With two sections of the trail behind, and after a nice break and resupply in Eureka, Montana, the Pacific Northwest Trail continues through the Kootenai National Forest on the short leg to Yaak, Montana. On the way it crosses the bridge over iridescent Koocanusa Lake and climbs over 4,000 feet to the summit of Mount Henry.
Koocanusa Lake was formed by damming the Kootenay River a few miles west of Libby, Montana. The thin reservoir runs for 90 miles, with nearly half its body located in British Columbia. The lake's name has an interesting origin. With the erection of Libby Dam in 1972, a contest was held to pick a name for the newly formed body of water. Alice Beers of Rexford, Montana, a town on the lake's shore that the PNT passes through outside of Eureka, won with her selection. Koocanusa is formed by combining the first three letters of the Kootenay River with the first three letters of Canada and appending it with USA.
The first section of trail leaving Eureka is along a converted rails-to-trails line. The path follows the railroad line east for 7.5 miles before turning south at Rexford onto Highway 37 and heading for the scenic Lake Koocanusa Bridge. After crossing the bridge the route climbs a quick 3,500 feet over roughly 5 miles to reach the summit of Webb Mountain. From atop Web Mountain the trail continues east for 15 miles on rolling hills, on and off trails and Forest Service roads, to Mount Henry. A few nice backcountry campsites can be found in the area, and dispersed camping is also possible.
Sections of the trail in this area can become fairly overgrown. Given the high number of trails and the relatively low number of hikers encountered in this low population zone, the Forest Service doesn't clear these trails in the same manner you might find in more highly trafficked areas. In the early summer, wildflowers (and mosquitoes) are a common companion along the trails, and the sight of a fellow thru-hiker or backpacker is a nice surprise.
It's a roughly 10-mile descent to the town of Yaak from the summit of Mount Henry, but the path to walk there is a few miles longer. The official PNT trail doesn't actually pass through Yaak, but it continues to the north across the Yaak River and Highway 92. Yaak is a 5-mile walk to the south from the junction, and it's a stop well worth making. With luck you'll be able to hitch a ride along the way.
In Yaak, reward yourself with a night of beers, dancing and good food at the Dirty Shame Saloon, a local watering hole popular with PNT thru-hikers. Many choose to find a room in Yaak or find a place to setup a tent near town. Supplies can be picked up or shipped to the Yaak River Mercantile across the street from the Dirty Shame.
For additional details, refer to the following PNT sections: