Pacific Northwest Trail Thru Hike 2007

The following is the trip report from my 2007 thru-hike of the Pacific Northwest Trail which I hiked end-to-end in East to West starting at Chief Mountain Ranger Station in Glacier National Park, Montana and ending at Cape Alava in Olympic National Park, Washington. The trip report was written originally in 2007 and was not posted on my “current” blog until 2024.

I completed the trail in 61 days, taking three zero days, and averaging approximately 20 miles per day. Re-supply was a combination of mail drops (thanks, Mom and Dad!) and grocery stores and ranged in length from everyday (grocery) to a max of nine days.

I hiked the trail solo, in ultralight style employing some common gear in that style such as a frameless rucksack, spinnaker-cloth tarp, goose down sleeping quilt, paltry torso-length foam sleeping mat, carbon fiber trekking poles, and stainless wood burning stove. The complete gear list is available for viewing here.

If you are considering a thru-hike of what is now – thanks to the tireless efforts of people like Ron Strickland, Jon Knetchel, and the Pacific Northwest Trail Association – a federally protected National Scenic Trail I recommend the following preparatory work. The trail is mostly unmarked and although the maintenance routine is growing there are many lengths of trail in NW Montana and across Idaho that are little more than game trails or seasonal hunting trails denoted by little more than a sawn log here and there so be comfortable with your ability to “find the way”. Secondly there are few other thru-hikers on the trail so do not expect a party. You may never even hike with another thru-hiker. The popularity of the trail is growing and I the number of thru’s ever summer is probably in the dozens but you may go two or three days in the more remote sections without seeing anyone at all.

Pacific Northwest Thru-Hike – June 21st through August 20th, 2007

I documented my hike in three methods all of which you’ll find below, in general order of how I shared it from beginning to end (photos being displayed throughout). Firstly I had my camera on my person at all times and I documented whatever caught my fancy in the moment. Secondly, I penciled a short journal entry at least once per day. Thirdly, during downtime at town stops spread across the trip I sent a “trail report” to a list of people who had requested to follow my journey via e-mail.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Destination: Glen’s Lake Head
Starting Location: Chief Mountain Ranger Station
Today’s Miles: 13.00
Trip Miles: 13.00

Starting Off – Click picture to see full size
Day 01 of trip [still not at official PNT trailhead yet however]. Met lots of nice people, including Lindsay, East Side ranger [whom I knew from my former Park Service days]. Stoney Indian Pass sounds do-able according to Noel and Pete, Belly River B.C. rangers. Also talked to eight CDT thru-hikers.

Saw more than a dozen people today.
Time: 5hr 30min
Ascent: 620
Descent: 1040

Friday, June 22, 2007

Destination: Lake Janet
Starting Location: Glen’s Lake Head
Today’s Miles: 26.00
Trip Miles: 39.00

The Belly River Valley – Click picture to see full size
[This marks the official start of the PNT]

Ran into Lisa and the Belly River trail crew as well as Tony the Goat Haunt BC ranger. Stoney Indian Pass was snowy and I used my ice axe once but could’ve gotten away with only the trekking poles.

Saw more than a dozen people today.
Time: 9hr 30min
Ascent: 2830
Descent: 2610

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Destination: Upper Kintla Lake
Starting Location: Lake Janet
Today’s Miles: 16.30
Trip Miles: 55.30

Nearing Boulder Pass – Click picture to see full size
Route around Hole-in-the-wall and over Boulder Pass was incredibly trying. Well worth it. Spent over two hours just traversing Hole-in-the-Wall cirque. Got lost coming off Boulder Pass ad bushwhacked some steep cliffs. All is well.

Saw no one today.
Time: 9hr 10min
Ascent: 2740
Descent: 3290

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Destination: Kintla Car Camp
Starting Location: Upper Kintla Lake
Today’s Miles: 12.90
Trip Miles: 68.20

My Gear – Click picture to see full size
Upper Kintla to Kintla car camp. Slept in, moved slow. Chatted all afternoon/evening with an unnamed fella whom has very deep understanding of the universe… more on this later I hope.

Saw more than a dozen people today.
Time: 4hr 50min
Ascent: 260
Descent: 600

Monday, June 25, 2007

Starting Location: Kintla Car Camp
Today’s Miles: 0.00
Trip Miles: 68.20

Mom at Kintla Lake – Click picture to see full size
Zero Day – Awaiting Supplies

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Destination: Weasel Cabin
Starting Location: Kintla Car Camp
Today’s Miles: 27.40
Trip Miles: 95.60

Moon over Kootenai N.F. – Click picture to see full size
Outside Glacier N.P. now. Late start (12:30). Late finish (10:45). Killer bushwack off Tuchuck Mtn.

Saw no one today.
12hr 15min
Ascent: 3460, Descent: 5480

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Destination: Wigman Creek
Starting Location: Weasel Cabin, Kootenia N.F.
Today’s Miles: 16.70
Trip Miles: 112.30

Cooking near Wigwam Creek – Click picture to see full size
Flathead and Kootenia N.F.’s Lost route and side hilled – probably lost 2 hours. Camped at Wigman Cr.

Saw no one today.
Time: 7hr 30min
Ascent: 2450
Descent: 2370

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Destination: Riverside Park, Eureka, MT
Starting Location: Wigman Cr.
Today’s Miles: 21.50
Trip Miles: 133.80

Snow in Ten Lakes Scenic Area – Click picture to see full size
Did probably 24 miles today, plus or minus one or two. Got lost coming out of Kootenia N.F. stumbled upon Sharon and Jeff Stensmen? Stengleman? at their home and they gave me a Coke and some fresh caught Kokanee salmon. Camped in Riverside Park Eureka. Five dollars with free shower. Had biscuits and gravy and borrowed dude’s laptop on hood of car for e-mail.

Saw more than a dozen people.
Time: 7hr 30min
Ascent: 2450
Descent: 2370

Friday, June 29, 2007

Destination: Webb Mtn Trailhead
Starting Location: Riverside Park, Eureka, MT
Today’s Miles: 12.30
Trip Miles: 146.10

Camp spot at Webb Mt. Trailhead – Click picture to see full size
My feet officially hurt now. Seven miles on pavement this noon didn’t help. Got town stuff taken care of, phone, email. Huge storm minutes before camp. Magically cleared up. Camped at Webb Mtn trailhead.

Saw more than a dozen people today.
Time: 8hr 0min
Ascent: 800
Descent: 860

Saturday, June 30, 2007

Destination: Gypsy Meadows
Starting Location: Webb Mtn Trailhead
Today’s Miles: 14.10
Trip Miles: 160.20

Indian Paintbrush – Click picture to see full size
Long day, feet very sore. Webb Mtn lookout quite pretty. Used dude’s binoculars to see Stonehill [sport rock climbing area along Kookanusa Resevoir]. Camped at Gypsy Meadows.

Saw more than a dozen people today.
Time: 10hr 40min
Ascent: 5030
Descent: 1900

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Destination: Vinal Lake Road
Starting Location: Gypsy Meadows
Today’s Miles: 20.40
Trip Miles: 180.60

Montana Clear cuts – Click picture to see full size
Took Ibuprofen today – hiked like a champ. Lots of clear cuts up in these parts. Faint trails, but easy enough to follow with cairns and saw cuts. Saw no one today. Camped above Vinal Lake Road.

Saw no one today.
Time:10hr 30min
Ascent: 3010
Descent: 5270

Monday, July 02, 2007

Destination: West Fork of Yaak River
Starting Location: Vinal Lake Road
Today’s Miles: 14.60
Trip Miles: 195.20

Tarp at West Fork Yaak River – Click picture to see full size
Saw two moose yesterday, forgot to mention. Put in good miles today over Garver Peak. Beautiful view of tomorrows NW Scenic area traverse. Camped at West Fork of Yaak River.

Saw less than a dozen people today.
Time: 11hr 30min
Ascent: 3200
Descent: 2170

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Destination: Big Boy Meadows
Starting Location: West Fork of Yaak River
Today’s Miles: 28.10
Trip Miles: 223.30

Sam atop Northwest Peak – Click picture to see full size
Excellent off-trail traverse of Northwest, Davis and part of Ewing Peaks in the NW Scenic Area of Kootenai N.F. I’m camped at “Big Boy Meadows” on the MT/ID border.

Saw no one today.
Time: 11hr 10min
Ascent: 4350
Descent: 2870

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Destination: Fairgrounds, Bonner’s Ferry, ID
Starting Location: Big Boy Meadows
Today’s Miles: 28.70
Trip Miles: 252.00

Fairgrounds at Bonner’s Ferry – Click picture to see full size
4th of July. Busted ass and got into Bonner’s Ferry tonight (thanks to ride from Chad and Reagan). I am at Fairgrounds awaiting fireworks to begin. Now on Pacific time. Talked to Sarah on phone from a hill-top today. I am a lucky man to have her.

Saw more than a dozen people today.
Time: 14hr 0min
Ascent: 4090
Descent: 8140

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Destination: The Spring on Trail 122
Starting Location: Fairgrounds, Bonner’s Ferry, ID
Today’s Miles: 11.30
Trip Miles: 263.30

Resuppy Shipping Label – Click picture to see full size
Pleasant day in town, good breakfast and lunch. Sewed rip in pants leg. Three ride hitch hike to trailhead. At 15:00 105 degrees!!! Set up camp at 21:30 (“The Spring” on Tr. 122).

Saw more than a dozen people today.
Time: 6hr 0min
Ascent: 3180
Descent: 330

Thursday, July 5th, 2007

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 ( ). 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 ( ).

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 Independence 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 ( )

To close I’ll quote an individual whom I met one night camping, “Don’t live life – experience it.”

Sam Haraldson

Friday, July 06, 2007

Destination: Lower Ball Lake
Starting Location: The Spring on Trail 122
Today’s Miles: 12.30
Trip Miles: 275.60

Exposed Rocks on Parker Ridge – Click picture to see full size
Awoke early, decided to only do twelve miles to allow the bushwhack to Salmo-Priest the entire day tomorrow. Finally starting to see others in the backcountry. Had nice chat with Bob today. He’s been backpacking for like thirty years. Lives on whey protein, prunes, oats and olive oil.

