Good Morning! From the safety of my living room! I am never leaving.
I have to say… working on holidays has become a little bit of the norm for me. Regardless, even after five years, it still feels weird to be watching from the outside in, when my family celebrates Thanksgiving, Christmas, Easter, the New Year… all while I hobnob the day away in some city far far away. This year, I got a trip on Thanksgiving to Seattle. So in true flight attendant fashion, I had my holiday turkey a few days earlier and I packed my little black suitcase. I had a thirty-hour layover in Seattle, so I knew that I would absolutely make the best of it, even though I wouldn’t be spending the day with my family. Even before the trip, I had this bug of an idea in my brain that I would rent a car and go hiking. Don’t ask me why I thought this, because this is not a normal thought process for me. I do love a good adventure, and I am no newbie to trail hiking, but it’s not typically the first thing that I gravitate towards when I am on a layover, especially in the winter. Like who am I!!??? Somebody call a doctor… I probably hike 5 to 7 times a year at best, so I am no mountaineer. Probably closer to a Three Musketeer – sweet and a little fluffy in the middle.
When I got to the plane and met my crew, there was one flight attendant named Pete, who came up to the plane looking like he had literally just come from the wilderness. He had his little REI jacket on and he had that rugged, hairy, mountain man look about him. The first thing out of his mouth was, “yeah, I think I am going to rent a car and go hiking in Seattle.” Now here is a good piece of advice, when you see a person who looks like they are a “Patagonia” spokesperson, you should probably not automatically assume you are on their level in “outdoor expertise.” Just probs not. Long story short: I proceeded to open my big mouth and say, “Yeah, me too! I didn’t bring any gear or anything.” Cough Cough… that’s probably because you wouldn’t know a trecking pole from a fishing rod if you tried WANDA…
Looking back, I think my version of hiking and his are in very different universes. I think I was kind of picturing going up a mile or two, absolutely not a snowflake in sight, a beautiful place where Brooks running shoes and Nike stretch pants were totally acceptable garb. I 100% didn’t know at that moment what I would be signing up for, and maybe if I did I would have run for the hills… and certainly not the snow-covered kind… the Beverly Hills maybe.
We picked up our rental car on Friday morning, a little Hyundai coupe, and we set out for Mt. Pilchuck about two hours outside of Seattle. All was well for the first hour of our drive as we sipped on our Micky D’s coffee and listened to Spotify’s Chill Hits like true woodsy hipsters. When we got to the base of Mt. Pilchuck… I started to quickly realize that this was NOT going to be a walk in the park. The mountain was looming overhead as we started guiding our “little coupe that could” up the base. Thank the LORD Almighty that I was not driving, because just being the right seat co-pilot almost put me into a psychotic break. Can you think of a time where you experienced a bad pothole in the road? One that literally almost totals your car just by existing? Yeah, so the road going up to Mt. Pilchuck is literally a collection of those hellish potholes. Think of the worst pothole you have ever experienced and just multiply it by 100. All of those were on ONE road. And here we were in our low carriage Hyundai RENTAL, dodging potholes like I dodge my exes. We could not win on this road. We were either hitting a pothole head-on (because why not.. we have rental insurance *rolling my eyes), or we were trying to avoid a pothole, veering into the rough brush that scraped the side of the car like nails on a chalkboard. I was sitting over in the passenger seat, white-knuckling the rubber door handle for twenty minutes as this went on trying to decide if I wanted to throw up or jump out. We kept on driving.
