the blowdowns and the bushwhack.

"Did you feel like going through those blowdowns was really dangerous?" he asked me.

"YES!" I replied. He told me at one point that he fell and a branch impaled his pack leaving a hole an inch wide and several inches deep. "If I hadn't been wearing my pack, that would have impaled me!"

Yeah. It was definitely a brutal section of trail. I already knew it, but it felt good to have confirmation from someone else. It wasn't just me that thought those sections were difficult and dangerous. At least I had my SPOT device to give me a little comfort. Ryan didn't have one. If he had hurt himself, it could  have been really bad.

Ryan continued onward, eager to reach Metaline Falls tonight, but I lingered at my shady spot on the road for an hour before pushing on. It was miserably hot out and it was now at the hottest part of the day. It was a good time for a long break.

But I couldn't stop for the day. I was in a 17-mile dry stretch with no water and I definitely needed to reach water today. I didn't have enough to last me overnight! And I still had quite a few miles before I would reach Noisy Creek--the next reliable water source I expected on the trail.

After I packed up and continued hiking, the trail followed the dirt road for several minutes before veering off into the woods again. I wondered if Ryan continued following the road toward Metaline Falls. I was pretty sure the trail crossed the same road again a dozen miles up ahead a few miles outside of town. It would probably be shorter and faster than the official trail.

I was going to stick with the official trail and veered off back into the woods.

The trail went through another burn area that gave me a few difficulties--mostly just trying to follow the actual trail which was hard to identify at times. At least the blowdowns weren't a big problem!

The last few miles, the trail descended thousands of feet toward Noisy Creek and I stopped for the evening at the first campsite I found along the creek.

The creek was called Noisy Creek and it was noisy, but it didn't seem any noisier than any other creek and I wondered why it got its name.

I arrived at camp absolutely exhausted. I had covered 22.1 miles according to my GPS, but the number that surprised me was the 9,900 feet of elevation gain that my GPS had recorded. I basically climbed what amounted to a 10,000-foot mountain! On a brutal, 100-degree day.

But I made it and had a nice creek to listen to as I drifted off to sleep.

I just love these giant cedar trees!

I'm not really sure what this was doing in the middle of nowhere. I wonder if it's old mining equipment from back in the days when they mined in this area?
Some blowdowns on Trail 311

I think this sign might have been forgotten when a trail crew left because there was definitely no trail crew in the area when I hiked through! But the sign was cute! =)
A very short road walk today!

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