Great Western Loop: Day 117 - 120 : Bonner's Ferry to Northport
Day 117: Pyramid Pass (27miles)
Leaving Bonner's Ferry was difficult. The highway had no shoulders and a lot of turns that made hitching impossible. I therefore walked a few miles to Threemile Corner, where I finally got a ride.
The guy who drove me back to the trail was a local. Born and raised near the Canadian border, that was as much as I could understand. He was clearly drunk, even though it was still early in the day and I had a hard time understanding him, as he was mumbling all the time.
Nevertheless I made it back to the trail and followed a valley road for several miles. Maybe that's where Idaho's famous potatoes are coming from.
At about 11am I had two options: a) following the official trail through a burn area and a steep climb or b) taking a 3-4mile longer detour along a river with a steep climb some 12miles later. Due to an extremely hot day (Above 100°F / 40°C), I opted for the shaded river route.
The trail was well maintained and reconnected with the official route at Pyramid Pass.
From here on, I followed the trail for another few miles to Ball Lake where I camped. Ball Lake was the starting point of a 6.5 mile bushwhack, that I didn't want to start at the end of a day.
Day 118: Bushwhack and waterslide (33miles)
My plan was getting close to the tiny town of Metaline Falls today, but stories about the bushwhack concerned me. Several posts on guthooks mentioned travel hours of 6-8hrs for a mere 6miles. Therefore I started early in the day.
The first half-mile was easy and beautiful and involved some scrambling in high alpine territory.
The trail than quickly dropped into a valley and followed a creek.
Luckily I was able to fund some game trails that really helped making solid progress. I lost these trails every now and than, but usually found a new one shortly after. Staying just north of the creek helped with orientation and made sure that I couldn't get lost in the dense forest.
I crossed the creek only once and even enjoyed a small natural waterslide.
The entire bushwhack took 4.5hrs and i even had some time to pick huckleberries, before continuing on a road, that bypassed a small trail closure.
That road took me straight to the Priest Lake State Park, which was crowded with hundreds of people.
I left the road for one of the best trails so far and hiked through a lovely forest for the next 8miles.
In the late afternoon I took a shortcut along a road and finally crossed the border into Washington.
Day 119: Metaline Falls (37miles)
I had camped some 25miles from Metaline Falls and pushed hard to get into town early, via the Jackson Alternate route. That route wasn't particularly interesting and lead through an exposed burn area for several miles
(After a severe fire, flowers come up and they covered me in pollen)
At noon I hiked around Sullivan Lake and got burned to a crisp. Temperatures were again above 100°F / 40°C with almost no shade.
(Finally some well needed shade...)
Leaving Lake Sullivan I followed a road for another 6 miles into town. The town didn't have much to offer. I stopped at the Farmhouse Cafe for a Bacon Cheeseburger, a Chicken Salad and an Apple Pie, before buying some resupplies. I than rested until 5pm before heading out again.
(Metaline Falls has about 250 citizens)
I crossed the Pend Oreille River on a bridge and hiked another 12miles on various paved and dirt roads towards Abercrombie Mountain.
Day 120: Smoke! (33miles)
The previous days had been rather nice with blue skies, but during the last night the wind had changed. I immediately smelled the smoke in the air and I woke up to hazy and smokey skies on day 120.
I quickly climbed up to Abercrombie Mountain and straight down on the other side.
(Elevation profile of Abercrombie Mountain, 5,000ft climb)
At the end of the downhill section, I passed the ghost town of Leadpoint and had to follow yet another paved road for 22miles. By now, the smoke and the heat had become extreme and I couldn't see much further than 1,000ft / 300m.
Even the Columbia River at the border to Canada was hardly visible.
With limited water the roadwalk eventually became one of the hardest sections on trail so far and I was extremely happy about a hiker-box, filled with bottled-water some 5.5miles from Northport.
(Ghost town of Leadpoint)
(Road disappears in smoke)
(Columbia River, ~1 mile from the US/Canadian border)
(Well needed Hiker-box! Thanks!)
I made it to town just after 4pm and went straight to the local pub for a Cheeseburger and an Apple Pie, before rushing to the "Murphentile" to buy some gas for my stove. After talking for a while to the shop's owner I did my grocery shopping and returned to the local pub, where I met Squat, Hannah and Mo. They invited me to stay at Josh's and Jamie's place.
I accepted the offer, ordered a Chicken Salad to go and went to the Trailangels house. Josh and Jamie were great hosts and lovely people who had already hosted 43 people this year. I pitched my tent in their backyard, next to the tents of 5 other hikers and joined the conversation.