Monday July 4th, 2022, 0600-1100
West side of bushwack to HWY 21 Thirteen Mile Trailhead, WEBO mm 500, Segment 4 Kettle Range
12.5 miles, Gain 750′, Loss 2500′, elevation 2050
I finished one section already and am onto the next. This trail has been going by pretty fast so far. Two back to back 30’s will do that!
I was witness to an amazing sound overnight. I woke to the howls of wolves! This must be the year of the wolf for me, because I also heard one in Arizona on the MRT back in April. This time I heard a chorus of wolves, several times throughout the morning. Once or twice they sounded pretty close. I know this might have been cause to feel terrified but I was just mesmerized. I knew they probably didn’t want anything to do with me and maybe didn’t even know I was there. A deer wondered by in the morning and definitely didn’t sense me until I spoke to it. Then it snorted and ran off. My tent could make a great hunting blind if I was so inclined.
It didn’t rain any more overnight but was very foggy in the morning. My tent was absolutely drenched, with a lot of condensation on the inside too. I was thankful to be headed for town, where I hopefully would be able to dry it. On my way early, I had to negotiate 1.5 miles of what was described as a bushwhack. Luckily it was merely an overgrown road bed, relatively easy to follow and lacking any significant whacking of bushes. I could see how later in the season, the vegetation might increase to the point of needing some whacking. I arrived Swan Lake to find some folks elaborately set up at the group pavilion. Two of them were PCT hikers on a 2 week break from the trail. They knew about the PNT and we chatted for a bit. I also used the privy at the campground, which was very nice.
Just as I was leaving, the sky rumbled and let loose another round of rain. A lady in a truck stopped on the road to tell me that “cows were just up ahead!” She couldn’t have picked a more disinterested person to impart this knowledge on. My blank stare must have said as much. Of course there are cows ahead…they are everywhere and in between. I’d already come across small herds multiple times a day and was constantly trying to avoid their splatters. If you can’t tell, I’m kind of tired of cows.
I walked the paved road for about 5 miles, just zoning out. So much so that I missed a turn onto a dirt road and ended up doing an extra .7 miles. I was back on an alternate, as the red line heading east from Swan Lake had zero information about it and was listed as a bushwhack. That could get real bad real fast in the rain. Plus I was completely out of food and didn’t need to be risking long delays. I passed some more cows as the road wound its way up to an overlook. Here I picked up a nice trail that would lead down to the Sanpoil river canyon and hwy. Another thunderstorm came through, this time with a few close lightning strikes. I howled in anticipation as the sky turned that sizzling green color I often see just before an intense storm. It’s like the atmosphere just fills with electric energy… it’s hard to describe but you know it when you experience it.
The storm passed quickly and the mist began to lift just as I headed down a series of steep switchbacks. Seeing the canyon slowly be revealed was magical. I felt like I was in an exotic valley deep in the Himalayas. It was very moving. Because of all my stops to marvel at the canyon vistas, I just missed a truck pulling away from the campground at the end of the trail. Oh well I thought, as I got set up to hitch along the road. Someone else would come along. A camper van did follow right after, but the driver didn’t even slow down, flying close past me with spray kicking up from his wheels to douse me. Take that you dirty hitchhiker! Ha ha, it really wasn’t that bad, just a bit of spray.
As the route continued up the road (away from town), I decided to at least knock out some of the road walk while I tried to hitch. This is often not a good strategy, as you end up in awkward stretches where it’s not convenient for drivers to pull over. There was almost no shoulder anywhere on this road as it traveled along the river. But I hate standing still, so I walked. Very few cars passed in 2 miles…most were going south and the few going north all blew past me like the first driver, not even bothering to wave. I’d pulled out all the stops, with no sunglasses or hat, letting my hair down so they could see clearly that I was a female. I even had my umbrella out with my “hiker to town” drawn on the surface. I waved it around cutely to no avail. No one was having any of my antics.
I was still confident I would get a ride before I turned off onto the next trailhead. There was another campground there and surely some cars for the holiday. Suddenly a van came around a turn and I didn’t even have time to get my umbrella out, much less my thumb, before he pulled over. Without hesitation (fearing another car coming up behind to hit us), I opened the side door and jumped in. Granted, this is not the best behavior of a woman in avoiding being kidnapped but …
In fact, I was immediately accosted, but not by a person. A German shepherd with an innate penchant for sniffing was on me before I could even get my pack off. I love dogs and animals in general, but for some reason this particular breed makes me uneasy. But I didn’t have much of a choice as Angori sniffed me up and down, even poking his nose under my dress as dogs seem so wont to do. His zealous sniffing made me wonder if I really did stink after a few days of hiking… probably! I inched my way into the front seat… his seat…and he promptly jumped on my lap and stuck his head out the window. Dogs, you know? I couldn’t help but laugh as we became very intimate companions.
Meanwhile, I was admiring Paul the driver’s collection of patches and stickers from around the country. He’d been van-lifeing for 4 years but had just bought his first property in Republic. After all he’d seen, this area had appealed to him most. I was starting to feel the same way. He dropped me off downtown and I headed straight for the Knotty Pine restaurant for lunch. I had a tasty sandwich and cup of coffee to warm up. My wet feet had chilled me and the temperature outside was barely in the 60s. It had been over 100 degrees the year before during an unprecedented heat wave.
I texted Karrie the trail angel to let her know I was in town and she invited me over to dry my stuff. It was raining again but her house was a short walk up the hill. She’d started a fire in her basement fireplace by the time I arrived, with the perfect area to hang things to dry. She continued to shower me with kindness… literally with an offer of a shower. I wasn’t feeling the need for one just yet but once under the hot water, I was most grateful.
Later Karrie got a call from 2 hikers looking for a ride from Sherman pass. I figured they must be 2 of the 4 whose names I’d been seeing ahead of me in the registries. I asked if I could go along to pick them up, just to be able to meet them. The poor things, it was rainy and so cold at the pass. We learned they’d been waiting 2 hours already without getting a ride. And this was on perhaps the most traveled highway of the 3 points into town! It made me grateful for all my luck in hitching earlier. Their names were Skunkbear and Sashay, a couple from NY. The other 2 were Bug and Wolverine (one of which I met later in town). They were effectively a day to 2 days ahead of me still, it’s just the way the trail does a huge half circle around Republic, most hikers visit the town at least twice.
After dropping them off in town, I offered to buy Karrie a beer. The brewery was closing early, given the holiday, so we got a growler to go. I also bought us dinner to go at the restaurant next door. This was my treat since Karrie had offered for me to stay in her spare bed in the basement. I like to exchange something for such hospitality, and dinner and \ or drinks is something everyone appreciates. We had a nice evening just chatting…though I fear I talked her ear off. I learned that she had been a district fire manager with the Forest Service and a pioneer as one of the first female hot shots. She now leads the local female hiking club and is president of the board for the food co-op. Whatever tough things I’ve done pale in comparison to what this lady did for her career. What a bad-ass.
It seemed fitting that I should spend Independence Day in a town called Republic in the state of Washington. So patriotic. But as usual, I went to bed while it was still light out. Later I heard bangs, which I assumed was the town fireworks display. I hadn’t been expecting much because of all the rain and the noise was short lived. Long live the Republic.