Today I set off on the Pacific Northwest Trail. It’s much less known and less traveled than the AT. It’s a 1217 mile trek from glacially carved peaks in Glacier National Park in Montana to the wild and scenic coast of Olympic National Park. Why I’m doing it, I can’t explain. Some thru-hikers claim it to be the hardest of the 11 National Scenic Trails, and I believe it probably is in a number of ways.
The adventure for me began before I arrived. I was leaving California after a great week with my two nephews, sister, and mother, exploring Pinnacles and Redwood National Parks. I don’t like to fly anymore, so I decided to take the train. It was about twice the cost of the bus, but if you’ve ever been on a long Greyhound ride, you know why. It was supposed to leave at midnight but waited until 2:30 for 18 people on another train. That made 27 of us too far behind to catch out connection in Portland. Right past the CA border we all got booted off the train and placed on a god awful bus. The idea was to cut diagonally across Oregon and get on our original train. We made it, but the ride sucked.
After the train I grabbed a few things at the store I needed and mailed home a few I took just for travel. Then I started my roadwalk to the Apgar Visitor Center. The park entrance was crawling with people. Why was everyone there on a Tuesday? Shouldn’t you all have jobs? Anyway, after being told I actually had to walk somewhere else for backcountry permits, it was back to walking. Once settled, I grabbed the free park shuttle to the other side. Forced to stand on the stairs, I snobbishly looked at all the people knowing I had already hiked more in the park than most of them would on their whole trip. After some shuttle transfers I ended up in a seat for the bulk of the ride.
I camped out in St Mary and walked to a nearby restaurant for very good wings and a beer. I was in for a few days in the woods, so I knew to eat well while I could.
That brings me to day one on trail. There is no longer a shuttle that will take hikers the last 30 miles to the trailhead, so I planned on hitching. I got an early start since my day called for a bit over 13 miles. The St Mary Visitor Center was in between the campground and the town. I figured I’d make use of the last Wifi for a while. There is certainly no cell service there. As I’m catching up at 6:30, a gentleman waiting for the permit office to open strikes up a conversation. I tell him a little about the trip and all the while trying not to seem rude on my phone. He was trying to get permits along the same trail. I wished him luck as it was heavily booked when I got mine. I gave up on the phone time, wished him well and walked on.
The sunrise on the mountains was gorgeous.
I tried to hitch for about an hour with no luck. I need to work on looking cuter somehow. Finally a car pulled over and it was the same guy getting permits. Im guessing my good looks had nothing to do with it. It probably wasn’t my charming personality either. Most likely it was simple pity. He and his buddy were taking their 10 year old son for their first backpacking trip. I think I was as excited for them as they were for me. The trail head didn’t have much for a terminus sign. Mix that with challenging light and my bad selfie skills and you get the worst starting picture possible.
That early in the morning the dew was still heavy. The trail was fairly overgrown. I’m sure what I knocked off over the next 5 miles would appropriately be measured in gallons. I was drenched to say the least. About a mile into the trail I asked myself out loud “What the F am I doing?” Why am I walking more than a thousand miles to a coast I was just at a month ago with the luxury of a car? Existential crisis aside, he valley at least had great views.
It also featured some waterfalls
I met up with 3 other thru-hikers doing a 60 day hike. It’s an ambitious pace, but they have all been on trail more recently than myself and had thousands more miles than myself. I doubt I’ll see them after tomorrow. It turns out we all chose the same campground for night one. We were swapping stories after dinner when I noticed a deer off in the distance where I had pitchedy tarp. I figured I should see what was going on and probably chase it off. It was eating my stuff! The damn thing had chewed on my hat (which was dripping wet), my trekking pole straps, and my backpack. It knocked over my tarp in the process. After looking things over, it broke a minor strap on my pack and the clasp on my hat. This is my second hat already this year. I lost the other one to Puget Sound.
Here’s hoping for a deer free evening of good sleep.