Greetings, PNTA Supporter!
Thank you. Volunteers and donors like you help us to fulfill our important mission - protecting the Pacific Northwest National Scenic Trail for the enjoyment of generations to come and providing recreation and education for our users, today.
Maintenance and Construction
PNTA trail crews were responsible for more than 11,800 hours of maintenance on the PNT, for a contributed value of $290,606 to the National Trails System.
We established a new partnership with the Jamestown S'Klallam Tribe to support trail maintenance operations on the
. For eight weeks, the PNTA led a crew comprised entirely of local youth, aged 13-16, from the tribe.
The PNTA also partnered with Job Corps
to help 24 young people, ages 16 through 24, to improve the quality of their lives through vocational and academic training applied to trail stewardship and backcountry construction projects on the Pacific Northwest Trail.
Outreach and Education
We brought in 2017 with a New Years Day hike on the PNT in Deception Pass State Park and a multimedia presentation.
Since then, we have met with more than 3,000 people, face-to-face, through outreach activities including our 40th Anniversary Celebration, with keynote speaker, Ron Strickland and a screening of Alex Maier's film, A Sense of Direction.
Our outreach events have inspired outdoor enthusiasts from across the Northwest to explore the PNT, and offered them the chance to seek qualified advice directly from PNTA staff and former PNT thru-hikers.
The PNTA also sponsored an Americorps internship to develop a "Day Hikes of the PNT" program. Seher Khan, our Interpretive Ranger, led 12 inspiring guided hikes exploring the history and natural resources at many locations across the PNT.
Planning and Advocacy
We're working to build a better PNT, mile by mile, by relocating the route of the trail off of 'motorized routes' - gravel and blacktop roads - and on to foot friendly, single track trails.
The PNTA led the Puget Sound Regional Subcommittee of the PNNST Advisory Committee to identify three key relocations of the PNT, which will
eliminate 27 miles of motorized tread from the trail in western Washington
The Association advocated for the relocations, and gained support from local and regional land managers to proceed with their development.
On the Olympic Peninsula, we partnered with other regional trail groups to draft and sign trail maintenance commitments in support of the development of a trail relocation through Anderson Lake State Park. This improvement would eliminate several miles of dangerous road-walking from the PNT along SR 20.
To improve the PNT in the North Cascades region, the PNTA actively participated in planning efforts for the Washington Department of Natural Resources' Baker to Bellingham recreation plan in support of the development of new non-motorized tread across state trust lands, which are needed to relocate the PNT off of logging roads in Skagit and Whatcom Counties.
Information and Resources
We helped to make the PNT easier to navigate with a new information and resources this year.
We published a
new mapset for 2017
with refined centerline data and detailed notes to aid users in trip planning and to promote responsible LNT practices on the trail. The 146 page mapset was also made available for free on at the
Avenza Map Store
- used with the free Avenza app, any GPS-enabled smartphone can become a powerful navigation tool.
Also new this year, our Trail Alerts Program shared info about trail closures, wildfires and trail reroutes, all in real time through plain text emails and at PNT.org.
Thanks to supporters like you, we have raised almost 75% of our fundraising goal with the Thunderbird Campaign!
We're working to build a better PNT in 2018 and
even a small gift can have a big impact. Your $10 donation will help us to install trail markers featuring the iconic thunderbird symbol of the PNT, which will let hikers know which way to go at places like trail junctions and road crossings. Your gift will also help us to do trail work where a lack of funding has left the PNT unmaintained for too long.
This end-of-year fundraiser has some awesome incentives for giving that will make great holiday gifts. A PNT trail marker to keep, one on the trail that you can call your own, and a beautiful engraved wall map are all perfect for that trail lover on your shopping list.
Visit our fundraising page
to learn why people like you are giving in support of on-the-ground improvements to the PNT in 2018 -
their comments are an inspiration!
"More than any long trail I've hiked before, the PNT showed me how important it is for hikers, volunteers, professionals, local communities, and land managers to come together and show love for our trail system. Without our love, they will be underfunded, neglected, and will disappear. Many thanks to all those whose work has breathed life into Ron Strickland's dream and who continue to make it better and better."
Elizabeth "Snorkel" Thomas
"This is a critical time in the development of the PNT. Your donation goes a long way in helping PNTA make this great trail the best that it can be."
