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ジェフ・キッシュのHIKER LIFE with PNT | #07 パシフィック・ノースウエスト・トレイルのスルーハイキング (その3)

2021.02.17
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Thru-Hiking the Pacific Northwest Trail (part3)

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After resupplying in the town of Bonners Ferry, Idaho I caught a ride north, back to the trail with a local trail angel who offers a ride service to PNT hikers. The trip in and out of Bonners Ferry is often one of the only hitches a PNT hiker usually makes during a thru-hike of the trail, but even this one is avoidable by choosing to resupply at Fiest Creek Resort instead, which is situated just north of the trail and operated by a very hiker-friendly trail angel owner.

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Overlooking the Kootenai River Valley from the ascent toward Parker Ridge.

The “trail” immediately west of Bonners Ferry is mostly routed along quiet farm roads that lead hikers to the foot of the Selkirk mountains, which border the western edge of the Kootenai River Valley. The valley, and the river that runs through it, share a name with the indigenous peoples who have inhabited the area for millenia and are currently headquartered there.

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As it usually does, the PNT quickly makes up for the frontcountry roadwalking as hikers begin to ascend to Parker Ridge, which stands out as one of scenic highlights of the trail as it crosses the state of Idaho. Here, the trail walks along a thin white granite crest that stands above treeline and offers distant views back into Montana as well as forward into Washington state.

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Historic cabin at the edge of Hughes Meadows.

Until recently, this remote highcountry in western Idaho was home to the last remaining herd of woodland caribou that ranged in the contiguous United States. This unique subspecies of caribou is distinct in appearance and behavior from it’s more widely distributed tundra relative. With massive hooves that keep the animals from sinking in deep snow, they have become highly specialized foragers that spend the winter months at high altitude, eating lichen that grows only on old growth trees to survive. Efforts are underway to restore this population, which has suffered in recent years due to habitat loss and wolf predation.

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A typical view from along the PNT on Parker Ridge.

Hikers should take note that the Parker Ridge stretch of PNT is one of the longest and most exposed stretches without reliable water along the trail. In an emergency, a hiker could descend off the ridge to one of the lakes visible in the forest below, but this could be a significant distance to travel, and the climb back up to the PNT would be arduous. During my hike, I became dangerously close to dehydration, but luckily, I found some remaining winter snow on the north side of the crest and was able to get enough water that way to hold me over until the trail descended from the ridge and water once again became plentiful.

From Parker Ridge, the Pacific Northwest Trail continues southwest toward an area known as Ball Lakes. Here, hikers are advised to spend the night in order to ensure a full day’s light for traversing the very challenging section ahead. The lakes offer a wonderful place to camp, where trout are plentiful and the sound of the American Pika, a small relative of the rabbit, reverberates off the surrounding granite talus.

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The bushwhack between Ball Lakes and Lookout Mountain requires scrambling over large boulders and downed trees.

The following day begins one the most challenging sections of the Pacific Northwest Trail. At Ball Lakes, the trail ends, and hikers must find their way cross-country, with no signs or trail to guide them, across some incredibly rugged terrain. Two main options have emerged to accomplish this objective, and the PNTA maps and the Guthook app reference both.

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The Upper Priest Lake Scenic Area leads toward the designated Salmo Priest Wilderness area beyond.

The northern route climbs high above treeline on exposed granite cliffs to reconnect with established tread at a lookout tower on the appropriately named Lookout Mountain.

The southern route descends quickly into a thickly forested drainage and follows Lion Creek out to trails below the mountain. Each route presents unique challenges, with the high route requiring more difficult scrambling and exposure to the elements, and the low route requiring more bushwhacking and potential for animal encounters.

I chose the low route, as it was the more well known option at the time. If I were to do it again, I think I’d go high. While woodland caribou no longer inhabit the area, it is still rich with wildlife, including grizzly bears. While I did not see a grizzly bear on my traverse of the area, I did observe fresh tracks of a black bear with cubs, and encountered a moose.

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Another historic cabin in Hughes Meadows.

The challenge and danger associated with this stretch of the PNT can not be understated. It is not only difficult to navigate, but the terrain is full of potential hazards. In multiple recent seasons, PNT hikers have suffered broken bones and required rescue from this stretch.

Whether you take the northern route or the southern route cross-country, if you stick to the official route of the PNT, your journey will take you to the summit of Lookout Mountain. Here, two lookouts actually stand. The first was constructed in 1929 and has been preserved as a historic site. The newer tower that replaced it in service was built in 1977.

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A view across Priest Lake at dusk.

From Lookout Mountain, hikers get excellent views of what lies ahead. Scenic Priest Lake spans across much of the area below, and additional fingers of the Selkirk mountain range extend along the thru-hiker’s path into Washington state ahead.

Priest Lake is a popular summer recreation destination, and the transition from the remote rugged bushwhack to the busy lake perimeter can be jarring. Still, the area is very beautiful, and after the long traverse across the Idaho Selkirks, the easy miles are welcoming. This is a great opportunity to try to trade tales of your adventure with lakeside revelers, who may have some hotdogs or beers to offer in exchange.

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More of the Selkirks come into view as the storms pass.

From Priest Lake, the PNT continues toward the Washington state line. Idaho is the shortest state on the PNT and requires only 100 miles of hiking to cross. You will reach the border after traversing the highly scenic Hughes Meadow and beginning to climb through an incredible inland old growth cedar rainforest to the boundary of the Salmo Priest wilderness, which shares the state line.

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A fresh lightning strike on the Shedroof Divide.

From here, the primary route climbs the locally named Jackson Creek Trail to reach the Shedroof Divide. The Shedroof Divide is another extended ridgeline walk with the potential for incredible views in all directions. During my hike, I reached the ridge in a thunderstorm, which struck very near the trail and created a charred and smoldering mark on the hillside as I passed.

After the Shedroof Divide, the PNT continues south and then west toward Sullivan Lake and the resupply town of Metaline Falls. Now in my first trailside community in the state of Washington, I spent time with a local trail angel, and prepared for future adventures ahead.

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A gentle stroll through ancient cedar forest on the approach to the Salmo Priest Wilderness.

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WRITER
Jeff Kish

Jeff Kish

2012年にPCT(パシフィック・クレスト・トレイル)、2014年にPNT(パシフィック・ノースウエスト・トレイル)をスルーハイキングした、ロング・ディスタンス・ハイカー。アメリカのロング・ディスタンス・ハイキングのコミュニティに最も強くコミットしているハイカーのひとり。2017から2年間にわたり、アメリカで有名なハイキング関連の組織であるALDHA-West(American Long Distance Hiking Assosication-West)の理事に従事。また2014年からPNTの管理・運営組織(PNTA)の仕事に携わりはじめ、2016年にはPNTAのエグゼクティブ・ディレクター(現職)に就任。PNTは、アメリカにある11のNational Scenic Trailのなかで、もっとも最近(2009年)に認定されたトレイルゆえ発展途上であり、各方面の体制や組織づくり、運営に奔走中。現在は、PNTのトレイルタウンでもある、ワシントン州ベリンハム在住。
https://www.pnt.org

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