Last year, my Dad sent out an email saying that he had booked permits to hike Mt. St. Helens in August 2015. Would I want to partake? "Sure thing", I hastily wrote back in the spirit of "I'll say yes to anything that's far away as I have tons of time to actually figure out what I'll be doing and how I'll do it even though as the date gets nearer, I will prep not at all for said activity". After sending the email off, I went about my merry life like a dumb idiot as if I was skilled enough to hike a mountain on a whim.
Turns out, I am. However: OWIE. And wow, was that a doozy.
As the date got nearer right around the time that Jay got the job in SF, I debated backing out because it was just a lot on my plate in a very short amount of time. However, I opted not to. My Dad (& Stepmom) own a cabin in the Mt. St. Helens area so we are up there often. On top of that, my dad has hiked this mountain/active volcano (shhhyeah! I hiked a true volcano-info here) a handful of times and has managed to get my sister & brother up there at varying points in time. However, he was sick of hiking it and declared that 2015 would be his final hurrah and mark his official retirement of the MSH hike. Well, sh*t. I knew I was the last kid he wanted to hike the mountain with before he was done and I knew I had to do it.
So on Saturday night, August 22nd, with my car completely packed and ready to head to SF on Monday morning, I sped off to the cabin. I arrived at about 8 PM and hunkered down with with a magazine as the others finished their board game and we were soon off to bed. At about 5 AM, everyone sleepily rose around the cabin and we bounced past each other between the shower, the bathroom and the kitchen as we got our hiking gear together in our zombie like state. By about 6:15 AM (I think? I wasn't really paying attention), we were in the car driving the 20 minutes to the trailhead.
(^TOP: Starting the trek bright and early/BOTTOM: Dad, Bro's Bud, Bro, Cousin about 30 minutes in)
(^The start of the hike, the summit is about 20 miles higher than that peak you see there)
I'm glad I had no idea what I was in for on this hike after doing no research, because honestly, I probably would have backed-out. This hike.was.hard.hard.hard. Seriously.
The first part was just a normal, in-the-woods trail. Shortly after, started the "boulders" which take FOREVVVVVERRRRRRRR.
^The only good part of the boulder part is the ADORAABBLLLEEEEE animals along the way.
^At one of our -many- little breaks.
Followed-up by the last about 500 (I'm guessing) feet until you make it to the crater. And it's all sand. And gravel. And it takes 300 years to walk 10 steps, I'm not kidding. It is so, so hard. I've never had a more difficult time walking the length of a bocce ball court.
^The only picture I got in the final stretch because the struggle.was.real.
But then, a beautiful thing happens ... you reach the summit. Which in this case, is the rim of a crater.
^View from the rim. One, big, huge, deflated crater.
^Started from the bottom now we here.
^Looking back down on the mountain from the top. You can always tell the true hikers from the amateurs by their footwear. Gym shoes = not a regular hiker (such as myself).
^Dad, Cousin, Great Uncle, Me, Brother.
Can we talk about my late Papa's brother, my Great Uncle Jim? I mean, if I'm half as spritely and half as motivated to climb a d*mn mountain as he is at this age, I will consider myself a huge life success. I kept pace with him the entire time and left that dang mountain so proud to call him family.
^Dad & Me
And then it was back down the mountain we went. However, the trek back to civilization was almost just as hard as the trek up due to the rocks. Every single step is calculated and we had to propel ourselves carefully forward with our ski pools time and time again. We were so, so, so tired as we navigated our way down.
^This picture of my cousin perfectly shows the exhaustion on the way back down. This is nearing the very end of the rocks and we were so, so, so happy to see the trailhead of trees right there.
We finally were back at the cars about nine hours after we had set off on our journey. Famished, exhausted and hangry - coming back to the cabin where we had an incredible hot meal waiting for us at a set table was beyond. Honestly, I can't remember a time in recent memory when food had tasted so good.
^The ladies at the cabin-my stepmom, cousin's wife, great aunt- had made grilled zucchini, grilled corn, fresh bread, amazing summer salad, steak, cucumber salad and pasta and had a table set for us upon arrival. It may have been the happiest I've ever been in my whole life.
And with a full day of h*ll behind us and a sense of accomplishment, we filled our bellies, laughed about everyone's misery that day and settled into the unrivaled coziness of a cabin bed. At 4:50 AM sharp, I arose, kissed my sleepy family goodbye and hit the road at 5 AM for California.
It was a very appropriate Pacific Northwest goodbye. I'll never hike that GD mountain again, but I'm certainly glad to say that I did.