On September 8th, 2020, I called up a friend on my day off of work to go for a hike. Summer was coming to a close, and the smoke from the forest fires was beginning to creep into our little pocket of the Puget Sound. Sarina and I hopped in the car and set out for Mt. Ellinor, the southernmost peak of the Olympic Mountains. The hike was not easy, but the 360º views at the top made the steep climb totally worth it. It was a perfect day that tied off the summer quite nicely.
A month later, I’d moved back to Seattle, and was in the middle of a long and dreary fall quarter. Remote school is not my favorite thing in the world, so the transition from a warm summer spent outside to the grey Seattle fall spent in front of my laptop was nothing short of difficult. I was eager to get back out on the trails, and Sarina and I planned a Halloween hike. As we sat at the edge of Lake Serene, enjoying some PB&J sandwiches, we realized we had hiked together two months in a row! We quickly made a goal to hike together at least once a month for 12 months in a row.
It is March now, and I am excited to say that Sarina and I are halfway to our goal! We’ve done three hikes involving snow, which we’ve decided we are over now. Cold toes and slippery trails have us setting our sights on drier trails at lower elevations. I’ll list the trails Sarina and I have completed, as well as gear recommendations for the time of year we were there. Right now, I want to talk about the ways I feel that this little journey of ours has really improved my life.
Patience is important, yet difficult to attain. Sarina and I are not racing up these mountains, which can make for some very long days. I’ve spent many hours simply walking, staring at the ground, being careful not to trip. This seems boring, and at times it is, but reaching the summit is the most rewarding feeling, no matter how long it took or how many other hikers passed us on the way up. One of my favorite things is that when we come back down the mountain, I begin to remember some of the rocks or tree roots we passed on the way up. You really have to be in a patient and present mindset in order to recognize one specific rock on a whole mountain, and I love realizing that I am in that mindset at least once a month.
These hikes have also taught me about having grace for myself. There’s a subconscious desire to get to the top as fast as possible, which is both a challenge to myself and an impatience for the long journey ahead. Sarina and I quickly realized our own physical abilities and accepted them. Because we planned the hike for our own enjoyment, there is no reason for us to rush to the top or move at an uncomfortable speed. We realize that we can take breaks whenever we want, and so we do. This often motivates us to push on and not take a break! Everyone on the trail will achieve the same goal the same way, so we should not compare our journey to the other hikers.
Finally, I have learned that strong and fruitful relationships take a lot of time and effort. Sarina and I are able to bond on these trips because we are usually spending at least 12 hours with one another, factoring in the long drives to and from trails. While on the mountain, we have nothing but time to talk about anything and everything. I have found that these hikes are much more therapeutic than I could have hoped or imagined. I always come home from them feeling better about myself and my friendship with Sarina. I now realize that these types of bonds do not appear out of thin air! While Sarina and I have been friends for close to 10 years, the bond has never felt as strong as it has over the past 6 months. I truly believe this is because of the long hours we have spent (and enjoyed) together. Don’t be afraid to show up for your friends!
I am often encouraged to “put myself out there,” meet new people, and experience new things. This played out a little differently than I thought it would this year, but I’m not mad about it! I have seen some amazing views, grown as a person, and have lost all hesitation about outdoor adventures.
(Sep. 9th, 2020) Mt. Ellinor via Upper Trailhead:
- 4 miles, 2,332’ elevation gain
- Olympic National Park
- Good shoes and lots of water!
- No snow this time of year
- Very steep
(Oct. 31st, 2020) Lake Serene and Bridal Veil Falls:
- 8 miles, 2,716’ elevation gain
- Mt. Baker Snoqualmie National Forest
- No snow this time of year
- Very cold at the top!
(Nov. 28th, 2020) Hurricane Hill via Hurricane Ridge Visitor Center:
- 6 miles, 797’ elevation gain
- Olympic National Park (Port Angeles)
- Entire hike was in snow
- Not too steep, poles/spikes not critical
(Dec. 3rd, 2020) Mt. Townsend:
- 10 miles, 3,090’ elevation gain
- Olympic National Forest
- Spikes and poles would be very helpful, mostly snow
- Amazing views of Olympic Mountains and Puget Sound
(Jan. 17th, 2021) Heather Lake:
- 5 miles, 1,194’ elevation gain
- Mt. Pilchuck State Park
- Some snow, spikes not critical
- Overall one of the more mild trails
(Feb. 28th, 2021) Mt. Rose:
- 7 miles, 3,553’ elevation gain
- Lake Cushman
- Spikes and poles necessary!
- Mostly snow this time of year