Pacific Northwest Trail - Thru Hike
On June 21st, 2007 I begin walking at Glacier National Park with intent to move westward roughly 1200 miles reaching my goal of the Pacific Ocean in late August or early September.
On August 20th, 2007 I reached that goal with a lightness in my step and a smile upon my face. Sixty-one glorious days of backpacking through the highlands and lowlands of the Pacific Northwest were an enlightening time for me both physically and mentally.
Along the way I was cheered on by friends, family, friends of friends and friends of family – all of whom kept me motivated and proud of myself as well as proud of them for living vicariously through this in hopes that they too can someday challenge themselves to a task that I could follow from a afar, jealous of their endeavors.
While hiking I sent out six reports from the trail which corresponded randomly with my reaching a place with internet access. They are listed below in order from No. 1 through No. 6.
Pacific Northwest Trail Report No. 1
Firstly, my apologies if this arrives in your inbox twice as I’d
rather you got this twice than not at all. Secondly, many of you
haven’t heard from me in months or years so read on to find out what
I’m up to nowadays. For those of you who are in-the-know, read on as
you’re probably interested in hearing how things are going.
On Thursday, June 21st I set off from Chief Mountain Ranger Station at
Glacier National Park, embarking on the 1200 mile Pacific Northwest
Trail ( http://pnt.org ). At that time all my research and planning
was put behind me and it was time to walk. I’m am currently one day
ahead of schedule but will more than likely end behind schedule as I
come across an interesting place or two to stop and spend a day. I
plan to be done hiking sometime after August 24th.
As of today, July 5th, 2007 I have reached the small town of Bonner’s
Ferry, Idaho approximately 225 miles from where I started. I have
been averaging roughly 18 or 19 miles of hiking per day. Primarily I
hike on hiking trails, secondly, Forest Service logging roads and
thirdly (but rarely fortunately) asphalt highways.
The gear I’ve chosen to carry with me was all selected (and some
handmade by my girlfriend and I) for both it’s durability and
lightweight. Thusfar I am quite happy with my choices in gear as all
is holding up well and not weighing me down. For those amongst you
whom consider yourselves gear heads, you can view my gear list at my
Web site ( http://samh.net/backpacking ).
I have mailed one memory card of digital pictures home and my brother
has kindly offered to put those up on my Web site for viewing.
Perhaps he will copy all the e-mail addresses to whom I’ve sent this
message and let you know when those are available for viewing.
I’ve seen very few people on the trails thusfar as Northwest Montana
(where I’ve spent 99% of my time) is not very populated. I get my
share of socializing however when I come down out of the mountains and
have to walk through a town to pick up another package of food from
the post office. Last night I even hiked a bit extra to get into town
to watch the Independance Day fireworks (and more importantly eat a
couple double cheeseburgers).
I won’t be checking my e-mail again for quite some time so if your
comments can wait until after I’ve complete my journey it would be
most appreciated as my Internet time is limited at public libraries.
Although if you’d like to comment quickly I do like hearing how
everyone is doing. Feel free to reply to this message or use the
Contact Form on my Web site ( http://samh.net/backpacking )
To close I’ll quote an individual whom I met one night camping, “Don’t
live life – experience it.”
Pacific Northwest Trail Report No. 2
Day twenty-two on the Pacific Northwest Trail ( http://pnt.org ).
I’ve been averaging somewhere near twenty miles per day. My shortest
day was thirteen miles and my longest was thirty-seven.
It’s only rained on me once so I’m awaiting some kind of torrential
downpour. It would be a welcome respite from the temps which have
topped 105 deg. F. Early morning hiking has been a necessity to keep
cool and I’ve been consuming upwards of two gallons of water a day.
