“The sere brown hills”

Sam above the treelineMy friend Sam is thru-hiking the Pacific Northwest Trail this summer, a 1,200 mile trek from the Continental Divide in Glacier National Park to the Pacific Ocean. I mentioned Sam on this blog once before, when he thru-hiked Minnesota’s Superior Hiking Trail back in 2005.

This trip is a serious undertaking. Sam started walking on June 21 and doesn’t expect to finish until late August or early September. So far, he’s been traveling up to 20 miles a day. He’s sent two e-mail updates so far, and it sounds like it’s been a great hike, though not without its challenges. He gave me the go-ahead to repost some of his thoughts here, so I’ll let him speak for himself:

Sam cooking by a creekThe 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.

An alpine flowerI’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.

Sam’s shelterA note on his method: Sam is a subscriber to the ultralight-hiking philosophy and counts every gram he carries and wears. For nine days of hiking (his standard interval between food resupplies) his entire “skin out” weight (everything) is a scant 36 lbs, 15.92 oz. As an example of the lengths he goes to to cut weight, rather than a tent, Sam uses a simple homemade tarp that uses his two trekking poles for support.

He also mailed home a memory card from his digital camera and his brother Scott posted the pictures online.

8 thoughts on ““The sere brown hills”

  1. Greg Post author

    This info is a week or so old now; I’ll post again when he sends another update and more photos. A pretty amazing effort to be sure and yes, lots of lovely pictures. Not bad-looking country to be walking 20 miles a day through.

  2. Greg Post author

    Yeah, no doubt. It’s pretty interesting to study his gear list to see where he finds all those weight savings. Myself, I enjoy a few creature comforts in the woods and also worry about durability, but I totally respect his dedication to it… It takes a lot of thought and ingenuity to hike like he does with the gear he hikes with.

  3. Greg Post author

    Thanks for the comment. I hear tell that Sam is close to wrapping up his journey. I’ll probably post once more with some more info, excerpts and photos. An amazing accomplishment and an enviable adventure to be sure.

  4. samh

    Thanks for the kind words everybody. I love to talk about gear (as I see a trend toward people interest in that) so feel free to contact me with any questions.

    - sam_h

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