Monday, January 13, 2020

Day 34: The Slackpacking Continues!

August 18: Today there was no rush to wake up or get hiking. I only planned a leisurely 15-mile day, and I'd be slackpacking it as well. Not to mention that much of the day would be on flat, easy road walks. Easy peasy!

We drove out to the trail west of Republic and began the day's hike near Sweat Creek. Yumm.... who doesn't want to drink out of a body of water called Sweat Creek?

The day started on a real, proper trail--a nice change from yesterday. It climbed a steep 2,000 feet up a mountain before descending to a road walk on the other side.

But there was.... one complication. Apparently, some land owners in the area decided that they didn't like hikers and banned them from hiking the trail through their property so we needed to follow a reroute.

The reroute was marked with yellow flags starting about a half-mile from where the road would would have began. What I didn't realize until I arrived was that there was absolutely no trail. It was a bushwhack! For the love of all things holy, no more bushwhacks!

I grudgingly followed the yellow flags into the forest but they were hard to follow. It seemed like they were trying to conserve the flagging and used the absolutely minimum possible to mark the route. I'd often stand at one flag and spend two minutes looking ahead for the next flag before finding it--a tiny little dot of yellow far in the distance. Sometimes I only saw it because the ribbon would flap in a breeze. If it wasn't moving, I'm not sure that I'd have seen it.

The reroute required following this yellow flagging, but it was often times hard to find the next flag! (Do you see it ahead on the "trail"? Yes, neither did I!)

I walked through the brush as vegetation tore at my clothes and my pace slowed to a crawl. I cursed the stupid property owners that forced me into this. Bastards!

Near the end of the bushwhack, I finally lost the yellow flags completely. I couldn't find the next one and finally wandered aimlessly in what I felt was vaguely the correct direction. I would know I reached the end of the bushwhack when I reached a gravel road.

I was a little unsure of what to do when I reached a fence in the forest. It was easy enough to get over the barbed-wire fence--it had collapsed in a couple of places from fallen trees--but I didn't want to get shot for trespassing by an overexcited property owner either. Was this fence a boundary I should worry about? I didn't know! I spent some time cussing out the people who marked this bushwhack. Why didn't they mark it out better? Was yellow ribbon really so expensive that they couldn't mark the trail more regularly?

I decided to continue onward past the fence but ran into a new obstacle: a creek. It wasn't a particularly large creek, but I didn't feel like tromping through water either, so I walked upstream a bit to find a place where I might be able to cross without getting my feet wet when I stumbled onto a yellow flag. I found the route again! Yeah! I felt a lot safer on this side of the fence now knowing that the official reroute passed through it as well. It also led to a place where I could cross the creek easily and in seconds I landed on the gravel road marking the end of the reroute.

Awesome! Stupid bushwhacking. Stupid property owners. Stupid flagging. I was kind of annoyed at the whole thing. It probably took me a half hour to cover the half-mile of bushwhacking.

I continued the hike down the road--the rest of the day would be a long road walk now.

And it was a really creepy road to walk down. I came across a vehicle that had been abandoned. It was an old vehicle with busted windows, missing fenders, a trunk popped open and animals living inside. It looked like it had been in a high-speed chase that came to a bad end. That, or someone parked it here this morning to go on a day hike and just hadn't returned to their car yet!

Something bad happened here....

Then there was another abandoned, busted up vehicle. And another. And another.... I must have passed several dozen of them over the next few miles. Some of them looked like they had been sitting there for decades. The road passed a few remote homes along the way which seemed to have a dozen no trespassing signs for every abandoned vehicle on the road. I got the distinct sense that if I was desperate for help--a bear had attacked me, for instance, and I was in desperate need of medical attention--it probably would have been safer to hike out on my own than dare knock on one of their doors for help. They'd shoot first, then say they did me a favor by putting me out of my misery. At least that's the impression I got walking along this road.

It wasn't a good feeling. Horror movies have been made with a less creepy setting.

So many old and broken down vehicles abandoned on this road! Very creepy!

The gravel road finally reached a paved road that I was approaching when I saw Amanda's vehicle pass by at a high rate of speed. I waved at her frantically, not sure if she had seen me--but she did and pulled over then turned around to meet me at the junction with the gravel road. She knew the trail came out on the paved road somewhere but wasn't sure exactly where. "This is it!" I said.

I grabbed a cold Coke from the ice chest and took a short break. I could have stopped now, but if I pushed on another 3.4 miles, it would have been 3.4 miles less of a drive back to Republic and 3.4 miles less of a drive to drop me off again the next morning. It seemed odd that walking further away from Republic would shorten the drive time, but the way the roads were laid out, that's how it worked. So I pushed onward. I wanted to hike just far enough to minimize the amount of the driving required.

The paved road wasn't so creepy to walk on, but it was a lot busier with fast-moving traffic and there wasn't much of a shoulder to walk on. Not a pleasant 3.4 miles--but it was part of the trail. What could I do?

I found Amanda pulled over a quarter-mile before before the road intersection where I had planned to get off. There was a pullout next to a big sign telling the story of an old homestead and school in the area. She reported that there wasn't really a good place to pull over where I had wanted to get picked up so she waited for me here, but that the intersection was just around the bend in the road ahead.

I told her to give me a five-minute head start and she could pick me up there which is what we did.

Then she drove us back to Republic--now on our sixth day in town. We had eaten at all the restaurants at this point and decided to revisit the Knotty Pine for dinner--which was excellent but I didn't feel especially hungry and picked at my food a lot more than normal.

And another day set on the Pacific Northwest Trail.

I was glad I didn't need any water from this spring. It looked gross! (The tub was a trough for cattle to drink out of.)
This bridge has seen better days! I bet a cow tried to walk across it....

I saw far more snakes on the road walks than I did on the trail!
This intersection marked the end of my day's hiking. Now back to Republic!

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