We decided to wait until 11 to check out of our comfy room. Everyone else got an early ride out with the trail angel. We grabbed a fast lunch at Subway before hitching out of town. He joked it was going to be a tough hitch. A man quickly stopped to give us a ride out of town in his van that he lives in with his dog. He was a wonderful guy and is a woodcarver. He dropped us off at a junction that would lead back to the spot where Beacon picked us up. Our next ride was a younger man who moved a car seat for us to sit down. He hadn’t heard of the PNT, but was interested and went a little farther out of his way to get us back to our spot. I love hitchhiking. Yes, I know people find it to be scary, but I love meeting new people and sharing stories.
We could of walked down the paved road then back up another paved road or take a bushwhack down from the guardrail. That was our best option. We ended up finding a path after the steep path that connected us to the road we needed to be on. It was the original highway, but now no cars passed by. We walked a few other paved roads past farmland, cute homes, and lots of chickens running around. The trail joins a dirt road for a short section past a lake which was pleasant walking. We hiked together all day just talking about other possible thru hikes, dreams of places to travel, and other “real life” topics.
We walked almost 11 miles to the base of the climb. As we were nearing the turn to the trail, Mermaid, Epic, and Beacon were walking towards us. They had got dropped off at this point this morning and had set up camp nearby. We joined them as well as Iron Eagle at the campsite. We got there a bit before 4 so it was an easy evening of conversation, laughter, and eating. The wildfire in the distance is causing the sky to be smoky, but we can’t smell it yet. We made it out of town and both of us are feeling strong.
We said goodbye to the other four who decided to skip the ridge and stay along a creek for most of the day. Also, this area burned in 2015. The climb started up towards Parker Ridge on a beautifully groomed trail with many switchbacks. Many of the trees are burnt, but they are all still standing tall. We found the spring to be flowing nicely so it really wasn’t a long water carry like we expected. We climbed higher and higher towards the ridge. Huge granite slabs were along the cliff making the views extraordinary. We both agreed this has been the best section of hiking since Glacier. We reached the ridge after a 5,000 foot climb to be rewarded with mountain ranges all around us. Today included lots of exposed hiking so we both were drenched in sweat all day.
Lakes below us dotted the scenery. We even crossed a few patches of snow left over from the winter. Parker Ridge has been a magical hike for us. I love ridge walks! We both agreed this area could be explored much more. We grabbed some cold water from a melting snow bank before beginning the descent. We met two other thru hikers named Bessie and Billy on our way down. We came to another trail junction as the trail then became larger and better maintained. Lots of nicely constructed boardwalks as well.
A steep 700 foot climb at the end of the day would lead up to our campsite. It was a bitch! After all the elevation gain we already had today this last bit really wore me out. It was also straight up from Pyramid Lake to our campsite. We finally made it to Upper Balls Lake after doing over 6,000 feet of climbing today. The lake was gorgeous and there were many options for campsites. We choose a spot where we quickly set up then went down towards the lake to eat dinner and enjoy the view. The water was chilly as I soaked my feet and rinsed off my legs. We ate dinner and right as were ready to go into the tent when Mermaid arrived. She had hiked 3 more miles then us on an alternative route with lots of water that avoided the ridge. She kicked ass today too. She joined us as Beacon, Epic, and Iron Eagle camped 700 feet lower at Pyramid Lake. It was chilly at our campsite as I wore my pants, my down jacket, and hat while eating dinner. We made it into the tent as it was just getting dark and we drifted off to sleep after one of our best days on trail so far.
Beacon came walking into our campsite around 7 and ready to conquer our next challenge. The trail enters a 5 mile “bushwhack” section. The four of us left together as we found a nice trail leading straight uphill towards the boulders we had admired from our campsites. The trail then disappears and you are left to pick the safest route across a slopped mountain with many rocks and loose sand. We hike a bit faster then Mermaid and Beacon so we left them at this point. I am also a bit anxious on this type of hiking, but I took cautious steps and did not panic. I sat and scooted on my butt a few time, I hugged trees, and I took baby steps most of the way. It wasn’t the worse hiking I have done so far, but still a bit terrifying.
