It's a New Year, and a new adventure for our family. In a few days we're moving to California, where my husband, Onur, will start a new job in the Bay Area. Surprise! As you can imagine, we're nervous, excited, sad, and scared, but ultimately happy for the opportunity to grow in our relationship and our careers.
At the same time, leaving Washington State is bittersweet. Just two months after I moved here, in December 2009, I met Onur at a coffee shop in Bellevue. We became engaged a little over two years later, in February 2012, and we married that same year at the Salish Lodge, near Snoqualmie Falls.
Throughout our eight years together in Washington State, we've watched a rainstorm from a cabin on the Olympic Coast, jet-skied on Lake Chelan, ridden horses on the beach in Seabrook, Washington, and visited our friends, George and Sheila, on Whidbey Island more times than we can count. Close friends became our family—a network of trust, support, laughter, and faith—as we navigated our lives together in Washington.
Moving and Movement
And now we're moving together—our first state-to-state move. California will be my sixth state-to-state move: the first was from New York to Texas in 1997 and the fifth was from Arizona to Washington in 2009. When I look back on all those transitions and hiking in Washington State, I think about how similar moving and hiking are.
Both involve physical movement from one place to another. Essentially, both are traveling.
Both involve learning a new local "language". There is nothing more humbling than listening to a reporter roll off traffic conditions in nearby cities and HAVING NO IDEA where any of those cities are. I had a similar experience on the WTA website, looking at their Hiking Guide for the first time and wondering, "What's the difference between Central Washington and Central Cascades?" "How do you pronounce 'Puyallup' and 'Sequim?'"
Both took time to build up any kind of comfort and proficiency. Whenever I moved to a new place, I furnished it as my time and budget allowed, letting the pieces and photographs I collected over time create my home. Similarly, with hiking, I invested in quality hiking gear over time, as my budget allowed. I developed a hiking routine and learned about Pacific Northwest weather, hiking seasons, safety, camping, gear, and navigation through trial and error.
Both involved getting oriented. With moving and hiking, I learned a new system of roads, traffic patterns, interstates, mountain passes, counties, and cities in Washington State. I figured out how to combine forecasts from weather and aviation websites to maximize my chances of a Mount Rainier view. I learned "waterproof" meant different things to different brands. I learned the repercussions of having poor gear in foul weather, and the benefits of having a buddy who's also an avid hiker and adventurer. And I'm still learning, all the time.
Falling in Love with Hiking
Onur likes to tease me about the first hikes we took together—to Heather Lake, Wallace Falls, and Mount Si—where I complained about how hard it was and how uncomfortable I felt. He also reminded me how I kept asking him how long it was to the top. (Thanks, Honey.) I was pretty miserable on those hikes, feeling like they were so difficult and I was on a never-ending uphill slope.
Yet, somewhere between those experiences and where I am today, I learned that discomfort is part of the game. I learned to expect the challenge, to expect my thighs will burn, to expect I will be out of breath, to expect it'll be hard, to expect I will get through it, and to expect I will feel happy, exhausted, strong, and empowered when I finish.
Somewhere along the way, I got comfortable with discomfort. Hiking went from dreading discomfort to thrilling at my ability to push through it. I got excited about hikes where I could stand on top of a mountain.
And I fell in love.
I fell in love reaching the crater rim of Mount St. Helens and looking out beyond Spirit Lake to Mount Rainier. I fell in love listening to ice calving from Third Burroughs and feeling like my whole world right at that moment was Mount Rainier dominating my field of vision. I fell in love with the tilde shape of Mount Baker's summit.
I fell in love with hiking, and I fell in love with mountains.
Giving Back: Writing about Hiking
When I became a Hiking Guide Correspondent for the Washington Trails Association, the big question was, "What makes this hike special?" And looking back now, it felt like a gift. It felt like WTA was saying to me, "Look, each hike has something special to offer. Now, go figure it out!" It became my guiding light for thinking about and writing about hikes. It became my mission to puzzle out each hike's special features and write about it for others. That mindset carried me through every hike I wrote about in my book, 75 Great Hikes Seattle, and it guides me in my trail writing today.
As a trail writer, there is a constant questioning of how much to tell a reader, and how much to hold back and let them figure out on their own. How do you balance guiding a reader faithfully—safely—on a trail, with letting go and having them discover it on their own?
Writing's not easy, but it is creative and rewarding. I love the rise and fall and rhythm of language. I love figuring out the point. I love discovering new vocabulary words, and I love clever metaphors. I love sharing special places with others and helping them get there.
Leaving What We Know
Although Onur and I made the decision to move to California together—owned the decision together—it's hard leaving the hiking knowledge I've built up over the years in Washington State and starting over again. It's hard leaving the opportunities I have to write about hiking in the Seattle area. It's hard leaving the hiking and photography communities I've tiptoed into, and the Washington Trails Association, who've enriched my life in ways I never dreamed. It's hard leaving the wish-list hikes and climbs I haven't done yet: Sourdough Mountain, Mount Adams, Mount Baker, Railroad Grade, and others.
It's hard leaving my kick-ass hiking buddy, Grace, who doesn't blink when I suggest meeting at a park and ride at 4:00 a.m., who lent me one of her microspikes so we could ascend Easy Pass together (one microspike on each foot), who crawled out of our campsite at 1:00 a.m. to catch the Milky Way with me beside Lake Chelan, and who supported me whole-heartedly and unreservedly through the entire process of writing my book.
What's helping me through our big transition is recognizing that moving away from Washington isn't the end of hiking, writing, or photography. It's a new beginning to new adventures in California. It's taking a risk and saying yes to a new opportunity in Onur's career. It's realizing that there's nowhere else I'd rather be than with Onur, by his side, as he goes for it. As he was, by my side, as I left a stable job, hiked, and became a guidebook author.
Saying Yes to Adventure
I'm sitting here a few days before our move feeling so proud that I worked hard, hiked a lot, and took advantage of the time I had here. I've looked into the steaming lava dome of Mount St. Helens, witnessed golden larches among turquoise lakes in the Core Enchantments, hiked over 800 miles and climbed over 200,000 feet to write the best hiking guidebook I could, watched float planes take off and land from a dock in Stehekin, ridden in a float plane for the first time with Onur on our honeymoon, watched the sunrise with Onur from Dege Peak, and taken the Crystal Mountain gondola to snowshoe with Onur and our dear friend, Onur.
So, this year, instead of marking my calendar for Mount St. Helens permits and the Enchantments lottery, I've added the Half Dome and Mount Whitney lotteries. I learned the driving distance from the Bay Area to Yosemite National Park is roughly equivalent to driving from Seattle to Climber's Bivouac at Mount St. Helens. I've started reading about hiking in the Bay Area via Moon 101 Hikes San Francisco, and scrolling through California field guides and outdoor websites. I'm especially excited to meet the team at Moon Travel Guides for the first time in Berkeley, California.
We can say, "Yes!" to something new and still feel grief and loss for what we're leaving behind. I believe it's an important process of moving to acknowledge the experience of leaving and starting over. Acknowledging loss doesn't mean we are weak and it doesn't negate all the positive things we can experience in a new place. It means we are empowered, because we are sharing our stories and owning them. I believe that I will start over in California. I will hike. I will write. I will take pictures. I will go to Yosemite National Park. I will still stand on summits. I will see my dear friends and Washington mountains again.
I don't know what's in store for us in California, but if it's anything like Washington State, it'll be one hell of a ride.