I read the book Wild last summer.
In case you’ve been living in a cave – this is the popular book by Cheryl Strayed (a fellow Portlander, no less) about hiking the Pacific Crest Trail. Admittedly this was a very atypical book for me to read as I rarely, if ever, read non-fiction.
I’m really more of a terribly shallow, painfully predictable, poorly written historical romance kind of a girl (which my inner feminist abhors). If there isn’t a half-naked duke/rogue/pirate/highlander involved, I’m not likely to pick the book up. But, I digress…
At about the same time, my friend Seaerra (who lives in Wyoming and is also the daughter of my very dear childhood best friend) also read Wild. We were both intrigued with the notion of traipsing off into the woods carrying everything we needed on our backs.
We decided to give it a try.
I hadn’t been backpacking in over 15 years – and even then I generally only did it as part of a large group on a Geology field trip in college. Seaerra loved camping, but had never really gone backpacking before. We decided to plan a trip to the Olympic National Park/Forest on the Olympic Peninsula in Washington State.
By her own admission, Seaerra has never really been an exercise kind of girl.
At times her daily activity might have consisted of heading to the kitchen between Dr. Who episodes to retrieve a box of Wheat Thins and a can of Cheez Whiz. She knew that if she wanted to enjoy these hikes she would need to make some lifestyle changes. And did she ever!
Seaerra started working with a personal trainer, began exercising regularly and changed her diet to one focused on health and nutrition.
She went to the gym regularly, started jogging (and, much like me, found that she really enjoyed it!), and did more squats than I’m sure she’d care to count. As of a few weeks ago she had run in her first 5K and was doing 12-mile training hikes up steep hills with a 30-pound backpack. She has lost nearly 30 pounds and is in the best shape of her life.
The Seaerra I picked up at the airport last week was completely transformed.
Not just physically, but mentally and emotionally. She is much more confident and is excited to try new things. For example, the day before we were set to leave on the backpacking trip we learned of an opportunity to do a 6-mile walk that included one of Portland’s large iconic freeway bridges that would be closed to cars and open to walkers and bicyclists.
The old Seaerra likely would have been cautious of such a spontaneous adventure and anxious about if she’d be able to physically do it. This new Seaerra immediately said “Hey, that sounds like fun!” and was excited about the prospect of climbing up and over that big bridge.
Over the past several months Seaerra has gotten into good enough shape to not only do the bridge walk, but to also hike nearly 50 miles through the Olympic Mountains. We had several days of hard hiking up steep terrain and Seaerra absolutely kicked butt. Who knew that an innocent chat about a book we had both recently read would lead to such a transformational experience? Maybe I should try non-fiction more often?
I’m so proud of her and all she accomplished in the last few months in preparation for our backpacking trip. I can’t wait to share more active adventures with Seaerra in the future!
Together with Glenn, we did two big hikes on our trip. One hike was 24-miles through the Hoh Rainforest – one of the largest temperate rainforests in the U.S. with a decidedly “Lord of the Rings” feel. The second hike was a 23-miler on the drier and more rugged side of the mountains in the Buckhorn Wilderness.
The 24-mile hike through the Hoh Rainforest was beautiful. Temperatures soared on the first day – with the sun beating down on us when we weren’t in the trees and the dust from the trail kicking up beneath our feet.
About 9-miles into the hike we stopped to replenish our water supplies from a babbling creek before continuing on to our intended campsite. As we were filling our water bottles a man and woman showed up with a bit of panic in their eyes. They were hot, exhausted and dehydrated. They had been about 6 miles ahead of us on the trail and had to turn back because they ran out of water.
It turns out the creeks depicted on the map were dried up so they had attempted to filter water from the Hoh River. The Ranger had warned us not to filter the river water, as it is full of “glacial flour” – fine silt that is the perfect size to plug water filters. Unfortunately, this couple didn’t get the same message.
Their filter was plugged, they had no iodine pills and they were desperate for water. Fortunately we had both a working water filter as well as a SteriPEN (coolest invention ever), so we were able to treat enough water to replenish their supplies and get them through the night.
Unfortunately, they were going to have to cut their multi-day trip short because they didn’t have a back-up system to their filter for getting water. A good lesson learned for us – always have at least two ways to get water!
On the morning of our departure we awoke to the sound of rain and thunder. We quickly packed up camp and started making our way back out of the forest. By the time we hit the main trail we were in the middle of a true rainstorm. And it was beautiful!
It is hard to explain – but the forest seemed to come alive in the rain. You could truly feel a sense of contentment settle over the landscape, as if all of the plants and animals in the forest collectively breathed a sigh of relief. “Ahhhh…rain!”
As we made our way from the Western side of the Olympic Peninsula to the Eastern side, we stopped off in Port Townsend for a hotel bed — and a shower, some laundry and a meal that didn’t consist of dehydrated food in a bag!
Our second hiking trip was a 23-mile loop in the Buckhorn Wilderness – part of the Olympic National Forest. Although this hike included considerable elevation gain, we decided the steep climbs would be worth the effort because of the expansive vistas and views we would encounter.
Unfortunately, the same storm system that dumped rain on us in the Hoh Rainforest lingered around for this hike. As a result, we spent much of the time hiking in the clouds – imagining the views across the valleys and peaks we were traversing.
We started on the Upper Dungeness River Trail, past Camp Handy and up, up, up to Boulder Shelter where we camped for the night.
The next day we made the steep climb up and over Marmot Pass (6,000 feet).
We took the Tubal Cain trail down the other side of the ridge from Marmot Pass. Our destination was the Tubal Cain Mine where we planned to camp for the night.
Glenn had decided that Tubal Cain sounded like the name of an evil villain in a super hero movie – a charred, big clawed, red ember-eyed character that lived in the city sewers. He spent hours on the trail regaling Seaerra and I with tales of Tubal Cain, including the time Glenn met Tubal Cain at the crossroads and sold his soul to become the World’s best break-dancer…going on to become the champion on So You Think You Can Dance…and culminating in the remaking of the Electric Boogaloo movie – although it would be called Electric Glennaloo – before he had to return to the crossroads 10 years later to give his soul to Tubal Cain.
We definitely plan to go back and do this hike again when the weather cooperates so that we can see the views from Marmot Pass!