The snow that plagued my weary ankles in the high country of Western
Montana and into Idaho is gone in all but the smallest little patches
now. With the disappearance of the snow will also come the
disappearance of some of the small snow-melt creeks which made
stocking up on water so easy. I’ll have to pay close attention to
“tanking up” with water when the chance arises and have made notes in
my trail guides as to where the best water resources are in the
I’m now in the sere brown hills of Eastern Washington which albeit not
the tremendous peaks and valleys of Montana’s Rocky Mountains or
Idaho’s Selkirks still hold their own in elevation gain/loss
(especially compared with my homeland of Minnesota). The area I am
about to embark into is not as highly developed from a recreational
standpoint so more of my immediate travels will be on Forest Service
roads than on trails. The roads provide good grade and level walking
and typically are closed to vehicular traffic so they still provide
for quality walking.
I’ve seen some diverse landscapes, from the rocky balds and snow
packed heights of Boulder Pass in Glacier National Park to the old
growth cedar forests, complete with trees in excess of eight feet in
diameter of the Salmo Priest Wilderness. Next is the drier hills of
Easter Washington’s Kettle Crest with the deep canyons of the Paysaten
Wilderness and the lush expanses of North Cascades National Park to
follow. Alas, I get ahead of myself. I’ve much country to explore in
Colville and Okanagan National Forests first and you’ll hear from me
again mid-exploration of those lands.
Tomorrow morning I set off with eight days of food in search of
Bonaparte Lake Resort (NE of Tonasket, WA) where I’ll pick up three
more days supplies for a quick jaunt up to Oroville, WA. From
Oroville I expect to make my next correspondence with the world.
Until then I bid you adieu.
p.s. In my last correspondence I mentioned I might be too busy to
respond to any replies to my mail. I don’t believe this will be the
case so feel free to comment or question whatever you fancy. My
response may be short but will be heartfelt.
Pacific Northwest Trail Report No. 3
I’m in Oroville, Washington and am paying for internet time so this
update will be unfortunately short. The public library (probably
thanks to our current administration) is closed on Mondays.
I’ve made it most of the way across the hot, dry desert-like hills of
the Okanogan Valley of Eastern Washington. Next up is the high
country of the Paysaten Wilderness and North Cascades National Park.
This is the part of the trip I’ve most anticipated. Between these two
wild areas I will get to cover literally hundreds of miles of roadless
area, broken only by a short ferry trip across Ross Lake.
My pack is at its heaviest right now with 8+ days of food and enough
water to get between streams and lakes. I’m in great shape though and
can put down twenty plus miles without too much thought now. I still
enjoy getting to town and enjoying a cheeseburger and beer though.
A new batch of photos should be ready in the near future and my
at-home-tech-support brother will be letting you all know when they’re
available. It’s certainly good having folks such as him, my parents
and girlfriend helping out on the home front.
Pacific Northwest Trail Report No. 4
Fans and friends,
I’ve been walking the Pacific Northwest Trail for forty-eight days.
Talk on two pleasurable days before that in Glacier National Park
making my way to the official PNT start on the continental divide and
that makes for an even fifty days. My mileage is somewhere in the 900
mile range thus far and my current location is Port Townsend,
The past few days have been a flurry of official PNT signage and trail
blazes proving that the trail has a good local following and that
locals are supporting it. It is a polar opposite from the off-trail
sections and route-finding nightmares of Montana, Idaho and E.
Since my last update I’ve walked a seven day stretch without walking a
road, walked stretches of the pristine beaches along the Strait of
Juan de Fuca and also pounded dozens of miles of tense, high traffic
The crossing of Ross Lake in between the Paysaten Wilderness and the
North Cascades National Park was like awaking from a dreamless sleep
and finding yourself in the middle of Times Square. Previously I had
been able to make mental notes of all the people I’d seen on the
various trails I’d walked. Once I arrived in the lands of Western
Washington it became apparent that people here really like to get out
and after it in the woods as they were everywhere. I miss the
solitude but am happy to see the trails getting good use. On a
positive note it has given me a chance to spend time with some fellow
campers – a number of whom will be receiving this update. The
kindness and generosity of others (I love free beer, thanks, Gary!) in
trade for nothing more than some backpacking stories or gear advice
has been wonderful.
