Growing up, I remember feeling so resentful of the fact that there were so many things I "couldn't do" because I was a girl. My mom and I had countless arguments about this. "If I were a boy I'd be able to do it!" I'd shout. And every single time, my mom's retort would be, "Yes, you're right. But unfortunately this is the world we live in." Back then, I didn't understand the dynamics of our society in the way I do now. All I knew was that it was unfair and I was angry about it.
I've always been a bit of a loner, but not always by choice. Having been an only child who grew up on a dirt road in the middle of the woods, I had to learn how to entertain myself at a rather young age. Soon enough, doing things on my own became second nature to me. As I've grown into adulthood, I've become the sort of person who is much more comfortable being alone. Here's the thing, though – our world doesn't really appreciate a woman who is at ease with being on her own. This is something I'm not sure I'll ever understand.
I took a solo road trip to Olympic National Park a few days ago, and for my final adventure, I decided to trek my way up Mount Storm King. Alone. This was one of the most difficult hikes I've ever done, and the farther I got up the trail, the more I questioned why the hell I was climbing this mountain in the first place. It was a short hike – about 3.8 miles round trip – but there was around 1200ft of elevation gain per mile, which made the ascent rather strenuous. But making it to the top was well worth all of the huffing and puffing I endured along the way.
The hike started at the Storm King Ranger Station and continued along the forest floor. There were a variety of short hikes I could have followed. I followed the Marymere Falls loop first, because I always love a good waterfall. The Storm King Trail broke off from the main trail, immediately ascending up the side of the mountain. The forest was incredibly lush — greener than anything I think I've ever seen. I find that I'm perpetually in awe of the forests in the Pacific Northwest because the foliage is so much different than in the Finger Lakes. Every time I find myself among the trees, I can't help but notice even the tiniest of details.
After the first mile, my legs began to grow tired, as I'd already hiked over four miles before even attempting this trail. The beauty of it all became less important and the only thing I could focus on was finishing the climb. The final ascent was tough and terrifying but after about an hour of climbing, I made it to the top of Mount Storm King. I found myself a place to rest on some rocks, and took it all in. The golden hour sun was bright and beautiful, reflecting off of Crescent Lake and painting my surroundings a rich yellow hue. And it was so quiet, I could hear little more than the rustling of leaves in the breeze.
Nothing compares to those few moments of reflection after completing a strenuous hike, especially when that hike forces you to face your fears. I am absolutely and unapologetically terrified of heights and with one or two missteps, I could have easily fallen off the side of the mountain. When that adrenaline kicks in, your mind has a way of shifting to survival mode and you become capable of accomplishing things seem otherwise impossible. These are the moments when you must be extremely mindful of every motion and every step. But somehow, despite your fears, you're able to overcome.
And I overcame. I spent my reflective moments perched a couple feet away from a 1,000 foot cliff, contemplating what I'd just accomplished. I was so proud. I'd just powered through one of the hardest hikes I've ever done, and I did it by myself. I never thought I'd be brave enough to do something like this on my own. But there I was, a young woman standing alone on top of the world. And let me tell you, the view was amazing.
Photo hobbyist and blogger based in Portland, OR.