The Pacific Northwest Trail links Glacier National Park with the coast of Olympic National Park in Washington through a series of trails, bushwhacking, and road walking.  Last year, starting in Glacier NP, we made it as far as the town of Oroville, Washington, before running out of time and having to end our 2018 adventure.  This July we started up again, with the next section of trail.

In this section, we started at the Cold Springs Trail Head, just outside of Oroville, and hiked to Ross Lake and Highway 20 (description from the PNTA website here).   Jen and her partner had been road tripping out in Washington prior to me flying out, so they were able to pick me up from the airport, and we traveled to the trail head together. 

As per usual, things didn’t always go as planned: sometimes there was lots of trees across the trail, rivers had to be forded, occasionally the trail disappeared, and often there were bonus trails that weren’t on the map.  Foot issues, mosquitoes, drenching rain, and frost rounded out the experience.  Despite the discomfort (there was plenty “type two” fun, and some that isn’t fun even looking back on it), traveling by foot allowed us to take in the landscape on an intimate, visceral level.  This section was incredibly beautiful, so most of this post (and probably the next one) will use pictures to more effectively share our experience. 

Sunrise en route to the trail head, taken from the window of the van while moving.

Space.  There is a lot of it in the Pasayten,  The friends that we made last year (and who continued when we got off trail) had hiked in thick smoke, needing to get to a daily quota of miles to make sure they were safe from fires.  We really lucked out with clear skies so we could take in the beauty, and we didn’t have to run from flames!

We also lucked out and got to see some wildflowers.  Imagine entire valleys blanketed with them – the pungent aroma almost dizzying at times.

So. Much. Space.

Giant U-shaped valleys carved out by glaciers.
Late afternoon views.
There weren’t many lakes, so this was a rare treat.

In true Pacific Northwest Trail fashion, we founds some trees on the trail.  Climbing, scooting, swearing, and crawling ensued.  Very thick. Lots of sap.

As we were in a wilderness area, where motors aren’t allowed, these logs were going to have to be cut with crosscut saws.  Thanks trail crews (in advance)!
There were lots of cool fungi as well as butterfly friends.

For eleven miles, the PNT overlaps with the PCT.  In this section we found signage, campsites, impeccable maintenance, and people.  It was a drastic change from the rugged trail and the very few people we had come across in the rest of the wilderness.

Great views and impeccably maintained trail.
Evening hiking on the PNT/PCT.
Dusk at a much needed, if exposed, campsite.  After a lovely evening, we awoke to wind and rain (though the exposure made it sound more dramatic than it actually was).

As soon as we turned off of the shared PCT/PNT, we were met with more downed trees.  We shared a chuckle: this seemed more like the PNT we knew.  After a long day, and with calm, beautiful weather, we opted to stay at an epic spot for our final night in the Pasayten:

A healthy climb led us to more great views.
A rare selfie on our last night in the Pasayten.
Someone else had gone through the work to stack up the wall at this campsite. Thanks person!
It was a chilly night, but definitely worth it. Sunset

From this site, we descended for hours, finally getting to Ross Lake.

“Jen, take a picture of me with this tree!”  Seen on the descent.
We had hoped for a more grandiose sign to mark the boarder of such an epic wilderness area.
Exiting the Pasayten, we walked for twelve miles along Ross Lake.  Much of the trail cut up into the woods, but some hugged cliffs next to the water.

Traveling along the PNT has allowed us to discover incredible landscapes that we otherwise might not have heard of, much less planned a trip to. The Pasayten, as an example, is a land frequently overlooked, but a gem that I would love to return to.  Though we were pretty beat up from the ruggedness and the mileage, we were excited for the next section: North Cascades National Park.