All the people out in the woods obviously live somewhere and the
population density of the area shows. Finding places to camp in these
lands which aren’t mile after mile of National Forest like in previous
sections of the hike can be more difficult. As of late I’ve had to
put some of my stealth camping techniques to the test and have even
(gasp!) paid for some state park camping. I travel light and only
require a small earth footprint so with a bit of advice from some
locals in a pub a choice spot in the local park can be quickly
Ahead of me lies a nice chunk of state and federal lands encompassing
the bulk of the Olympic Peninsula’s Olympic Mountain Range and the
expansive coast of the Pacific Ocean. I’m ready to get back onto some
entire days spent on trails and back to the true backpacking
The latest batch of photos goes into the mail today so when my brother
can find some time in his busy schedule he’ll put those online for
everyone to peruse. My next trail report will probably come post-hike
and at that time I look forward to expanding in detail on some
sections and answering any questions folks might have.
It’s been great hearing people’s commentary along the way so feel free
to keep that coming. In closing let me leave you with the remark my
superstar girlfriend, Sarah leaves me with when we talk on the phone,
Pacific Northwest Trail Report No. 5
Fellow Hiking Enthusiasts (and wanna be’s) –
My hike along the Pacific Northwest Trail grows near its end. I made
excellent time across the Olympic Peninsula of Western Washington thus
far, enjoying spectacular views of the the snowy peaked Olympic
Mountains and (finally) the Pacific Ocean in all its glory. A near
record setting day of 35 miles brought me into the town of Forks, WA
last evening where I shared some floor space in a dugout of the local
ball diamond with a fellow trekker who is making his way along a 1200
mile bike tour.
I secured permits to hike the Pacific Coast sections of Olympic
National Park and set out toward that this afternoon. A few luxurious
days hiking the beaches and headlands North and I will reach my final
destination at Cape Alava. The excitement builds for the notion of
completion but the dawning of an end to something amazing is also upon
Look forward (or not) to a final trail report, statistics and photos
upon my completion and return to civilization. It’s been fun sharing
this all with you.
Pacific Northwest Trail Report No. 6
To Those Fond of the Flora and the Fauna,
This is Sam again with the last of my trail reports in regards to my
recent hike of the Pacific Northwest Trail. I arrived at Cape Alava
in Olympic National Park, my final destination where the land and
trail comes to a muted halt against the ebbing and flowing tides of
the vast Pacific Ocean. The previous days hiking North along the
coast I took at a slow pace, spending the morning hiking the beach at
low tide and the afternoon relaxing in the sun (and rain) at gorgeous
beachside campsites. Having never hiked an ocean coastline this was a
top-five highlight of the trip for me. Taking the opportunity to slow
down and savor my last days on the trail allowed much time for
meditation and reflection.
Olympic National Park as a whole is contained within the confines of
the Olympic Peninsula and plays host to a very diverse set of
ecosystems from alpine peaks and ridges to subalpine meadows to low
lying valleys of true rainforest. Due to a seriously damaging storm
that took place within the past year the desired route out of the park
along the Bogachiel river was now a place of hundreds of fallen tree
tangles which the ONP trail crews have thusfar opted not to fix. I
exited instead out the parallel Hoh river (a similar but busier rain
forest trail). Seventeen miles of trail in the morning and eighteen
plus miles of walking asphalt in the afternoon put me at the famous
Highway 101 where I hitchhiked into Forks, WA (where I last sent out a
After attempting to hitchike in the pouring rain for nearly an hour I
was finally picked up by a local fellow who was headed back down
toward the Hoh river. If I didn’t have an agenda I would have joined
him, his family and and a few hundred others for a local music and
camping gathering they were having but alas I had permits for the
National Park, a conclusion of a great hike and a train ride back to
the loves of my life in my near future.
Arriving at the ocean for the first time at the mouth of the Hoh river
was the most exciting and emotional time of the whole hike – even
precluding the somewhat meloncholy finish. I sat upon a large
driftwood log, removed my shoes and socks carefully, rolled up my
pants legs, put my camera on a slow timer mode and gently walked to
the water’s edge. I pondered the ocean for a second, looking out over
it’s vastness at the setting sun, the great colums of rock protruding
forth from it’s depths and the myriad pelicans and other shore birds
before stepping forth into its chilled waters. I stood knee deep in
the salty flow and felt my emotions welling up – contrasting the
ebbing tide. I heard the camera flash behind me immortalizing that
place and those feelings forever but I remained a bit longer, enjoying
the feel of the sand gently grating over my feet and legs as the
ocean’s waves moved it’s debris in and out, in and out.
