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Brian "Gadget" Lewis
Begins: Aug 11, 2016
Date: Mon, Aug 1st, 2016
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Finishing What We Started
My hiking friend Lucky and I hiked roughly a third of the Pacific Northwest Trail (PNT) in 2014, starting from the ocean at Cape Alava and walking east until we stopped that trip (as planned, due to our mutual schedule constraints that year) before we got into the Cascades. To make the pickup relatively easy on this pretty remote trail, we stopped in the town of Concrete, WA. If you’ve never heard of this small town, it’s south of Mt. Baker, and east of Anacortes, Sedro-Woolley in NW Washington state; this trip took us 18 days in July of 2014.
You can read the trail journal entries for that trip starting here.
This year, we’re going to start from the opposite end --- Chief Mountain trailhead near the NE corner of Glacier National Park (GNP) in Montana --- and hike west to hopefully get to Concrete, WA and thus complete the trail. To “finish what we started”, and definitely have as much fun and modest adventure as we can.
According to official mileage, we have 838 miles to get to the place where we can turn off trail to hike 11 miles south to Concrete, thus about 849 … heck, call it 850 miles total. But the PNT is like the CDT (Continental Divide Trail) insofar as it’s not just one single established trail, but a morass of alternate trail options that one picks and chooses along the way. So we’ll certainly not hike exactly 849 miles. As with all such long distance hikes, the rule we’ll follow is to walk an “unbroken line” from start to finish. And to make reasonable, logical choices along the way, sometimes erring on the side of longer/harder routes but with better views or interesting specific things to see, other times we’ll happily short circuit a longer route that doesn’t seem to offer much that’s interesting, so long as this doesn’t involve lots of unnecessary road walking. Road walking we’ll have a-plenty anyway, that’s the nature of this trail, but hopefully much (most?) of it will be of the relatively remote variety with few if any cars encountered (fingers crossed). And we're somewhat biased towards minimizing the need to hitchhike, all things being anywhere near to equal.
One of the cool things about where the PNT starts for us this year is that it’s the exact same trailhead that both Lucky and I started on when we thru-hiked the CDT (he in 2009 I think, me in 2011). With this trip, we’ll have connected our CDT and PCT thru-hikes; at that point, we would be well on our way to completing the “Great Western Loop”. All that would remain would be the 700 mile Grand Enchantment Trail, the 800 mile Arizona Trail, and then --- here’s the catch --- a significant amount of completely off-trail hiking to connect pieces on the southern end of the loop. Andrew Skurka hiked all of it in a single year, a feat that seems just super-human to me, just unbelievable. It would be nice to sort of “super-section” hike it, anyway! We’ll see. Anyway, connecting the northern part of the Great Western Loop this year seems like a neat thing to do.
Our friend Cuddles is joining us for the first week or two; of course he would like to do more, but is somewhat schedule constrained. He’s talked us into altering our initial route a bit to take a northern route alternate that’s supposed to be really scenic. The downside is that we’ll have to hitch or walk to and back from our first trail town (food resupply) point, Polebridge MT, whereas we otherwise would have just walked right through it. If things work out well here, Cuddles will be our hero. If we end up having a hard time getting to Polebridge, however, he will of course be the goat. And I know from experience last time in Glacier National Park, the grizzly bears feast on the goats.
We start our hike on August 11th, and our strict GNP permit specifies exactly where we camp each night on about a 13 mile-per-day schedule for the first three days. This is a good daily distance just starting out. Then we have a longer day hiking out of the park, and from there figuring how to get into Polebridge on August 14th or 15th.
After that, of course, it’s free-form, we just figure it out as we go. We have three resupply boxes planned, two mostly for food resupply, and one to send warmer clothing for when we get up into the Cascade mountains in late September.
Rather than put a photo up with this entry, here’s a recent link to “25 photos that will make you want to hike the Pacific Northwest Trail”.
Okay, that’s enough for my first blog entry! I’ll comment on gear choices, maps/navigation and anything else that strikes my fancy in a near-future entry.
Gadget's Trail Journal
The 1200 mile Pacific Northwest National Scenic Trail (PNNST), running from the Continental Divide to the Pacific Ocean, ranks among the most scenic trails in the world. This carefully chosen path is high for the views and long on adventure. It includes the Rocky Mountains, Selkirk Mountains, Pasayten Wilderness, North Cascades, Olympic Mountains, and Wilderness Coast. The trail crosses 3 National Parks and 7 National Forests. Learn more: www.pnt.org
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