Back at it..or something like that. I took Claire to one of my favorite hike spots in Eastern Washington a few weeks ago: Umtanum Ridge Crest. I've done this hike more times than most. Lake Serene or Lake 22 are probably the only Washington trails I've returned to as frequently as this one. Each is special in their own way, with views that change drastically along with the seasons.
I've learned the hard way that this trail isn't safe in deep Winter. The very first time I came out here years ago, in February, we couldn't scale the last two hills that carry you to the top of the ridge. They are 45 degree torture climbs, and the ice covered ground made for constant slipping. Tumbling down with no living foliage to grab onto, and no steps or rope, would make for a long and painful descent.
I couldn't believe how difficult this trail was for me. I haven't felt this out of shape in a long, long time. I acquired a series of little injuries this Summer, including a recent hammy pull on the same leg as my once-dislocated kneecap. Things were feeling shaky and unreliable in my long, wobbly limbs. The summer sun burned long and extra hot this year, but the season was stunted in so many ways. First, there were a series of devastating forest fires across the state, barring access to roads and trails, and causing nearly unbearable air quality. Then, aggressive goat removal projects closed parts of the Olympics out here by me (had to happen right when Dad was visiting). An usual number of cougar and bear sightings across the state, clumsy-ass me getting hurt, and dog walkers canceling last minute. Soooo many hikes were planned in the past four months that just didn't come to fruition.
This one was great though. Despite my shame in falling wayyy behind Claire on the last leg up, it felt damn good to get my heart beating THAT hard again. I love Eastern Washington, and there's almost nothing I love as much as bringing people out to this dry desert vortex of lesser known (and thus less crowded) trails.
Claire is such a magical person, and getting to know her has been a highlight of 2018. She's taught me so much in such a short period of time, and every time we hang out I find myself cracking open; spilling secrets, dreams, and stories. She feels like a safe space, yet manages to be hella cool and exciting to be around at the same time. She's an absolute beast on the trail, and inspires me so damn much in her ritualistic dedication to hiking. The best people I know are a dichotomy of soft and hard, like her.
We got lost on the way to Umtanum, turning the one-way drive from Olympia into nearly 4 hours on the road. Why I still trust the Washington Trails website for driving directions, I'll never know.... No worries though, because Claire introduced a new trend of reading while driving to trailheads. Our first book: Wanderlust: A History of Walking, by Rebecca Solnit. Here's one of my favorite paragraphs from the first chapter:
"When you give yourself to places, they give you yourself back; the more one comes to know them, the more one seeds them with the invisible crop of memories and associations that will be waiting for you when you come back, while new places offer up new thoughts, new possibilities. Exploring the world is one of the best ways of exploring the mind, and walking travels both terrains."