June 30-Amanda, Ava, and Aaron drove us all the way from Columbia Falls to Chief Mountain Trailhead. She took the Going to the Sun road which just opened three days ago. I rode in the back of the truck between the two kids enjoying the views. We are so fortunate that Amanda wanted to drive us to the trailhead. We really appreciate her kindness and I feel it is the start of wonderful trail magic on the PNT. It took about 2 1/2 hours to get to the trailhead where we took our time getting ready and playing with the kids.
A bit before 11 we embarked on our thru hike of the Pacific Northwest Trail. The first six miles were the final six miles of our CDT hike last year. The only difference is the season making the trail full of green and blooming flowers. We also crossed many streams on the footbridges where last year they were all dry. It was an easy start to the hike with mostly downhill as we slowly neared the mountains and the Belly River. We made it to the junction where we would begin hiking new sections in Glacier. We came to a suspension bridge and took an afternoon snack break listening to the water and songs of the birds. We must still have our trail legs since we can still walk 6.5 miles without a break.
I am back to my happy place again. Surrounded by mountains with snowy peaks and glaciers, a large variety of wild flowers, the sound of rushing water, and lush green grasses all around. I also saw two marmots playing in the grass and letting out their squeals. We both are excited for this hike and instead of exclaiming “to Canada!” as we did on the CDT. We can say “to the Ocean!” What a concept a trail that starts in Glacier and ending on the Pacific Ocean. Just one of the many reasons I wanted to hike this trail.
We had to cross the suspension bridge one at a time as I swayed about making it across quickly. We came to the junction of Gros Ventre Falls where three hikes offered to watch our packs so we could check out the waterfall. We later found out they are hiking the PNT as well. The waterfall was spectacular being deep blue from the glaciers and snow melt.
We passed a variety of flowers that I could not identify, but we learned about bear grass. We took a water break near a stream enjoying our first filtered bottle of the trip. So much better then tap or bottle water! The three hikers passed us again and we realized we had met the woman for sure. In the Wind River Range, we crossed paths with a male and female thru hiker who had flip flopped. We chatted to her for a few minutes and it was the same woman, Mermaid. She is also hiking with Beacon again this year and Turtle has joined them as for ell on her first thru hike. Yes! We have already met three thru hikers on day one.
We passed by gorgeous blue lakes and the first one is named Cosley Lake. We came to Glenns Lake where we would be camping tonight. We walked along it for a bit before coming to the Glenn Lake Head campsite. In Glacier National Park, the campsites are set up in a specific way. There is a food prep and eating area, a bear hang, a privy spot, and a few campsites. We hung out at the food area as required. A deer came close to us and watched us for a while. Mermaid, Beacon, and Turtle joined us and chatted for a while. They are camping .5 miles father up the trail from us.
The mosquitos were pretty nasty during the day and they got very bad in the evening. We retreated to our tent that looked out at the lake and the huge mountains ahead of us. It is a beautiful spot! As I said in my last blog, I was unsure if I wanted to do another thru hike. My smile and spirit were high today and I couldn’t be happier. I’m not a desert girl, but rather a mountain woman! I live for the flowing water, lush green grasses and flowers, and mountain views. This is where I am meant to be. I am eager to explore this trail, but recognize how quickly time will go by. I will cherish every moment and continue to dream of future adventures and life goals. We fell asleep back in our two person tent for the first time in 5 weeks full of happiness.
The first time I woke up a deer was licking our tent. I first asked Paperweight if he was making a noise before I yelled at the deer to get away. We drifted back to sleep until 6 when he kindly woke me up and we got moving. We meet two fellows who arrived late last night and chatted during breakfast. A few hundred yards from our tent site I glanced to the water and saw something. It looked like a brown log floating, but suddenly it moved. A large moose head emerged from the lake as he came up for fresh air. The water pour off his antlers as he gazed at us before dipping back under to continue his breakfast. It was a magical sight to see and took my breath away. What a special way to start the day.
We found ourselves attached by mosquitos and thrashing through overgrown plants. I decided on only hiker shorts and long legged underwear so it looks like my legs will be torn up as usual. The trail began a gradual climb up to the first pass named Stoney Indian Pass.
We entered the land of waterfalls! We looked up towards our pass seeing patches of snows and multiple waterfalls. Everything I love about hiking can be summed up in this pass. We climbed gradually uphill towards the pass over water patches. We came to the first bridge that was a board across the water and I quickly walked across. We caught up to the other three hikers and moved ahead of them. We came to the next water crossing that did not have a log so we forded the cold glacier water. We then hit the patches of snow. Thanks to the San Juans and CDT I felt confident moving quickly over the snow. A few spots were over a stream, but we did not fall in luckily. It was fun hiking!
We came to the top of pass which rewarded us with a new view of what laid ahead. We considered taking a break, but we wanted to get done with the snow travel. The downhill was a bit more iffy as we ended up on a cliff having to backtrack. It was after 11 so the snow was getting soft. We skipped switchbacks since they were covered in snow and made our way down. A few more snowy patches over streams were easy to pass. We came down to the lake where it is so full that it covered part of the trail. Another water filled with snow melt water felt nice on the toes. There was one last sketchy pass and I was worried about falling into the lake. But we survived the pass so we took a long break staring back at the pass while drying out our feet.
