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Backpacker Magazine – March 2012

America's Newest Long Trail

Don't have time to hike all 1,200 miles of the Pacific Northwest Trail? No worries: Our scout pinpointed the finest two-week stretch.

by: Barney Scout Mann

Campsite near Cathedral Peak (Andy Porter)
Campsite near Cathedral Peak (Andy Porter)
Goodenough Peak (Andy Porter)
Goodenough Peak (Andy Porter)
Cathedral Peak (Andy Porter)
Cathedral Peak (Andy Porter)

Interactive Map
Download the track and waypoints to your GPS, make a custom map, and see more photos at backpacker.com/pnt12.
>> It's packed with surprises.
On most trails, you wonder if you’ll see a bear or moose, if you’ll see a rainbow, if you’ll experience something magical. On the PNT, though, it’s not if, it’s when. At mile 64.5, I stand on a long flat surface and feel shivers up my spine. I’m a geek for forgotten history, and I’m on the abandoned Pasayten Airstrip. In World War II, a battalion of African-American paratroopers were trained to combat a Japanese secret weapon—incendiary balloon bombs floated across on the jet stream. The Triple Nickle battalion’s misson was to fight fires and defuse bombs. And here we are—on the spot where they flew out after fighting a fire on Bunker Hill, seven trail miles from here, in 1944.

Our rest break at mile 69 is cut short. “I have to get out of here now.” Jan’s sudden pronouncement gives us a start. Three pairs of eyes do a swift body scan. Where is she hurt? “I’m serious! I need to get out of here now!” She’s grasping something in her hands. “I just found six four-leaf clovers. Let’s hike out and buy lottery tickets!”

In late-afternoon shadows creeping ever longer from Frosty Pass at mile 74.5, two Goldilocks hikers yell to us in unison: “That mama bear and cubs just ran straight through our tents!” They’d set up camp, walked a few feet away, and their two tents became a chute for an ursine follow-the-leader. The mom and cubs are still just 200 yards uphill of us, cavorting and navigating the rocky slope as surely as mountain goats.




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The start of your trip would have been ever-so-much easier had you begun at the Iron Gate trailhead and entered the Horshoe Basin via Sunny Pass. No route finding necessary. We hiked 26 miles of the Boundary Trail (52 miles out and back: Iron Gate to Remmel Lake and back) last August and had a glorious time.

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