When I lived in North Carolina, I followed a handful of landscape/adventure photographers living in the Pacific Northwest. I remember scrolling through instagram, drooling over all of these beautiful places. I ended up visiting Washington, fell in love with it, and found myself living there a year later. I didn’t know a single soul here except for my grandpa, and unfortunately he couldn’t be my hiking buddy. I knew I had to see these places with my own eyes, even if I had to go by myself. It provided a challenge, and I loved every minute of it. Every day off was spent in the mountains. When I began to meet people, I would tell them about different hikes I did, and often people were shocked that I went on these hikes alone. I was thrown off because I didn’t think it was weird or unusual. However, having lived here for a little over 2 years now, I’ve come to find out that not nearly as many people hike and explore like I would’ve thought, considering how close we are to the mountains. I’ve talked to several people and often the response I get is that they don’t have anyone to go with. There’s absolutely no reason to feel weird hiking or doing anything on your own, for that matter. With hiking in particular, there’s a real beauty in it. After completing multiple hikes by myself and with others, I’ve come to realize that I actually prefer to hike alone, for several reasons. Planning and making decisions is a whole lot easier, and it feels good to take it at your own pace. There’s also something so refreshing about spending alone time in nature. However, I will say that it is nice to be able to share these beautiful experiences with someone else, and it’s great for creating real bonds with other. Whatever your preference may be, don’t let not having someone to go with stop you from going at all. I guarantee you’ll come home feeling refreshed, and glad that you did it.
“Climb the mountains and get their good tidings. Nature’s peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees. The winds will blow their own freshness into you, and the storms their energy, while cares will drop away from you like the leaves of Autumn.”
― John Muir
Before I moved to Washington I didn’t know a thing about hiking, so when i first started going on hikes I was extremely unprepared, and let’s just say I’ve learned a lot through my experiences. By no means do I consider myself to be a hiking expert now, but there are a few steps I like to follow when executing a hike. The first step is research. I get asked all the time how I find all the hikes and beautiful places I post about. The answer is pretty simple, I either discover places simply by driving down the highway and pulling over at scenic spots, or I go to the internet. TheOutbound, AllTrails, and Instagram are probably the 3 internet resources I use the most. TheOutbound and AllTrails both allow you to select filters to narrow down the different trails in the area, showing you hikes based on the season, and things that you want to see. (Waterfalls, mountains, lakes, etc.) I always like to have 2 or 3 options, and from there I narrow down which hike I want to do with a few questions. Questions like: “How many hours away is the hike?” “Is the trailhead suitable for my car?” “How many miles is the hike?” “What are the weather conditions?” “What is the elevation gain?” Another thing I ALWAYS make sure to do is read the current trail reviews, it can be so darn helpful.
The next step you should take is preparation. Like I said, when I moved here I was inexperienced and hiking solo. One of the first few hikes I did was called Hidden Lake Lookout, which is not an easy hike, and I found myself hiking down the mountain with no light source in total darkness, I couldn’t even see my feet. I wrote about it on my Hidden Lake Lookout page, if you wanna know what happened. It was not a fun experience, but it made me realize that I never wanted to be that unprepared again. A few things I always like to carry with me on hikes are water, a knife and pepper spray, snacks, (charged) portable charger, flashlight, first-aid kit, and extra layers as it can get pretty chilly in higher elevations.
Another thing to consider when preparing for a hike is the weather and current trail conditions. A year or so ago, my friend and I went on a hike, not at all aware of the amount of snow we’d encounter. We reached the top, shivering with numb toes and fingers. The views were incredible, but it could have been a lot more enjoyable if we would’ve been prepared. Long socks, gloves, and maybe even a scarf would’ve easily done the trick.
The next step is the execution. Once you’ve done your research and you’ve picked a hike, you should make a trip plan. Figure out what time of day you want to be hiking, timing it right according to sunrise or sunset. Figure out the exact location of the trailhead, and make sure it’s an accurate address. I say this because certain websites give faulty directions. Typically if it’s not a well known place, I like to get the actual coordinates to ensure it’s taking me exactly where I wanna go. A few times I’ve been stuck without proper directions, and no service to figure out where I actually needed to be. Now, when you begin hiking, pace yourself. It’s not always easy to find the motivation to hike, but I try to think of it as a kick-ass workout that’s gonna result in a killer view. I like to screenshot trail details the night before, that way I can follow along as I’m hiking. I also use the Health app on my iPhone to track my mileage, it’s always nice knowing how far you’ve gone and how far you have till you reach your destination.
North Carolina to Washington state…
The big move.