Saw less than a dozen people today.
Time: 8hr 40min
Ascent: 3560
Descent: 2110

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Destination: Geisinger Camp
Starting Location: Lower Ball Lake
Today’s Miles: 16.30
Trip Miles: 291.90

Lion Creek Bushwhack – Click picture to see full size
July 7th, 2007 – 777 – that’s Tom’s favorite number. Got off track today, missed Lookout Mtn. got back on at Floss Cr. Trail. Bushwhack today went flawlessly. Hit all the marks no problem. Lots of people out and about. Camped at Geisinger on Upper Priest Lake.

Saw more than a dozen people today.
Time:11hr 20min
Ascent: 490
Descent: 4340

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Destination: Junction Tr. 512 and 315
Starting Location: Geisinger Camp
Today’s Miles: 24.30
Trip Miles: 316.20

Large Cedars near Upper Priest Lake – Click picture to see full size
Everyday it seems I overcome another challenge, never ceasing to amaze myself. Tr 349 to Snowy Top was closed by a 2006 fire so I found an alt. route. I figured it would be nice getting to avoid the 89 switchbacks on tr. 349. Little did I know that my choice, Tr 315 would be an absolute jungle of brush and blowdowns. Ugh. This camp is gorgeous and a good relax after a long day. Camped just past Jct of Tr 512 and 315.

Had chat with Craig. Old car camper comin’ to same spot 40 years. Had roast oysters and a swig of Old Idaho whiskey with him. Truly a nice man. I’m in Washington now. GRD.

Saw less than a dozen people today.
Time: 12 hr 10min
Ascent: 3790
Descent: 450

Monday, July 09, 2007

Destination: Jct. Tr. 507 and 525
Starting Location: Junction Tr. 512 and 315
Today’s Miles: 16.10
Trip Miles: 332.30

Camp past Crowell Ridge – Click picture to see full size
After yesterday’s slog thru the alder choked tr. 315 I didn’t think it could get worse… then it did. Four miles of absolutely swimming through that god-forsaken plant. Upon topping out that trail though, all frustration was gone. Bald, boulder and sub-alpine fir strewn Crowell Ridge was an absolute delight.

Saw no one today.
Time: 1hr 20min
Ascent: 3250
Descent: 4910

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Destination: Flume Cr. Road 305
Starting Location: Jct. Tr. 507 and 525
Today’s Miles: 25.30
Trip Miles: 357.60

Power Lines from the Boundary Dam – Click picture to see full size
Arose to scads of mosquitoes – actually put on some DEET (tough for a Minnesota native to admit that kind of defeat). Had a good walk out of the woods then quite a few miles of pavement to the Boundary Dam. The personnel there were a charm. They invited me to a personal tour, cold water and we even checked out the PNTA Web site (which they check often). Dave there and Robin were both great.

Saw more than a dozen people today.
Time: 10hr 0min
Ascent: 1730
Descent: 2960

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Destination: Park in Northport, WA
Starting Location: Flume Cr. Road 305
Today’s Miles: 37.90
Trip Miles: 395.50

PNT Blaze at the Historic Lind Ranch – Click picture to see full size
Long day. Summited Abercrombie Mt. pretty early and could see Northport off in the distance. My legs were feelin’ it, my pack weight was at a minimum, so I set off setting 22:00 or 22:30 as my goal [for arrival in Northport]. Got in town at a few minutes after 22:00 and was sipping Red Hook with the locals in no time.

Saw more than a dozen people today.
Time: 15hr 0min
Ascent: 6560
Descent: 180

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Starting Location: Park in Northport, WA
Today’s Miles: 0.00
Trip Miles: 395.50

– Click picture to see full size
Awoke around 6:00, struck camp and went to The Mustang for biscuits and gravy. Got mail then sat in shade outside for Clifford the Librarian to show up. Visited with him extensively, leaving and coming back two times. They just got broadband in town last week! Enjoyed a dip in the Columbia River then had a bacon cheeseburger at the Whitebird. After wonderful phone calls to Sarah and the folksI enjoyed a couple micro brews at Northern Ales bar and organic grocery. Clifford was there and he and owner/brewmaster (along with wife Andrea) Steve jammed on guitar and mandolin. Steve and Andrea offered a shower and bed but I declined. He then sent me off with a twenty-two ounce bottle of his IPA which I will enjoy tomorrow.

Zero day.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Pacific Northwest Trail Report No. 2


Day twenty-two on the Pacific Northwest Trail ( ). 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
upcoming miles.

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.

Sam Haraldson

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.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Destination: Section 36 on Fisher Cr. Trib.
Starting Location: Park in Northport, WA
Today’s Miles: 18.00
Trip Miles: 413.50

Microbrew on the Trail – Click picture to see full size
Less than twenty miles today. Groggy from three excellent beers last night, lack of sleep and ninety-plus deg. temps. Lots of logging activity today and very dusty. All of todays walk was blazed though – that’s a first.

Saw more than a dozen people today.
Time: 8hr 40min
Ascent: 2190
Descent: 460

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Destination: Jct. Tr. 450 and Goat Cr. Rd.
Starting Location: Section 36 on Fisher Cr. Trib.
Today’s Miles: 22.40
Trip Miles: 435.90

Dusty Roads and Sprinklers – Click picture to see full size
Day nine of heat at or near 100 deg. F. Ugh. Ninety-five percent of travel was on full-on gravel roads today. Move to Kettle Crest Trail sometime tomorrow morning.

Saw more than a dozen people today.
Time: 10hr 30min
Ascent: 4360
Descent: 3020

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Destination: Copper Butte
Starting Location: Jct. Tr. 450 and Goat Cr. Rd.
Today’s Miles: 20.70
Trip Miles: 456.60

Kicking back on the Low-rider – Click picture to see full size
Did my twenty-plus miles easy enough today. Arrived at camp atop Copper Butte around 15:45. It felt great to be off the Forest Service roads and on the well graded/maintained F.S. Tr 13 Kettle Crest. A few more miles of it tomorrow too. I fashioned a chair out of the old lookout cabin’s low-rider latrine. It’s quite comfy.

Saw less than a dozen people today.
Time: 8hr 50min
Ascent: 3830
Descent: 1690

Monday, July 16, 2007

Destination: Lower Hall Cr. Pond
Starting Location: Copper Butte
Today’s Miles: 21.20
Trip Miles: 477.80

Hiking through the Grass – Click picture to see full size
The wind was howling this morning but my tarp held up. It woke me early to find the hazy sunrise from a smoky sky. Not sure exactly where the big fire is, but I could see a small one last night. The bushwhack today went well even if the guidebook’s directions were wonky. I ended up right on the mark (YES!).

Saw less than a dozen people today.
Time: 12hr 10min
Ascent: 2830
Descent: 5190

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Destination: 10 Mile Camp
Starting Location: Lower Hall Cr. Pond
Today’s Miles: 16.50
Trip Miles: 494.30

Cooking at Ten Mile Camp – Click picture to see full size
These are some hot, dry hills I’ve been walking through. Found enough water though. Paid for camping tonight, but worth is as Steve offered me libations, conversation and some Neil Young on the tailgate of his rig. Vet, hard-laborin’, long-haired individualist. 51 years old, I don’t think he’ll ever feel old.

Saw more than a dozen people today.
Time: 9hr 50min
Ascent: 1950
Descent: 4300

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Destination: Sweat Cr. Picnic Area
Starting Location: 10 Mile Camp
Today’s Miles: 24.70
Trip Miles: 519.00

Too Short on the Trail – Click picture to see full size
The temps have finally cooled off. I awoke refreshed, packed and had breakfast. 1/2 hour into the hike a light rain started. This kept up all morning and really helped the heat. Road walk most all day. Made wrong turn and got to see bear. Got to Sweat Creek Picnic Area and chatted with Bill Mell? Mount? who had tales to tell. He’ll be president of a fraudulent, made-up country by later next week. Hmm…

Saw less than a dozen people today.
Time: 11hr 10min
Ascent: 3240

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Destination: Bonaparte Lake Resort
Starting Location: Sweat Cr. Picnic Area
Today’s Miles: 19.60
Trip Miles: 538.60

Ranch Gate and Big Sky – Click picture to see full size
Awoke, broke camp and purified water before the rain. Also had nice chat with the lovely Sarah and my brother. Trail over Clackamas Mtn. was a bear of a route find. Cattle trails (and shit) were everywhere. Guidebook definitions horribly lacking. Ended up bushwhacking final slope and found road no problem. Made great time after that. Arrived at Bonaparte Lake Resort at 17:30, got hamburger (yum) and a couple tall boys. Looooong hot shower followed by (free) laundry. I am human again.

Saw more than a dozen people today.
Time: 8hr 20min
Ascent: 3430
Descent: 3410

Friday, July 20, 2007

Destination: Okanogan NF Boundary
Starting Location: Bonaparte Lake Resort
Today’s Miles: 14.20
Trip Miles: 552.80

Sam at Mt. Bonaparte Fire Lookout – Click picture to see full size
Day number 30! Awoke to fishermen going out, broke camp, had coffee and breakfast at cafe. Slowly left by 9:45. Climbed to Mt. Bonaparte Lookout and chatted with Lee the lookout who hadn’t seen anyone in a week. He gave me a beer, I gave him some cookies. Came a few more miles to the NF boundary and camped.

Saw more than a dozen people today.
Time: 9hr 10min
Ascent: 3700
Descent: 3380

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Destination: Summit Lake
Starting Location: Okanogan NF Boundary
Today’s Miles: 15.10
Trip Miles: 567.90

Summit Lake – Click picture to see full size
Left the forest this morn and came out into the open, hilly ranges of the Okanogan. Wandered up Dry Gulch and Ray Visser (Havillah, WA) stopped his truck and chatted with me a little about the trail. He was in the know and this was refreshing. Short day as there’s no need to hit town ’til the Post Office is open Monday.

