Grizzly Bears and Razor Clams - Chris Townsend On the Pacific Northwest Trail

Posted on 25/07/2012

Chris Townsend is a prolific outdoor writer and photographer with a passion for wilderness and mountains, and a penchant for long distance hikes. A four-time winner of Outdoor Writers' Guild Awards, he is the author of seventeen books, most illustrated with his own photographs, and he has co-authored and contributed to several more.

When Chris Townsend headed to the Pacific Northwest Trail, in the USA, in the summer of 2010, he had ViewRanger in hand loaded with USA mapping.

Grizzly Bears and Razor Clams, Book by Chris Townsend

You can read the story of his PNT adventure in his new book "Grizzly Bears and Razor Clams" which has been published to excellent reviews.

"every bit as much a classic" (

In the meantime here’s what Chris had to tell us about his experience when he returned:


The Pacific Northwest Trail runs for 1200 miles from the Rocky Mountains to the Pacific Ocean in the northwest corner of the USA. Starting in Glacier National Park and finishing in Olympic National Park the PNT is a spectacular route in mostly wild and remote country, crossing several little-known and little-visited mountain ranges – the Selkirk Mountains, the Purcell Mountains and the Kettle River Range.

I walked the PNT over 75 days during the summer of 2010 and found it challenging and demanding. Often I walked for days without seeing another person, my only companions the wildlife – deer, moose, coyotes, eagles, grouse and, on three occasions, bears.

Calling the PNT a trail is misleading as there isn’t actually a clear path for much of the way and there are very few signposts. In fact, much of the route is on abandoned logging roads and disused trails that are fading back into the wilderness. There are some difficult cross-country sections too, both above timberline on exposed rocky terrain and in dense vegetation in the forests, where bushwhacking is the apt term for desperate struggles through the undergrowth.

[The Selkirk Mountains]

Navigation on the PNT is often difficult, whether it’s locating an overgrown trail, sorting out the right direction in a tangle of logging roads or keeping track of the direction when bushwhacking.

Having ViewRanger on my smartphone made all this much easier than it would have been with just map and compass. Being able to quickly locate my position on the screen map meant I could always keep track of where I was and know how to return to the correct route when the terrain had forced me away from it, as often happened when bushwhacking.

ViewRanger was particularly useful when I needed to find hidden trail junctions. These junctions were marked on the map but no longer existed on the ground. To find them I would walk with the smartphone in my hand, following the arrow until I reached the spot where the junction should be. There I would turn in the right direction and follow ViewRanger along the line of the route until the old trail appeared. I did this several times and every time I found the junction and soon afterwards the trail. Without ViewRanger this would have been extremely difficult.

Want to read more go to:

or visit Chris' website at:

Previous Post

Next Post