I had a panic attack on the way to Soule Creek Lodge. The road to the lodge goes up a steep slope—one that, during the course of my trip research, literally every TripAdvisor review had mentioned. Most of the roads we’d taken on the 2 hour drive from Victoria to rural Vancouver Island gave the impression that they were created after man had waged a lengthy battle with Mother Nature, where Mother Nature had ceded just enough space for humans to painstakingly create narrow, snaking, two-lane roads. And the road to Soule Creek Lodge was no different. My then boyfriend (and now fiancé) would later tell me that he felt the wheels of our rental car slip beneath us on the uneven, gravel road as we inched our way to the top of the ridge where the lodge and assorted outbuildings are nestled together above the tree line. I was white knuckling the car’s console as we rounded the corner that dropped us in front of a cozy, cedar building turned lodge. A sign next to the screen door instructed us to ring the doorbell for service. The co-owner of the lodge, greeted us, bearing only a clipboard—no iPad or other electronic device to check us in. I was taken aback at first because it’s so rare to use pen and paper for anything in 2017. We were checked in and then given directions to our yurt, and continued the next leg of our adventure.
The summer before my junior year in high school, I briefly dated this very outdoorsy, All-American guy. He had an American flag as wallpaper in his bedroom, and routinely drove his family’s John Deere ride-on mower through the streets of our suburban town as an act of not-so-quiet rebellion. One weekend, he and some of our other friends decided we should hike Mount Si, a mini mountain about 45 minutes from Seattle that is pretty popular with day hikers. Being the ever compliant teenager, I agreed to go, even though the thought of climbing a small mountain in the middle of the summer seemed like the worst idea, ever. I packed some water, a granola bar, and attempted to seem enthusiastic about the trip.
No one else, it seemed, had decided to pack any water, and my already pitiful water rations ran dry pretty quickly into the hike. I got thirsty, and my then boyfriend said we should find a creek. “Anything that’s moving is safe to drink,” he said.
He was very wrong. Long story short, I spent that night in a hospital because I’d contracted giardia. Once I’d been fortified by several hours connected to an IV drip, the ER doctor gently laughed at me and encouraged me never to drink stream water, moving or not, ever again.
I decided that meant “do not ever hike again,” and so I spent the intervening years silently judging all of my very, very Pacific Northwesterner friends for willingly submitting to what seemed to be a form of self-punishment.
Last spring, I met someone who was an avid hiker, and he suggested we go hiking. Wanting to impress him and also acutely aware of how stupid it sounded to never do something again because of one bad experience, I agreed to go.
We chose Rattlesnake Ledge and were rewarded with a beautiful, clear, and warm-ish Seattle summer day.
There were points during our ascent where I was sure I was going to pass out and then roll down the side of the mountain and die and times when I stared jealously after infants being carried to the top in Baby Bjorns, but I was also buoyed by my fellow amateur hikers who sat next to me on tree stumps and rocky outcropping, red-faced, gulping for air, and grimly focused on getting to the top of Rattlesnake Ledge.
And if I’m being totally honest? It was absolutely worth it. There are few things in the past couple of years that I can point to with real satisfaction and say “I finished that.” My line of work means I’m frequently greeted with projects that might ship but are never really perfect or complete. But finishing that hike and being able to say that I’d actually accomplished something I never thought myself capable of? A real personal triumph. I won’t ever be an avid hiker, and I don’t know when I’ll do it again, but I truly enjoyed myself.
True to my ultra clumsy ways, I faceplanted (twice) on the way down, but even the scrapes and bruises didn’t take away how proud I was of finishing the climb.