Saw less than a dozen people today.
Time: 6hr 20min
Ascent: 1520
Descent: 1160

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Destination: City Park, Oroville, WA
Starting Location: Summit Lake
Today’s Miles: 14.80
Trip Miles: 582.70

Cow Carcass – Click picture to see full size
Saw a coyote as well as a carcass of a cow on the lovely Whistler Canyon Trail. Camped (illegally) in the city park.

Saw more than a dozen people today.
Time: 6hr 0min
Ascent: 330
Descent: 3490

Monday, July 23, 2007

Destination: Similkameen River
Starting Location: City Park, Oroville, WA
Today’s Miles: 8.40
Trip Miles: 591.10

Fresh Supplies – Click picture to see full size
Good breakfast, lunch and phone conversation with Mom, Dad, Grandma and Sarah. Got and sent mail, had quick Internet session. Left town around 14:30. Short walk in 100 deg. F heat. Camped along Similkameen River.

Saw more than a dozen people today.
Time: 3hr 0min
Ascent: 620
Descent: 360

Monday, July 23, 2007

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.

Sam Haraldson

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Destination: Cold Springs Campground
Starting Location: Similkameen River
Today’s Miles: 26.60
Trip Miles: 617.70

ULA Conduit at Cold Springs Camp – Click picture to see full size
Today marks roughly the halfway point of the hike. I put the Okanogan guidebook section to rest today and start into the Paysaten Wilderness tomorrow. If I include my twenty some odd miles of pre-PNT hiking in Glacier Nat’l I’m looking at six-hundred plus miles so far.

Saw more than a dozen people today.
Time: 11hr 10min
Ascent: 5310
Descent: 340

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Destination: Dome Camp
Starting Location: Cold Springs Campground
Today’s Miles: 15.10
Trip Miles: 632.80

Entrance to the Paysaten Wilderness – Click picture to see full size
Got lost today. Couldn’t find the Goodenough Trail so took alternate route. Got onto cattle trail and spent roughly five? hours bushwhacking – ultimately getting back on route. Entered Paysaten Wilderness, kissed the sign and busted ass. Gorgeous country. Camped at Dome Camp.

Saw less than a dozen people today.
Time: 9hr 0min
Ascent: 2840
Descent: 2220

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Destination: Ashnola River
Starting Location: Dome Camp
Today’s Miles: 25.20
Trip Miles: 658.00

Cathedral Lake – Click picture to see full size
Saw six backpackers; one gal, her dog and two horses. Arrived at Cathedral Lake my planned camp at 13:30. This was much too early and the bugs were at their worst. Hiked eleven more miles to Ashnola River. Had first campfire of the trip to try to minimize bugs.

Saw less than a dozen people today.
Time: 10hr 0min
Ascent: 2150
Descent: 3930

Friday, July 27, 2007

Destination: Paysaten Airstrip Cabin
Starting Location: Ashnola River
Today’s Miles: 24.20
Trip Miles: 682.20

Quartz Ridge, Paysaten Wilderness – Click picture to see full size
Today was possibly the most glorious of the whole trip, Quartz Ridge and Bunker Hill provide a view of peaks as far as the eye can see. Dropping into and moving along the Paysaten River was hell however. A 2006 burn charred and blew down scores of trees. I made less than a mile an hour for those four miles.

Saw less than a dozen people today.
Time: 12hr 10min
Ascent: 3840
Descent: 4490

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Destination: Devil’s Pass
Starting Location: Paysaten Airstrip Cabin
Today’s Miles: 24.00
Trip Miles: 706.20

An Unknown Flower – Click picture to see full size
Hoping to avoid more of yesterday’s fire-ruined trail slogging I took an alt. route. Once atop (of all places) there was a map showing the closed trails in the area. Both the one I skipped as well as the alternate I took were included. Amazing views today. The Cascades are looking beautiful and still quite snowy.

Saw no one today.
Time: 10hr 40min
Ascent: 4770
Descent: 3340

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Destination: Ross Dam
Starting Location: Devil’s Pass
Today’s Miles: 28.50
Trip Miles: 734.70

Last Day for the Inov8 Flyrock 310 – Click picture to see full size
Easy climb to the top of Devil’s Dome this morn. All peaks clouded in up top but good view none the less. Mega downhill to Ross Lake followed by fast, well-maintained shore walk. No need for Hwy 20 walk as NPS has built trail parallel to it. Camped at super stealth location about a hundred feet above Ross Dam.

Saw more than a dozen people today.
Time: 11hr 10min
Ascent: 2480
Descent: 6460

Monday, July 30, 2007

Destination: Stillwell Camp
Starting Location: Ross Dam
Today’s Miles: 11.00
Trip Miles: 745.70

Giant Old Growth Cedar – Click picture to see full size
Ferry from Ross Lake Resort to Ideal Route at Little Beaver was only $20 when shared with other backpackers so went with it. Sharing camp with Max and Brian. Met Gabriel, NPS backcountry ranger who kindly issued me a permit. Wish I got to talk to Sarah on phone today.

Saw more than a dozen people today.
Time: 5hr 30min
Ascent: 2000
Descent: 490

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Destination: Copper Creek
Starting Location: Stillwell Camp
Today’s Miles: 16.70
Trip Miles: 762.40

Challenger Glacier – Click picture to see full size
Incredibly steep climb up to Whatcom Pass. Trail crews had trail in great shape though. Whatcom and Challenger glaciers a site (and sound) to behold. Still tired from Paysaten push. Only did sixteen some odd miles today.

Saw less than a dozen people today.
Time: 5hr 30min
Ascent: 3380
Descent: 2770

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Destination: Jct with Tr 607
Starting Location: Copper Creek
Today’s Miles: 24.90
Trip Miles: 787.30

Catch-23 and Scavenger – Click picture to see full size
Tons of people on trail to Hannegan Pass. Tons of cars on Baker Hwy. Met Toby (Catch-23) and Brandon (Scavenger) former AT and/or PCT thru-hikers as they were preparing to conquer Shuksan. Had a tall boy with them and a two mile hike. I stopped to camp at the jct of Tr 607.

Saw more than a dozen people today.
Time: 13hr 0min
Ascent: 4620
Descent: 3750

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Destination: Noisy Creek
Starting Location: Jct with Tr 607
Today’s Miles: 19.00
Trip Miles: 806.30

Mt. Baker and Baker Lake – Click picture to see full size
Awoke early to beautiful alpenglow on Mt. Baker. A sight that makes life worth living. 07:30, ran into Chuck, Jerry, Doug and Dave of PNTA on a three-day work outing! Amazing stuff they had done. Talked to each for around twenty min. Visited Baker Hot Springs for a solo soak. Tonight camped at Noisy Creek on Baker Lake. Had beer and good words with a group of guys livin’ it up boat camping.

Saw more than a dozen people today.
Time: 11hr 30min
Ascent: 740

Friday, August 03, 2007

Destination: Grandy Lake
Starting Location: Noisy Creek
Today’s Miles: 19.60
Trip Miles: 825.90

Olympic Snoqualmie National Forest Sign – Click picture to see full size
Had coffee and words of parting with my kind neighbors. Good trail along East side of lake followed by eight-plus miles of asphalt. Five dollars for camping at Grandy Lake. Neighboring group of gals on a church outing gave me a sandwich and some vegetables.

Saw more than a dozen people today.
Time: 8hr 20min
Ascent: 1110
Descent: 1040

Saturday, August 04, 2007

Destination: Jones Creek
Starting Location: Grandy Lake
Today’s Miles: 21.50
Trip Miles: 847.40

PNT Blazes on Mt. Josephine – Click picture to see full size
Awoke quite early, a surprising number of other campers were also stirring. Began climb of Goat Mtn. and had nice phone conversation with Sarah. Found PNT blazes on trail to summit of Josephine Peak. Took wrong turn in mess of DNR roads at end of day. Only maybe a mile or two out of my way and am now camped (possibly illegally) at Jones Creek on Rd. 110 on Sierra Pacific Timber land.

Saw more than a dozen people today.
Time: 11hr 50min
Ascent: 4050

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Destination: Near Wickersham, WA
Starting Location: Jones Creek
Today’s Miles: 18.60
Trip Miles: 866.00

Inversion over Sedro Wooley, WA – Click picture to see full size
Climbing uphill and inversion was taking place in the valley below. A beautiful sea of clouds below me all morning. Later I got some expansive views west – I believe of the Olympics. No clear view of Puget Sound yet though. Camped under power lines just SE of Wickersham, WA.

Saw no one today.
Time: 9hr 20min
Ascent: 4100
Descent: 3660

Monday, August 06, 2007

Destination: Lizard Lake
Starting Location: Near Wickersham, WA
Today’s Miles: 27.70
Trip Miles: 893.70

PNT Sign in County Park – Click picture to see full size
Awoke at 05:00 to be sure to be off logging property before they started working. I heard the first of their trucks fifteen minutes later though! I was able to hike down and out without anyone seeing me anyway. Roadwalk, more logging roads, good PNT built trail, double cheeseburger, more roads and trail and here I am at Lizard Lake DNR campground.

Saw more than a dozen people today.
Time: 12hr 0min
Ascent: 5250
Descent: 4180

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Destination: Bayview State Park
Starting Location: Lizard Lake
Today’s Miles: 16.50
Trip Miles: 910.20

PNT Stone Marker on Chuckanut Drive – Click picture to see full size
Slept in a bit and took my time in the morning. I borrowed a book from a lending shelf in Algers. Reading has been fun. Stopped in Edison for lunch and am now camped at Bayview State Park. Paid a dollar for a shower and charged my phone and camera batteries in the bathroom.

Saw more than a dozen people today.
Time: 8hr 0min
Ascent: 340
Descent: 2160

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Destination: Deception Pass State Park
Starting Location: Bayview State Park
Today’s Miles: 26.90
Trip Miles: 937.10

Drinking High Life at Sunset – Click picture to see full size
Went into Anacortes for lunch today to find out Sarah had called ahead and bought it for me! A most excellent treat. Watched sunset over the San Juan Islands after listening to the park rangers interpretive program at Deception Pass State Park. Walked down the beach aways and bivied.

