I got really, truly, bitten by the backpacking bug in March of 2015 when my boyfriend Graham and I took our first backpacking trip together to the Mount Jefferson Wilderness. It didn't take long for me to remember just how much I love being outdoors for an extended period. There's something very grounding about waking up to the forest, spending all day walking in the forest, and going to sleep to the forest. I felt exceptionally free and completely at peace while walking through the forests of pine and fir, with Mount Jefferson watching over us.
So, naturally I wanted to spend every weekend outdoors after that.
Predictably, yet unfortunately, life doesn't always allow that. I was working at a cupcake bakery at the time - and it turns out that people need their cupcakes on the weekend. Luckily I was able to score Memorial Day weekend off and after lots of planning and research, Graham and I headed up to Washington's Indian Heaven Wilderness Area for a three day backpacking adventure.
You're probably thinking right now - "Memorial Day? That's in late May! What a great time to go backpacking! It'll be sunny and beautiful!" If you are thinking something along those lines (like I was last year), let me remind you that we're talking about the Pacific Northwest here. The lovely, gloomy, rainy, foggy, soggy, Pacific Northwest. And, for those of you who have never lived out here, let me assure you that the stereotype exists for a reason. We absolutely get our fair share of sunny days, but spring and fall happen to be unnaturally wet and gloomy. This late weekend in May was no different.
The Indian Heaven Wilderness area is only about an hour and a half drive from downtown Portland, just over the border in Washington. The wilderness area sits on a plateau at about 4,500 ft. and has tons of lakes and marshy areas. During my research for our trip I was entranced by pictures of lakes full of honeycomb shaped ice floes and beautiful meadows stretching between the lakes and trees. It looked like Indian Heaven was one of those rare places where you could get a million dollar view without enduring a killer climb - AKA, the perfect place to ease ourselves back into backpacking season.
The backpacking was indeed fairly easy, with little elevation gain or loss to deal with. However, that was just about the only thing that went as expected. I don't think we saw more than 50 ft. ahead of us for the entire three days that we there. I was a bit disappointed with the weather at first, especially since the beginning of the hike is a bit more exposed and windy. Within the first few hours I had questioned turning back and postponing more than a few times (don't judge - I was a newbie at that point still!). It can be hard to lose motivation when you're colder than expected, soggier than expected, and the scenery is less beautiful than expected.
Thank goodness we stuck it out.
We broke through the tree cover and out into calm, quiet misty meadows not a moment too soon. It was so beautiful and peaceful I almost felt like I had to whisper while we slogged our way through. Adding to the experience was the fact that we only saw four or five other groups of people during our entire weekend - it was practically empty.