Awaking later than usual the next day I was waved over by the family
camped upwind from me a short distance. Their offer of morning coffee
turned into coffee, pancakes, fresh trout and much quality
conversation. Their kindness was a reminder to me of all the other
helpful and sanity-stabilizing niceties folks had provided me on the
Upon completion of those days along the coast I was faced with the
possibly difficult task of hitchiking or walking the twenty miles from
the Ozette Ranger Station to the town of Everett, WA where I was to
catch the Amtrak. My two-month long streak of luck held out and after
walking only five or six of the miles of road I was treated to a ride
with some backpackers I’d seen on the trail. This was the kind of
ride that hitchikers dream about. Not only were the companions in the
car excited to discuss their own trip as well as mine they also wanted
to stop for burgers along the way and were driving not only to the end
of the road I needed to get to, but ALL the way to my final
destination of Everett! I couldn’t thank them enough and hope that
paying most of the cost of the car ferry was at least a small token of
Arriving in Everett, WA I found the nearest hotels to be full which
was a small letdown because I was finally ready to sleep under a roof
after two months and have a long hot shower. Instead I at least found
a dry and warm place to sleep in one of the garden sheds on display in
the parking lot at Lowe’s. I was able to awake early, have breakfast
and check into a hotel early for a long bath and nap. After that it
was a twenty-four hour wait for the next available Amtrak train.
I met some great folks with whom we shared great times and stories all
the way from Everett to my exit at St. Paul, MN. Most of them were
headed onward to Chicago and I wish them the best of luck in their
pursuits at college, marriage and the other trials, tribulations and
joys of life they were headed into and away from via the train.
That concludes the final report from the Pacific Northwest Trail. I
will have more messages to send out as the last batch of photos are
placed online as well as my journal entries and an extensive trip
profile including all statistics and GPS datas I collected throughout
the journey. These items will be available for perusal at your
leisure by visiting http://samh.net/backpacking and clicking the links
into backpacking and then Pacific Northwest Trail.
I have sincerely enjoyed both informing everyone of these pursuits as
well as hearing your feedback. If at this time you wish to stop
receiving my mailings please opt out by replying with a request to be
removed from the backpacking listserv. If you don’t mind a random
message from me at times I will send out in-frequent updates in
regards to the progress of the trip profile.
Interested Parties –
It’s been some time since I last wrote with an update on my hike along
the Pacific Northwest Trail. I’ve been done hiking for just over a
month now, have settled back into city life in terms of apartment
living, going back to work and spending time with family and friends.
Life on the trail was minimal and straightforward but at the same time
strenuous and consuming. I found time for little more than eating,
hiking and sleeping. Re-entry into the swing of society in which time
isn’t determined by the rising and setting of the sun but rather the
whim of the individual I’ve found myself operating later into the
night, sleeping past sunrise and generally doing the things normal
City life has allowed me time to go over the images and words I
captured to my camera and journal. I would like to share with you my
fellow hikers, family and friends these words and pictures so that you
may live vicariously through them, dream that you too may experience
such things and relate them to your own adventures.
All my Web media is either available within the backpacking section of
my Web site or via links there-in. Below are links directly to my
photo galleries, (with many more photos than in previous releases),
trail journals and videos at TrailJournals.com, Google Images and
I would like to thank you all for the wonderful responses I received
in regards to my mailings, the comments on my photos and questions of
all sorts. In the coming months I will be presenting my thru hike in
person at a number of locations such as W-Trek Outfitters in Duluth,
MN, the Midwest Mountaineering Outdoor Adventure Expo in Minneapolis,
MN and others TBA. If this is something you are interested please
contact me for more information.