Saw more than a dozen people today.
Time: 10hr 30min
Ascent: 1210
Descent: 1320

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Destination: Port Townsend, WA
Starting Location: Deception Pass State Park
Today’s Miles: 24.30
Trip Miles: 961.40

Port Townsend, WA Ferry – Click picture to see full size
Walked Whidbey Island pretty much in it’s entirety today. Many good beach miles, some good trail miles, but then high tide forced me onto the road. Arrived at Keystone Ferry at 18:00 and had microbrew in hand and burger on plate in Port Townsend soon after. Local gave me good info on a nice spot to lay my head near the city fountain. Probably illegal so awoke at dawn.

Saw more than a dozen people today.
Time: 12hr 30min
Ascent: 1110
Descent: 1120

Friday, August 10, 2007

Starting Location: Port Townsend, WA
Today’s Miles: 0.00
Trip Miles: 961.40

Chalkboard-walled Bathroom – Click picture to see full size
Zero day. Walked all over Port Townsend, ate good food, drank coffee and microbrews, talked with people. Slept in garden outside Whole Foods Co-Op.

Friday, August 10, 2007

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. Washington.

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 pavement.

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 revealed.

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 experience.

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, “happy hiking”.

– Sam

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Destination: Gray Wolf River
Starting Location: Port Townsend
Today’s Miles: 28.50
Trip Miles: 989.90

No Photo Available – Click picture to see full size
Left Port Townsend at 07:30. Hitch hiking dangerous section of Hwy 20 as recommended by trail guide. Road didn’t seem that bad but small shoulders and lots of hi speed traffic nonetheless. Camped along Gray Wolf River.

Saw more than a dozen people today.
11hr 30min
Ascent: 2980, Descent: 1980

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Destination: Deer Park Campground
Starting Location: Gray Wolf River
Today’s Miles: 12.80
Trip Miles: 1002.70

No Photo Available – Click picture to see full size
Excellent hike on good trails. One cold ford at a washed out bridge. 3000 foot gain over five miles to reach Deer Park car campground and ranger station finally within the boundaries of Olympic National Park. The camp is located in a true alpine environment. Rainy and cold. Chatted with Wayne from Portland while he awaited his ride home after a few day solo trip.

Saw more than a dozen people today.
7hr 0min
Ascent: 4770, Descent: 570

Monday, August 13, 2007

Destination: Elwha River
Starting Location: Deer Park Campground
Today’s Miles: 24.00
Trip Miles: 1026.70

No Photo Available – Click picture to see full size
Last evening’s cold and rain in which I sat under the tarp in my bag to cook dinner and make tea broke this morning and I got my first panoramic view of the spine of the snowy Olympic Mountains. I cruised the trail to Obstruction Point and the road to Hurricane Ridge Visitor Center. Had some cafeteria food and made phone calls. Then it was off toward Hurricane Hill, the clouds rolling in and out giving peek-a-boo views. Pounded down to the Elwha River Valley (something like a mile of vertical descent) and camped under the road bridge over the Elwha River.

Saw more than a dozen people today.
11hr 0min
Ascent: 3300, Descent: 8220

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Destination: Lunch Lake
Starting Location: Elwha River
Today’s Miles: 21.00
Trip Miles: 1047.70

No Photo Available – Click picture to see full size
Today the ocean came into view. I gave a loud holler of joy on first sight and laughed out loud. I thought maybe I’d tear up but I didn’t. It was very stunning as off to the south was a world class view of Mt. Olympus and it’s flowing glaciers. Also had nice soak in Olympic Hot Springs, chatted with three girls doing nineteen days in the park and Douglas Ray (Rey?) a subscriber.

Saw more than a dozen people today.
12hr 0min
Ascent: 7470, Descent: 3280

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Destination: Forks, WA
Starting Location: Lunch Lake
Today’s Miles: 35.90
Trip Miles: 1083.60

No Photo Available – Click picture to see full size
Walked out Hoh River instead of Bogachiel. Word from rangers was blowdowns were terrible. Did a feel good thirty-five miles to Hwy 101 and hitch hiked to Forks, WA. Met Brandon a bike trekker and fellow Web guy ( We crashed in the dugout at the local baseball diamond.

Saw more than a dozen people today.
13hr 40min
Ascent: 1190, Descent: 5050

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Destination: Mouth of Hoh River
Starting Location: Forks, WA
Today’s Miles: 11.00
Trip Miles: 1094.60

No Photo Available – Click picture to see full size
Brandon and I awoke to rain this morn so we slept in another 1/2 hour. We had breakfast together then parted ways. Got re-supply, secured national park permits (and bear canister) and did quick Internet stop. Waited in rain forty-five minutes before Isaih finally picked me up hitch hiking. Chill fellow. Plays banjo, picks and sells Chantrelle mushrooms. Even invited me to an annual local family camping and music weekend. Put my bare feet in the Pacific Ocean today at long last. Camped amongst driftwood on beach near the mouth of the Hoh River.
Saw more than a dozen people today.

4hr 0min
Ascent: 390, Descent: 750

Thursday, August 16, 2007

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.

Sam Haraldson

Friday, August 17, 2007

Starting Location: Mouth of Hoh River
Today’s Miles: 0.00
Trip Miles: 1094.60

No Photo Available – Click picture to see full size
Although I moved my camp about a mile I’m calling this a zero day. I’m keeping with my scheduled camping permits within the national park at which I arrived at a day early. This morn the neighbors invited me over for coffee which ended up being coffee and pancakes (yay!). There were eight people there representing three generations and they all shared one tarp! I spent the sunny parts of the day relaxing on the beach and the rainy parts relaxing and napping under my tarp.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Destination: Third Beach
Starting Location: Mouth of Hoh River
Today’s Miles: 12.70
Trip Miles: 1107.30

No Photo Available – Click picture to see full size
Good solid backpacking today. Beach walks, headland traverses, three stream fords, rain, sun, it was all there. I took it all in stride. Engineered a great sand tent pad. My camp site becomes nearly an “island” at high tide.

Saw less than a dozen people today.
5hr 30min
Ascent: 850, Descent: 850

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Destination: Cape Johnson
Starting Location: Third Beach
Today’s Miles: 13.00
Trip Miles: 1120.30

No Photo Available – Click picture to see full size
It rained from 17:00 until sometime early this morning. Nice and warm at 06:00 though. Made smooth receding tide miles past dozens of lazy Sunday morning backpackers. Got into La Push by I think 09:00. Bought some cheese, gravy mix and two tall boys of Rainier for that evening. Had biscuits and gravy at local restaurant then paid Buck Sampson a local Quillayute native $5 for a ferry ride across the river. He was the 1st person I asked and he said yes immediately. It’s been a brilliant sunny day and I think I’m finally going to see that sunset I’ve dreamt about.

Saw more than a dozen people today.
5hr 45min
Ascent: 500, Descent: 560

Monday, August 20, 2007

Destination: Cape Alava
Starting Location: Cape Johnson
Today’s Miles: 16.00
Trip Miles: 1136.30

No Photo Available – Click picture to see full size
Rather than camp at my scheduled location at which I arrived at around 10:00 I opted to instead continue hiking onward to the end of the trail. I arrived at Cape Alava the official end of the Pacific Northwest Trail at around 14:00. It was a meloncholy finish but still felt the power of success. I read the card Sarah had mailed me earlier and drank the last couple sips of whisky the folks back home wished me well with. I started the hike away from the beach to the ranger station and the highway out of the park when I realized I hadn’t taken a photo of myself so I just stopped there on the boardwalk where I was and snapped a photo. The ranger station was twenty miles from the highway so I just started walking with my thumb out. Luck was truly on my side as not only did I score a ride the twenty miles out to the highway, these fellow backpackers were actually driving the entire ninety some miles to the town of Everett, WA where I was planning to hitch hike to over the next few days!

Saturday, August 25th, 2007

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 sub-alpine 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 trail report).

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 trail.

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 my appreciation.

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 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.

Sam Haraldson

Monday September 24th, 2007

Pacific Northwest Trail Report No. 7

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
folks do.

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, Google Images and YouTube.

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.

Going SUL on the NCT

I love a challenge.  Even if that challenge is completely and totally contrived and pretty much no one else cares about the results of said challenge.  I also enjoy walking through the woods, sleeping outdoors, and subsisting using only a handful of necessary things.  As such the notion of the superultralight backpacking trip is right up my alley.  Take some lightweight gear, put it on a scale, and if it weighs in around five pounds or less then you’re doing it right.

We’ve had a family trip to visit my wife’s homeland in Northern Michigan on the calendar for a few months and at some point in time it occurred to me that I could easily throw one of my frameless rucks, a lightweight quilt, tarp, and basic sundries for a SUL backpacking kit in along with my carry-on with little to no difficulty.  So I mentioned to my wife that I thought a quick sub-24 hour trip on the North Country Trail nearby would be appreciated and she said, ‘why not’.  It is vacation after all.

MYOG pack and NCT sign

I spent some time looking over the NCT map to find a nice section.  Not too short so it wouldn’t be worthwhile, but not too long so that it would require more than one night.  I had day hiked some of the NCT while visiting the area on previous trips but wanted to see something completely different so I picked a spot, determined a drop off and pickup location and started spec’ing a gear list.

I get a big thrill out of putting all my gear on a scale, weighing it, and then trying to make it lighter.  Say what you will about trying to carry five pounds of gear or less, or three pounds of gear or less, or whatever threshold you might have, but I cherish the challenge.  And when planning a backpacking trip in the balmy Midwestern United States where roads and cell phone reception are prevalent you’d damn well better know I’m going to see about getting away with about as little stuff as I possibly can.

And so my spreadsheet with all the things I was going to bring added up to a smidge over three pounds and the clothing on my person about the same.  I mailed a mini BIC lighter, some matches, and a few cubes of Esbit stove fuel ahead to my mother-in-law’s house to avoid taking them on the plane (our family travels carry-on only ’cause we’re always packin’ light).

