Day 33: North Cascade National Park

I’m so happy. I’m exhausted, sore, sweaty, dirty, hungry, but so happy. I know these adventures won’t last forever. They can’t. The girls are 13 and 11. We only have a few years until summer jobs, internships, volunteer opportunities, or studies will take priority of their summer schedules. Their childhoods are much closer to ending than beginning and our role as parents will change drastically as they continue to grow into the independent citizens we are hoping we are raising. These trips, the weeks, the days, the moments are what I hope they carry close to their hearts and how I will define this season of my life. Today’s hike is one that makes me so proud of them, of us.

This is our first visit to North Cascade and the ranger told us the hike we picked was one of the more beautiful ones, but most definitely strenuous. He was correct. On both accounts.

The first couple of miles were easy, mostly flat, through a forest that reminded me of Colorado. Since we had driven in from Vancouver we didn’t start until 11:30, so at about a mile in we stopped for pbj&c. On the map at about the three mile mark the trail went from easy to moderate. There was no doubt when the switch occurred. We were making our way upward at a pretty steep incline. The best way to describe the trail was a constant gnarly tangle of tree roots. There was no part that was smooth or allowed easy footing. The elevation gain was somewhere near 2,700 feet in just two miles or so. The trail was consistently narrow and the drop offs were tremendous. It was so hard. Especially on our knees after all that bike riding yesterday. But it was so rewarding. I saw internal motivation in both the girls. There was no stopping them. When things got tough, and they did, the girls keep going. Just one step at a time. One foot in front of the other. When things got too tough, we took short breaks, leaned on one another for support, and found the drive to keep going. My goodness, how far is that going to take the girls?

The miles up were slow and sweaty and buggy, but we eventually came to a clearing that granted us the views of snow capped mountains in the not too far distance. We had about 500 feet of decline in a half a mile to get to our campsite at the shore of a mountain lake, Thornton Lake. This final leg of the trip was where the map transitioned from moderate to strenuous. We had figured that down is good, easier than up, so it can’t be that hard. Ha! That was a cute thought. It was legit straight down. Down huge boulders and mud slides. Straight down. We’d rarely get a mess of roots to clamber down. The angle at which my legs had to contort in order to reach the next rocks was often not natural. It was so hard, demanding so much energy when we had already used most of what we started with. But we did it. There were a few points when the girls needed tips from Zak who had already gone over a rough section, and encouragement from me, as I was the final one in our order today.

We finally arrived at one of the three campsites here, and the others were not reserved. We’re alone in this little peaceful corner of the world. Just the four of us. My everythings. My reasons. My joys. My happiness. The rain is falling, we have half full bellies if beef jerky, I didn’t brush my teeth. I’m exhausted, dirty, sore, and smelly, but everything is perfect.

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