Two Saturdays ago I was at work, winding down for the day with a couple of my coworkers, when one of them asked me if I wanted to hike the next day. Sundays are usually my day of rest, as it marks the beginning of my weekend. I take this day to recover from the work week, because anyone who has worked any kind of customer service related job knows the first day off is like eating an ice cream on a warm summer day. Sweet, sweet relief.
As someone who doesn’t manage well with the upheaval of typical routines, I initially panicked at the thought. I normally dedicate Mondays for hiking, but didn’t have anything planned for that following Monday. I wanted to consider this Sunday hike, but my brain went into overdrive as it does when a question regarding something physical is presented.
“Do I have enough time to rest?” “Do I have enough food to bring that will make me feel well?” “Have I already done too much this week physically?”
Life with a chronic illness is really glamorous sometimes…
I wish I could be spontaneous like I used to be, but the reality is if I want to feel well I can’t. I have to take certain steps to ensure I am in the right physical and mental space to not only enjoy myself, but to be a pleasant human being to be around. After realizing I felt good, had all the food I needed, and would have ample time to rest the following two days, I decided to go.
I can be moderately spontaneous…after an hour of overthinking.
We ventured up towards Mount St. Helens, an area I hadn’t been to since 2015! We hiked Harry’s Ridge Trail – an 8 mile moderate trail with amazing views of the mountain. This area is very popular, so an early start is a must. After a long drive we arrived around 0900 to a mostly empty parking lot. Snacks, water, and sunscreen in tow we were ready to go.
Did I mention this was also the start of a multi day heatwave?
I don’t manage well hiking in the heat. Or doing anything in the heat for that matter. This was another reason I was thankful we started early. Heat is to Brittany as oil is to water – we do not mix. Most all of the hikes I have done the last five months have been covered by canopies of trees, but this hike was completely open. No shade for the weary (shoulda, woulda, coulda brought a hat.)
The open trail provided expansive 360 degree views no matter which way we looked.
Another perk of starting early was that we only ran into two other people on our way to Harry’s Ridge. Once we got closer to the end of our trail, there were a handful of others around, but the trek up was pleasantly quiet. We decided to go a bit further than everyone else to have some solace, and to get a better view of Spirit Lake.
The trail was in great shape, with only a few small snow fields to cross through. Nothing my trail runners couldn’t manage.
We sat and savored our view for at least 45 minutes, something I have only recently begun to prioritize with my hikes. For so many years I would power up a mountain without taking in the views along the way, only to sit at the top long enough to eat a snack and snap a few pictures. What good is the struggle of a climb without reaping the reward of the view?
With that said, the longer I sit and savor – the harder it is to start again. I’m like the tin man from Wizard of Oz needing constant oiling after I sit too long.
Around noon we packed up our bags and headed back towards the parking lot. By this time it was so warm outside I started to feel physically unwell. Something to know about me is that unless I am fully comfortable letting my walls down around you, I will never talk about how much I’m struggling. (Unless you read my blog, this is my space to purge my thoughts, and keeping my physical struggles to myself on the daily is a lot.)
Peak heat triggers fatigue quick, and my Sjogrens likes to come out and play when I am overly fatigued. I’ve been talking about autoimmune stuff a lot lately, but it’s because I feel like I’ve rounded a corner with regard to acceptance. I have been living with this disease for years now, and I have found the balance I need in order to mitigate my flare ups.
It’s a freeing feeling accepting the lack of control I have, and working with the control I do have.
The trek back was like night and day with regard to how many humans we saw. For starters, we passed a Meet Up group of at least 40 people. Call me crazy, but I would rather hike alone than hike with 40 strangers all with such drastically different hiking paces. Then we passed families, couples, and those who hiked a mile in just to take a selfie in their blue jeans (I’m sorry, I will never understand those who hike in jeans.)
Once back to the car, I was thankful to have a reprieve from the sun. Aside from my slight discomfort the second half of the hike I had a lovely day, and my pals were great conversationalists. This area of my home state is like another planet at times, and I am continually amazed I live in such a beautiful state.
I was a zombie on the drive back, and thankful there were three of us so the other two could maintain conversation while I slipped into oblivion in the back seat.
After it was all said and done I was more than happy with my decision to go on this hike. It can be easy to think we know everything about ourselves at any given moment throughout our lives, when in reality we are always evolving and always changing.
I spent the following day mostly horizontal on the beach, and I’d call that a proper weekend balance.
Q: Would you hike with 40 strangers?
29 thoughts on “Harry’s Ridge Trail”
That sounds like a lovely if slightly challenging hike. You knew most everything about it and yourself going in to it though so minus the hat this comes off as an example of how knowing yourself can have you prepared for and thus overcome challenges.
Absolutely beautiful pictures as always friend and no I would never hike with 5 people let alone 40. My outdoor time is generally MY time.
I have to admit I laughed a bit at the 0900 early start. Some of the trails near here if you aren’t there by 0600 they have too many people on them.
Thank you for another wonderful share.
It’s really amazing to be so in tune with our bodies, perks of growing older I suppose.
I also admit 0900 isn’t early, but I had to leave my house at 0600 so that was the early part. I was thankful 0900 was early enough for this trail!
Like you, I don’t handle heat very well! It got over 70⁰F this week. The F usually stands for Fahrenheit, but over 85 it may stand for something else! 😠 (😄)
Would love to take a mountain hike like this, almost regardless of the company as long as I had some sunscreen and water. But NO trees? Surely there are mountains with trees somewhere nearby.
