How a Global Challenge Enhanced My Locally-Spent Summer

The 52 hike challenge, exploring our home state, and our top 3 summer activities

Living in Washington, it’s hard to escape the classic PNW aesthetic highlighting the region’s greenery and the outdoorsy lifestyle that accompanies it. But despite the state’s reputation for beautiful forests, coastline, and famed Mt. Rainier, this past summer I realized that after living in Washington for over eight years, I hadn’t actually taken advantage of the natural beauty that defines this state! 

To fix this, a friend and I challenged ourselves to do the 52 Hikes Challenge. We extended it to include other outdoor activities to encourage diverse experiences, and we found the challenge to be a great way to enhance our summer by getting us outside and away from typical suburban life. Not only did I benefit physically from trying to get out more, I simultaneously developed a better understanding of Washington State, made incredible memories featuring the people I went with and nature I saw, and improved friendships—a side effect of spending hours in the middle of nowhere and in the car, exhausted after early wake-ups and long days. 

While it was hard making time for these trips and waking up early to avoid traffic, and dealing with long car rides and mid-hike bathroom breaks, I realized that personal challenges like this can provide a great source of motivation. While this motivation starts as a willingness to meet your goals, it soon develops into inspiration that supersedes the pressure the challenge initially provides. The 52 hikes challenge motivated my friend and I to start spending more time outdoors and ultimately facilitated the development of a force from within, after the challenge initially augmented our love of nature and desire to explore our state. 

The challenge—which unites hikers globally on—also drove me to utilize my free time. Working 40+ hour weeks definitely took its physical and mental toll on me; each evening I wanted nothing more than to relax on the couch binging tv. But the initial pressure that the challenge provided motivated my friend and I to take advantage of our evenings, days off, and weekends to be active and get to know each other and our state. 

After a summer of adventure, here are our top three activities and some information about them!

Top Three Activities: 

  1. Ira Spring to Mason Lake - 6.8 miles roundtrip, 2420ft elevation gain The Ira Spring Memorial Trail set high standards for the rest of our summer hiking. A combination of forested walking, an up close and personal waterfall, incredible views of Mt. Rainier and the surrounding area, giant rock formations, and a clear blue lake to dip your feet into highlights all the best features of the PNW in a one day hike. Go on a clear day for panoramic views and choose to continue on the trail to Mason Lake (what we did) or hike on to Bandera Mountain for an even higher viewpoint! Read more:  
  2. Lake Serene - 8.2 miles roundtrip, 2000ft elevation gain Lake Serene was arguably our most challenging hike of the summer. Never-ending wooden staircases and rocky incline really challenged our mental and physical perseverance. A detour to Bridal Veil Falls was a great way to take a small break before an extremely difficult climb up to Lake Serene itself. But oh was that view worth it! Cool blue waters surrounded by rocky cliffs with plenty of space to sit and enjoy the made our trek worth it. Would not recommend this hike if you have knee problems - the descent down is pretty nasty. Read more:
  3. Kayaking at UW Kayaking at the University of Washington presents the perfect opportunity to embrace nature only minutes away from the city. There are marshy areas with abundant lily pads and  water lilies, an arboretum to paddle through, and you can even paddle under the 520 bridge! You can spend an hour or five on the water and there are significant discounts for UW students!