NCT blaze

We arrived in Northern Michigan to warm temperatures and on-and-off threats of rain but the night I was looking to camp remained clear in the forecast.  Th morning of my hike we spent a lovely few hours at the beach relaxing, swimming, and watching the kids play.  This was the same beach my wife and I were married at four years previous so it was a pretty joyous day.  That afternoon on the drive home we detoured a 1/2 hour out of the way onto a little, sandy two-track in the thick Michigan woods.  The North Country Trail Association in Michigan keeps a very tidy trail and sure enough down the road appeared a blue blaze and a parking spot in which, surprisingly, was another vehicle.

NCT signage

I did a quick parking lot shuffle changing out of my swimsuit and into hiking clothes, gave my wife and daughter a kiss, grabbed my pack and was very pleased to see a well-signed trailhead denoting distances both forward of my position as well as aft including the spot I was aiming to camp at about 7.5 miles up the trail.

I haven’t been on a backpacking trip at all this summer so when I hit the trail I was feeling like a million dollars.  It was around five o’clock in the evening and I although I had three or more hours of daylight I still knew it would be best to do some quick hiking.  Besides I love a very fast-paced hike over mildly hilly terrain and along well-groomed paths through knee-high ferns.  Due to travel restrictions I had left my trekking poles back in Montana but as I’d hoped, my mother-in-law, like any good Michigander had a stack of XC ski poles in the garage.  I found a set of old fiberglas Jarvinen poles that were quite light and airy and they ended up suiting me very well for the 16 or so miles I put down over the two days.

Those glorious Northwoods

Stretching my legs and settling into a nearly four mile per hour pace I immediately began to make good time.  My eyes, ears, and nose were operating just as quickly as I took in the sight of thick hardwood forest, low lying boggy sections and their dank, dark wood, gently rising hilly knobs, and then the view that would dominate the majority of the remainder of the hike, the first view of the Manistee River as seen from atop a steep, sandy bank.

First views of the river

I’m a shutterfly and my telephone’s camera was clicking wildly as I walked.  I was also using the GPS on the unit and although my moving average speed was close to four mph I lost about a 1/2 mph due to stopping and photographing plants, the trail, the river, and all of the aspects of hiking in the Midwest that I’ve missed so dearly since I moved away from Minnesota nearly ten years ago.

Sunlit two track

The trail made a handful of crossings of sandy backroads but I only encountered a few cars – and those were all off in the distance through the woods.  I came across one group of people who were standing atop one of the highest vistas of the entire hike, an open view of the surrounding landscape situated a hundred or so feet above the Manistee up an incredibly steep bank of sand.  We exchanged a few words but the light of the day was beginning to fade so I kept up my pace.  I couldn’t help but stop when I left that developed area and came to another clearing a bit farther down the trail to attempt to photograph the exceptional view of the distant Michigan landscape.

Stellar Midwest views

I took my phone out of airplane mode since I was on a high bench and noticed there was cell reception.  I took the opportunity to send off an “all’s okay” message to my wife before descending the trail down into the river valley where I was doubtful there’d be reception.  Sure enough the signal went away and I made my way to where an official NCT campsite was located along a small feeder creek.  The location was nice and flat, the creek flowing strong and clear, but the vegetation was dark, damp, and not conducive to a relaxing evening as the light faded nor for viewing the moon nor stars.  I quickly sucked down the remaining water I had in one of my water bottles, saving the 1/2 of the other for use while hiking further, and filled the other from the creek.  I had my Aquamira solution at hand and did the ol’ A+B drip drop dance, packed that bottle away, and hit the trail again.  I came across a few locals in a jeep and side by side just up and out of the dark creek draw.  I snuck past as they were having a nice time by the river and left the short section of road the trail was sharing and then back onto wooded singletrack.  I didn’t need to hike particularly far when I spotted a wide, low flat spot immediately adjacent to the river just a stone’s throw off the trail.  I schwacked down to it and found a small firepit and plenty of soft, flat ground where to set myself for the evening.

Golite poncho tarp

Traveling light means camping with nary a footprint.  Although I spent twelve hours at this spot I’d say when I left there it was in no worse shape that it was when I arrived.  It’s nice to be able to spend a good amount of time in a place and to be able to leave with very little trace of even being there.  I dumped the contents of my pack, grabbed my poncho tarp, stakes, and poles and set about finding the best combination of a flat spot that had good tree coverage should a rain decide to start overnight.  My poncho tarp is only five feet wide which means when pitched in an a-frame style is quite narrow.  I got it rigged up in no time and next started scanning trees in the area that looked the most comfortable for leaning against.  I found the perfect one that forked low to the ground, had a nice soft blob of moss in the fork, and just the right upward curve to fit my back, and provide a place to lean my head.  I set my little foam sleeping pad down in the curve and settled into an almost immediately comfortable position.

Zelph beer can pot and BPL wing stove

I heated up a packet of ramen noodles and added part of a pouch of powdered sausage gravy.  This is a delicious backpacking dish that I think was shared with me by my former employer, Ryan J. at BPL.  I remember him mentioning it offhandedly to me as a quick and easy meal that you can find ingredients for at just about any grocery store and it’s stuck with me ever since.  I was using a free, long-handled ice cream spoon that I’d picked up at a soft serve place we’d visited a few nights before.  This was in an effort to further cut as much weight from my gear list as possible but it proved to have a flaw in that it became quite soft in the boiling water and was hard to eat with.  I may choose to not sacrifice the strength of my trusty titanium spoon the next time I attempt to camp with as minimal of gear as possible.

My spot

The spot I had found to sit was so comfortable that I decided to simply stay there as day turned to night.  The mosquitos had heightened their presence and the temperatures dropped slightly so I put on my windshirt, toque, and headnet but left my sleeping quilt in the pack.  I laid back against the tree and closed my eyes, falling asleep to the sound of water moving swiftly by in the Manistee just feet away from my position.  I slept nicely for an hour or two until the slight chill of the evening woke me and I decided to wrap up in my quilt.  The spot I was in remained comfortable and I found I was able to sleep on my back or either side conveniently using the mossy tree as a pillow.  The moon was one day waned (waxed?) past full and was distinctly framed above the river between the trees on either side.  It was so gorgeous that I couldn’t bring myself to fall back asleep right away but rather just sat staring, taking it all in.  The slight temp change had put the mosquitos to rest so I pulled the headnet up off my face and enjoyed the view until I finally fell back asleep.

I awoke sometime in the dead of the night to a large critter approaching camp.  It was making quick deep snorts of breath and pawing at the ground.  I expect it was probably a large deer but perhaps could have been a bear.  I’m not Midwest naturalist however so can’t be sure.  I shouted at it to let it know I already had this campsite taken and it begrudgingly responded.  It moved off in the opposite direction snorting and rooting at the earth but didn’t do so very quickly.  I continued to listen to it as it moved up the river bank and off into the woods far enough that I could drift back to sleep.

I awoke soon after dawn and participated in one of the other joys of the art of minimalist backcountry camping – the five minute camp cleanup.  Although I’d not slept under my tarp I had left it up in the event weather had come in so I walked over to take it down, and then gathered my other items which were all actually already in my backpack where I’d left them while I slept.  The whole process took six minutes.  I had thought I would simply hit the trail, hike a ways and then stop for coffee and granola but instead I sat back down in my trusty spot, took out my stove and stayed another hour sipping coffee and eating.

The steep banks of the Manistee

I had a planned pick up time of 11am and what I thought to be around eight or so miles of hiking so I knew that if I walked quickly I would have plenty of time to stop anytime I pleased for a photograph, to read any sign posts, or appreciate any views I’d encounter.  So that’s what I did.  I began to move quickly making my way along the river.  Much of the morning section was on a two-track shared by ATV traffic and although I didn’t see any there were plenty of signs of camping spots with the tell tale firepit full of empty cans of shitty beer and other detritus shot full of holes.

The sun rising up and over the trees along the Manistee and the trail leaving the sandy two track for more gorgeous singletrack carved lovingly by NCTA volunteers can sure put a smile on a hiker’s face.  As the sun rose over the treed banks it made for some beautiful light and given this was a weekday I saw no one for the entire morning, having the landscape all to myself.

Sunrise SUL selfie

I missed a crucial blue blaze depicting a spot where the trail made a sharp 90 degree turn and I walked up a very steep hill about a hundred feet and then farther along the top of the rim about a 1/4 mile without seeing any sign and on quickly degrading trail.  I could tell by my location that I’d rejoin the trail somewhere ahead if I forged on but I had been enjoying the trail tread the NCT volunteers have built so much that I instead decided to retrace my steps to find the trail.  This proved to be a good choice for the route they’d chosen to gain the ridge was in a spectacular draw of which had such a sublime character it would have been a shame to miss.

Gorgeous NCT tread

The remainder of the hiking day was truly exceptional as the trail remained high up on a sandy bluff above the Manistee.  Hiking through forests of birch and maple with a carpet of lush fern immediately around me with twenty-mile views of the Michigan forests expanding off to my right at wonderfully spaced open vistas would be hard to beat.  I hiked quickly but took in the sights and sounds around me with gratitude.

The Manistee River

I arrived at the end of the trail section about 15 minutes prior to my scheduled 11am pickup which was alongside a highway.  At this location there was another nicely done NCT sign with well defined distances back from where I’d come.  The section ahead of me which I would not be hiking this go around is on the highway for what appeared to be two or three miles North, East, and then South which I can only assume is due to access issues around a section of land.  The NCT is a pretty amazing patchwork of trail that stretches 4,000 some odd miles from New York to North Dakota.  To string together a footpath that distance is pretty amazing considering the multitude of land ownership along the way and as such it needs to be expected there will be little bumps like this as the trail follows a county or state right of way to avoid a piece of inaccessible land.

The Manistee River

I would highly recommend hiking sections of the NCT in the Traverse City area as the chapter of the NCT there cares very deeply about their section of trail.  I plan to further explore sections of it on future trips to the area but chose this one first due to it’s seeming lack of popularity all while having such a gorgeous location along the Manistee.

SUL gear

For those interested in such things a packing list for this trip can be seen here:

Do you have stories of the NCT in your state or perhaps right in Michigan? Drop a comment for me to read below.

