The Best Advice You Can Never Take – because you’re thru hiking

PNT Trail Update: Oroville to Republic

On our way to resupply in Republic…

“It’s like raiiiin on your wedding day…It’s the good adviiice that you just didn’t take…”

But First, The Team Assembles

After a flurry of last minute logistics – options weighed, texts exchanged, snow report checked, flights changed, trains changed, lodging cancelled, boxes mailed – our merry band lets go of our Glacier permits and decides to flip flop. And so we head to Oroville, the low and snowless center of the Pacific Northwest Trail.

Five of us drive that winding road. We have Bug, our nutritionist and top proponent of mid-morning second breakfast. Wolverine, our advanced patrol with legs of steel and keen eyes for perfect break spots, Sashay, our steady and dependable rear guard, yours truly – Skunkbear the cartoon correspondent, and Sashay’s mom driving the getaway car. We set up at the campground in town with Canada just across the lake.

Resort Hopping

The immediate sensation of the first few days on trail is immense ease, at odds with moments of pure mosquito hell. Our first night we make it to the Lutheran Church in Havilla where a tiny town full of trail angels provide a cosy floor to sleep on, pot pies to microwave and devour, apples and clementines and fresh baked cookies and cheerful hellos and trail chat, bookended by easy, rolling pastoral road walks.

Thank you drawing for the good people of Havillah

The next night we hit Bonaparte lake resort and since their restaurant’s closed we decide to camp there to enjoy breakfast the next morning. By this time we felt like coddled little kittens what with all the town food and power outlets and not having to dig poop holes. The trail is also rolling us through forest service campgrounds pretty regularly so it felt like life is one big parade of picnic tables and easy outhouses. The miles are easy and we wade through grassy, overgrown trails in dappled forests, leaving ripples of bright purple lupine in our wake.

The Horseshoe

The trail horseshoes around the town of Republic for about a hundred miles – which makes it an easy call to resupply there twice. It’s a dreamy a trail town for us car-less travelers – a choice of restaurants, a shady town park to dry our tents, a full grocery store – all within a few minutes walk. Our hitch into town told us about a storm coming but seeing as we weren’t going to stay in town for 3 days we  resupplied then hitched back out to trail.

The Storm

The storm is cold. Two days of cold rain with waves of hail pelting us, then accumulating in slushy little piles of white, bright against the soaked pine needles. At first, our rain jackets politely ask the water to stay out, but when the rain keeps coming they enthusiastically invite it in to dampen all of our under layers.

Pictures are the great deceivers. This great one, snapped by Bug, doesn’t show how dumb numb my hands are and how I had to keep moving constantly to keep my body from shivering.

Sashay and I share a triplex, a palace of a tent, so we throw it up in the storm so the four of us can huddle inside, cook some warm food, and wait out the worst of the lightning. We have ridges to walk up and along the second day and though the churning clouds are striking, the miles drag on and on. There’s a rentable cabin up on the ridge whose inhabitants graciously welcome us in to warm around the the wood stove for a time. When we finally get to the road, soaked through and bedraggled, we hitched unsuccessfully for two hours before a trail angel came to scoop us up and bring us to town (Thank you Karrie!).

We end the day in town in a glorious hiker tableau: the four of us sprawled in a hotel room – freshly showered, eating piles of fresh-bought town food, gear strewn all around, clothes in stinking piles for tomorrow’s laundry.

Nothing like hitting town with your crew


Death vs Discomfort

A constant game in backpacking is Death vs discomfort. You definitely need to avoid death, injury, or bringing anyone else into danger to rescue you. On these metrics we were fine – we had heat sources and food, dry sleeping bags and sleep clothes, maps for bailouts, garmin for emergency messaging, and we had each other for second opinions, warmth and decisions. We were prepared to wait it out or push on. We had plenty of options. But discomfort, that was high.

The thing about death vs discomfort is they exist on the same continuum. Hungry is uncomfortable, too hungry is death. Cold is discomfort, too cold is death.

A very scientific discomfort-death chart

It’s the thing about packing for these trips. Mostly you’re in the range of deciding weight vs comfort and price vs comfort. But you’re always trying to steer way clear of the severe discomfort/disorientation line, with buffer for all the things that can go wrong.

As thru hikers our superpower is putting up with more discomfort than most and in return, we get to see things most people never get to see.

We get to live in a way most people never can – camping night after night in some of the most beautiful places in the world. But you don’t want to get so used to discomfort that you mistake danger for discomfort.

The Thing About Common Sense

So much of what I do as a hiker feels so concrete, so common sense, so down to earth. What food do I need for the next three days? How many things do I actually need to be alive? To be happy?  How far will my body take me, in how much time, and how much water will it need? But then there’s the extremely non common sense parts of it – the good, sensible  advice that you’re just not able to take. Like, “don’t go hiking for two days in terribly cold rain-hail” or “don’t eat pop tarts all day, every day.”

Onward to Northport!


Town smiles on Skunkbear and she pics up easy new gear in case of more cold rain




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Comments 1

  • JhonYermo : Jul 20th

    Serendipity lead me to your page. Now following you on IG as well.
    Been a fan of comics and the “funnies” since a wee-lad even before I could read, but Mama read them to me then.
    Thank you so much I am truly thrilled about your hiking and you art !


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