PNTA staff 2001-4, PNNST Federal Advisory Council, PCTA Director of Trail Operations
"We got involved with the Trail and the Association in the mid 1990s because of the concept of this magnificent long distance hiking trail from Glacier Park to the Pacific Ocean. Even though we had no intention of ever being through hikers, the idea that such an East/West trail that goes through some of the most beautiful country of the earth was enough for us, and it still is. We enjoy working on the trail in the three counties near us - Whatcom, Skagit and Island Counties. It was such an exciting thing to see the fruit of many people's labor when the trail got National Scenic Trail status in 2009. It is in good hands."
Record numbers of thru-hikers have flocked to attempt the Pacific Northwest Trail in 2017. By PNTA estimates, it is believed that over 100 hikers have attempted end-to-end treks, nearly double the largest figures in our 40 year history!
No two seasons or trips on the PNT are exactly the same. In this October Newsletter, we will look back to learn more about the challenges unique to 2017 and exciting new changes that will affect our trail community for years to come.
PNT Hikers Now Have More Support Than Ever in Trailside Communities
With only five or ten thru-hikers per year for most of its history, it has been easy for hikers to go virtually unnoticed among all but the smallest towns along the Pacific Northwest Trail. But as more folks across the Northwest catch onto this remarkable hiking trail, they can hardly miss the stream of colorful visitors with worn shoes, bad tans, and easy smiles. For some, a small gesture of kindness can lead to a larger role in our growing trail community.
This was the case with Artie and Mike McRae of Republic, Washington.
Artie McRae, who is the local Postmaster, became curious in recent years about the growing number of packages, mailed to the Republic Post Office in the small Eastern Washington town.
Thru-hikers quickly learn to master the art of "resupply," by filling packages with provisions in advance of their trips, or by cobbling together a week's worth of meals from any food locally available. Bakeries, groceries and even tiny road-side markets can all provide the calories needed to sustain their human-powered adventures.
In an article published in the Ferry County View, McRae recalled how her interest in PNT hiker's resupply packages eventually led to the fateful choice to invite strangers into her family's home.
"After meeting many of these fascinating people I was moved to get involved. Last year my family and I started giving hikers rides to trailheads. After the season was over we talked it over and decided we wanted to be listed as "trail angels" in the 2017 guide book," said McRae.
Many areas along the trail corridor saw above average precipitation and snow In 2017. By May, some areas of trail were covered by snowpack at 130% of normal. Snow that persisted at higher elevations in Glacier and Olympic National Parks affected PNT hikers in a number of ways. Many chose to delay trips and wait for trails and passes to melt out.
But an adventurous and well-prepared few equipped with pounds of snow-travel equipment, like ice axes and traction devices, set out to blaze snow-covered trails that concealed snow bridges and other concealed hazards.
which form along trails over creeks, may be virtually hidden by a blanket of snow. Under the weight of a hiker, snow bridges can collapse, causing injury or trapping victims between snow and icy waters.
After laboring across snow covered trails in the Rocky Mountains, these determined early season hikers later met with a new, but related hazard in the Cascades - the potentially hazardous stream crossings at Swift and Rainbow Creek near Mount Baker.
Without bridges in place to aid them, PNT hikers must make two back-to-back, heart-pounding crossings to continue south toward Baker Lake. Those arriving in late July through early August this year determined that the ford at Swift Creek was "impassable," and chose to turn back.
Later in the season, as the heavy flow of the creeks subsided, other hikers were able to make these crossings safely without having the rhythm of their trips broken by backtracking.
The PNTA, and regional volunteers have been working with the Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest to find a long-term solution at Swift Creek for years. Now, new solutions to this old problem could be in store for the PNT.
Learn more about these exciting possibilities
Until 2017, PNT hikers have been more likely to pass each other like ships in the night than to meet one another in town. For those more acquainted with the triple crown trails, hiking for an entire day without spotting another thru-hiker would be remarkable, and completing an
long-distance trail without meeting another thru-hiker would be unthinkable - it's hard to imagine how thru-hikers could earn proper trail names with that much solitude!
This season marks a watershed moment in our history. For the first time, the number of PNT thru-hikers reached triple digits. And while this level of use is comparatively small, the "Class of 2017" enjoyed new benefits that come from sharing the trail together.
Photos from the PNT Hikers Facebook page are full of smiling hiking groups enjoying the unique trail towns along the PNT. While hikers from years' past roamed historic main streets like lone wolves, packs of thru-hikers in 2017 had the opportunity to exchange trail tales and form friendships while enjoying R&R in trailside communities.
