The Cascade mountains are stupid pretty.
Life over the past couple of months has been hectic, to say the least. We were coming off of our TBEX, road trip, and Puerto Rico highs and were feeling the crash coming on. We had been living on the edge for so long, that even a short period of calm was driving us insane. We needed to regroup and recharge. Fortunately, Chris’ dad had the perfect solution- a three day hike through the beautiful Cascade mountains.
Sometimes all it takes is for us to remove ourselves from our hectic, sporadic, and somewhat chaotic lives is to rediscover our passion. There’s something about the sheer solitude of the woods that calms me unlike anything else. Knowing that we’re truly alone in the wilderness gives me conflicting feelings of vulnerability and peace. No cell coverage, internet service, or television satellites could reach us.
I was a little hesitant to jump into a big backpacking trip after being out of practice (and shape) for years. The last time I backpacked was through the Sawtooth mountains and it didn’t end well. I found myself exhausted after only a few days and couldn’t bring myself to finish the sixty five miles. The backpacking trip I did before that also happened to be my first big trek, and that was up Kilimanjaro. For those keeping track, that’s two backpacking trips that I’ve taken. Ever. There was no easing myself into the art of backpacking. I just took the plunge and hoped for the best.
It’s no wonder that I was a little hesitant to get back on the horse. I was expecting this trip to be similar to my previous two- with heavy packs, freeze dried food, bathroom squatting, and that special musk one acquires after days of not showering. I imagined our hike into camp to be complete hell, followed by another two days filled of intense hiking with no rest.
Well, you probably already know that I was wrong. So very wrong. Our hike to Spider Meadow turned out to be one of the most enjoyable hiking experiences of my life. We each went at our own pace. Since we were only camping for three days we didn’t have extremely heavy packs and the hike itself was a little under seven miles. Easy peasy.
I wasn’t sure what we’d find when we reached Spider Meadow. Given the name, I was expecting a field where ginormous, hairy spiders ran rampant. Various scenes from Harry Potter were playing in my head and none of them ended well. I was pleasantly surprised to emerge from the woods to this:
Hand me seven talented Austrian children and call me Fraulein Maria, because Spider Meadow looked like it came straight out of The Sound of Music. The hills surely were alive and the site of the sprawling, flower-strewn meadow took my breath away. The view couldn’t have been more picturesque. If the snow-capped mountains, rippling spring, and beautiful flowers weren’t enough, there was a cascading waterfall that was perfectly perched to the west of the meadow. It was stupid pretty.
Our first day at Spider Meadow was spent exploring, setting up camp, napping (hey, it was a long, uphill hike), and preparing our dinner. We were hesitant to have a campfire since nearby Ellensberg was fighting off a massive forest fire. Instead, we lit up a Coleson camp stove and roasted our marshmallows that way. When it became dark and cold, we decided to head to our tents and get some much needed rest.
My favorite experience at Spider Meadow would have to be the day hike we took to Spider Gap. Our original plan was to hike to the glacier that overlooked the meadow. It was to be a shorter hike, averaging a little over two miles, but with an elevation gain of 1,000 feet. The hike (read: climb) was a little tough since our legs were still recovering from our hike in, and it was all uphill.
After a two hour climb, we reached the immense glacier. I’m not going to lie, the climb took way more out of me than I expected it to. The quick elevation gain had me panting and there were a few bruises and blisters forming on the feet. I quickly untied my boots and let my blistered feet cool in the glacial snow. We decided to pump more water, enjoy a little trail mix snack, and then head back down to the meadow.
I was getting a little hungry and happy to begin the trek back down when two young climbers appeared from around the bend wearing only Teva sandals on their feet. They not only looked hardcore, but the climb didn’t seem to phase them at all. They only stopped to smile and send us a wave before stomping through the snow to the bend in the glacier. “Are you going to climb that in your sandals?”, we asked. Their response was a little giggle and then, “We’re going to try.”
Well, damn. If these two girls are going to climb up the glacier in SANDALS, you better believe I’m going to trek my ass up there in hiking boots. It was all I needed to make the steep (and slippery) climb to the top and boy, I’m glad I did. Look at the sheer beauty that waited for us over the ridge.
Spider Meadow and Spider Gap surely didn’t disappoint. I might not have been the happiest camper at our early wake up call the day of our descent, but seeing the sun beams lazily crawl through the crowded forest on our way out was a site to behold.
As we hiked the six and a half miles out of Spider Meadow, I was grateful that I was ahead of the pack. I had the stupidest grin on my face. It’s not often that I find myself breathing in the cool, pure air of the forest. The creek would softly ripple under my feet as I teetered from stepping stone to stepping stone during certain, precarious stretches of the hike. It was these precious, unassuming moments that completely refreshed my soul.