July 26The best part of a B&B is the breakfast I learned this morning. Bert cooked up some homemade sausage gravy and biscuits along with fluffy eggs. She also had a huge pitcher of OJ. We had a nice meal chatting with her and the other hikers. I felt so at home here and hope to visit her again.
We each picked up a sandwich and a cold soda for the walk out of town. The trail walks out of town and over the Columbia River on the sidewalk over the bridge. We had to jump the guardrail on the other side and walk carefully on the shoulder. Then the trail turns onto a dirt road. So began another long dirt road march. We passed the race track and began climbing gradually out of town. They are repairing part of the road so many trucks came by kicking up dust, but the spray truck came by too making it a bit less dusty. It was easy walking at a steady pace. We stopped to hide out in the shade along a river for a nice lunch break. Mermaid caught up to us and chatted for a while. Everyone else had hitched out of town and as far up the dirt road as possible.
My stomach isn’t too happy with me so I walked slowly as the two of them got ahead and talked. The heat also still effects my hiking. It is so humid and in the high 80s at this elevation. We did take a short water break where I cooled down and felt better as we hiked on. Mermaid went off to camp at Elbow Lake. As we passed above it, it was not a nice swimming hole like she had hoped. As we had a water break she came by deciding to put in a few more miles. We also saw Iceburg again. He had started with two guys he met on a PNT forum and they are now both off trail. This is his first thru hike and he is a wonderful guy.
We hiked on together for a while even taking a wrong turn having to backtrack. We caught up and shared stories. We all camped in a grassy area near a fire ring after the dirt road. This spot looks like a hunting camp. Iceburg had packed out 12 beers this morning and shared with each us. A semi warm beer tasted pretty good today. We all chatted until it started to get dark. It was another nice day on the PNT walking a dirt road.
We woke up early to beat the heat. Around 5:00, we could hear logging equipment in the distance. We walked across the operation about a mile past our campsite. We had to wait until they noticed us to pass by since there was heavy equipment on the road. One guy asked “why the hell we were doing this?” I said we were going to the ocean. The rest of the morning miles on this road involves jumping off the road to let the trucks filled with logs by as they kicked up lots of dust. They do not spray the roads. We came across six other hikers packing up. They had all got rides a few miles or more out of town so we did not see them on trail yesterday.
At one point, there was six of us walking together down a road. This road was not the loggers route, but the locals still kicked up some dust. The two of us took a snack break since we were already 8 miles or so into the day. We came to the spot where you have two options. You can hike the Kettle Crest trail or head into the town of Orient. This section of trail is still closed on the NFS website, but Billie talked to someone on the phone that said go at your own risk. So that means it might not be maintained so we took the town option. They told us a few days later that it was maintained, but poodle dog bush was everywhere and made Bessie feel like she had an awful cold. I learned a few days later that I react to that awful bush as well so I’m glad we choose the other option.
We took a dirt road towards the small town of Orient. We crossed over a bridge as dozens of high school football players wrestled in the water. The town has a small store, a restaurant/bar, a few churches, and that’s about it. I did love the “town hall” which was a tiny building right off the road that I had to take a picture of. I enjoyed a cold root beer and some Italian Ice in front of the store. We also resupplied a bit fairly cheaply in this small of a town. The woman told us that we had to go for a dip in the Kettle River. Lots of people float down it 5 miles during the summer. We took a nice bath in the river dunking our entire bodies and washing our clothes. It was so peaceful as people often came by to float down the river. As we were drying off, the football team came back to ruin our quiet. I did enjoy watching them dive off of the rocks and have a tug of war. Oh to be in high school again.
Around 3, we were dry enough and off to the bar to join the other 8 hikers. We were the main customers for the lunch service and it was a fun place to hide out at away from the hot sun. It’s nice to be around other hikers in town since most of them hitch hike this is the only time we see them. We had a few beers and of course a burger.
Around 6, we started making moves back to the trail. We had an uphill paved road walk that would lead back into the National Forest. Even though it wasn’t too hot, I was dripping in sweat. We found the trail which is an old forest road. Iceburg was setting up above the trail and we just set up right on it. We hiked almost 20 miles today while swimming, eating at a restaurant, and resting for many hours. Thru hiking can be so tough some days. 😉
As we were finished up packing, Beacon and Mermaid came walking down the road. They stayed behind at the bar to hear Epic sing karaoke. It seems like he pulled his hamstring last night so him and Iron Eagle are off trail. So from the 16 of us that were at Polebridge on July 4th, only 8 remain. I told Paperweight that means only 50% are going to make it. Which one of us is out next?
The first few miles the three of us walked along an old forest road together talking the miles away. We took a few breaks today for water together. I let them get ahead as I was feeling a bit off and couldn’t keep up. As the road joined an exposed road walk, I pulled out my umbrella to help with the heat. Another day in the 90s. Yuck! It did make a big difference as I listened to a podcast. The day was spent walking then drinking lots of water to rehydrate. Luckily, my shirt dries out quickly, but it only takes a few minutes to be drenched.
As we turned the corner, we saw Beacon and his car. He rushed out of the car with his cooler. He handed me a cold fruit punch Gatorade so I sat down, took my shoes off, and sipped away. The four of relaxed in the grass at the trailhead until hiker midnight which is around 8 these days. I still had some daylight so I read a bit of my book. Mermaid came over with grapes as I ate in our tent for maybe the third time since we have had it. It was a nice relaxing evening after a quick 18 mile day.
