Comradery and gratitude

rattlesnake lakeSocial media occasionally gets a bad reputation. However, sometimes extremely great things can occur through the power of today’s interconnectedness. My first week of May 2015 was proof of how powerful a tool it can truly be. And, just in case you were wondering, this story has some hiking in it also. There are millions of Facebook pages. Every interest, hobby, passion, profession, and more, has a group page dedicated to it. My love, my passion, is the great outdoors. So, one day I stumbled across a group page dedicated to outdoor aficionados.

Washington Hikers and Climbers, WHC, is a Facebook group where those with a love for the wild can meet, share photos, and write trip reports. Lee, and his friend Michael, started the group. They severely underestimated just how big it was going to get. While a majority of the members reside in western Washington, the popularity is spreading worldwide. Currently over 5000 members, and going strong.

On May 7th a social event for the group was orchestrated by Lee. When I heard about this, I decided to take a day off work to attend. Why not travel to the “other side of the water” and meet a few of the people who share my passion? As my plan progressed, I decided to take Friday off also. Four days to spend playing in the Cascade Mountain range. A fantastic mini-vacation.

I talked to a few other members and was able to arrange a dayhike with Emanuela, Emma, before the social. Then a 3 day/2 night hike in the Cascades was finagled out of Sean. I was super excited for the chance to spend time in the Cascades as well as the ability to meet some amazing people. Plans were to meet Emma in the early morning and hike up to Mailbox Peak, before the gathering later that evening. Boots and equipment on, and off I went.

On Wednesday, my client decided to let me off work early. I posted a message on WHC inquiring about a couch to crash on, or a yard to sleep in, that night. If I could head east early, it would save me time in the morning without the commute. A total surprise occurred. More than a dozen responses offering me a place to spend the night flooded in. I cried at the generosity that poured in.

I chose the closest location to Emma’s house, and the incentives where honestly impressive. I made the two and half hour drive towards my destination. Sarah welcomed me with a warm hug and a genuine smile into her beautiful home. Her children, Isaac and Nathalia, were also introduced. I learned more about Mega Blox than I ever wanted to know from conversations with the boisterous Isaac. A great conversation with an amazing woman ended when we both decided to call it a night.

My drive to Emma’s was short and sweet the next morning. I again was welcomed with open arms and a friendly smile. She showed me her lovely abode before taking me to the room I would be sleeping in that night. We conversed as we drove to our destination, with a quick pit-stop at the REI flagship for some new britches. Another member of the WHC group, Mitch, was supposed to meet us at the trailhead. A small fiasco ensued and a meeting in a gas station parking lot occurred. Emma and I were greeted with hugs and a warm grin.

We decided to hike up Mt. Si, due to Mitch having to be at work in a short time. Finally on a trail, my new friends and I headed up on my third hike in the Cascades. Plenty of banter ensued as we marched up the wide and highly packed trail. A distinct lack of underbrush and moss kept me in awe. The difference in landscape, compared to the Olympics, kept stopping me as my companions continued to trudge upwards. My endless questions about the peaks, barely visible through the trees, were patiently answered. Finally we arrived at a point where the views of the Cascade Mountain range, as well as the Olympics in the distance, became fully visible.

Mitch needed to return to the trailhead for work. Goodbyes were said and a quick photo was taken. Emma showed me up the rocky landscape then pointed up to the true summit. No convincing was needed to continue and we headed towards a fun scramble.

We arrived at the top of Haystack a short time later. Views of Mt. Rainier were barely visible among various other peaks of this massive mountain range. Below us laid the winding thread of I-90.

Civilization sprawling around the base of the mountain looked miniscule as we stood atop this highly popular destination. The descent went quickly and we headed back to Emma’s house to de-funk and prepare for the group social.

Our arrival at the group meeting was welcomed with even more hugs and introductions. Great times were had as great friends were made. Lee had meticulously arranged some interesting entertainment in the form of door prizes and a silent auction.

An ingenious scheme to have some of the most notable members of Washington Hikers and Climbers take the winning bidder on an adventure was concocted. Myself and nine others were chosen to be these adventure leaders based on various renowned skills. The winner of my adventure was in for a treat. A guided 3 day/2 night backpacking trip through an undisclosed location in the Olympics was my offer. All the proceeds of the auction were donated to fantastic charities! The night wound down and Emma took me to her home for a warm bed to sleep in. Friday morning arrived. A cup of coffee was poured as Emma and I said our goodbyes. Another new friend I can’t wait to see again.

I drove south to meet up with Sean. My mind mulled over the previous days adventure. Gratitude filled me. The absolute kindness showed to me was astounding. A genuine thank you to those that offered a complete stranger a place to call home for the night.

My next adventure laid an hour away. Meeting Sean for my first backpacking trip into the Cascades. Yet another giant hug and genuine smile greeted me. I loaded my gear into his truck and we headed toward the woods. But, that’s a story for another day.