Part Four of the PNT: Wildfires and Yellow Jackets – Metaline Falls to Republic

Day 27

The super helpful and kind owner of the Historic Washington Hotel in Metaline Falls gave us a ride to the trail head. It was about ten million degrees out because we had to wait around all morning for the post office to open. It opens at 10:30AM. That’s super late when you wake up at 5AM every morning because some dumb ass bird is screaming outside your tent. So sitting around at the trail head waiting for the temperature to drop doesn’t sound so bad, right? Unless a bee stings you! Right on the back of the knee. Every step that afternoon was frustrating. At least the asshole who stung me is dead.

Day 28

I hit the trail because that’s what I do every day. Made it to water where I slipped in the stream and planted my tender booty on a big flat rock. Managed to lose a chunk of the water filter and smash my thumb in the process. Was this going to be another week of shit? Is that every week these days? Maybe not. I looked down at my legs to make sure they were still there and I noticed a tick crawling its way along my shaggy thigh. No doubt looking for the juiciest bit of meat to sink in. I committed that tick to the void. I’m two for two so far.

Some private land owners decided they didn’t want hikers walking through their land. So this is the road we got to walk to Republic.
Made it to Josh and Jami’s place. They are super cool hiker helpers who have two of the best dogs I’ve met in my life and a very friendly cat who is simply “the Cat.” The dogs were quite the characters. Sweet Dee likes to play fetch but Sammie is a trouble maker who likes to run up and snatch the ball when Sweet Dee drops it. I really appreciate the level of good natured mischief Sammie brings to the equation. Josh showed me the drill and I managed with some difficulty to learn their little doggy ritual.

“Back Sammie!” You gotta say it with authority. Sammie will halt and lay there. Eyes going wild waiting for the ball to drop. Sometimes you don’t see Sammie and you think it’s safe. That’s when you’re least safe though. Sammie erupts from nowhere to get that ball if you’re not on it. But the sweet guy will drop it after he wins and then Sweet Dee brings it back to you. Hopefully this time you don’t get got by Sammie.

So maybe instead of thru hiking I should adopt dogs. They really helped distract from the fact that the trail was on fire just ahead of us. We spent a good deal of time making plans and sharing strategies for just what to do when you can’t walk through an inferno.

Day 29

Half the hikers who stayed the night before hit the road bright and early. Zeke from New Zealand managed to leave his water filter behind so I went and mailed it ahead to him in Republic. Fun fact: Zeke ate 18 corn dogs in one sitting. Very braggable. Good thing I did because this guy Rick was just giving away Cliff Bars at the post office.

Laden with Cliff Bars I made my way with Anna and Jenn to the edge of town to start hitch hiking.

Anna and Jenn doing the lords work.
“You know what’s great about traveling with ladies?” I asked them. “You get picked up a lot quicker when hitch hiking. No one wants to pick up a smelly lone dude.” We got our first hitch from a caregiver who told us “I don’t usually pick up hitchhikers but I figured you were okay because two of you are ladies.” She dropped us at a busy intersection where we managed to catch a second ride from a very nice woman who ran a store in North Port. She dropped us off at a busy gas station at another intersection and we waited in the hot sun for our final hitch. She was eating a corn dog as she stopped in the intersection. She didn’t pull over. She just stopped and blocked traffic. I hope I’m that cool someday.
Me with the worlds grooviest corn dog enthusiast.
Ended up camping in some burn section with a good group of hikers. Something started grunting around dusk. Was it a bear? We thought so. It sure sounded like a bear. But it wouldn’t shut up. We yelled at it but it just grunted back in defiance.

Day 30

Whatever was grunting like a bear last night was at it again around 4AM. There were maybe two this time. Or else the bear was circling our camp at supernatural speeds. Probably some sort of ghost bear that died in the fire.

The hiking was slightly better than what I’d been doing before. Lots of ups and downs. Lots of ridge walks with views of stuff. Not quite grand views but good enough as views go. The dust was just awful. I got my first blister today which only happened because so much dust ended up in my shoes that it got in between my toes and started rubbing the pinky raw. Fortunately I had an extra pair my friend Tricia sent me and they saved my poor foot.

You know what’s worse than getting stung by a stupid bee? Getting stung twice by a dumb ass yellow jacket that flew up your sleeve while you were getting water from a spring.

Day 31

I walked all day. Anna got the yellow jacket treatment today. Same deal as me. The bushwack today was pretty chill though. Very short and we didn’t get lost. Lots of up and downs. Did I mention how much this trail goes up and down? Like up a mountain for no reason and then back down. I’m sure glad I like walking so much or I’d just hate it out here. There was rain too. It’s the middle of summer and I’m getting pissed on for hours.

Day 32

Anna, Nick, and Jenn in the wild.

A lot of road walks today. They were considered alternate routes which are common on this trail. The official route had a lot of death trap bush wacks and we all agreed we’d rather get hit by a car than fall off a cliff in some jungle bullshit.

Nick and Anna on the “trail”
It wasn’t all road walks though. Saw a pretty solid rattlesnake just chillin’ on the path. Jenn was in front and alerted the group to its presence. We discussed going around the danger noodle, but it was difficult. Briefly considered macing it but decided I needed to save it for bears. Eventually I prodded the legless beast off the trail. It just kind of rolled lazily down the hill and then slithered off.
Photo courtesy of Anna Rae Adventures.
Made it to Swan Lake and it was amazing. Nice water. Lots of people hanging out. Some group floated by and this dude gave me a bud light. It was the most delicious water I’ve had in my life. My partner showed up later with a cooler full of salad, real beer, and some tasty snacks. It was really nice to see her, and if I’m lucky she’s going to show up at a couple more stops between here and the coast.
My partner Katherine about to jump into a lake.
Day 32

Made it into Republic. Staying at the McRae’s house and it’s really great. They also have a cool doggo named Stewart. It’s a good name. They hosted eight of us! It’s the most PNT hikers I’ve seen in one spot.

The hiker helpers/trail angels on this trail are absolutely amazing.

Very noteworthy: Nothing bad happened today.

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