I’ve been stuck at the “writing” part of this blog post for a while. I think that this section is best told through pictures, so I’ll share a bunch and explain our adventure with minimal words! I took most of these pictures, but Jen took the ones of me and Katherine took a couple too!
To bring us all back up to speed, after hitting pause on our trek on the Pacific Northwest Trail during 2020, this summer brought us back to Washington to complete the last big section of trail. For those of you who have followed the whole story, you’ll remember that we haven’t actually hiked the WHOLE PNT, as purists might define it, as we’ve skipped large sections of road walk. We have, however, tried to make sure to hit most of the sections that are trail.
Our adventure this year started with Jen, my hiking buddy, driving out with her husband and me flying out to meet them. They picked me up from the airport and we made our way to the Buckhorn Wilderness, where we would start this leg of our adventure. Once we made it to the parking area, we had some lunch, repackaged some food, and made sure that all of our gear was in order. We were back to using bear canisters and all the fun that comes with them (mostly just that our packs aren’t as svelte as they could be without a large cylinder to pack around).
Right about when we were ready to say goodbye to our wonderful driver (my friend’s husband) so he could drive all the way back to Minnesota, our friend Katherine met us. She would camp with us the first night and hike with us day one! See more about how delightful she is in Losing the Trail and Finding Friends, Golden people, golden lands, and When one adventure ends, another begins. It was so fun to have her company as we ended our adventure, since she had been around when it all began (See The Beginning: Glacier to Eureka, among others).
There was a dispersed campsite close to the parking area and we set up our tents. Since our actual first day of hiking would be the following day, it was nice to be able to just relax and catch up. So much had happened since we had last seen Katherine! It was a lovely, lazy afternoon. The next morning we packed up and headed out!
Of all of the PNT, these trails were wonderfully signed and maintained. Did we see any signs stating that we were on the PNT? Nope, but navigation was easy and the views were wonderful. Eventually we exited the Buckhorn Wilderness and entered Olympic National Park. Since Katherine needed to go to work the following day, after lunch she backtracked back to her car and we continued onwards. Our campsite was by a small alpine lake. A quick dip felt great after a hot climb!
Over the couple of days, the trail brought us up and over multiple passes, with grand sweeping views in all directions. I certainly love starting a morning with a hike up a mountain. Hiking in the early morning light and getting great views is one of my highlights of most trips, and this one did not disappoint.
What goes up must come down. And down. And down. This section of the PNT had some wicked downhill sections. Switchback after switchback for miles!
After one particularly long day that had started with a brutal downhill we were still about two miles from our final destination. We took a short break at the campsite and the young woman there, trying to be friendly said, “Man, that was a tough climb to get here, right? We got here way earlier than we expected to!”
Inwardly my reaction was, “Must be nice to be at camp…we get to climb for two more miles, thank you very much.”
Outwardly I said, “Yup, sure is a climb!” with what I hoped was a smile, but might have come across as a grimace.
In my journal about this encounter I included: “Also she looked so clean. As they all did. Why are we always the dirtiest people, even before we start hiking? Mysteries.”
It was true. Most of the people we saw out there were not even close to as grimy as we were, despite hiking the same trails. How some of them could have shiny, clean, tangle-free locks in the middle of the wilderness is beyond me.
I much prefer the ups to the downs. However, the downs, despite my dislike of them in general, did bring us into the deep, mossy forest that Olympic National Park is known for. I was very excited about the big trees and waterfalls.
One of the campsites we stayed at deep in this forest seemed like it was forgotten by the rest of the world. To get to it one had to climb over a large downed tree, and the bear wire’s tree was also down. I looked around leerily, wondering, are those trees going to stay up? At this point of the evening after a long day, we were committed to sleeping here. The small site was very dark and both Jen and I agreed it was creepy (after we left of course – while we were there I think we both pretended it was “homey”).
In general though, the campsites we passed and stayed at were lovely! They were among large trees with clear, rushing rivers and streams for water. It really was a wonderful stretch of trail.
For a variety of reasons, we chose to take a spur trail to the alternate route up to Hurricane Ridge to resupply and take a rest day in Port Angeles. On the way up we saw a mama bear and two babies! Jen was hiking in front, and she saw a baby in a tree first. Immediately both of us stopped short and looked all over with a “wonder where mom is?” Thankfully mom was over by the baby, also on a tree. Then we saw baby number two! The babies skittered up the trees and mama kept an eye on us.
After admiring the furry inhabitants, we continued up the eight miles to the ridge. The views up on the ridge were fantastic! We caught a ride into town from a lovely couple with a very big truck – the very first vehicle leaving the parking lot. We couldn’t believe our luck!
In town, we grabbed some snacks at the grocery store, made some phone calls, and found our way to some beers on the waterfront while we figured out where we would sleep that night. Once that was settled, we cleaned up, had a nice dinner, and relaxed for the evening as we figured out the next logistics for the next leg of our journey. In the interest of time we decided to make our way more directly to the coast over the following days. Soon we’d get to backpack while taking into account tides – something that doesn’t occur in Minnesota, and something I think we were both excited about. On to the next stage of the adventure!