Tonight I was reminiscing about my cross country road trip and was thinking… How the hell have I not documented any of the trip in writing?! It was such an incredible experience and it’s time I write it down. Just a warning, this is gonna be kind of a long post. It’s for me to just have a documentation of my trip, so s/o to you if you read all of it.
So, my grandpa, who lives in Washington state, flew down to North Carolina to accompany me on my trip. July 13th, I said my goodbyes to my parents and puppy (i’m terrible at goodbyes and feelings as it is so this was not a fun experience) and we were on our way.
Day 1: A complete, emotional mess.
Uprooting your life and leaving a place you called home for 18 years is scary, terrifying even, but this was not even the reason for my emotional state. I had a lot of relationships in my life that were just really hard to say goodbye to. I knew leaving was the best decision for me, however, that was not something I could process at first. Honestly, the first day of our trip, I was just struggling to fight back tears.
We drove from Fayetteville, NC to some city in Tennessee and stayed the night in a motel. We took off early the next morning and headed to Branson, Missouri, where my grandpa’s ex wife lives. We crashed there that night, and the next day did some exploring in the city. It’s a neat city, really. Lots of touristy attractions. We had dinner on a showboat where there were magic acts and just a bunch of different live performances, it was a good distraction. We stayed there one more night and the next day we were off, on the road again. A lot of my pictures got deleted and my memory is bad so I can’t quite remember what states we drove through next, so i’ll just write about the states I do remember…the next state being Kansas….oh Kansas…hundreds of miles spent driving on the flattest road ever, with very little scenery to take in. I know there are pretty parts to the state, I just didn’t have the opportunity to really see them.
Next state, and one of my favorites: Colorado. Oh how I love Colorado. At this part of the trip my emotional state had increased by 100%. We stayed in Grand Junction, Colorado, and when we arrived, I parted ways with my grandpa and drove 2 hours to solo hike in Uncompahgre National Park. This was my first solo hike, and it was i n c r e d i b l e. One of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been, and I couldn’t have gone at a better time of year. The sun was warm, the sky was blue, and the wildflowers were insane. It was an extremely steep hike, but so so worth it. I drove back to Grand Junction and stayed the night with one of my grandpa’s good friends. There were four people in the house…the mom, two brothers, and daughter, who were all so friendly and welcoming. There wasn’t much room left in the house so I slept in their boat outside. This was the first part of the trip where I had alone time, just me and my thoughts. I had been craving this so much, I needed time to refuel and process everything that was happening. That day I felt happy, really for the first time since I left. I was in a new city, with pretty mountain views, sleeping in a boat, it was just coooool.
Here are some pictures I took that day:
From this point on, the rest of the trip was insane, in the best possible way. The next morning, we left Colorado and drove through beautiful Utah, and into Wyoming. Seeing the scenery changes from state to state was just…..wow. God really did that.
(Unfortunately, I missed the Wyoming sign)
We stopped in The Grand Tetons and Yellowstone National Park….3 National Parks in 3 days. I can’t even BEGIN to explain how beautiful the Tetons were….my pictures can’t nearly do it justice. The mountains were huge and the beauty was simply overwhelming. We were in a rush so unfortunately I didn’t get to go on any hikes, but just driving through was pretty incredible. We drove from the Grand Tetons right into Yellowstone. We saw about a hundred bison roaming along the roads and stopped at the most beautiful waterfalls. At one of the waterfalls, the cutest boy came and started chatting with me. Him and his group of friends were also on a road trip visiting several national parks, and turns out he had lived in North Carolina for a few years, small world.
After a day of exploring 2 national parks as best we could, we found a cheap hotel to crash at in Wyoming. The next morning, we drove into Montana. Our night in Montana was my favorite, we ate at Arby’s (the best fast food hands down, FIGHT ME CHRISTA) and stayed in another cheap hotel, but i loved this hotel for some reason. I climbed on top of the roof and took in the mountain views. There was a full moon out and the stars were so bright, and i felt so so happy in that moment.
The next and final morning, we drove through a part of Idaho, where the final time change took place. I also got pulled over here, but luckily the state patrol let me go, thank God. A few hours later and we were in Washington, FINALLY. We drove through Eastern Washington, which looks nothing like what you would envision Washington to look like…it looked very dry and flat. About four hours later we made it into western Washington, where I started to feel the PNW vibes, hahah. A couple more hours of driving and bam, we made it to our destination. 3,000 miles and 7 days later. Yes, the trip was the most amazing experience, but man was I happy to stop living out of my suitcase and cramped car.
I had arrived in Seattle, my new home. I love where I live and that, to me, is just the craziest feeling in the world.