We woke with the unknown stretching ahead of us. We knew that we would be walking into an area that had been burned the year prior, and we had no idea what state the trail would be in. Other burned areas had run the gamut between being open and fine, to having the trail obliterated and covered with downed trees.
We were pleasantly surprised at what good condition the trail was in (a new experience for us). Clearly much work had been put into grooming it, and we were able to make good time toward Sullivan Lake. We walked on the trail beside the lake in the blazing sun, sweating profusely with a dry tang of ash in our mouths. So close, and yet so far, the lake glistened an inviting blue, boats full of vacationers joyriding back and forth.
The end of the lake, and the access for swimming seemed so close, and yet was so far away. Despite hiking quickly, random switchbacks and a deep cut into a valley delayed our gratification.
At long last, we made it to the beach. As we prepared for our watery reward, a man came over to show us his mangled toe, telling us a sad, lengthy story of ill-fitting boots. I had the feeling he had been waiting all day to share his story with someone and we were the lucky folks. He wandered away, and we jumped into the long-anticipated water.
The stretch of road between Sullivan Lake and Metaline Falls was touted as the most dangerous road walk of the PNT – narrow, and windy, with no shoulders. As non-purists, we choose to find a ride into town instead. With some extreme luck, we made friends with a man and his son and his tiny sports car. We played a little tetris, but fit ourselves, our bags, and the man’s crutches in for the short ride. The son was not excited by our smell, but his dad certainly was thrilled, and told us stories of his adventures as we rolled into town.
Metaline Falls’ downtown consists of a single street, with a cafe, a bar, and a historic hotel. Food was top priority, and we quickly found ourselves in the bar with a beer, a pizza, a bunch of miners, and a new hiker friend Jeff aka “Legend” (hikers are easy to pick out from the crowd, see “Pausing for Gratitude” for more).
After much deliberation and a phone call, the four of us choose to split a room at the Historic Washington Hotel – after all, Arlie the innkeeper said, “I don’t care how many of you are in there, I only have to clean one set of sheets! You guys can sleep on the couch in the commons area too.” So, for $10 a piece, we got somewhere to sleep, to charge all of our phones, our laundry done for us, and we got showers complete with soap and towels. It was an incredible deal!
While sitting in towels in the commons area (our clothes in the laundry), Rick, another hiker wandered in.
“What is this, free love?”
“Nah,” we started…
“Yes, Join us!” said Jared.
The whole situation was ridiculous and wonderful. Conversation flowed, and laundry load by laundry load we got our fresh clothing back.
The next morning the post office didn’t open until 10:30 am, so we had some time to hang out. We swung over to the cafe and drank lots of coffee while playing crazy-eights. At 10:30, with anticipation, we inquired at the desk of the post office – they had our packages! The grocery store was surprisingly good, with a jolly grocer singing along with the music.
Having done our chores, it was time to hit the trail again. Arlie (such an angel) got us to the trail, and we took a heat advisory siesta before continuing the hike up Abercrombie Mountain – a beautiful, if smokey view from the top. On the descent we stopped to camp, ate some “fancy couscous” for dinner, and then headed to bed.
The next day we headed toward Northport, WA. Along the hot, dry road walk, a FedEx guy stopped and gave us icy water and Pepsi. What a treat!
It was beautiful but with very little shade. When we reached the tipping point of not wanting to stop in the sun but also needing some lunch, we sat down on the side of the road. A pick-up rolled up with a friendly face offering a ride to town, water, or whatever we needed – it turns out we had stopped for lunch right across from a trail angel’s house.
It was too good to pass up, we we took his offer for the final miles into the town of Northport, where we were met by the welcoming trail angels Josh and Jami (more in “Pausing for Gratitude.”
Though it was short leg, and we had assistance a long the way, we were certainly glad to make it – especially as we received news of fires ahead.
Thanks to the PNTA for their hard work on the trails and for the strip map, above!