Twelve Months, Twelve Photos 2016

As in past I have chosen to reflect upon the year behind me by choosing a photo from each month that I feel was a highlight.  It allows me to think on how the year played out and helps to set the stage for the year ahead.  Thanks to Dave C. for the idea of the “Twelve Months, Twelve Photos” concept – – it has become something I truly appreciate.

January: The month started off pretty great although my back – – which I had been suffering through much pain over for the past years – – proved to be nice in that I got out with one of my best backcountry partners for a nice day of pow at a not overly used b.c. zone.

February: The outdoor gear development company that had employed me since 2012 decided to switch it’s focus away from gear design and as such let the majority of it’s R&D staff go in 2016.  This was a pretty huge hit to the way of life that my family and I had begun to build for ourselves but at the same time was a chance for me to design and develop some of my own gear as I said goodbye to that place.  In good news, the person who was part of that company that I most respected has started his own company so go give them a follow.

March: Young Mae began to take her first steps in March.  It’s almost hard to think back on this now that she is running and jumping all over the place.

April: The aforementioned closing of doors of my previous employer has thusfar proved to be an amazing improvement to my livelihood.  I have taken up employment with a local solar electric design and install firm and am exceedingly happy with my new line of work.  Excellent autonomy within the company and a management that truly cares for and understands their workforce.  Not to mention a product that provides legitimate and undeniable value to society.

May: Exceptional, quality camping with good friends from all over the country.  We picked a zone that was relatively close to friends living in Bozeman, Seattle, Helena, and Salt Lake City and we all gathered for the Memorial Day weekend to relax, eat, drink, shoot, ride bikes, and be lazy next to the creek.  Wonderful!

June: June brought more awesome camping with very good friends, albeit this time much closer to home than in May.  A favorite destination just West of Bozeman found us relaxing around the campfire, shooting BB guns, and brapping Mason’s moto around the plentiful BLM land.

July: My wife and daughter made their way out of town so I ventured up to one of our favorite campsites for a night solo with the Land Cruiser.

August: More super, awesome, quality, family camping was had in August as we explored a new zone in Paradise Valley.  I expect to have more adventures here in the future.

September: This month found my hunting partner and I deep in the Absaroka’s for the HD 316 bc hunt.  Although we didn’t harvest anything I did have what has proven to be the most successful stalk of my short hunting career.

October: What an amazing little person Mae is becoming.  Torie photographed her in some beautiful clothes during the autumnal colors of October.  Such a precious child!

November: Our family visited Seattle and Bellingham during November and I snapped this photo of some of our best friend’s “kids”.  Charlotte will soon be Mae’s good buddy.  Ol’ Jax we learned was ailing in health and I knew that when I left him the scratch behind his ear and gruff, but loving words I spoke to him would probably be the last.  He has since passed on and I miss him as a former roommate and punching bag.  RIP, buddy.

December: Neither of us having meat in the freezer, my hunting partner and I headed up to the cold, windy, and barren lands of the Castle Mountains in hope of catching glimpse of a herd of elk on BMA land.  It was a gorgeous, sunny, relatively mild, and quality day, but alas, no elk were spotted.  As such we have pretty much put the period on the end of the sentence of our hunting season and will re-group and begin planning for next September.

2016 was a splendid year and although I didn’t get out on enough backpacking trips I was happy to continually introduce my daughter to the wonders of the great outdoors.  I look forward to a 2017 plentiful with camping excursions and outdoor enjoyment for all.  May you and yours experience the same.  What do you have planned for 2017?  Let me know in the comments.


On Spooking Elk and Stalking Mule Deer

Montana rifle hunters willing to put in the extra work it takes to get deep into the backcountry have early gates to begin hunting over a month prior to the general season opener so my buddy Justin and I set about planning a trip into one of these four districts.  Three of the four are located up in the Bob Marshall and the other is located down in our neck of the woods in the Absaroka Beartooth.  We picked an access point that we felt would offer up a good chance at finding big game, was close enough to a trailhead that hiking out a heap of meat wouldn’t wreck us (too much), but was still far enough from a trailhead or road to make the riff raff want to avoid it.

After some highway driving and a long, bumpy FS road we arrived at the trailhead to find fourteen other vehicles – more than ten of which were big ol’ diesel ranch rigs complete with full sized horse trailers.  We knew we’d be sharing the mountains with horse packers and hunting guides but we hoped they were going to stick to the main trail and that we were going to have the less visited drainage adjacent to ourselves.  It was close to seven miles from the car just to get to the boundary of the hunting district and the point where we’d see if the horse packers continued downhill or if they turned off along the ridgeline to the next bowl.  Much to our delight the scratch in the grass that was the only sign of our trail was a great sign that the next drainage would be potentially void of other people.

With a smile on our face knowing we’d probably be leaving the more popular zone we carefully picked our way along the 10k+ ridgeline to the next drainage being careful as we approached not to skyline any critters that might be lingering as one drainage rolled over the small pass into the next.  The wind was howling and a light snow had started to fall as we low crawled up to the crest and began glassing the beautiful country below.  The cold was quickly getting the best of us as we were both still wearing just lightweight baselayers from the long uphill hike.  We carefully albeit hurriedly made our way over the saddle to a small row of stumpy conifers to get out of the wind.  Justin set about brewing up some coffee and I quickly donned a jacket and began glassing.  We had only been within the boundaries of the huntable district for less than an hour at this point and mere minutes later we both looked to the North and saw a young bull elk and three cows standing in full view not more than 500 yards away just checking us out.  They watched us for but a few seconds and took off at a trot down valley.  Busted.  What a great way to start a four day hunting trip!

We kicked ourselves for not being supremely patient in glassing better prior to entering the drainage but the cold had caught up to us and we had never once thought we’d get into elk immediately upon arriving.  Lessons – hard lessons – learned.  I watched the elk effortlessly cover a couple miles of terrain and a thousand or more feet of elevation drop and gain in around 15 minutes.  What immense, powerful animals.  We made note of where they traveled and where they disappeared – back pocket information for our remaining time in this zone.

We made a plan to begin hunting down the valley slowly and cautiously.  We covered quite a bit of miles walking a few hundred meters apart from each other down the essentially trail-less valley (a fire had torched nearly all the timber and the lack of use of the trail made it only a scratch).  We had hoped that if one of us scared something up it would allow the other to get in a shot.  As the magic light of the evening cast alpenglow on the high peaks above us and dark became imminent we picked a spot, set up the tent, hung the bear rope, and got our grub on.

Hunting is a sport of mornings and evenings so an early rise is essential.  We woke at 0600, coffee’ed, ate, broke camp, and headed up the opposite wall of the drainage than we’d come down the previous day.  We had formulated a plan the night before and began the arduous climb up the burned hillside chock full of fallen timber.  Careful, micro route finding is essential in these situations to save yourself from a twisted ankle and fatigue but also to avoid making a racket that would undoubtedly spook up your prey.

After six hours of careful maneuvering interspersed with a few hour-long sessions of just sitting and glassing we came to an open meadow nestled between two heights of land and backed by the steep, North-facing canyon wall.  A small seep of water came up from the ground in the middle of the meadow, and distinct game trails and many animal tracks clearly denoted the presence of game in the area.  This area was exactly where the elk that we spooked the previous day had headed down into after I’d lost site of them as I watched from the high country.

The plan we had made while glassing lower down the hillside was to find a spot we thought might be a “honey hole” e.g. the potential hangout spot for game and to simply post up in comfortable positions with stellar firing angles for the remainder of the day and then set camp just before dark.  We each took up a position atop one of these heights of land, Justin covering one of the game trails and I covering one of the meadows, an side access game trail, and a steep downhill approach that showed lots of sign of elk and deer travel.  The next six hours were very zen-like as we could not see each other, nor talk to each other.  It was just each of us with our binocular, rifle, and our thoughts.  We both glassed the area adjacent to us as well as the cliffs and hillsides many, many miles distant.  Although no animals came into range we were both treated to our own delightful views of mountain goats on far away cliffs.  The two that I spotted I was able to watch on and off for over two hours as they made their way along a high cliff a few miles distant from me.

We set our camp, had our dinner and were asleep before 2100.  The previous night had dipped to 25 degrees F but tonight seemed to be off to a better start.  Justin was traveling alpine-style with only the backpanel of his pack for a sleeping mat and was looking forward to a slightly better night’s sleep.  I had the extra weight of a torso-sized inflatable mat on my back the entire weekend but it made up for any cold sleeping – – my least favorite thing to experience while backpacking.

Another six a.m. wake-up, coffee, and breakfast found us climbing to the top of a steep bench where we were treated to astounding views of essentially the entire basin we’d now been hunting for 36+ hours.  We posted up in two positions, me to glass the entire upper country of the basin and Justin to guard the area we’d just approached from in the event an animal came ambling up the hillside to the tasty browse on top of the bench.  I formulated a plan and ran it past Justin for how to spend the afternoon.  He concurred and suggested a few alternatives which jived well for both of us.  We would continue hunting the side of the canyon we were on until mid afternoon and then if nothing had transpired, head back over to the main canyon where the horse camps were to make a camp and then hunt for the morning prior to needing to head back out to civilization.

We very carefully picked our way down off the bench bumping from one patch of trees to another, glassing the next ahead as we went and always glassing the distance as far in any direction as we could see.  We spotted a very solid game trail in the distance which clearly marked the route from the high country down to the honey hole we’d camped at for any animals coming from the high country downvalley along this side of the canyon.  We jumped onto it and slowly made our way up canyon.  Midday was fast approaching and we’d not yet seen any critters so we moved with a bit more speed and stopped to glass less.  We did however maintain an attitude of stalking and did not give ourselves away any more than necessary.

