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?