The Hikes I Miss Right Now

It’s been 51 days since Washington’s stay-at-home order was issued. Twenty days before that, I registered Nebula Creative Services as an official business. There’s probably never an ideal time to dive into freelancing, but during a pandemic probably wouldn’t have been my first choice. At least I have a little more time to learn how to do my taxes, though even in quarantine there are things I would rather be doing.

I’ve been spending my time on old hobbies (baking, cooking, video games, reading) and new skills (gardening, sewing). I have my husband and our pets to keep me company. Our incomes are stable. Overall, we are doing pretty well. That isn’t to say we don’t miss things, like having game nights in person instead of over Discord, or being able to visit family for holidays and milestones, or even going to the grocery store without high levels of anxiety.

One of the things I miss the most, though, is hiking. Around here, as soon as the rain lets up in the spring, I’m ready to check out the nearest trail. My social media memories from the past few weeks showcase sunny excursions to some of the many trails in the Columbia Gorge and Southwest Washington. These three are the ones I’m missing the most this month.

Lava Canyon: This is a beautiful hike with tons of variety. It has a massive wobbly suspension bridge (optional, also currently closed for repairs), stunning views of St. Helens, rocky cliffs, and roaring waterfalls. There’s even a part where you have to climb a 30-foot ladder! If you embark from the Lower Smith Creek Trailhead, you can look forward to a 6.5-mile out-and-back adventure. Shorter options depart from the Lava Canyon Trailhead.

Eagle Creek: At least an opening date is in sight for many of my favorite hikes; not so for Eagle Creek. Maybe that’s why I’m missing it more acutely this season. When we hiked it in July 2016, it set the record for longest day hike I’ve ever done. Then, the year after I went, somebody setting off fireworks started the Eagle Creek Fire, causing weeks of air pollution and destroying many beloved hiking spots in the Columbia Gorge. Some of the damaged trails, like Angel’s Rest, have reopened, but Eagle Creek is among the trails the remains closed until the area can recover.

Mt. Saint Helens: I’m not sure it’s accurate to call this a hike, or to say that I look forward to doing it again, but after an exhausting seven-hour challenge last year on May 8, I felt pretty dang proud of myself, and I would like to feel that sense of accomplishment again. I also want to see that view again. It’s surreal to think that around this time last year, I was hiking and walking as much as I could to prepare for that climb, and this year the closest I can get is climbing the hill in my neighborhood.

The summit of the crater, May 8, 2019

I miss these hikes – the views, the friends hiking with me, the feeling of discovery, the sense of accomplishment – but I’m more than willing to wait to experience them again. Right now, protecting global health matters far more than my feeling restless. Washington trails are going to begin opening on a case-by-case basis over the next few weeks, but honestly, I’m not in a rush to get back to them. For one thing, I’m certain they’ll be slammed with visitors as they were in the early days of quarantine before counties had to close their trails. For another, I’m still afraid of the shifting health landscape. I’ll be trying to make wise decisions when I go out on the trails again. Until then, I have my memories – and this inspiring three-minute compilation of the Pacific Crest Trail experience.

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