"My point here is that I grew up so close to adventure but never realized it was there..."
I have always enjoyed the outdoors in a general sense. My family took a few camping trips growing up that were memorable, but nothing on a consistent basis. We all shared a family "cabin-esque" trailer on the east side of the cascades in the Grand Coulee area. Whenever there was time off for vacation, my parents always took us to the lake. This lake spot, that I hold so dear to my heart, was what allowed me to really appreciate my homes diversity here in Washington State from an early age. Every trip over to the lake put us going through the cascades, typically the I-90 corridor region. We would drive for a couple hours and then as we popped out on the other side of the pass, a new world always waited for us. Different vegetation is abundantly scattered all over the landscape as you transition into Eastern Washington, a beautiful counter part to the rainy west side we all know so well. This was where we would go for vacation, always. This beautiful area however deserves its own story for another time. My point here is that I grew up so close to adventure but never realized it was there until I decided to go seek it out.
Well before this catalyst of a trip to Rainier took place, I had done a couple hikes, but nothing serious by any means. I had taken a trip to Rattlesnake Ridge before, and done plenty of small trails and loose rock scrambles on the east side of the mountains. That was about the extent of my outdoor experience aside from the couple camping trips previously mentioned. Growing up in Olympia, I had also had plenty of time to check out beauty found right on the sound with little trails wandering around beaches and bluffs in my own backyard. Still though, there had to be more. It can be such a daunting and exhilarating task taking on a new challenge, but I had been feeling drawn to it even more once I had moved from Olympia to Seattle. I knew how close these majestic mountains were to me. On a clear day, The Olympic Mountain Range stares into my living room beckoning to be explored. My partner Acacia and I decided to go somewhere different for a change and we decided to check out the Paradise area on Mt. Rainier.
Neither of us had seen the area on a clear day before and the forecast promised a crisp blue bird day about mid February. The drive was absolutely gorgeous; as it is any time you catch a day where the mountain isn’t socked in. It took us almost three hours to get to the paradise parking lot. Needless to say we were pumped the entire drive. The clear snow capped peaks in sight the whole drive up kept the fire going until we reached the Paradise parking lot. We got out of the car and realized that despite the cooler temps, the sun reflecting off of the snow was actually quite warm. We quickly put on our boots and some sunblock, grabbed our bags and ventured out. As we began walking we saw people with big packs on, big as in definitely more than a days worth of stuff. They would tell us of their mission to get to Camp Muir where they would brave the freezing nightly temps. “How cool would that be?!” we kept asking ourselves.
The only piece of gear that we had that was moderately mountain appropriate were our boots. These boots started out as a huge help but quickly began to get soggy as snow kept getting crammed in from the exposed tops. It didn’t seem to slow us down at the time with the constant flow of distractions all around us. The Tatoosh Range, in all its magnificence, shows itself off nearly from the lot to begin. After a couple hundred feet of climbing we came to a little flat spot where we turned around to see our new view. We were staring right over to Mt. Adams painted white from the winter. We then saw Mt. St. Helens also impressing to the right! Upon a closer look we could even see the faint outline of Mt. Hood. This was very powerful to our senses to say the least. So many Volcanoes. It was one of the moments in life where you just stop everything and allow yourself to attempt to process the natural beauty in front of you. We had our cameras and went a touch higher than panorama point before heading back down towards the snow buried paradise lodge. We spent at least a few hours on the mountain gawking at the views and the experienced folks climbing up enjoying life along side us. Almost every seasoned visitor commented how this was one of the best “blue-bird” days they had seen in a long time. We certainly didn’t take it for granted.
The whole road trip home we began talking about how amazing it would be to start finding new spots, and breaking free from our comfort zones we had built for ourselves. On top of just getting out more we discussed the seemingly impossible task of acquiring a solid kit to stake our home anywhere in the desolate wilderness. I had just recently signed up for Instagram and kept finding explorers and their breathtaking images riddled all over the feed. I vividly recall feeling like there was no way I could ever do that. These people had to have been doing it their whole lives. I remember just daydreaming at these little images taken from others real life adventures.
The following few months were filled with research and trips to REI to try and get a basic set up to attempt a small scale backpacking trip. We spent hundreds of dollars on the basics. At the time I kept telling my partner that we would be able to use these tools for a long time to come and that they were investments. Now, not even two years later since that trip, we have covered hundreds of miles and seen dozens of trails. Every now and then you can even see my images on some of these big hubs that caught my eye not long ago. Breaking free from our comfort zone has now given us a wholesome lifestyle that can be shared with others for years to come.