A year ago today, President Obama signed a bill establishing the Pacific Northwest National Scenic Trail, a corridor extending across 1,200 miles of northwest America from the Pacific Ocean to the Continental Divide. The designation lifts the trail to the same national status as the famed Pacific Crest Trail running 2,638 miles from Mexico to Canada, and the 2,178-mile Appalachain Trail that connects Georgia to Maine. There are now eleven such trails in the U.S.
For someone beginning a full, east-to-west traverse of the Pacific Northwest Trail (or PNT) at Glacier National Park, Montana, you'll need to walk more than 900 miles to get to the first good view of the ocean. And where might that be? Blanchard Mountain, of course--the crowning gem of the Chuckanut Range. Okay, the view might not precisely be the ocean, but with Samish Bay and the San Juan Islands sprawled out before you, it's a heck of a teaser for the true ocean view awaiting another 200+ miles to the west at Cape Alava in Olympic National Park.
The entire 1,200-mile route is not fully developed, although many hundreds of miles exist where the trail passes through state and federal lands, typically along existing routes that have been threaded together in name only. If you insist on hiking the route anytime soon, expect lots of road miles in between the trail sections.
In theory, the U.S. Forest Service will be developing an overall plan for the newly designated trail, clarifying routes, acquiring lands or easements, building trails and support facilities and all the rest. To date, however, little progress has been made in that respect. But this is government work and it's only been a year, so no complaining quite yet. But if you have a point of view or some ideas to share, or just want to learn how you can get involved, visit the Pacific Northwest Trail Association's website at http://www.pnt.org/.
The PNT, as many are aware, runs through the heart of Blanchard Mountain, including areas the DNR would have logged by now had not the Chuckanut Conservancy derailed those plans in a legal challenge--at least temporarily. (Read about our court victory here.)
Let's hope the Washington DNR learns to appreciate this nationally significant trail and rethinks its fixation on logging the area. As it stands currently, they still plan to log more than two miles of the PNT on Blanchard Mountain, beginning at the trailhead known as Samish Overlook--yes the exact same place you would enjoy that first great view of the "ocean." You can help make sure that doesn't happen by supporting the work of the Conservancy.