Saturday July 9th, 2022, 0600-1915
Churchill Mine Rd to Northport, WEBO mm 400.8, Segment 4 Kettle Range
22.5 miles, Gain 1790′, Loss 2670′, elevation 1355
The cows were on the mooove early in the morning, so I was woken by the moo alarm. My unwanted but constant companions. Well, when I follow cow trails to find a tent site, what do I expect? Have I mentioned that I stopped eating beef because of the environmental impact I’ve been witness to during all my hiking? Do you think the cows are aware of this and would cut me some slack? No, of course not. My spot was perfect otherwise, peaceful and dry. I was so happy to pack a dry tent and my shoes and socks even dried overnight.
As I began my 22 mile road walk for the day, I began my unwilling cow wrangling career. As has happened commonly on trails like the GET and CDT, cows see hikers coming and begin to walk ahead on the road. They’re conditioned to being herded and just naturally fall into our rhythm. But I hate following behind them because they smell and leave fresh plops to step in. They also often get separated from their calves and seem stressed out. It’s a waste of energy for them. I want nothing to do with them and would much prefer they just go off to the side and let me pass quickly, to be done with them quickly. But they are not very smart.
After collecting a big herd in front of me for several miles, I was growing weary of their mooing and pooping. I kept asking them to just mooove to the side to let me pass, but they wouldn’t listen. Finally I tried running at them like a mad woman, waving my poles in the air and screaming. This actually worked! It scared them off into the woods and I had 5 minutes of peace until I came to the next herd. So I decided to try my new strategy from the get-go. This apparently got the whole forest riled up, because even a deer bounded away. The cows began stampeding over a hill and I thought I was done with them. To my surprise, the road curved around and there they were again. I tried to head them off before they got back to the road, then realized I was running straight at a giant bull. He gave me that look and I stopped dead in my tracks. Ok buddy, you win.
Eventually I came to some cow-free miles and realized the one benefit of the cows was keeping my mind off the boring road and my hurting feet. Man did the miles begin to drag on! I kept fantasizing about seeing another hiker come around each bend but nothing. Not even any vehicles! I went almost 14 miles before a car passed. Good thing I wasn’t looking for a ride! I took a snack break around noon, then busted out the final 5 miles. It was pretty cool finishing the day by walking across the bridge over the Columbia River. It was huge and running even higher than usual…from all the snow melt in Canada I guess. It had completely engulfed the trunk of a tree that usually sits atop an island, which appeared to be floating.
I got to town around 1:30 pm and did the usual routine of stopping first at the only restaurant in town. The food was ok…not Sitka Coffee burrito bowl quality but somewhat filling. It was also a bit pricey…$12 for a BLT. But I imagine these small town establishments are really struggling with the inflation and gas prices. While I ate, I tried contacting several trail angels, mainly to ask of they’d seen the other hikers. I’d been hoping to camp in the backyard of some notorious trail angels but sadly, one of them had covid. I went to the backyard of the library to rest in the shade and come up with another plan. When that didn’t achieve any results (no wifi), I went to the mercantile/general store.
There I met the cool owner, Heidi, who’d been making a real effort to carry some items that hikers might need. But it’s hard to dedicate inventory and time when there are so few hikers. She was very friendly and accommodating, letting me pet the kittens that a momma cat had stashed in a drawer. So cute. I hung out with her, her son Ben and another local lady, shooting the shit on the front porch. It’s so funny how quickly the locals invite us hikers into their circles. Everyone is quite friendly up here.
Heidi told me where the 4 hikers were staying and I was able to contact one of them through FB. I made my way over to their rented cabin and returned the jacket to its rightful owner, Sashay. At first he was wondering why I had it, since he hadn’t even noticed it was missing after 2 days! Then of course he was glad I’d found it. I’ve had a few items returned to me by other hikers (my beloved tent stakes, which I left behind first day on the MRT), so I’m always thrilled to return the favor…karma. I sat down with everyone to catch up and reminisce. I’d met Sashay and Skunkbear when Kerrie picked them up at Sherman pass, then Bug the next day at the co-op. This day I met Wolverine for the first time. The group had a couple bottles of whiskey and were renting the cabin to celebrate Bug’s last day on trail. Unfortunately she could only manage 2 weeks off from her job. They invited me to stay over and drink cocktails, which I happily did to a bit of an extreme (headache next morning).
The manager was kind of ridiculous when he came by later to demand an extra $15 plus tax for me to crash on the cabin floor. It’s not like he provided an extra towel or cot or anything. Silly hikers, always trying to pack hotel rooms. Except that this was a whole cabin, the type that don’t usually come with strict stipulations on group size… provided it’s reasonable, which only 5 people total is, I’d say. He was the only not-so-hiker-friendly person we’d met thus far, so I guess we were still doing well. The cabins were also about the only place you could rent in all of Northport. Especially compared to Republic, this town was at the opposite end of the spectrum of favored trail towns.
As I was getting to know the other hikers that night, I realized that I’d met Skunkbear before, well sort of. She’s a professional cartoonist and illustrator, who’s even had her work featured in the New Yorker…that’s a big deal! She and Sashay live in Brooklyn, NY. Seeking a completely different lifestyle, they hiked the PCT in 2018, same year as me. We’d crossed paths as some point. The PCTA magazine later did a story about them, showcasing her adorable hiker cartoons. I saw the piece and immediately realized the connection when I saw her current journal for this trail. I asked for her permission to post the picture below. I just love it!
Skunkbear is also a very talented writer and you can see more cool work by her at these links: @kendra_allenby, https://thetrek.co/author/kendra-allenby/ , youtube video
The rest of the night was a bit of a blur but involved some of the most sophisticated hiker discussions I’ve ever had. Sashay, the only guy in our group, went to bed early and the 4 of us hikertrash ladies really got into it about civil liberties, society, and the patriarchy…oh boy, watch out! I should say we were all preaching to the choir but it was good to let it all out. I haven’t spent a lot of time in the company of all females for awhile, so it was a nice change of pace. I felt pretty lucky to have discovered some cool hiker friends on this seemingly desolate trail.
Were the bovine creatures doing the
Cow cow boogie?