The Trip That Changed Me

Do you have one trip that changed you? Maybe even changed your entire life? Mine was a trip to the Hoh Rain Forest, in the Olympic National Park, in the Fall of 1998.

While I had hiked in college, and even backpacked a few times, I had not experienced the wilderness, the loneliness, nor the call that says you need to keep going. And let us be blunt…I was a bit uneducated about my own state. I didn’t even know we had temperate rain forests (hangs head in shame). I lived in my bubble, in those pre-internet days. One night my Mom was watching the local nightly show and it featured a bit on The Hoh Rain Forest. That sits outside this town no one knew about…called Forks, Wa. (10 or so years later an author would decide it sounded great for her glittery vampires to live in…..and ruined it). My Mom begged me to drive her out there, to see it. I wasn’t thrilled, but I did.

And of all of us, I’d say I was the only one who came back changed. I’d never seen a forest like that. Nor how lonely it was. The very, very long drive in off the highway (which was already in the middle of nowhere). The Elk wandering. So much green.

When we got there, we took the upper loop. Ford was just a year old then, I had picked up an old Gerry backpack for $1 at the thrift store. That pack hurt so bad.

Coming back with my two younger boys was an incredible feeling. So many years had passed. Ford was nearly grown by the time I returned to that front country trail.

The tree however had waited for us.

Do you see the face?

We walked the nature trails, and I came to a junction.

It was for the Hoh River Trail. The trail went up a few stairs, and then wound off into the forest. I had this insane desire to just step up and see. Where did it go? What was Glacier Meadows?

I came home changed. I wanted to be a hiker. I knew that. I wanted to come back, and see what was out there. And I did. It took me a few years to get the confidence to hike in the wilds with just my oldest son. Then I went further. And slowly I became that person I had hoped to be. In many ways I didn’t even notice when it happened.

I hiked it with Ford when he was older. It was a very long drive, so I had to find time to go out there.

He was 6 then, the same age now as my middle son Walker. That feeling when we had our backpacks on, and I stepped up onto the stairs. It felt so amazing. We walked the Hoh Valley together, and for me, I just enjoyed that feeling. I had come home to a promise. It may have taken 5 years, but I did it.

In the end I have never been to Glacier Meadows. We were too early in the season that trip. Yet, it was an amazing trip. Not long after it, I would become obsessed with the Pacific Crest Trail and the trails around Mount Rainier, and the years would slip by so quickly. But that one road trip, it changed my life. Without it, I don’t know which direction my life would have gone. But I don’t think I’d be the same person.

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