(The photo above is the section we had to cross to get to the ridge walk)
We made it to the flat ridge where we waited and looked back trying to find the other two. As we were snacking, we heard Mermaid yell towards us words you never want to hear. Beacon, fell, hurt, bad, helicopter, and keep going! We did not think it was safe to turn around and go back since we could be injured as well. We took her advice and kept going. We worried most of the day about him and wondered what he had hurt. We found out days later that he shattered his left wrist after falling four feet. A rescue team walked up to him and helped him down to a trailhead. Accidents can occur at anytime and I’m fortunate to have had few incidents during the past 8,500+ miles.
The ridge walk was the best and easiest part of the section. The trail then drops downhill to Lion Creek. This part was tricky. There was a trail for about half of the way downhill then we were pushing away large trees. I wore my only pair of long pants today which are long legged underwear. By the end of the day, I had three holes in them. We were getting beat up by branches and stepping carefully to avoid holes. It was super slow going. Once we made it down to the water it did not get any easier.
We spent 7 hours going a total distance of 5 miles. It was almost like a nightmare! We would find a trail then loose it. We climbed over dozens of trees and got attacked by hundreds of branches. It was exhausting! I’m glad I was not doing this section alone. I can only imagine the amount of wildlife living in this area. If I was grizzly, this is where I would live because hunters do not come out this far. We took a few breaks feeling defeated and slowly making our way out of the jungle. We escaped around 3 and took a well deserved long break along a natural rock slide. We watched birds swim, eat, and play in the water for an hour. It is very unusual to have only hike 5 miles by 4, but it was that type of day.
After our nice break, we found pink ribbons on the trees which helped us find the poorly maintained trail. We then came to a huge campsite and an old forest road. The rest of the day was smooth sailing. This old overgrown road turned into a dirt forest road for many miles. We were able to easily hike 3 miles an hour. We passed the large Lake Priest where lots of people were swimming and camping. If it wasn’t so late in the day, I would of certainly went for a swim. We passed civilization and lots of cars along the road.
The trail turned off the road and the mosquitos found it. We were moving over 3 mph at this point looking for a place to camp. We entered the land of large Cedar trees along a stream. We got to the stream crossing and we decided to set up camp and cross in the morning. We were surrounded by old growth cedar trees and the sound of running water. We both rinsed off in the stream before we ate dinner. We both have some bad chafe after all the jumping over trees and unnatural movements. So a quick naked rinse was what I needed. We ate dinner then jumped into our tent to relax and discuss what a wild day it had been. We were exhausted and ready for bed early tonight.
We woke up sometime after midnight to the sound of thunder, flashes of lightning, and rainfall. I drifted back to sleep many times to be awoken by a bang. He joked in the morning that we watched the lightning light up my face most of the night. When we did get moving, we crossed the stream to find no trail on the other side. So we crossed back then walked up the trail which led into the creek and across to the trail. We were surprised to find Idaho Centennial Trail markers. We cross three other long distance trails on this hike- CDT, ICT, and PCT.
The trail was beautiful and well maintained. We then walked along Upper Priest Lake for many miles. There were lots of campers along the lake and a few dogs ran towards us. This is a gorgeous section of hiking. We took a break at the end of the lake to dry off. Due to the rain our shoes and clothes were drenched.
A few miles later we found ourselves on a dirt road where we were able to dry off. We walked this road for many miles before entering the land of cedar trees. Huge, stunning, and magnificent! I felt like a tiny speck. We crossed a stream where my feet got soaked. Then it was uphill for the end of the day.
We got concerned that there would be no where to camp until we got to the top of the climb. We found a semi flat spot right off the trail where we decided to set up camp. The bugs were nasty so we ate quickly then jumped into the tent. Bessie and Billy walked past us and scared me as I thought it was a big animal coming up the trail. We looked over our maps and made our game plan for tomorrow before falling asleep.