Another benefit is the safety found in numbers; now it's easier than ever for hikers to team-up in groups to mitigate the risks of hiking alone in the backcountry. Glacier National Park reports that "There have not been any reported attacks [by grizzly bears] on groups of four or more in Glacier." For this reason, the park recommends traveling in groups to minimize the chance of a bear encounter. Other hazards that are more safely dealt with en masse include fords across fast moving water, as Swift Creek is notorious for.
With interest in the Pacific Northwest Trail continuing to grow in 2017, the PNTA worked to improve access to the trail by offering new resources like free trail maps, trail alerts and updated information at PNT.org.
Trail maps and book-length guidebooks of the PNT were first published 35 years ago by Ted Hitzroth and Ron Strickland. Since that time, the dynamic corridor of the Pacific Northwest Trail has continued to evolve. For a time, third parties offered the most current information. But these sources often gave users conflicting and outdated information. Some even circulated advice that undercut the success of the trail's development and frustrated hikers.
Today, the most up-to-date information is available through an entirely new and fully annotated mapset created by the PNTA. When paired with the Avenza smartphone app, PNT hikers have new tools that simplify navigation on the PNT. Our map data will be revised annually based on input from our users and agency partners.
Also new for 2017 is our Trail Alert system. PNTA staff work closely with the US Forest Service, National Park Service and others to provide users with critical information about trail closures, detours and wildfires, as close to real time as possible. Information is communicated through multiple channels including our website and a plain-text email system for those needing access to information while out on the trail.
Later this year, we will launch a new PNT.org that will provide better trip planning information and other exciting new features. We will share progress updates about our new website in upcoming newsletters.
The Pacific Northwest experienced extended drought in the summer of 2017, following a wet winter, and leading to one of worst wildfire seasons in years. Exceeding $2 billion nation-wide, the cost of firefighting, borne by the U.S. Forest Service, has been the most expensive in history.
Communities nearest the fire have braved unhealthy air and the uncertainty of possible emergency evacuation from their homes. In July and August, some areas of the Northwest did not experience relief from smoke for weeks at a time, and some endured the worst air quality in the nation.
For many, the damage sustained by their favorite wild places has produced a sense of grief. In total, five large wildfires led to trail and road closures on or near the Pacific Northwest Trail in 2017.
Driven by weather conditions and other complicating factors, fire behavior can evolve quickly. The PNTA and our partners at the US Forest Service, National Park Service, and state DNR coordinated throughout the season to quickly share information about closures and detours and to relay that information with the public to our online community and to hikers in the field-it served as a serious test of the PNTA's new Trail Alert System.
For PNT thru-hikers, poor air quality and temporary trail closures only added to the difficulty of their long journeys. Some detours took hikers off of trails and placed them onto motorized routes, like dusty gravel forest roads, and hot asphalt highways. In some cases, the additional mileage of 50 miles or more tested hikers' resolve to connect their steps and "stay true to the thru" on their crown to coast adventures. Two eastbound hikers were forced to modify their routes by finishing their thru-hikes at Many Glacier-extreme fire danger in the National Park had closed access to the Belly River Trail and the PNT's eastern terminus.
But the wildfire which challenged firefighters and closed trails in the Pasayten Wilderness for three months became the largest to threaten the PNT. The Diamond Creek "megafire" remained south of the PNT for nearly a month before it followed a pathway of new fuels over Larch Pass and advanced north-ultimately it burned across PNT and over the US-Canada Border. In total, it consumed over 127,500 acres. Roughly twenty two miles of the Pacific Northwest Trail fall within the fire perimeter.
The full effect of the fire on the wilderness and the condition of the trail is not yet known, but the trail was reopened by the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest on October 20th, with appropriate cautions. PNT hikers in 2017 may have been among the last in a generation to see the wilderness before the massive burn.
Restoring the PNT/ Boundary Trail in a massive wilderness, inaccessible by road and without mechanized equipment, will be a challenge-those that feel the call to action can help by making a donation in support of our trail crews and by looking for volunteer opportunities in 2018.
Making Progress at Swift Creek
The Swift and Rainbow Creek crossings in Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest (MBS) have presented formidable challenges on the Pacific Northwest Trail for decades. Without bridges in place, PNT hikers make two back-to-back, heart-pounding crossings. The ford across the icy waters of Swift Creek can be waist deep, even in early August.
