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SEA TO SUMMIT

Coming home for a hike or two on Mount Rainier.

Story by Whitney James July 21st, 2015

learning to love outside

Like most people I meet in the outdoor industry these days, I didn’t grow up that interested in the outdoors. Sure, my Dad took me camping, fishing, biking, and hiking every summer. But there was a big gap in the teenage years. When I finally got back to my roots and realized nature was where it was at, and I moved to Colorado––leaving almost the entire state of Washington undiscovered. Last month, I came back to change that.

Actually, I came back for something entirely unrelated. Dad suggested I skip work on Monday and we go to Mount Rainier instead. Thanks Dad.

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HIKING uphill both ways

Ever since I discovered that you could grind up mountains on bikes and roll down them effortlessly at 6x the speed of hiking, I stopped hiking. But conditioning wasn’t the worst of my problems during our adventure at Mount Rainier. The concert the night before was. I was insanely sore from standing for six hours screaming along to country music, and had the achy feet and head to prove it. Our five mile hike from the Sunrise parking lot was excruciating painful, but thankfully, also excruciatingly beautiful.

Dad thought I was hungover. I was not. Thanks Dad.

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WILD, wild, WILDFLOWERS

The flowers blooming in endless meadows were simply out of control. A ranger informed us that he hadn’t seen lupine like these (the purple ones) in over a decade. We wondered about last winter’s record-breaking low snow levels in the Cascades, and how that could make for better flowers. Somehow, it did. The wondering helped ease our sore knees as we continued our truly mild walk, skirting the mountain tops and stopping often to peer through binoculars at goats and far-away peaks.

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POST-HIKE EXHAUSTION

My trauma from the night before had only been compounded by our five mile hike around Sunrise. Even though I now call Colorado home, the 7,000-foot elevation was also taking its toll. We returned to the car and immediately sped off to find a spot to camp next to the White River. Since I stole Dad’s tent a few years ago to use in the Rockies, we had to sleep in the bed of his Jeep; him on a sleeping pad with a real sleeping bag, and me on an inflatable pool toy in a bag from Target that came up to my chest. In order to stretch out fully, we had to leave the tailgate door open the entire night. And of course, it’s Washington, so it rained. 
Dad woke me up once shuffling around near my feet, which I instinctively recognized as the snout of a bear. Thanks Dad.


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WAKING UP IN PARADISE

After something like thirteen hours of rest, I was finally feeling back to normal. The only thing ailing me now was a bum knee, which made going down hills extremely difficult. I made Dad promise we’d keep things mellow, and after an epic breakfast only a parent could pack, we drove around the base of Rainier to the more popular parking lot––Paradise. Our three mile jaunt put the previous day’s wildflowers to shame. We laughed at squabbling marmots, we helped other hikers get photos in front of Mount Rainier’s more popular side, and we put our hands in the creek to feel how cold the water was.

It was the perfect end to a weekend spent in nature. Thanks, Dad.


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Footnote: Photos by me and my dad with my Canon 60D.
Mount Rainier National Park, Pierce County, WA, United States