We realized after walking for a few minutes that we weren’t at the trailhead. We found a privy and the sign for the old highway. The trail follows “Old State Trail” which was the original state highway originally built in 1892. It was later abandoned after a safer and easier route was established. I tried to envision wagons traveling this route over 100 years ago. The trail connected back to the Kettle Crest as we climbed to the top of Copper Butte at 7,140 feet. The views were fabulous as always. The trail went pass Scar Mountain, Wapalossie Mountain, Jungle Hill and Columbia mountain climbing up and down.
We ran into a few groups of horse back riders that chatted to us and lectured us on how to keep their horses calm. We made it to Sherman Pass to find Beacon and crew. Everyone is heading into Republic today from the east well we are going to headed in from the west in a few days. All of them are planning to skip the section of trail so we might see them again. Billie and Bessie just left town so will be seeing them for the next few days. We said farewell and crossed the highway. The trail climbed up words and after a few miles were awarded us with sweeping views. The section of trail is beautiful. It’s nice to spend the whole day on trail.
The afternoon is full of even better hiking as we really enjoyed ourselves. We had a goal in mind but didn’t make it as far as we’d hoped for. We ended up walking along the ridge before dipping down on tight switchbacks as the sun was setting. My legs were shaky and the downhill wore out my knees. It was a tough end to the day, but the sunset was gorgeous. Without being a burn section, it would not have been as breathtaking. We finished the last bit of downhill and found a faint trail that would dip into the bushwhack. It was a bit after 8 and there was no way we were going to enter that situation before dark. We found a spot next to some other trail with a horseshoe marker. I was too tired to eat much so I just sat outside snacking while he cooked. It felt wonderful to lie down on my sleeping bag. I was exhausted and quickly passed out as an owl hooted nearby.
We both slept in a little later than we had hoped to this morning. Our morning started off with a bushwhack. It is all about picking the easiest route which is easier said than done. We had some tree hopping, overgrown bush swatting, and slow progress. Luckily, we made it to the old forest road then the gravel road. We took a water break at the road before busting out the next few miles listening to his music.
The PNT then joins the 13 mile trail. About a mile in, I spotted the first black bear of the hike running away from us. Billie and Bessie had scared it up a tree maybe half an hour before we saw it. We ate lots of berries today from blueberries, huckleberries, and thimbleberries. Sorry bears hikers need berries too! We took a break sitting in a berry patch just snacking away. The trail provides. The hiking was wonderful as well this afternoon and reminded us a bit of the AZT.
We camped at the 13 Mile Trailhead. When we got there, Billie and Bessie were having dinner. We joined them at the picnic table enjoying their company before they hiked on a bit farther into the darkness. We did our chores and even threw stuff away in the trash can next to the toilet. We had the entire campground to ourselves tonight. Something was wandering around in the bushes, but it didn’t seem to want to bother us. So we were quickly asleep in a random campground in Washington.
Today was a usual PNT day in Eastern Washington meaning lots of road walking including some paved. After the campground, we had a little over 3 miles of paved road. We realized we had camped in the Indian Reservation due to a sign on the road. We jumped off the small shoulder as logging trucks came quickly down the road. We made it to the closed down campground. The privy smelled foul even from a far distance. We both filtered some water and prepared for the only bit of trail today.We had 2.2 miles of trail to hike. You climb quickly from the trailhead up on long switchbacks. The trail was rocky as I took my time not to slide off the edge of the trail. Lots of birds are singing this morning as smoke fills the sky. I was soaked in sweat quickly. It was in the 80s at this elevation this afternoon. We finished the trail part of the day and began walking dirt roads again. We both zoned out to Podcasts before meeting up at a road crossing with a flowing stream.
After lunch, we walked together for almost 3 miles on a paved road with few cars. Then we turned back onto a dirt road where no cars traveled. This area is a burn section so we both used our umbrellas for shade. The heat on this trail has been present most days. I haven’t used any of my warm gear recently and doesn’t zip up my sleeping bag at night anymore.
We made it to spring where we lounged in the high grasses across from each other. After twenty minutes, I heard a noise across from us on the road. I was shocked to see a bear running uphill away from the room. Who knows who long he had been there maybe this whole time. We have been in bear country for so long and it is a nice surprise to see two in past two days. He let out a loud sound as the bear ran faster uphill.
After leaving our break spot, we entered the Okanogan National Forest saying goodbye to Colville National Forest after spending many days there. The hours seemed a drag a bit this afternoon as we neared our possible campsite. We hit 500 miles today as well. The water we planned to camp at was dry so we were happy we had packed up extra just in case that happened. We set up just off of the gravel road under some tiny ponderosa trees. This area was logged a few years back. I enjoyed my second cook meal on this trail before relaxing in our tent. We can hear many critters around the campsite tonight. I fell asleep listening to something outside being noisy and Paperweight snoring.
We fell asleep listening to some animal wandering around nearby. Around 5, I could hear a much larger and closer animal lurking. The alarm was set for 5:30 so I didn’t drift back to sleep for long. We were finishing up our dirt road march by 6:25. We are early risers on town days. We had a little over 6 miles to go.
The road was empty as expected except for the occasional deer and herds of cows. We made good time and enjoyed the cool temperatures. The sky is still smokey and we are eager to read up on the wildfires. By 8:30, we were standing on Highway 20 with our thumbs out. A support vehicle for a bicycle tour turned around and took us into Republic. We grabbed a bite to eat at Knotty Pine which was delicious and had huge portions. We met a thru hiker named Sogood as well. The owner of the Klondike Motel got a room cleaned for us early and by 10 I was in the shower. What a perfect way to start out a nero day. We had showered, relaxed a bit, clean all our gear, did laundry, resupplied, and were lounging by 2:30. The only other time we left our room was to pick up our pizza and breadsticks. It was in the mid 90s outside and smoky so we rested up in the AC. We had gone a whole week without a shower or bed so it a was a nice treat. Republic treated us well.