Polebridge (55.2) to Red Meadow Lake Campground (73.5)

18.3 miles

Halfway motivated I crawled out of bed. The hostel kitchen was already busy when I joined the others for coffee and some cereals as well as cold pasta. Every calorie counts, right? It was nice to sit and chat with Joan and Chris again but I had to opt out of in-depth conversations about life in favor of getting back on trail. We exchanged contact details and I really hope to meet Joan again on her travels!

I left the hostel and made it up the road. Another stop at the Mercantile to get a second coffee and some baked goods was mandatory! The two women on the bikes arrived short after me and we all laughed about getting sucked in again.

I was ready to go at 9:30am. The first half of today would be a road walk. It was an unpaved road though and after I had left the vicinity of Polebridge there was no traffic at all. After the morning mist had gone the sky was clear and blue and the sun was shining. Another beautiful hiking day!

I was curious what the Pacific Northwest Trail had to offer. With only ten years of age it was America’s youngest National Scenic Trail and it was known for being especially rugged, wild and remote. When I hit the end of the road and the trailhead of the Hay Creek Trail I already got an idea. What I could see behind he trailsign didn’t look much like a trail.

But first: lunch! I sat down on a rock and unpacked a baked Jalapeño roll from the Mercantile. Yummy! There I was sitting in the middle of bear country munching on one of the best bakery products you could probably find in the US. (Just so you know… no bear showed up for lunch)

After a short break and check of my maps I hiked along the trail. It wasn’t a well-used path as the PCT but I could see the future trail that was about to develop. Early on I watched out for water as well as campspots. There was plenty of water all along the trail and at the beginning – because the trail was following an old forest road – there were occasional camp spots. Sometimes the fire ring from former hikers was right in the middle of it.

The trail ascended very gradually to about 6000 ft. As it was narrow I had started again to clap with my poles every now and then to let the wildlife know I was there. My special friends the mosquitos didn’t bother me too much until late afternoon. When it got too much I just got on some spray. I was using a spray with some other stuff than DEET to avoid ruining my gear. One DEET disaster was enough in my hiking career!

As today’s hike was rather easy my mind drifted away and I was thinking about this and that. Chewing on the overall situation of my life changed into the trail again and the task of reaching my dedicated campsite for tonight. I was aiming for the Forest Service Campground at Red Meadow Lake which was 0.6 miles off trail.

When I finally got there – after a steep downhill section – I was glad that I had decided to do the little bit of extra. The lake was beautiful and I bumped into Matt and Bowman. Matt was a brewery manager from Whitefish who invited me to a beer and Bowman is a lovely Golden Retriever who will protect us from the bears tonight.

As every night at camp I had a cold ramen dinner, finished this blogpost and studied my maps to get familiar with the next day of hiking. I would aim for another campsite that was mentioned on the app. There was either one in 16 or one in 21 miles. The five miles inbetween are all downhill.

Well, I’ll see how it goes in terms of navigation and climbing. Somehow I have the feeling that it will not always be as gradual as today.

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