STAMPEDE PASS

 

Another Friday night scramble out of the big city - a race to make it to the mystery GPS location given in the group text. We spend our time in the truck split between fighting rush hour traffic exiting the labyrinth of the metropolis, ripping up the freeway, and in to the inviting maze of trails within the Mt. Baker - Snoqualmie National Forest. The area is familiar, but the ridge is new. The goal is to make it to camp before sunset, the occasion is a celebration of both a 30th Birthday and first Father's Day. No where would be more fitting than the middle of the woods.

 
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THE EVENING

Just past Keechelus Lake and with a couple hours left until sunset, we exit off I-90 and head in to the National Forest. The first dirt roads area headed over Stampede Pass, and the spider web of the trail system begins. Halfway through, we shoot off on to a less traveled road and spend the next half hour dodging potholes and rapidly slowing for the hairpin turns. With one turn left, I spot the others in the distance, smell the campfire, and hear the tunes of a random, eclectic mix that everyone seemingly has their own version of. The froth begins as I exit the truck to let the dogs reunite like they've been distanced for years, exchange high fives, and lose my words when the view is realized. 

 
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While the crew always fluctuates, this particular evening we ended up with seven adults, seven dogs, and one Westin - the 3 month old baby human that has found his way in to all of our hearts. As the sun set, the clouds began to pop above the mountains, and the colors started to stream out of the sky. While it was a warm day, the temperature dropped quickly along with the steady flow of lower altitude clouds blowing through our camp and providing a frosty chill. As the night went on, the fire roared - fueled by the gathered wood we found from fallen trees. The whiskey flowed, the stars showed their faces through the fog, and the evening carries late in to the night.

 
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THE MORNING

With the wind blowing all night and a chill lurking inside the tent, I didn't know what the view would be like from my strategically placed window. After a small peak in to the valley below I was greeted by a windless, clear morning that made me unzip the whole window. Being the intuitive dog he is, Theo decided to lay by the window, propping his head on the opening, and soaking in the view right along with myself. It was a slow start for us all, but the combination of the view, warm sun, and coffee entering our bodies put us in the mindset we always dream of waking up to.

After breakfast was consumed, dogs fed, and morning shenanigans were over, we made a collective decision to scramble up the hill behind camp and follow some animal trails to the top. At the top of this hill is a past location of a fire lookout tower. Due to it being decommissioned, all that was left at the top were nails and metal scrap that weren't turned to ash when the tower was burned and disposed of. The ridge just above 5100 feet, the dogs had found a large patch of snow to run, roll, and dig in to cool down and keep occupied. After discussing and identifying the distant peaks and valleys, we headed back down to camp where we packed up and made a game plan for how to finish the rest of the day.

 
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We found ourselves in moments of silence as we each caught our breath and appreciated the view that we had. I took the opportunity to soak in the radness of the little family I travel with on these trips, as well as the actual family of five I get the honor of calling friends. Westin, at this moment, is three months old. Being with them as they bring him along camping and adventuring is one of the most inspiring things in my life right now. It brings me a sort of 'precious' stoke to see them already passing down their love for the outdoors, yet taking the most ultimate care of this little human.

 
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MEADOW MOUNTAIN

From the ridge that we were camped on, we looked across the valley with our binoculars, and decided to give one of the far roads a shot. Using a mixture of maps, we backtracked out of camp, and found ourselves at an intersection outside of Lester. Taking new route, we found ourselves nearing the summit of Meadow Mountain. With one switchback remaining and approaching an elevation of 5400', we hit a deep patch of snow and have to settle with our progress.

A storm rolls through and within ten minutes of each other, we sit in our trucks during a downpour to find ourselves out walking around in full sunlight. Everyone stretches their legs and we let the dogs reunite from the three separate vehicles, and they make fun out of the snow we've found. Finishing off the rest of our trail beers and content with our progress, we turn down the mountain and thank our low gears for their help. Ripping back up a smoother, more main section of service roads, the two Tacoma's find themselves in the back of the convoy - giving them the opportunity to give the switchbacks some more gas and break the back tires loose on the dirt. 

Stomach's growling and real life to attend to, we beeline the maze of roads back to I-90. From here we split off and head back to reality - each tending to our actual families for the Holiday weekend. Another successful trip in the woods.

 
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