One year ago today I laid eyes on the Three Sisters volcanic peaks for the first time. Adam and I had planned a trip to New York and then Oregon to see our families after dating for a few months. We had been living on the Big Island of Hawaii at the time and up until then Northern California was the only area I had seen on the West Coast. That’s why my eyes lit up like a kid in a candy store when I saw Oregon in the summer for the first time. We drove from Sweet Home to Sisters taking scenic, seasonal byways and soaking in the wildflowers, ferns, and crystal clear rivers. We stopped at the Dee Wright Observatory and snapped some photos looking towards the Sisters.
We did some hiking on our visit but kept the mileage pretty low because as you can see, we were not in our best shape at the time. We headed back to Hawaii after ten days in Oregon, not knowing that we would be returning within a month to stay permanently. Fast forward to this year and we are two totally new (and improved) versions of ourselves. When we initially arrived in the PNW we lived in Seattle for work. Realizing that we were not city people AND that moving from sunny Hawaii to rainy Seattle in the winter could be kind of depressing, we decided to make our primary focus our health. We hiked every weekend rain, snow, or shine. We eliminated alcohol except for a beer once every few weeks and transitioned to a fully plant-based diet in January. We focused not just on our physical health but also our mental/emotional health by pursuing an art that we both love, photography. I spent months listening to books on spirituality, intuition, manifestation, and our infinite power as humans.
It has been a slow transition to take us from smoked meat-eating Netflix binge watchers to volcano summiting vegans. I have had to overcome serious fear of falling to my death. I still experience it on steep slopes and cliff edges, but the intensity of the fear subsides every time I challenge it successfully. Summiting the South Sister definitely challenged me, but in a way that was not expected. Leading up to the hike I didn’t really think twice about my physical ability to get up to the summit. I knew it would be hard, but that I could do it. I was more concerned about how “sketchy” the trail would be, as in, what are the chances I could slip and fall to my death? Once I was a few miles in and above the tree line, I could see that I wasn’t going to be cliff dangling, but I would be climbing uphill on loose ground for the rest of my life.
I’ve been hiking with about 25 lbs on my back for every hike to prepare for extended overnight backpacking trips, with my dream being to thru-hike the PCT. Carrying the pack definitely made every step a bit slower and more thought out. This is probably the first time I’ve done a hike where I would say trekking poles were a requirement with a heavy pack. It was interesting getting to use them to climb up and over rocks and along narrow paths. I said about 500 times along the way, “these trekking poles just saved my ass!”
The entire way to the summit from the trailhead is uphill, about 6 miles total. About 5 miles in we arrived at Lewis Glacier, probably my favorite part of the trail. It was such a reward for the hard work we had done so far. Teardrop lake is fed by the glacier and I did not know this until afterwards, but it is the highest lake in Oregon! The color of the water is just breathtaking. The five of us on this journey stopped to take photos, hangout, and drink crystal clear glacier melt.
Speaking of our crew, can I just say how over-the-moon I am to have met so many wonderful people thanks to Mountain Chicks. My fellow ambassador, Logan, Kellie, and Emily made this trek with Adam and me and I feel so lucky to have had them there to share this memory with.
The last leg of the journey was by far the most difficult. One mile and nearly 1500 feet of elevation gain on slippery, loosely packed gravel (for lack of a better term). It was hard. That was another thing I said a lot along the way. “This is hard” was about all I could muster. I would go 10 steps if I was lucky and then had to stop and take a deep breath to stop my muscles from not wanting to work. I felt the air thinning with the elevation gain. The other girls powered ahead and Adam stayed back with me, never making me feel like I was going too slowly. He would, however, make me smile for photos through my gasps for air. This annoyed me at the time but at this point I know to just cooperate even when I’m not feeling it. Even though I was struggling, I was happy and now those are some of my favorite shots.
It felt like that last mile was going to drag on forever, but good news: I made it to the top! I was so exasperated when we first got up there that I had to have a few minutes on my own to gather myself. A mixture of exhaustion, accomplishment, and emotion, I walked to a place where I could sit on lava rock and stare at Broken Top and Mount Bachelor. I have never been so proud of myself, yet so incredibly humbled. I couldn’t help but cry. I didn’t feel like I kicked the mountain’s ass. I felt like it reminded me who I am. I am an infinite being living on earth in this female form to experience it as such. I am a living and breathing part of this place just like every other being, including the earth itself. Being on that mountain top made me feel small, yet reminded me that I am not surrounded by the universe, I am the universe. I wish for you reading this that you get to experience this feeling if you haven't already, whether it be from climbing a mountain or just conquering this day. You have more power within yourself than you know. Feel it.