After a glorious stop for lunch along a fresh, clear stream of water below a steep cliff I spotted two white rumps in a meadow ahead.  I put my hand up to motion to Justin behind me and carefully glassed around a conifer.  Two mule deer does were a hundred or so yards ahead of us.  These does were off limits in this district at this time so we didn’t bother with them and made our position known to them before continuing our creep uphill.  Moments later I put my binocular up to my eyes to glass the distant hillsides as I’d done hundreds of times previous and in my slow sweep my eyes landed on what I instantly thought were six elk and I immediately told Justin so.  I then lifted the binocular again and retracted my statement, clarifying that they were not elk, but muleys.  The animals were over a half mile away so identifying their sex took some very patient viewing through both the binocular and rifle scope.  After ten or so minutes I felt confident that at least three of them were male and we talked over the feasibility of a stalk from so far away on these animals known for being extremely attentive and jumpy.

I made one potential suggestion but it involved coming in from above the animals including a couple hundred yards of completely exposed terrain.  I had little to no confidence that this approach would work but I was very interested in making an attempt on these animals.  Taking a mule deer buck was an acceptable option for me as I planned for this trip.  Justin joined me on this trip with the intent to focus on hunting elk and wasn’t as interested in taking a mule deer. When I told him I would rather spend the remainder of the day making an attempt on one of these bucks than I would just moving over to the next canyon to find camp he wholeheartedly offered up a suggested approach to the stalk that I completely got behind.

We worked out a series of hand signals so that he could remain behind in a good position to glass the animals as I set off to cover the 1/2 mile and try to get within the range I feel comfortable shooting at, which is 200 yards.  My method was to use spotty vegetation and the topography of the land to keep myself as hidden from these incredibly attuned animals as I could.  This entire stalk was going to rely on the fact that it was approximately 1400 hours and it was highly likely that these animals were about to bed down in a thicket for an afternoon rest prior to their evening feeding session later.  If they did in fact bed, and I could spend the time while they were doing so getting into position I could then wait them out until they appeared from the scrub and into my sights.

I covered the 1/2 mile stealthily, dropped my pack in a thicket and began bear crawling with just the essentials.  I had put on an extra layer and drank some water in case I was in for a long wait, but otherwise only had my rifle, gloves, and earplugs along with me.  Continuing to try and keep either vegetation or small undulations of earth between me and the animals I was able to successfully get to the last remaining thicket of trees before an open space and the thicket that the animals had bedded down in before I set off to stalk.  I was now operating blind because I had not been able to keep an eye on them as I walked.  I carefully brought my binocular up to my eyes and almost as if on cue a buck stepped out, completely broadside to me and stared down canyon directly toward me.  I was well hidden and I was pretty certain he couldn’t see me but there was a wicked wind blowing across me and up and slightly to my right that was undoubtedly wafting my odors across his nose.  I had only just arrived at this spot and I had not yet had a chance to position my rife into a comfortable and stable shooting position so I was not yet ready to take a shot.  Once again, almost as if on cue as I lay there on my stomach cursing his timing he stepped back behind the thicket.

I took a deep breath and dug deep into my well of patience and told myself that good things can come to those who wait so I immediately set about positioning a small log in front of me and testing the steadiness of my rifle, adjusting my scope and going over the shooting regimen in my head as I waited.  I had arrived in position at 1500, only about one hour after first spotting the critters.  I could see three animals, all with between three and four points on one half their antlers milling about behind the thicket but not even remotely with enough clarity that I would consider taking a shot.  I simply had to wait and be patient.  I was blessed with this not taking too long however as only 15 or 30 minutes passed when the first animal’s head popped out from the trees.  And then just beyond him, another.  Neither had exposed their front shoulders – the aspect of the creatures needed to be visible to make a clean kill.  Then a third head appeared and I carefully examined each critter and decided on which I would take aim upon should they finally decide to walk out.  The first two came out into the complete open and began feeding and it was everything I could do to remain calm, breathing slowly, attempting to control my heart rate.  These minutes stretched on for what seemed like much longer until the buck I had my rifle leveled on stepped out.  He made one step, two steps, three steps, as I carefully tracked him in the crosshairs of my scope.  I took a slow, controlled, deep breath, exhaled, and triggered.

Commotion of course immediately ensued.  I was successful in following the buck as he jumped forward five or ten feet but then all five of the animals in the immediate vicinity became impossible for me to tell apart as they grouped up.  A rifle is incredibly loud and I am sure they were a bit stunned by whatever it was, but did not scatter, but rather simply all began walking away.  I had no way of knowing whether I had successfully hit the animal nor, if so, which of them it might be as they were now all walking away slowly.  I became overcome with doubt as I watched six animals all walking away.  One appeared to possibly be limping but I could not be certain whether this might have been from a bad shot by me or something altogether different.  I did not dare take a shot at this animal in case I had in fact dropped the one I was aiming at and that may be lying dead in the tall grass out of sight.  I took a few deep breaths and felt the adrenaline surging in my veins reminding me of the power contained in the act of taking another animal’s life.

My brain was on overdrive as I collected my rifle and quickly moved downhill to get my pack.  Justin had made double time up the hill upon hearing my rifle report and he appeared within minutes as I was beginning my journey to see if I hit or missed my mark.  Doubt weighed heavily on my mind as I knew I had seen six animals walk away and up toward the ridgeline but I was still incredibly amped regarding the entire stalk, wait, and ultimately the shot.  Justin later told me my eyes were very wide and I was talking a mile a minute.

We arrived at the location a few minutes later and as I had suspected, did not find an animal crumpled up in the dirt.  The shot I had taken was at the end of my comfortable shooting range of 200 yards, was along a steeply sloping uphill trajectory, and had a very strong cross breeze blowing left to right.  I told Justin of the deer that had the slight limp and that if in the event I had caused this injury I needed to be certain I could attempt to justify the situation so we set about tracking to look for blood.  We were successful in following the group of animals fresh tracks in the dirt for well over a quarter mile and we found not a single drop of blood so we both felt comfortable in putting a period at the end of the sentence that was a very powerful stalk on a beautiful group of mule deer bucks.

It was approaching 1700 at this point so as I began to come down off the high I was on from such an exhilarating although ultimately fruitless hunt we got back on track to make our way out of the drainage we had now completely hunted down and back up over 48 hours.  We made our way along the knife ridge to the popular, horse packer, ridden drainage to find the main trail we’d hiked in on with the tracks of around six horses to now be completely obliterated by what must have been many more strings of animals.  As we looked down valley I asked Justin how serious he was about making a camp and spending three hours the next morning hunting the upper end of a zone that had seen multiple groups of pack animals blasting through it.  We thoroughly talked it over and decided that if we had the whole next day it would be worth a try but since we didn’t we might as well make just start in on the seven mile hike out and three hour drive back home so that we could spend Sunday with loved ones.  We made half of the hike in the pitch black, deep in grizzly country so we turned on Justin’s iPhone and shared Alice’s Restaurant and a few other Arlo Guthrie tunes with any adjacent wildlife to let them know we meant no harm.  Boots to dirt and tires to the road we arrived home at 1230 am, sans meat, but chock full of spectacular scenery, company, and experience.

Groomed Trails, Fatbikes, and the Gallatin National Forest

During the winter of 2013/14 a group of SW Montana fatbikers became aware that the local U.S. Forest Service district had written a special order banning bicycles from the network of ski and snowmobile trails in the Gallatin National Forest.  These trails are open to skiers and snowmobilers and we felt that there was little to no reason they shouldn’t also be open to bikes – particularly with the absolute onslaught of fatbikes now hitting the market.  The special order was more than likely put into place as a means of putting bikes on hold while the USFS had time to “think things through” but it was in our opinion a bit shortsighted considering numerous other Forests and forest managers throughout the nation were dealing with bikes in a very positive and successful way.

A group of us set about lobbying our local district and the team of FS employees were very easy to work with, were accommodating, and did an excellent job of balancing all forest user’s needs in the process.  Although it took more than a year to make things happen, during the summer of 2015 the special order was rescinded and fatbikes were written into the travel plan as being allowed on the more than 400 miles of marked snowmobile trails in the Forest.  Although ski-specific trails remain off limits we are considering partnering with local ski clubs to gauge interest/dislike for consideration for access to these in the future.

A friend was visiting from Seattle and we borrowed a fatty for him and we headed South to a long, groomed creek corridor and laid down eight miles of pedaling among trees heavy with snow, a creek slowly becoming choked with ice, and a sunny, warm sky overhead.  It’s amazing what four to five inches of rubber running low pressure can allow you to pedal through.




Twelve Months, Twelve Photos

As the year comes to a close, a time of reflection overcomes me. The goals I set, the things I hoped to accomplish, and the unknowns that are now known all water under the bridge. Fellow outdoorsmen and acquaintance Dave C. gave me a good idea to record my thoughts on 2014 in a blog post entitled “Twelve Months and Twelve Great Trips in 2014” and a similar post from him this year spurred me on yet again. So in this time of reflection here are twelve photos that represent a highlight of each of the twelve months of 2015.


January: The birth of ones child can probably not be topped by any other event.  The first week of January was not particularly cold and was actually quite forgiving.  Bringing this beautiful little girl into the world and stepping outside for the first time a few days later was as empowering a thing as my wife and I have ever been through and each and every month of this year has been an amazing journey watching and participating in her growing process.


February: With a newborn life tends to slow down a bit.  Sneaking off for even a quick jaunt to the hills above town on the bicycle during my lunch hour provided much needed fixes of adventure.


March: I took my first real trip away from town for the entire day in March, joining two good friends for a day of splitboarding in the Gallatin Range.  We explored a micro-zone located next to a very popular spot and had fresh tracks from top to bottom.


April: Snow continued to fall into April and while we awaited for the warmer temps of Spring we holed up inside as a family, enjoying each others company and watched with excitement and curiosity as Maeryn grew and learned.


May: In my childhood in Minnesota, Memorial Day weekend marked not only a time to remember our veterans, but also the beginning of the camping season.  I had reserved a campsite at Holland Lake up in the Seeley Swan for the maiden voyage of our new camper trailer.  This coincided with the start of the Bob Marshall Wilderness Open and I chatted with a number of the participants prior to their journey into the Bob.


June: I managed to get out on something in the range of 20+ mountain bike rides during the summer of 2015 and that felt really, really good.  Long hours of sunlight and driving back into town from the trailhead after dark allows for some very solid post-work rides.  Photo’ed was a stellar evening with three other friends when we drove far enough North of town to leave the rain to find tacky trails and distant rainbows..


