56 · Seasons · Sunrise

First Things First

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20171206_14240220171206_12342820171206_12201820171206_120306Another beautiful day, another trip to Paradise. I miss the familiar trails out of Sunrise, but lately this gorgeous place has filled a void and at the same time, stolen my heart.

I’m writing this today because it was a proud moment for me. This post is for the people that lurk in their online/Facebook hiking groups, maybe feeling a little intimidated by the epic adventures they see. My day wasn’t epic by those standards, but I realize it doesn’t have to be.

I’m in decent shape for my 56 years, but I feel every awkward stretch. I live with the stuff that seems to come calling after 50 … RA, OA, and the fading cartilage of my youth. I’m not complaining, I love a good challenge, but it means that my goals have changed. I want to share my day with those of you who have hesitated to get out because it feels too difficult. We can do it !

I snowshoed 30 years ago. Thirty. Three oh. It doesn’t seem that long ago but it was. Seven years ago I bought snowshoes. I almost sold them last year thinking it wasn’t in the cards for me. I am so glad I kept them.

Last night I was a little panicky at the thought I would have to drive my little Civic Hybrid to Paradise because it is the only car we have that has chains. I told myself if it was too icy or I couldn’t put them on I would just turn around.

I live in Auburn, so my trip goes through Puyallup, Graham, Eatonville and Elbe to reach the gate at Longmire. I decided to start early and try to catch sunrise on the way. I asked in one of my awesome hiking groups about a spot with a view and I was told about a perfect place. I sat quietly in civil twilight before sunrise. A hush seems to fall in those moments and I took it all in. ( Dogwood Park )

( Shortly after this stop you reach Eatonville. If you stay to the right at the sign, in a block or so on the right, there are public restrooms. A well-timed comfort stop )

I made it to the Ranger station before 9. A Ranger asked for my pass and whether I had tire chains. I started up knowing I may actually have to put them on. Me. I’ve never done it before. Is it terrible to admit that ? I ran into a woman at the viewpoint I stopped at. She was in the same boat. Had them, but had never had to put them on. The beautiful day put everything in perspective. We’d figure it out.

The road from the ranger station to Longmire was easy. A little slippery in spots, but no problem. There were a few places between the ranger station and the gate at Longmire where the light through the trees at that hour is like magic. Really special. After the gate at Longmire it got tricky. I slowed down. The road alternated between icy and slick, to compact snow, to bare pavement. I slowed down more. I made it to Paradise without incident. And without chains.

At the car I stowed my snowshoes in my backpack thinking I would try my new microspikes instead. I’ve never used spikes. Today was the first time. How I ever lived without them, I don’t know.  Great grip on the icy pavement in the parking lot and the compact snow as the trail began. The snow quickly became deep. I only made it halfway to Myrtle Falls before having to swap for snowshoes. Another first. They were perfect. I had watched a video about fitting them properly and they worked like a dream.

I saw only a handful of people as I headed up. I followed loosely defined trails, plodding through more than a foot of snow in places. When I lost any defined trail, I turned around, circled back and tried another. I loved every minute. Fresh air ( though below freezing with a windchill ) , great exercise ( it really IS just walking but it feels like a lot more work ) and the satisfaction of going alone in winter weather and surviving.

The hardest part about coming out here is having to leave ..

Mostly I want to encourage people to get out there and do all the things that make you happy. You don’t have to “go big or go home”. You can start small and have a big experience. Don’t be afraid to go alone or ask for company. Being prepared will empower you beyond your wildest dreams.

My day wasn’t epic, but it was a pretty amazing way to spend a Wednesday !

Do it. Walk it. Climb it. Dream it. Ask questions. Trust your best self.

If you love your life, your life will love you back ♡

Well, mine has.

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