As for the 40 strangers, I’d have to evaluate before starting if we had some constant chatty-cathies or complainers, but even then, only eight miles would not be too bad. I’d figure God put them in my path to help them somehow.
But then, I am not dealing with an autoimmune issue! When I take my “prayer walk” every day, the Lord and I “stop” in eastern Washington to “see” friends there. We will begin going to the Mt. St. Helens area and will “talk about” you while we are there. The Lord loves you, though this may be hard to see with your present health difficulties. God cares about us, who He created. From now on you will be prayed for every day from Kentucky, as long as He gives me breath.
love and prayers, your new friend, c.a. (and that is my full legal ‘given’ name). 😊
I love this comment. “I’d figure God put them in my path to help them somehow.” That was beautiful. Thank you for the kind words and prayers. ❤️
I, too, would not want to hike with 40 strangers because I’m sure they’d be chattering the whole way and would interrupt the peaceful enjoyment of Nature. I really enjoyed your pictures, I haven’t been to Mount St. Helens since we took our truck-trip out here before we moved from NC to WA. I do have one question, though…why is it strange to hike in jeans?
I hope you manage to get out to this area. As for the jeans, I find them very “heavy” and constricting. I’d much rather hike in forgiving pants, but I say this in good fun. I’m all for whatever works for each person.
Gotcha! Depending on the weather, jeans are indeed too heavy!
Bradley on the Run
Frankly, since covid, I would be hard pressed to do anything with a group of 40 anyone. But certainly not hiking. A few years ago I hiked with a group of like 8 who wanted to stay at the top WAY longer than I did. Found it quite frustrating. So 40?! Not a chance lol
Love reading about this hike though! Also I’m old enough to remember when Mt St Helens erupted so that’s kind of amazing to see.
I’m with you on the large groups after Covid, no thanks!
How nice to savor the relief after (safely) pushing (a little) beyond our comfort zones! Thank you for another great inspiration!
David, hello! So nice to see a comment from you.
These views are absolutely gorgeous!
I much prefer solo rides and hikes. 40 people is crazy.
Riding a bike with others doesn’t involve much interaction. It’s too hard to hear each other. Maybe that’s why Emilia are such a good pair. My Spanish is almost nonexistent; her English is not the greatest. It’s comforting to be with a truly nice person for a few hours regardless.
As for the heat, seriously? I loved the summer weather in “the other” Washington. It sure beats the sauna we endure from June to September.
Ugh I hate the heat. And I realize it’s not even hot…as for biking with others, I don’t like that much. Maybe one other.
Susan Strasser, Blogger & Memoirist
Thank you for sharing about your bravery, flexibility and coping with your illness.
Thank you for reading. ❤️
Oh HECK no — there’s no freaking way I’d want to hike with 40 complete strangers!! Especially with what the world has been going through for almost 16 months. Maybe I’m just too much of a risk-adverse introvert… But I’d much rather hike with 1 or 2 other people that I at least know on an acquaintance level. (Preferably a casual friendship level, if not 10,000% comfort level! 😉 )
“I can be moderately spontaneous…after an hour of overthinking.” ← You are totally and completely preaching to the choir here too!! I’m pretty sure my skewed version of spontaneity is at least two hours of overthinking… And anything not “spontaneous” means I’ve had at least 24 hours to think it all through. 😉
I’m so proud of you for going on the hike, going at the pace your body felt was best, and acknowledging what your mind, body, and soul all needed. Your journey has been FAR from easy, and it’s truly inspiring to witness the progress you’ve made, especially the mental progress. You’re such an incredible human being, Brittany!! ♡
I’m with you on preferring to hike with casual friendships. I have a hard time going with people I don’t know.
You and I are one in the same in many ways.
You are always so kind to me. ❤️
Wonderful capture of your experience. I’d stick to hiking only with my close circle(max of 7/8). Hiking with 40 is like going to the Beach & finding your neighbourhood already came there & are camping.
I once had a lovely trek in Wayanad, India along with 2 of my friends and to Tada WaterFalls with a group of 5. So that’s the limit I would keep myself to.
Great analogy for big group hikes!
What wonderful views! I don’t go hiking for the conversation and I’m usually – no, always – the slowest. Slow and steady, (and sweaty), that’s me. If I went with a big group, either everyone would have to wait for me and get annoyed at me or I’d be stuck with the really unfit person who complained all the way. No thanks! And I’m totally with you in the pain of getting up and starting to move again after sitting down to admire the view!
I hate feeling like someone is waiting on me, so I would be far too anxious hiking with a large group!
Those views are incredible! Glad it all worked out for a balanced weekend. I hate exercise in the heat too, and am a big fan of the early start. 7 am silence on a trail is the best! Thanks for sharing!
7 am silence, nothing quite like it!
Wow…. as always pictures are great and journey narration informative on many levels. Just recently watched program on those who survived Mt. St. Helens eruption, so amazing, talk about lives changed forever…
Would recommend all Your folders to find it and watch. Small groups for me , for each person you add to trip you multiple the time by half again, I like to limit my group so time is managed better for overall enjoyment.
Moderation and balance👍✌️🤟🤙
Small groups for me too! I’m a patient person, but not that patient. 🤪 Thank you for your kind words! ❤️
Being flexible in many levels!