I love adventuring with my little family – my husband and two boys. It’s become such an important part of our lives. Since day one we’ve been hiking and camping together, and I’ve cherished every one of those moments for the past four and a half years. And just as much as I value family time in the wild, I also make it a point to experience it with girlfriends. It’s my ultimate form of self care.
Most of the time, self care looks like a warm bath and a book at 10pm, but on this particular (early) morning, I’m heading to the mountains with a friend for a major dose of the breathtaking Pacific Northwest.
It’s still dark out as I tiptoe around my home gathering just about every article of warm clothing I own. The forecast is calling for single digits and it’s just dawning on me now, how cold that’s actually going to feel up in the mountains. I grab my snowshoes, boots, poles, and the most crucial item for this adventure…a thermos of hot cocoa. Priorities.
I’m out the door, leaving behind my husband and two boys, warm in their beds and sound asleep. Just the thought of it brings a smile to my face.
My girlfriend picks me up and we hit the road. She’s a mother of two boys as well, and just as excited for a girls’ adventure. After a few hours on the road we’re at Stevens Pass, and soon find ourselves at the trailhead stuffing toe warmers in our boots and strapping on our snowshoes.
We’re headed to Skyline Lake. We decide against going to the ridge due to the avalanche risk on this particular day. It’s forecasted as RED/High, so the lake is the safer destination. (Before kids, I probably wouldn’t have thought twice about the risk. Or, let’s be honest, I never would have checked the NWAC forecast in the first place. These days, I have little ones that need me to return home safely, so I’m a little smarter in my decision making. Just one of a million reasons how our children better our lives.)
The trail begins uphill and it doesn’t really let up. It’s a workout. A decent amount of elevation gain in just over a mile. I realize how out of shape I am compared to this past summer. Snowshoeing has a way of doing that to you. My calves are burning, I’m trying to catch my breath, but I’m also feeling incredibly alive and happy. I’m in awe of the pure beauty that surrounds me. I’m enjoying the company of one of my best friends, the jaw dropping views, and the fact that I’m getting in a workout; and it’s not in a stuffy gym. I’m also thrilled at the opportunity to snap just about any and every photo I want on this magical trail. I’m not feeling at all rushed to make it to our destination. My friend and I both cherish this about our hikes together. No husbands giving us the side eye for all the picture-taking, and no little ones telling us to hurry up. It’s either complete silence, or great conversation with a dear friend; both are much welcomed these days.
We continue upward. As sluggish as my legs are beginning to feel, I actually feel lighter. All of the stress and worries I can carry everyday as a mother, just lift away. This is my time. Me time. Self care wrapped in snow and utterly shining on this beautiful day! A sense of gratitude washes over me. Gratitude for this beautiful state that I get to call home, for my own health and ability to discover new places on my own two feet, for a husband who supports me in doing so, and for my happy and healthy boys waiting for me at home, eager to hear about my adventure.
We finally come upon the section of the trail where we head left to get to the lake. The clouds begin to part and reveal the bluest skies I’ve ever seen. The trees are covered in more snow than I could have ever dreamt would be possible. We are in Narnia. Actually, I don’t think any movie studio could create the winter wonderland we just stepped in. It’s unreal. We both turn towards the sun and let it warm our faces for a bit. A group of backpackers approach us and we learn that the lake is very close. Before we know it, it reveals itself, and it’s absolutely stunning.
Photo credit: Brandy Chitwood
As always with these adventures, I leave fulfilled and yearning for more. The following day I may be sore, but I’ll still be riding the “high” that being outdoors leaves me with. I’ve never regretted it. I’ve hobbled down my stairs for 2 days straight before, and have never regretted a hike. There is just something so special about getting out with my fellow nature loving girlfriends. To be able to climb a mountain, scramble boulders, or backpack to an alpine lake (without the need of our men)… feels incredibly empowering.
When I can come home to my boys, filled up to the brim with gratitude and adventure, and having connected with nature and even more with a friend, well, it was certainly a good day. A good day in the mountains. A good day for some self care.
Amber and her husband, Carl, live in Lake Stevens, Washington, with their two boys, ages 4 and 3. They love camping, hiking, and discovering new places together in the beautiful Pacific Northwest. Feel free to follow them on their adventures on Instagram.