The rest of the day was a breeze besides the pesky mosquitos and high weeds. We were only able to take one break at a stream due to a nice breeze. We pushed on to the Goat Haunt Shelters which was magical. The border patrol agent ran out asking where we came out. She told us to continue down the paved path to the shelters. We walked .25 miles along Waterton Lake which is spectacular. We found the shelters which are concert with three walls. It was a perfect place and it is also a spot where a boat arrives from Canada every few hours to the International Peace Park.
We hung up our food then set up our semi freestanding tent on the concrete with large rocks. We made our way down to the sitting area and a man came running up to exclaiming “Sass.” It was One of Us a hiker that I met on the PCT. Today is the first day of his CDT thru hike. So it was a wonderful evening of sharing stories. We also met a father and son who will be in 10th grade this year also thru hiking this year. It was a lovely night of conversation with wonderful people. We did not go to bed until close to 10 even though it was still light out. Day two complete and I couldn’t be happier.
We were the last ones to wake up this morning. So I think I’ve done a great job getting Paperweight to sleep in. I got to use a flush toilet, charge my phone, and enjoy breakfast staring at Waterton Lake. One of Us enjoyed breakfast with us and more great conversation until we parted ways.
We got back to trail a little later then we had planned, but it was a nice warmup. We walked through more tall brush and over another long suspension bridge. Everything is blooming and the scent of the forest is intense. It was a nice stroll as we neared the start of the climb to Brown Pass.
On the way uphill, we had to do some quick foot steps in loose mud due to a huge snow bank. If you slip, you fall into the snow melt lake. As we were ascending the switchbacks I noticed something large and brown way out in the distance. It moved slowly as we decided it was a bear, but so far away it was hard to tell. The climbing was gradual and before we knew it we reached Brown Pass. There was a small pile of snow at the top meaning just 5 quick steps over it. The view was nice, but yesterday’s was much better.
We took a quick break, but the downhill was steep and slow going. I walked across one of the fast flowing streams, but he just walked across it balancing on a dead log. We were both successful. The switchbacks were quick as we dipped lower and lower into the brush. Water is raging and waterfalls are all around. We took a break at a stream as the mosquitos harassed us. Then we were off to our campsite for the night.
We made it to the Bowman Lake Head campsite to find Mermaid and Turtle setting up. We all shared a spot tonight and Beacon joined us later on. I loved soaking my feet in the lake. I still feel strong with no aches yet. We enjoyed dinner at the designated cooking area with many other campers. It was another wonderful evening. We did not put on our rainfly so we were able to sleep under the stars. I love cuddling up next to my man while reading a book in the wild. I’m back to my happy place!
I woke up at 5:30 as the sky was already light and Paperweight was snoring softly next to me. I drifted back to sleep until 6:30 when we both staggered out of the tent and quickly packed up before heading to the food prep area. Turtle and Beacon were headed out, but Mermaid and another hiker out for the weekend joined us for breakfast. We began hiking a bit before 8.
We have a little under 15 miles to the first trail town of Polebridge. The first half of the day was a nice walk along Bowman Lake. There were a few uphills and a couple puddles to jump over. We chatted most of the way enjoying mountain views and the songs of the birds. We did not take more then a quick water break. We came to the campground where we took almost an hour break looking at Bowman Lake. It was pleasant and peaceful.
We began the second half of the day which was a gravel road towards the town of Polebridge. Cars came zipping by as dirt blew in our faces. We both zoned out to Podcasts again only taking a water break. We crossed out of Glacier National Park saying goodbye to the park for a few months. We continued walking over three miles an hour motivated by town. We made it there a bit after 1 and still feeling strong.
We picked up a soda, a bear claw, and got a free pastry for hiking in. Delicious! We then made it into the hostel which is magical. It is a gorgeous log home and the five of us are sharing the “family room.” We went back downtown to drink a beer and pick up our box. We spent most of the afternoon showering and lounging in the living room on couches and rocking chairs.
My friend Amanda, her husband Adam, and their two children Ava and Aaron drove in to Polebridge from Columbia Falls to treat us with dinner. Adam grilled up some burgers for us as I played with the kids. We enjoyed delicious burgers, macaroni salad, cold beer, and sharing stories. So grateful for their kindness! Life is wonderful! We wandered back to the hostel played a quick game of Skipbo then retreated to our comfy bed.
We woke up to a strange sound thinking it was a mouse in our food. It was the hostel owner’s cat, Oliver, and he was playing with my backpack’s straps. So I spent half an hour giving him some loving! Mermaid, Beacon, Paperweight, and I walked the .2 miles to the Mercantile for breakfast. I savored a cold Coca Cola, a bacon, hash browns, egg burrito, a bag of chips, and their famous bear claw! The four of us spent a long time chatting and waiting for the 4th of July celebrations to begin.
The Fourth of July in Polebridge is a big deal. Only about 40 residents live in this town year round, but the summers are busy. It is a gateway into Glacier National Park and a small town still unpaved with just a Mercantile and a restaurant/saloon. They had a fun parade full of laughter. I really enjoyed myself and the creativity of the floats and outfits. A plane flew overhead as well during the parade and the best part is the parade comes back so you can watch it twice.
We then returned to the hostel. I counted 17 PNT hikers at the hostel tonight and am surprised at such a large number this year. It is wonderful to meet new people as the last few trails we only saw a few other thru hikers. Later in the evening a group of us ate dinner at the Saloon before the last walk back to the hostel. Mermaid, Paperweight and I sat by the North Fork River and saw an otter swimming upstream. Then we camped out in the front yard for the night. Another 4th of July spent in town and this is one I’ll never forget.