Many of you know that I recently embarked on a spontaneous trip to explore the great state of Washington. People keep asking me why, and honestly it's just because I wanted to see what it was like. I've had a fascination with the Pacific Northwest for a long time, but I've never been up to the Seattle area. I've been considering it as a possible place to live someday, so I decided I should check it out.
And you know how sometimes you just get that itching to go see a new place? To get a change of scenery, and experience something different and exciting? That's exactly what I was feeling. I needed to get out of my usual scene and have a new experience in an unknown place to learn and grow from.
At this time in my life, I'm making a lot of major decisions and taking on more and more responsibility. More is being expected of me and it's overwhelming. I don't feel like I can depend on myself to make educated and wise decisions. I don't trust myself to take my life into my own hands and take future-determining steps. What I'm doing now will affect me for the rest of my life, and I have NO IDEA how to be an adult.
So a few months ago I decided that this summer is the summer I'm going to do everything I can to figure myself and life out. I want to try as many new things as possible, and most importantly, travel as much as possible. I had a professor who once said to me "Whenever I'm having a conversation with someone and start thinking 'Hm. I don't feel like I know very much about this issue they're talking about, and I don't know enough to form an opinion on the matter,' I know it's time for me to travel." He said that travel is as important to my education as college is. And here I am, hardly ever gone anywhere in my life. So I made it a goal this summer to go to as many new places as possible, and have experiences that will help me get to know myself and grow into the person I want to become.
I didn't want to make this trip to Seattle alone, and I thought my good friend James would like to come along. I invited him and some other friends, but in the end the others couldn't come. So we decided to go ahead with just the two of us! And it ended up being fantastic
This whole trip was basically unplanned. We made it up as we went along, and while that meant we missed a few things we would've like to do, we both enjoyed the freedom it gave us. We never felt pressured to get anywhere at a certain time (well except once) and could stop to do something if we wanted to. This trip was absolutely perfectly what I needed.
The ride up there was a blast. We started at 5 am and it took us until about 7 pm to reach our first destination in Snoqualmie pass. And wow. Those TREES! Trees and trees forever, and mountains and lakes and cool, fresh air. I felt like I was in heaven. Or Rivendell or something.
Our first campsite was straight out of a fantasy adventure novel. We drove around for a long time trying to find a place that wasn't too wet, and a good distance from the road. James spotted this place down from a hill off the road, right next to a roaring river. Our campsite was nestled right up against it in the snug little clearing that wasn't completely taken over by trees and undergrowth. It was so idyllic I couldn't believe it actually existed. We relaxed that night, James played his harmonica, and we re-heated the Mongolian Stir-fry leftover from our lunch in Boise. It tasted ten times better over a fire out in the wilderness of Washington.
The next morning we embarked on a quest to find a railroad bridge we had seen overhead the night before while searching for a campsite. We went to Iron Horse National Park, assuming we'd be able to find it on one of the hiking paths. Soon we found ourselves at the mouth of the Iron Horse Tunnel.
We neglected to find out exactly how long this long, dark, gloomy and chilling tunnel was. Look at us, all excited to go through!
I don't have a photo for this part of the story because it would've been a frame of utter BLACKNESS!
We started walking, a little creeped out by the looming darkness and sound of water dripping to the ground. It was eerily quiet. We felt like we were descending into the abandoned mines of Moria. Okay okay, enough Lord of the Rings references. But seriously. I felt like a Balrog was going to jump out any second.
AND THEN ONE DID! Me and James had been walking for what seemed like forever, and the tiny itty bitty light at the end of the tunnel hadn't seemed to get any bigger. We looked behind us, and were disappointed at how big the light coming from the tunnel door still looked.
"Is there something standing in the doorway?" James asked, a little concerned. I didn't want to freak out prematurely, so I studied the figure closely.
"Oh my gosh you're right." There was a guy just standing at the entrance! And then we heard a low roar echoing through the tunnel. Still trying to keep myself from freaking out, I tried to come up with a logical explanation. We soon realized the guy was getting into a truck, and had started to slowly drive toward us. James started exploring the possibilities aloud.
"He's a creepy old hermit who's been waiting at the entrance for unsuspecting victims to make their way into the tunnel where he can murder us without anyone ever knowing."
We decided it was probably a park ranger making sure there wasn't anything sketchy in the tunnel. And that's what we kept telling ourselves for the entire 10 minutes or so he was slowly creeping up behind us in his giant truck.
As he came up right behind us, I was still trying to convince myself that he wasn't going to kidnap us. And as he finally passed us, it was all rather anti-climactic. He just leaned out of his window and said "Sorry to disrupt your quiet time!" And then drove past. Haha. Me and James laughed to ourselves.
The rest of the trek was largely uneventful. We started getting dizzy and disoriented. It was so DARK! And the tiny pinpoint of light always seemed the same distance away. The chilly, damp air and gloomy darkness wore down on our good spirits, and we were soon feeling depressed and impatient to get out into the sun again.
After what seemed like ETERNITY, the exit was there and we broke back into fresh air and sunshine. It was a lovely view! But we still felt a little sick, and realized we were probably dehydrated. We were out of water, so we decided to risk getting some from one of the many streams hanging around. It was deliciously cool and refreshing!
We were praying that we would be able to find some way to get back to the car without going through the tunnel again, but we were rather disheartened to discover it was the only way back. And so we took a deep breath, and headed back through.
It didn't take nearly as long on the way back! We sang parodies of every song we could think of, changing the words to apply to our current predicament. "I fell into a long, dark tunnel..."
Eventually it was all I could do to keep my head down and walk onward as fast as I could. All I wanted was to get out of that miserable tunnel!!
I've never been so happy to see the sun! We got out of there and decided we needed to start heading to our next campsite on the Olympic Peninsula.
James' face is the best.
So then we hopped back in the car, and drove.
We drove through miles and miles of new and beautiful surroundings. I tried my best to soak it all in, but it seemed like I could never get enough of it. I wanted so badly to just bottle it up so I could keep it with me always.
We decided to stay at Staircase campground, because, among other things, it was the closest one and we were running out of daylight. We had the windows down and were listening to super mellow folky James-style music. The air was cool and fresh and smelled like water. It felt incredible. I never wanted that drive to end.
Soon the gravel road opened up to this view of Lake Cushman. It was breathtaking. The soft light of dusk was falling gracefully on the still waters of the lake, and we were the only people for miles. We got a taste of the sublime. It was such a quiet moment, one of those where you're so stoked to be alive! It's these kind of moments I live for. Those moments are the reason I wanted to travel so badly.
I hate to spoil the rest of the trip for you, but this was my most favorite moment of the entire trip. Just this quiet little evening drive through the mountains. That's all it takes to make me my happiest :)
Don't worry, there are other cool parts later in the trip!
But that's all for now, folks! I'll get to work on writing some more, but until then, I hope you enjoyed this first installment of my expedition to Washington. And don't forget to leave a comment below if you have any sweet experiences in any of these places I visited!