As mentioned, the PNT offers ample opportunities to choose your own adventure – but with each choice comes its own set of issues. This leg began with saying good bye to our friends from back home. Then came a long road walk before we had the choice between a bushwhack in the NW Peaks Scenic Area or to follow a trail called “Midge Creek Trail.” As this was early in our adventure, we had joined back up with Jared and Katherine, and were enthusiastically foolhardy, we choose the longer, more difficult, scenic option. After all, look at the names: NW Peaks Scenic Area or Midge Creek. The first was clearly superior.
When taking into account the water and heat situation, we decided to take a siesta yesterday afternoon down on the road, fill up our waters, and push up to the Northwest Peak summit and fire lookout in the evening, arriving with time to enjoy the sunset.
The wind buffeted us throughout the night in the tiny cabin on the peak of the mountain. I woke from the midst of a nightmare in which there was a tornado bearing down on us to find pale pastels of morning shining into the cabin.
The others slowly began to stir, and soon we were on our way. The first leg of our adventure involved a steep decent over a boulder field, in which every 3-6 boulders would shift under your weight.
Before long we had made it to the knife-edge ridge that we would follow toward Davis Mountain. This ridge alternated between easy walking and hands-needed scrambling, with a dizzying drop off to one side and a steep downhill to the other. This connected us with Davis Mountain, and a steep scramble to the summit.
On the summit our exposed bodies were buffeted by the full force of the winds. Bracing for each gust, we looked to the even more exposed ridge-walk to come. Ducking into a sheltered space to consult the maps, we decided that we’d be better off taking the foul-weather route, dropping down into the bowl instead.
It looked simple enough, both on the map and observing it from above. And it was, though the boulders that looked like easy walking from a distance turned into another test of core stability and stamina. The descent was even steeper than the others, with occasionally with poles stowed so hands and feet could be fully utilized.
Additionally, most of what had looked like gentle greenery from the ridge turned into dense brambles which hid holes and ankle-twisting boulders. Occasionally we would find ‘fairy wonderlands’ of short grass dusted with wildflowers and would rejoice at our good fortune, as short-lived as it was. Eventually we popped out on the trail, tired and humbled, but generally unscathed.
On the main trail we had about six miles to go until our next water. On a trail now, we were able to make good time despite being tired. As we neared the water, Jared and I saw a massive brown animal (like a square, furry, mini-van, ghosting through the forest). Jared was convinced it was a bear, I’m still 90% certain it was a moose.
We reached the water with relief – this is where we had considered stopping for the day. However, with the unease of the group (Was it a bear? Was it a moose? Was it bigfoot?) and the general sogginess of the ground (like a damp kitchen sponge, complete with a healthy population of mosquitoes) we decided to press on.
Finally we came to a spot to camp sans-megafauna. With dry ground, sweeping views, and a steep cliff to spit off of, it was definitely worth the extra mile. We drifted off to sleep, feeling the comfort of the Idaho dirt beneath us.
Credit goes to the Pacific Northwest Trail Association for the use of their maps above.