July: I felt comfortable enough to take an overnight trip away from the family in July.  I left home late, riding from town into the forest to a nice saddle that overlooks the lights of the city.  I packed a small shelter, some grub, and a couple tall cans of beer.  I sent a few text messages to my wife as night approached making sure everyone was safe and sound.  I awoke early, around dawn, donned a warm jacket and barreled the downhill back into town in time to have breakfast just as our child was awaking.


August: The infamous GORUCK Selection event took place in Bozeman in August.  As the resident aficionado of the wide open spaces in our fair city I was consulted by the Cadre in planning the event.  Having a hand in how the weekend would pan out was extremely rewarding for me and much more so when participant Stony from Canada performed solidly and finished.


September: A car camping trip into the Gravelly Range is quickly becoming an annual tradition for our crew and this trip in September was no exception.  We didn’t do huge miles and we only stayed one night but man what a solid group of people and location.


October: I skipped hunting opener because it was a goal of mine to get our little girl out on a backpacking trip sometime in 2015 and the weekends that would qualify as “warm enough” to do that were essentially gone.  We loaded up the car, headed for Yellowstone and made the short hike to Ribbon Lakes.  I packed the woodstove and tipi to make things reasonable and we had a stellar time.


November: General rifle hunting season was a bust for me in 2015.  I spent 30 hours in the woods hunting deer but didn’t take one home.  On the last day I had one doe in my sights and I hesitated a crucial 1/4 second and she stepped behind some trees leaving me a bit disgusted.  Missing out on a deer was easily made up for by many sights like the one photographed wherein I enjoyed beautiful sunrise after beautiful sunrise (albeit some in below zero temps) on the Bridger Mountain Range.


December: With the general rifle season come and gone and our family freezer without venison I set out with a neighbor to hunt cow elk in the Castle Mountains in the last few days of the month.  We found ourselves within 450 yards of a herd which was simply too far for either of us to humanely take a shot and as such were unsuccessful in the hunt.  Once again though the views made up for it and the day was still a success.  Gazing south to the Bridgers and Crazies as well as the generally good feeling of a day out in the mountains can not be written off as anything but excellent.

“Alone in the Wilderness” with Dick Proenneke

Richard Louis “Dick” Proenneke (May 4, 1916 – April 20, 2003) was an amateur naturalist who lived alone for nearly thirty years in the mountains of Alaska in a log cabin he had constructed by hand near the shore of Twin Lakes. Proenneke hunted, fished, raised and gathered his own food, and also had supplies flown in occasionally. He documented his activities in journals and on film, and also recorded valuable meteorological and natural data.

There is a 57 minute self-made documentary shot by Mr. Proenneke entitled “Alone in the Wilderness” that is worth researching. It is one of my favorite pieces of wilderness living films and each time I watch it I am amazed and astounded at the vast set of skills, the motivation, and dedication that it took for someone to live off the land. I used to have the footage displayed here but unfortunately came to learn it was not available in the public domain and was requested it be removed.

Dick’s cabin on Twin Lakes is now on the National Register of Historic Sites and is located within Lake Clark
National Park & Preserve in Alaska.

An Overnight in Yellowstone National Park

Our daughter was born in January and our hopes for the summer were to get out camping as many times as we could to let her experience sleeping outside the home as the regular way of the life in our family.  We managed to spend something like 20 nights in our pop up camper trailer and a couple nights in a tent but these were all in the front country and we had not yet taken her backpacking


Going out on a low mileage but true wilderness backpacking trip was something we really wanted to do before the snow fell this Fall so even though it was the season opener for rifle hunting I decided to push that back a week and we gathered our gear for a trip into Yellowstone National Park.


Torie had Mae on her back in our vintage Tough Traveler kid pack as well as as much other gear as would fit in the lower storage section. Subsequently I was responsible for everything else and as such I borrowed the Kuiu Icon from the gear library at work in the 5200 cu. in. (85 liter) size.


We chose a campsite in the Canyon area of the park which is my favorite. The incredibly steep, sulfur-strewn canyon walls that sweep majestically down into the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone River are about as impressive a site as I’ve seen anywhere. Our campsite was situated a few miles from “Artist Point” and the well-worn trail leading out to it followed the canyon rim closely for much of the journey.


We arrived at camp a few hours before sunset and with temperatures set to be near or below freezing overnight I immediately set about gathering and sawing wood for use in our tent wood stove.  Torie played with Mae while trying to get our sleeping gear set up as well so when night time did set in on us we’d have our shelter all set to go.


We cooked up a batch of couscous topped with a delicious pesto sauce served alongside sliced pepperoni and then washed it down with chocolate cookies and a few splashes of whiskey.  We brought along some organic pre-packaged food for Mae which, like pretty much everything we’ve ever fed her, she lapped up eagerly.


Nighttime falls early in these parts but I set about putting a warming fire into our little wood stove which is designed perfectly for our tipi (both are the awesome little cottage gear company, Titanium Goat).  Temperatures quickly reached the height of comfort and soon enough we were sitting around in short sleeves and no hat.


Mae awoke at around 2am giving a little cry and although she seemed plenty warm she was awake and not ready to fall immediately back to sleep.  I took the time to start up a new fire in the stove while Mom nursed our little one.  We stayed awake talking for about an hour until Mae was able to fall back asleep which lasted until 7:20 in the morning.


It was a brisk morning but a re-kindled fire in the wood stove followed by hot coffee and warm granola made for delightful times as the sun shone over the trees and onto the lake causing the ground frost and mist over the lake to simply sparkle.


We drove home at a leisurely pace taking the time to enjoy just how empty the park is at this time of year.  Some of the spots we stopped and enjoyed are typically buzzing with hundreds of tourists during the peak season and for us to be able to sit and enjoy a view for a solid 30 minutes while only seeing a handful of other people was really quite enjoyable.  Even the grizzly sightings we had to and from our trailhead had but a few cars stacked up at the site – something that in the summer could easily have turned into an hour-long traffic jam.  Not taking the simple pleasures of where you live for granted is a very important lesson, wouldn’t you say?


MYOG: Gazetteer and Atlas Cover

The gazetteer that lives in my truck gets pretty abused. It is stored between the seat and the console and gets used a LOT. My wife and I are both map junkies so she is pretty much always looking up various geographic features when we’re headed to a camping spot or trailhead. As such the edges of our standard Benchmark Montana Road & Recreation Atlas are dog-eared and the pages all show signs of wear.

In order to prolong the life of this handy and oft used book I spent some of my afternoon after I had finished my work for the week sewing a simple non-coated, 1000d Cordura nylon cover. I bound the upper and lower edges, added a 2″x3″ loop panel to the front so I can adorn it with various velcro patches, and attached a length of 550 cord with a bright orange webbing piece affixed to the end to act as a permanently attached bookmark.




Sub-24 Hour Overnight Bikepacking in the Gallatin Mountains

I am the father of a seven month old so opportunities to get out into the backcountry are precious these days.  I don’t want to miss out on time with my baby and wife but I also don’t want to miss out on nights spent in the mountains either so last evening I threw my leg over the top tube of my bicycle at 18:00 and pedaled from town twelve miles up into the high foothills of the Gallatin Mountain Range arriving around 20:00.  I live only about a block from access to our town trail system and I chose a route that consisted of mostly trails and gravel road all the way to my camp requiring only three miles of riding the shoulder of a mid-speed asphalt road.





I hunted deer in this zone thoroughly in the Fall and have explored this timber-cutting road system on skis in the winter as well so I knew generally where I wanted to make camp.  I came to a wide, flat pass but pushed on another mile to see if the next switchback would offer better views.  I decided it did not and turned around to return to the pass.  I left the road and headed to a rocky promontory that made up the Eastern part of the pass and set about making camp… well, more like I cracked a beer and enjoyed the view for a few minutes before making camp.




The view off to the SE through a gunsight set of peaks of the rugged Absaroka Beartooth Wilderness complex was sublime and I couldn’t help but gaze off into it thinking of past trips in that wild set of mountain ranges.  Opposite that view the lights from my town of Bozeman and the greater Gallatin Valley were beginning to twinkle.  The sun was setting to the West and the silhouette of the Tobacco Root Mountain Range drew my attention heavily.




Camp made I took off my shoes and those diaper-like cycling-specific under shorts and found a comfortable spot on some sun-warmed rocks.  The weather was delightful and I sat in my short sleeves until long after dark just taking in the view of the setting sun, the lights of town, and the slowly rising nearly-full moon.




Sleep came slowly as large critters banged through the woods near me.  Presumably just an elk or a deer but the notion a bear is hanging out near your camp is a hard one to ignore regardless of the fact I’ve spent hundreds of nights sleeping out in the wild.



I don’t know what time I fell asleep but I lay with the door of my simple shelter open and allowed my gaze to drift to the night sky.  The full moon made things very clear and the stars were alight with the twinkle ever-enhanced by being even just a few miles away from the light of the city.  I awoke at dawn, climbed out of my bag and scanned the distant hills for wildlife.  I will hunt this zone again this fall and seeing even just one critter on a nearby hillside was a pleasant sight.


My trusty Bushbuddy fired up a few cups of water and I had a cup of coffee in hand by 06:30.  While it brewed I broke camp and packed my gear back onto my bicycle.  I spent the evening leisurely soaking in the surroundings but my plan for the morning was to attempt to make it back home for arrival about the time my wife and daughter were awaking.  The beauty of a twelve mile climb on the way in is you know you’ve got a fast, twelve mile descent on the way back out.


I made it home by 08:00 just as my family was waking and my lovely wife had a second cup of coffee at the ready.  We made up a proper Saturday morning breakfast of bacon and eggs and now have the whole weekend still lies ahead of us.  Make the most of your minutes, hours, and days.  Enjoy the company of your family as well as your solitude.  I enjoy living in the moment, especially since each and every one of them equates to huge changes in the life of my little girl.  But at the same time I look forward with great interest in having the family join me in future micro-adventures.