A Long Walk

A serious, full-time hiker friend of mine, Dick, who also goes by the trail name “Hike On,” shows up in town every year or so to visit family and friends between long strolls in the backcountry. He has thru-hiked all three of the major American long-distance trails: the Appalachian Trail back east; the Continental Divide Trail following the Rocky Mountains from Canada to Mexico; and the Pacific Crest Trail that runs through the full length of California, Oregon and Washington. Lately, he’s started re-hiking favorite sections of those same trails as well as taking on regional routes like the 1,300 mile long Florida Trail.

When Dick called out of the blue earlier this summer, he was walking around Spokane running a few errands, sporting the usual full beard and multi-day pack, which normally wouldn’t seem too out of place downtown were it not for the technical hiking threads and ultra-light pack with trekking poles lashed to it. (Spokane doesn’t see many long distance hikers passing through town, although I hope that changes someday.) He was only a couple miles from my house, and while he walked, I fired up the BBQ and chilled a few beers for the reunion.

Not surprisingly, Dick arrived with news that he was on his way to another adventure, this time a thru-hike of the Pacific Northwest Trail, a 1,200 mile hikers dream between Olympic National Park on the coast of Washington and Glacier National Park in Montana. The PNT covers some incredible Inland Northwest terrain, from the Kettle Crest and Salmo Priest Wilderness to the trails around and above Priest Lake and up and over the Selkirk Crest. The PNT isn’t as well-known as the Appalachian Trail, but it’s been drawing more attention each year.

While the Pacific Northwest Trail is the oldest and most well-known long-distance trail in our neck of the woods, there are two others in the works that could draw more hikers down the road. The Desert Trail is a 2,223 mile hiking route from the California-Mexico border to the border with Canada near the Idaho-Washington state line. It passes through Spokane on its way north. The Inland Northwest Trail is another long-distance hiking route in progress (in the 1,500 mile range) that makes a giant loop out of Spokane through four states. I dreamed up the INT nearly a decade ago while hiking across the Selway Bitterroot Wilderness with my John Muir-looking, long-distance hiking buddy Dick who, while you’re reading this, will be somewhere on the PNT, heading east towards Glacier.

Dick and I have talked about carving out the time to hike the whole Inland Northwest Trail route one day, and that night around a backyard campfire, buoyed by talk of wild trails and hikes that last for months, I could easily imagine myself in those boots, taking that first step of many down that long, winding trail. //

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