It was nearly 6 AMand the sun was starting to rise. My knees were jammed beneath the steering wheel, with an e-brake digging into my right butt cheek. I had contemplated moving many times, but was too lazy to make the effort. Kate was sleeping shotgun, restlessly and without much comfort. We’d done this at the beginning of our road trip, and here we were again: Parked on a side street in a little town called Port Townsend, literally a port town at the end of our trip. It seemed fitting to end our adventure this way.
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I unzipped the bottom of my sleeping bag and forced my feet out so I could reach the gas and brake pedal with ease. I quietly turned on the ignition, and drove to the end of the town. One lonely dock stretched into the water, with dimly lit light posts dotting the boardwalk leading up to it. I parked the car as close as I could to the water’s edge, and watched as the fireball of sun turned the sky bright pink and orange, while tiny sail boats drifted off in the distance. Kate woke up, slowly, and peered out of the window. It was chilly and she wiped the condensation clear. I saw her smiling peacefully. We had a gentle melodic song playing in the background to ease us into the waking hours, and everything felt perfect.
“Our trip suddenly had a huge element of mystery to it that allowed us to play it all by ear.”
Kate and I go way back.The two of us met in 2012 at a campsite — we’d been exchanging conversation for months prior, and eventually made the leap to meet in real life. We hit it off immediately. The whole night was spent watching flames turn to coals and eventually smoke, as we talked about anything and everything from high school boyfriends to career aspirations. At one point, we dropped a glove in the fire which eventually started melting, but we didn’t notice because we were so consumed in deep and meaningful conversation — this is how you know you’ve found a lifelong friend. It was time for another trip together; we made it a priority and decided to meet in Washington.
Due to recent and severe forest fires, much of what we had originally planned to do and see had been closed for the season. Rainier and the the Cascades were totally socked in, smoke filling the valley and spreading for miles around neighboring areas and into other Western states. Kate and I both fare well traveling on a whim and the entire trip — vaguely planned — suddenly had a huge element of mystery to it that allowed us to play it all by ear: no bookings, no reservations, no permits, no idea what to eat or wear. We woke each morning and made our decisions as they came.
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After a quick run to the Seattle REI for last minute supplies, we made our way to the coastline. Beyond stoked to be on the road together again, Kate DJ’d from shotgun while I drove us through the windy, vibrant and lush forest roads of Washington. As we approached the coast, our drive became increasingly whimsical and green. Thoughts like “Fern Gully” and “Magical” were spoken as frequently as “I’m hungry” and “Let’s eat,” which, if you know me at all, is basically my life mantra. Kate, being the level-headed planner she is, pulled out a map and made destination goals for each night of the trip. We had just about a week to crush as much Washington territory as we possibly could, and our motivation to do it all was high.
Second Beach was our first destination and golden hour was just setting in as we arrived. Our hike in was 100-percent mind blowing, with golden rays striking through the trees, bouncing off the moss in beams that teleported us to what felt like a faraway land. Tucked just outside of La Push and Forks, Washington (made famous by the Twilight novels), we knew we were starting the week off right.
With our tent pitched, we sat on the beach talking story and watching the sun dip below the horizon behind the mysterious rock formations that make this location so special. We stayed up late into the night shooting sky photos and walking on the beach scaring ourselves in the pitch blackness.
The next day, we found the road to our final destination was closed due to a mudslide, which had made the road impassible the night before. We got back in our car and took a detour that wrapped around an entirely different mountain, taking us alongside a beautiful, pristine lake. It was quaint and sparkling in the distance, so on a whim we banked a hard right turn and drove into the park area. This was the spot. We got prime real estate right on the water’s edge and woke up to yet another perfect view of glistening water to set our souls at peace.
“Camping is who we are. We don’t mind waking up with messy hair and dirt beneath our fingernails.”
Camping is our jam. It’s who we are. We don’t mind waking up with messy hair and dirt beneath our fingernails. Sleeping in a tent under the stars is second nature, and we’ve mastered the art of cooking in the woods. We like to keep it simple. Kate read books aloud to me each night, and we both fell asleep to the sound of trees blowing in the wind and the rustling of nylon sleeping bags — just the way we like it.
By the end of our trip, we hadn’t showered in several days and were both feeling the grime on our skin and tiredness in our bones settling in. A nice, long soak in a natural hot spring, tucked in the forest, sounded like just the kind of thing we needed. The hike in to Olympic Hot Springs was mellow, just shy of three miles, and we talked the whole way about funny dating stories and what it would be like to be 16 again (thank goodness we’re not, though!). Autumn colors were beginning to peak with glimpses of orange and red popping up along the trail. Washington is beautiful, and we ended our trip by soaking in its beauty both figuratively and literally.
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We were both quiet as we drove closer and closer to the airport. After spending a week in the woods, the return to civilization is always hard and the pull to stay wild forever continues. Alas, we must go on with our lives in all its balanced goodness. From forested trails to cold airport terminals, our flight home wasn’t so bad sitting next to each other and reflecting on the adventure we’d shared. Kate and I feel blessed to call each other lifelong friends; she’s in my corner, and I’m in hers and it’ll be that way forever.