The potholes finally ended and the road was miraculously paved again. Pete and I both breathed a sigh of relief as the GPS said we were only two miles away from the trailhead. The relief was short-lived though, about thirty-odd seconds of peaceful bliss, as the road quickly turned from pavement to a thick sheet of snow and ice. Pete, being a man, and men make poor decisions sometimes… decided this would be a good time to break check our little car… on an incline… on a sheet of ice. I kid you not that car started immediately sliding backward on that mountain and my knuckles and everything else went white yet again. Pete managed to get the car to stop, and we sat there contemplating our predicament for the next few minutes. As we sat there mulling, all of these Range Rovers and Jeeps kept passing us to continue the steep, icy drive to the top, mocking us with their all-wheel-drive and all-terrain vehicular status. Pete kept wanting to try again (just like a man lemme tell you), but I kept having visions of you know… dying in a Hyundai. Not a great way to end your life that’s all I am saying. I eventually made the final decision, and we decided to park and walk the rest of the way up, adding four miles to our already five-mile hike. Piece of cake right? I can do this… I am a true woodsy hipster at best.
We hadn’t walked a mile up the hill when an angel of mercy in an SUV took pity on us and offered us a ride up to the trailhead. This was honestly our saving grace because we would not have made it up the mountain if we had lost any more time. About three hours after our adventure started, we finally made it to the trailhead, and it was pure ice. At this point, I think Pete and I were just too stubborn to quit. Even though neither one of us had brought the right gear for this type of hike, I found myself taking the first treacherous step onto the frosty trailhead. and that was the end of the beginning.
When I say I hike, I mean I daintily walk trails. This was not a dainty little tail. This was no molehill. This was full-on Mt Kilimanjaro compared to what I have hiked in the past. There I was in my Brooks running shoes, trying not to crack my head open as I climbed icy rocks that were half my size for five miles! Praying the whole time that I wouldn’t slip and fall 100 feet and break a bone or worse… get dirt on my Brooks;) The ice was the scariest part of all. Most people on the trail had these spikes on their shoes called MICROspikes, which are meant to be used when hiking in the winter to dig into the ground and keep you from slipping in snowy conditions… WELL NOBODY TOLD ME! Brooks running shoes are beautifully and wonderfully made, but they are NOT trail shoes. I slipped at least 500 times and that’s a low estimate. Luckily, most of the time I was able to grab onto branches and rocks to keep myself from falling too badly, but it was ultimately a struggle. Pete and I finally made it to the top after about 2 and a half hours of climbing, but only because I am as stubborn as a mountain goat not because I have ANY OR ALL of a mountain goat’s skills.
I made it up and down the mountain without meeting my imminent death, thanks to my guardian angels (My Mom likes to say everyone has a guardian angel but I think Megan has to have several 😂), and my new friend Pete, who is an avid hiker and almost fell himself several times trying to catch me as I wiped out. Someone asked me later if I would do it again, and I think the answer would be yes… but with all-wheel drive and a serious pair of MICROspikes and poles. There were moments where I stopped on the trail. There were moments where I wanted to quit because I was scared or tired. I didn’t. I didn’t quit. I took my woodsy, hipster butt and kept taking the next step, kept climbing the next rock, and I eventually made it to the top. I was very proud of myself for making it because it wasn’t easy. It was actually one of the hardest things I may have ever done, both mentally and physically. I was terrified of falling, and I did several times, but I always got back up.
I think hiking is very indicative of real life, you just have to keep climbing. You keep pushing on even when you get tired, even when you get scared, and it may seem like you will never get there, but eventually, you will make it to a peak. It’s never an easy climb, especially when you are going through something difficult, but it is always rewarding. It is always worth it in the end, and sometimes the journey can be just as fulfilling. All you have to do is just keep climbing:) and possibly have the proper gear… That might help a little.
Megan Marie AKA Snowbird (the new trail name I achieved by not splitting my skull open. HOORAY)
P.S: I am absolutely not condoning hiking without the correct tools! Safety always comes first. Always hike with a buddy and be mindful of the weather conditions BEFORE you go:) Also, if you are like me and NOT a “Patagonia Spokesperson,” probably the best idea to NOT start your hiking journey on an icy snow-capped mountain ridden with potholes… Just a thought.
The following photos were captured by the one and only Wilderness Guru: Peter
Stay warm out there lovelies! Until next time!