That first view of Mount St. Helens when driving up 804-E kills me. I love this mountain so much! And so does everyone else, because I thought I was pulling one over showing up early morning midweek on a hot day, but no, the parking lot at Johnston Ridge Observatory was swarmed. I dreaded walking up to the Observatory to get my armband (you have to wear your proof of entry and mine was free because I have a NW Forest Pass!), but as soon as I got on trail, the crowds thinned within the first few tenths of a mile. Still, trails like this are always the ones where you see people with no water, bad footwear, talking on their phones, etc. It can be stressful!
Every single moment of this trail, start to finish, yields a spectacular view. You can go as short or as far as you want and be totally bowled over. Also, there is NO shade on this trail aside from a tiny patch of baby alders at one point.
Location: Quinault, Olympic National Park, Washington
Level: easy / Beginner Level: challenging Round trip/Gain: 5 miles/500ft Type: round trip Permit: Olympic National Park entrance fee or America the Beautiful pass
I guess all trails in ONP are big backpacking trails and I’m super bummed that another summer has gone by where I couldn’t get my shit together in time to take my first backpacking trip. People make it look so easy, but I literally could not afford to A: get gear and B: take off enough time. I only went car camping once! It is really hard to not feel woe-is-me, but what the fuck am I doing wrong?!?!?! (Do not answer this. You don’t know about my life and yes, I am being super defensive.)
A month prior, I’d stayed in Quinault for a modeling job for Columbia Sportswear (lolz, I’m serious and it wasn’t nearly as glamorous as it sounds). The shoot happened at nearby Graves Creek campground, which is a beautiful overgrown, mossy forest next to milky turquoise Graves Creek and the Enchanted Valley trailhead. It put a bug in my ear and I was dying to go back.
Level: Moderate Round trip/Gain: 9.2 miles/100ft Type: Loop Permit: Olympic National Park entrance fee or America the Beautiful pass
This trail is so cool! It’s a perfect triangle 3x3x3 (& some change) miles. 6 miles of boardwalk trail through forest and meadows and a sandy, rocky ocean-side stretch. It’s mostly flat, but the sand section, with log scrambles, killed my feet. I saw a lot of people suffering through it.
Another popular backpacking trail, ideal for a new backpacker. I definitely wanted to post-up after the sand part. There are petroglyphs, too! Of vulvas!
Location: Hoh Rainforest, Olympic National Park, Washington
Level: easy / Beginner Level: challenging Round trip/Gain: 5.8 miles/300-ish ft Type: round trip Permit: Olympic National Park entrance fee or America the Beautiful pass
Brie and I arrived after about four hours of sleep and four hours of driving. I know how popular this place is and I thought I was ready for the onslaught, but my depleted resources could hardly handle the amount of people around the ranger station, especially on the Hall of Mosses trail which we did first as it’s right next to the Hoh River trailhead.
The Hall of Mosses is famous for a reason. It’s less than a mile, mostly flat and while I live in mossy, wet rain forested Portland, it truly is remarkable.
I was an indoor kid, a city kid, and I remained so into my adulthood. I didn’t even think about the outdoors. In the first six years I lived in Portland, Oregon, the most outdoorsy thing I ever did was drive up to the famous Multnomah Falls. Once. I struggled with PTSD, depression, self-hate and self-medicating. Being wasted all of the time was a huge PAUSE button on my life and as the years ticked on, I grew more confused about my place in the world; who I was, where I belonged, what I wanted.
Five-and-a-half years ago, I met my partner and one of our first dates was a hike. I didn’t know “how” to hike or what to wear (photo on the right!). I was self-conscious of my heavy breathing and sweating, but when we reached the top of the hill, I felt something bloom, a reckoning. Shortly after, hiking became the thing I did instead of filling the void with substance abuse and distractions. When I hiked, I felt connection. Connection to my body, earth, nature, my truth. It became a symbol for all I needed in my life: one-step-at-a-time thinking, forward progression as a metaphor, learning from the pain and discomfort and how to push through it productively.
The trail couldn’t tell me what to do with my life, but it’s lessons led me to connecting and building community with other unlikely outdoorspeople. In turn, leading to new, exciting opportunities. It feels like a future. It feels like being found. Where might the trail lead you?
I sort of hinted at this a couple of months ago, but it is finally official: REI got wind of me and I’ve been contracted to essentially keep doing what I do. They aren’t asking me to sell a product or be anything other than what I am, an unlikely outdoorsperson. For the next six months, you will very occasionally see that some of my posts are sponsored. They are also sponsoring the two meet-ups I posted about recently on Instagram.
As many of you know, REI, specifically with their #ForceOfNature campaign is making attempts to interrupt the common outdoors narrative. Obviously, there is so much work to be done and some of us have been doing it for awhile already, but this is a big deal. I’m a thirty-five-year-old, fat, queer, high school drop out who started hiking five years ago. When have you ever seen someone like me featured in the mainstream?
I am so grateful for this opportunity to share my experience and connect with all of you in the ways that we do. I feel like so many of my dreams are clicking into place. I’ve missed out on a lot of experiences and opportunities my peers have had due to lack of resources and access.
This may not be the most exciting news to my anti-capitalist, punk, queer communities, but I do hope you’ll support your girl in getting paid. I’m not making the big bucks, so don’t get it twisted. This will essentially help me to take a couple days off a month to focus solely on writing and adventuring and building community based on diversifying the outdoors. I still need a lot of help, financially, to keep doing all of this, so if you were thinking about donating to my patreon or paypal, I can absolutely use it. No pressure, I’ll stop touting it all of the time soon. 5% of monthly donations are donated to the Trans Assistance Project.