One of the countless things I love about the PNW is that there are little known and rarely travelled treasures tucked away in one of the many mountainous folds of the Cascades or Olympics. There is always a new hike you’ve never heard of, an off-the-road lookout you’ve unknowingly driven past, or a serene lake with heart-bursting views that you never knew was there.
And what’s wonderful is that much of the time, I learn about these hidden gems through word of mouth. I love that about fellow hikers – we want to share our discoveries and any locations we found captivating, inspiring, and beautiful.
The next best thing after learning of these places is to actually witness them first hand. To not only say “Wow, I want to see that!”, but “I’m going to!” and “Here I am!” It’s thrilling, fulfilling, and often times physically challenging, but absolutely worth it in the end.
A few weekends ago I was invited to go on a hike with two friends. They are both active and outdoorsy, and two people I’d like to emulate when it comes to outdoor recreation. They know about the latest gear and have opinions on many of the best brands. Needless to say, at times I feel a bit out of my league.
We were headed to Red Mountain, located about 90 minutes outside of Seattle on Snoqualmie Pass which is part of the Cascade Mountains. While there are many hikes in this area (several of which we have done), none of us had heard of Red Mountain and we were excited to try some place that was possibly less traveled and less known.
At 8am, we arrived at the trailhead. The first part of our trip would be spent walking along the Pacific Crest Trail. This excited me because I’m currently reading the book Wild by Sheryl Strayed; it’s her personal account of hiking the PCT alone and with almost no training. I couldn’t help but think of her and imagine myself in her shoes as we started our climb.
The trail still had snow, which we had not expected, especially at the start of the hike and at the lowest elevation. But we continued on.
As we slowly climbed up and through the Evergreen covered mountains, the sound of the freeway gradually dissipated into the chirping of birds. Through most of this section, there was no snow – this allowed us to move quicker, but as we reached the higher levels, we were eventually reunited. Faced with snow once again (and this time there was much more of it and across greater distances), we began carefully stepping into already existing footprints laid from previous hikers that we knew could hold our weight.
The portion of the PCT that we travelled wound itself closely alongside a rock face. However after about an hour and a half, the trees which had been our shelter opened up into the Commonwealth Basin and we saw it: Red Mountain.
With slightly red-tinted rock covered with spikes of trees, Red Mountain stood out from the other peeks that surrounded us. It was strange to see such a uniquely-hued mountain that was different from all the others, but it made this particular one appear special and even more beautiful.
We decided to take photos and have our snack on top of a large boulder with views of the red rock and its companions. It was quiet, surprisingly warm, and peaceful.
Little excursions like these, especially with great people, are reminders of how incredible the Northwest is.
In less than two hours from Seattle, you could be in snowy mountains, the desert, the rainforest, or the ocean.
Washington is the freaking best.