Both of these drainages are notorious for producing high flows of water from snowmelt. Among all of the Cascade Volcanoes, Mount Baker
known to the Lummi Tribe as the "white sentinel,"
is second only to Rainier in the volume of snow and ice it holds.
Two early season hikers teamed up to make the first crossing of the year. One hiker was allegedly swept under the torrent at Swift Creek, but made it across with the aid of a partner, shaken, but not seriously injured.
But the crossing proved too much for many this year. Those hikers who arrived in early August assessed the danger and chose to turn back, rather than risk an unsafe crossing. This comment posted in the PNT Hikers Facebook Group on August 4th illustrates the situation:
"FYI: Four of us just completed North Cascades complex and were unable to cross Swift Creek (between Lake Ann and Baker Lake) due to high, swift moving water (on July 29). Just a lot of melting snow still. We had to climb back up to the Mount Baker highway and drive around to Baker Lake... a PNT hiker, camped next to [Swift Creek] and tried to cross from 7 to 9 a.m. He got out about a 1/3 of the way up to his waist, and when he reached into the middle of the river with his pole, he couldn't reach the bottom. We ran into him 2 hours above the crossing, and we all turned around together."
The options thru-hikers have at Swift Creek are very limited; they can either ford or backtrack and begin an inconvenient, 100 mile detour along blacktop highways to reach Baker Lake to the south where they can resume their westbound journeys.
Consider for a moment, the context of a thru-hiker's entire 1,200 mile adventure
between the eastern terminus at Chief Mountain and Hannegan Pass, most PNT thru-hikers have successfully followed a continuous route for nearly two-thirds of the trail.
For thru-hikers, who face a series of challenges - which all test their will to preserve an unbroken chain of steps
the desire to forge ahead despite all odds is very strong.
TAKING STEPS TOWARD A SOLUTION
The PNTA and our volunteer trail maintenance partners in Whatcom County, SWITMO, have been meeting with MBS staff throughout 2017 to explore long-term solutions to aid hikers in the crossing of Swift and Rainbow Creeks, as well as to identify other future improvements to the trail corridor on the forest.
romising new solutions are on the horizon for the MBS portion of the PNT, which will unlock the region's potential to offer some of the
finest long-distance hiking trips along the entire trail corridor.
A recent scouting trip explored the feasibility of two possible solutions for the crossings. One possibility under consideration for Rainbow Creek is the installation of a cable car. While this solution has been used by the NPS in North Cascades National Park over the Chilliwack River, there is no precedent on our National Forests for this type of infrastructure, and additional consideration is needed before approval can be granted.
The PNTA and collaborators also evaluated future trail relocations off of motorized tread in the area, such as where the PNT currently climbs the steep and winding section of Highway 542, between Hannegan Pass Road and the Mount Baker Ski Area.
Funding for engineering studies and NEPA (National Environmental Policy Act) analysis will also need to be secured before these projects can proceed.
The PNTA will continue to post updates about the progress of this ongoing work on our website, and share opportunities for members of our community to
donate to the project
and other ways to get involved.
The 1,200 Miler Project
Record numbers of thru-hikers have flocked to attempt the Pacific Northwest Trail in 2017 -
the Pacific Northwest Trail Association
estimates that over 100 hikers have attempted end-to-end treks this year, nearly double the largest figures in our 40 year history.
For most of its existence, as few as five or ten were bold and experienced enough to tackle this rugged route.
Long distance trail lovers will recognize that these numbers are relatively low -
end-to-end treks "against the grain" of the rugged northwest topography of the Pacific Northwest Trail represent a rare accomplishment - historically, less than half of all attempts to complete the entire PNT in a single season have been successful.
In 1977, Ron Strickland began tracking the first exploratory thru-hikes on the PNT, but over the last forty years, many finishers' accomplishments have been lost to history - until now.
To publicly honor the achievement of these hardy men and women, the PNTA has created an official list of those who completed all 1,200 miles of the Pacific Northwest Trail. The names of these hikers and equestrians will be published at an all new PNT.org to launch later this year.
We acknowledge that this preliminary list may be far from complete and encourage PNT end-to-enders to
The special passion 1,200 Milers hold for the Pacific Northwest Trail helps to ensure its legacy; the personal stories long-distance hikers share about the struggles and rewards of the trail are what draw others to experience the PNT and the beautiful landscapes and historic main streets of the Pacific and Inland Northwest.
Read more about our recognition policy, here.
Follow us on social media for trail updates, pictures and fun!
Use the hashtag #crowntocoast and we'll share your PNT pictures.
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