Homicide Suspects and the Kindness of Strangers

Walking the road into Metaline Falls on a hot 90+ degree day, two cars whip a u-turn and pull up behind us. County sheriff and US Border Patrol. Uh-oh, looks like I’m the latest in a long lineage of PNT hikers who DHS finds suspect.

The sheriff jumps out of his car and starts… belly laughing?

Turns out a concerned local citizen called us in thinking we were two homicide suspects from Canada. The sheriff showed us a photo, we most certainly are not.

After running our IDs he offered us a ride the last mile into town (of course in the back). On the short drive he told us some local history, why he loved living in the town and dropped us a block away from the hotel to “not cause alarm” when checking in. My only regret is not snapping a photo of some part of the event, but I assure you it happened.

Section 3 of the PNT was a stunning stretch of trail (and it was mostly trail!) but what marked it for me was the kindness of the strangers we met along the way.

Our section started at Feist Creek Resort, whose kindness I touched on in my last post, and ended in Northport WA with a stay at Jami and Josh’s wonderful small town oasis. 160 miles total.

After road walks through farmland to cross the Kootenai Valley we started ascending the Parker Ridge. This was the best day of walking on the PNT so far. After a big climb we were treated to ridge-line views for miles and miles. The weather was cool and the rain held off until just before camp.

Then the next day was the bushwhack day. The PNT bills this as the “rite of passage” day. You can either A: bushwhack about seven miles through thick forest where “grizzlies are known to occur” or B: take a ten mile “climber’s route” along a trail-less ridge with class two and three scrambling. Both are estimated to take a full day.

As much as I wanted to take the ridge route I was nervous about my climbing skills and didn’t think this would be the best time or place to find out how good I was. I was feeling a little down about this decision but a few hours into our bushwhack the sky opened up with thunder, lightning and hail. It stormed for the rest of the day and I was sure happy then that I took the low route. Things got a little weird in there but we made it out alive.

The day after the bushwhack we slept in and rewarded ourselves with a short day and a beach camp on Upper Priest Lake, a gorgeous lake and our first rain free day of the trip! A perfect day for swimming and relaxing.

Being a Sunday there were many boaters out on the lake. One particularly rambunctious group pulled up on our beach. Good news, Sunday Funday boaters have two things hikers love: food and beer!

When they heard about our hike the coolers and food baskets opened up and sausage, cheese and cold, cold beers emerged (cue a choir of angels singing)!

The next day was a beautiful stretch of trail through old growth cedars and along another ridge-line. There were limited spots to camp so at the late hour the best place we could find was in a trailhead parking in front of the PNT trail crew truck.  Thanks PNT!

Then into Metaline Falls (after the sheriff incident) where the Washington Hotel was something out of a hikers dream. Laundry, coffee, town clothes, soft sheets and the owner Arlie who despite not knowing really how the hotel ran was just absolutely excited to host hikers. Then Mary another trail angel, who owns the local theater, opened it up for a special hiker only screening of Toy Story 4. We’re killing it!

It was hard to leave but the trail called us up Abercrombie Mt for a stunning night on a ridge and time to sew some holes in our shoes.

The walk into Northport the next day was less than ideal (hot paved roads for ~19 miles) but it was totally worth it. The Mustang Grill literally opened the door for us and served up a huge meal. Then a short walk down the road to trail angel Jami and Josh’s beautiful house and perfect backyard for a day and night of relaxing, eating and great conversation.

The kindness showed to us on this leg of the journey makes leaving a tough thing to do, but section 4 awaits!

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