Our alarm was set for 5:08, but we choose to sleep then cuddle until 6. We finally got moving on the trail a bit before 7. I’m glad we got an early start today. We crossed into Washington and again found no sign. I love this state. It was lovely hiking in the fall on the PCT here and I’ve been wanting to explore more of the state since then. A little while longer we came to our morning obstacle. It took us 2 long hours to hike 3 miles on nicely switchbacked trail. The only problem was there was at least 70 down trees along the way. Then it turned into a muddy trail with high bushes all around. I only managed to fall once and it wasn’t off the ridge luckily. I felt like a gymnast hurdling, crawling, swatting, and jumping my way through this section. This trail is teaching me patience as well.
We came to a four way intersection where one of the trails is closed due to fire, one lead to a ridge walk, and the other downhill to a creek. We choose the downhill to the creek. This trail was recently groomed and full of large cedar trees. I can’t get enough of them. We decided to cross the creek early by doing a bushwhack that would cut 3 miles or so. The downhill was a little nerve racking. I picked my own route so I ended up losing him at the bottom. I should of stayed with him because his crossing was a bit easier. I had to cross at knee deep and then scramble up large rocks to get to the forest road.
We took a nice break on the road and talked to some USFS workers who asked if we were hiking the PNT. They also wanted to be sure we weren’t using the closed trail. We then had a long dirt road walk that would eventually bring us to Metaline Falls the next morning. The walk was easy and along the creek. We saw two large owls fly across the road then perch in a tree to watch us. The closer we got to town the more campsites and other people we came across. We continued on planning to camp at Mill Pond, but we found out it closed three days earlier for the season. So we found ourselves on a paved road just a few miles out of town. So we took a trail uphill and found a slanted spot along a river to set up camp. We didn’t have the energy to hike the last few miles tonight so we will save town for the morning.
Our campsite was not ideal as I slid around to the bottom of the tent all night. We got moving early this morning with Metaline Falls in sight. Besides our quick trail walk back to the highway, it was all fast road walking. I ate a few thimbleberries on the trail this morning. Yum! We walked past many other car campers along a creek before hitting one of the “most dangerous road walks of the PNT.” Maybe, we have just done so many road walks in the past few years that the small shoulder, guardrails, and concrete barriers don’t scare us anymore.
We walked down into the small town of Metaline Falls. There are a little less then 300 year long residents here. We ate breakfast at Cathy’s which is one of the two restaurants in town. We chatted with Billy and Bessie as well. We then checked out the trail angels house which is also on the main road which is 5th Ave. We met her lovely daughter who would later explain much more about this small town to us. We decided to get a room at the Washington Hotel which was built in 1908. The owner was super hiker friendly and does a load of laundry for the hikers as well. We had the option to pick any room. The rooms are on the second floor and each is adorable. We picked the one with the AC. Each bed has a beautiful quilt on it and the rooms have furniture pieces from that time period. The floors creek under your feet and the hotel has a lovely feel to it. We did our resupply chores, took a shower, and relaxed the rest of the day. We did spent a few hours at the library enjoying the free wifi. We also did the walking tour of town checking out all the old buildings. I love small towns, but I don’t know if I could live in this one. It is almost like a ghost town with more then half of the stores on the main road are closed and mostly for sale.
More hikers rolled in to town including Mermaid, Epic, Iron Eagle, Davinci, Roadrunner, and Tinkerbell. We had a late lunch at the 5th Ave Bar and Grill which is the only place open after 2. We watched the last hour of Matilda in the sitting room at the hotel and mostly just chatted with the other hikers. After hanging out at the trail angels, we all went to the bar. I had a beer, Epic bought us all a fireball shot, and Mermaid shared her salad with us. It was a perfect nero into town spent with great people in a place where you don’t have to walk far to get anywhere.