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ジェフ・キッシュのHIKER LIFE with PNT | #08 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4)

2021.05.05
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Thru-Hiking the Pacific Northwest Trail (part4)

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The hike west out of Metaline Falls, WA begins on a bridge high over the Pend Oreille River, and then immediately starts a slow ascent toward Abercrombie Mountain, the second highest peak in Eastern Washington, and one of the namesakes of the proposed wilderness area that surrounds it. I made it to the top just before sunset, and set up a bivouac next to a stacked stone windbreak on the summit.

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Abercrombie Mountain used to be the site of a lookout tower, but not much more than a short section of masonry stairs is all that remains today. As I laid down in the windbreak, on a loosely piled and drafty bed of stone, I imagined that the accommodations in the tower had been quite an upgrade at the time.

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The remains of an old lookout tower on the summit of Abercrombie Mountain.

Shortly after laying down on my sleeping pad and pulling my down quilt over me for the night, the serrated edge of one of the flaked rocks that crowns the mountain penetrated my ground cloth and cut cleanly through the bottom of my sleeping pad. It was a big hole. Not the kind you can easily patch or deal with by reinflating the pad periodically throughout the night. It popped, and I instantly felt every detail of the topography beneath me. It was going to be a long night.

I usually have a difficult time leaving the comfort of my bag on cold mornings, but with little comfort to be had, I was up at first light the next day. Smoke from nearby fires caught the golden sun and enveloped me as I packed up for the day ahead.

From the summit of Abercrombie Mountain, I found my way down to the community of Northport, WA. Northport is located just south of the Canadian border, on the eastern bank of the Columbia River. Here, the Columbia is barely recognizable to those who have crossed it many hundreds of miles away on the Pacific Crest Trail.

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A small farm along the walk into Northport.

There, it is a behemoth, having merged with the Snake River, and filled with the drainage from massive volcanoes like Mount Hood and Adams. Here, just below the confluence with the Pend Orielle River, the Columbia was just getting started.

I had dinner in Northport at Kuk’s Tavern, which lays claim to the title of “oldest licensed tavern in Washington state,” having served food and drink here continuously since 1889. Locals at the bar took interest in my journey and invited me to camp in their backyard.

The following morning, I continued on. Ahead lay the storied Kettle River Range, a cluster of peaks with a north-south orientation that the PNT joins and follows along the crest.

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Camouflaged butterfly on along the Kettle Crest.

This section of the PNT, known locally as the Kettle Crest Trail, or simply “the Krest,” undulates up and down through Washington’s drier eastern forests with ponderosa pine at lower elevations and subalpine fir and whitebark pine higher up. Numerous bald peaks climb further still into the alpine, encircled with dwarfed and gnarled krummholz.

Parts of the Kettle Crest had burned in recent years, but there was beauty in that too. Charred snags were enveloped in a sea of fireweed flowers which saturated the hillsides in pink. Snowshoe hares, now in their soft brown summer coloration, browsed the landscape. At night, the dark silhouettes of owls were visible, circling overhead.

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Fireweed along the Kettle Crest.

The Kettle Crest forms the eastern side of a horseshoe-shaped portion of trail that encircles the town of Republic, WA. This was to be my next resupply. As I descended from the Krest into the denser forest below, I had one of the most exhilarating wildlife experiences of my life.

I must have heard something to look over my shoulder when I did. Cats can stalk quietly when they want to, but this one was just too big to move through the detritus in complete silence. As I turned, and our eyes locked, we both froze. I was now standing uncomfortably close to a mountain lion.

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A baby garter snake found along the Kettle Crest.

While it was a significant encounter for me, I think I was only a fleeting curiosity for the cat. I banged my trekking poles together and gave a shout. It stood there, indifferently for a moment, and then slunk off into the trees; as if bored rather than intimidated. I set up my tent and got inside it at the first opportunity. With the fear of what might be lurking around outside, it was another long night.

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A campsite on Copper Butte, along the Kettle Crest.

Republic is a great little town, tucked into the mountains, with an aesthetic that is emblematic of the old American west. And it has everything the long distance hiker needs. There are numerous lodging options in the heart of town, there is a small grocery store, a local brewery, and for those picking up packages, the postmaster is also the local trail angel!

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Downtown Republic, WA.

After some much needed rest, and a valiant attempt to repair my punctured sleeping pad, I reluctantly left Republic behind and continued west. A highlight of this next section, between Republic and Oroville, is an area known as Whistler Canyon. In this rough and craggy landscape, hikers may be treated to encounters with wild bighorn sheep, and then, as the trail descends into the Okanogan River Valley and gets its hottest and most arid, they should be on the lookout for rattlesnakes as well.

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A view into the Okanogan River Valley from Whistler Canyon on the PNT.

Oroville sits on the southern edge of Lake Osoyoos, which straddles the Canadian border. This is an agricultural area in the lowlands between the Kettle River Range to the east, and the Cascades to the west. It’s also a very important PNT trail town, marking the halfway point of the Pacific Northwest Trail and the start of one of longest and most beautiful wilderness stretches in the country.

I checked into the only motel in town and spent a couple days there, preparing for what lay ahead.

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A smokey sunset from the Kettle Crest.

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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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