Jaye’s Anatomy: Backpacker

If you’ve followed this blog in its short existence (not that I expect you to), you’ve read that I’m from Washington, and the things that top my list of what I miss most about the Evergreen State are the mountains, hiking and backpacking opportunities that we don’t get in Florida or anywhere in the South.

I can’t remember when I fell in love with hiking and backpacking.  I’ve always loved nature and the outdoors, so when I started leading a more active and fit lifestyle, hiking naturally became a favorite activity, and from that came the love for backpacking.  What I love about hiking compared to organized activities is that anyone who wants to can hike, no experience needed, all you have to do is take the first step.  Hiking has given me a deeper appreciation for the simpler things in life that we take for granted: clean air, our environment, nature, being disconnected and unplugged from electronics.

For this episode of Jaye’s Anatomy, I’m sharing how I discovered my inner outdoorsman, how we started backpacking, as well as my favorite hikes and backpacking trips.

If I had to credit the one hike that really piqued my interest and led me to pursue hiking as a hobby, it would have to be Hawaii’s Koko Head.  Truth be told, it’s not much of a hike but a strenuous workout, with a gorgeous view at the end.  It’s not even a mile long (0.7 mile) or 1,048 steps, but it rises 1200 feet in elevation, making for a super steep vertical climb.  The reward is a beautiful, breathtaking view of Hanauma Bay!  Here are a few pics of our hike up Koko Head in 2012.

IMG_2207
1,048 steps rising 1200 feet in elevation in less than 1 mile.

IMG_2208 IMG_2224

IMG_2228

Koko Head led my husband and I to pursue hiking in Washington.  The first of these were day hikes in our area, one memorable one was Oyster Dome, a very popular hike in Bellingham, WA.  Oyster Dome is a nice 6.5 mile out and back trail with switchbacks and a 1,900 feet ascent that leads to the Bat Caves and gorgeous views of the San Juan Islands.  This is the first hike that really took us high above the treeline and gave us a real sense of the phrase “The world is your oyster!”  This hike is kid and dog friendly too 🙂  Check out these views from the top:

IMAG0180IMAG0178

After Oyster Dome, we started to take on more challenging hikes in our area, more mileage and higher elevation, here are a couple favorites:

Mount Constitution, highest point in the San Juan Islands, WA.

Dean, almost to the top of Mount Pilchuck.

IMAG2555
Mount Pilchuck

Miles of hiking later, Jeremy wanted to do an overnight backpacking trip.  Initially, the thought of being isolated in the woods, far from our vehicle, exposed to the elements and wild animals with just the gear on our backs scared me, what if we freeze to death? or encounter bears?  I agreed to go camping instead, but what does my husband do to warm me up to the idea of backpacking?  He tells me to research the best backpacking gear so we can go shopping!  How can I resist shopping? Many trips to REI and Cabela’s, and hundreds of dollars later, we were fully equipped.  We had everything we needed, all that was left was to pick a place!  For our first backpacking adventure, Jeremy didn’t pick one for lightweights.

Marmot Pass in the Olympic National Forest was 12 miles round trip with 3,000 feet elevation gain for some of the most majestic views in the Pacific Northwest.

IMG_3332 IMG_3299 IMG_3335  IMG_3321

More trips followed after this, and there will be many more to come.  Here are a few pictures of our most recent backpacking adventure on the Appalachian Trail in Georgia:

   IMAG3772

We meet some interesting people on the trail!  On our last trip, we met a family from Germany,  a guy who has thru-hiked the Appalachian Trail, Pacific Crest Trail and will soon hike the Continental Divide Trail, that’s nearly 8,000 miles!!  He even has a trail name!  “Smokes” and his sweet friend Carolina, were fellow veterans who love backpacking as much as we do, Carolina’s Instagram page features some really impressive destinations (that have me drooling)!

So many hikes, so little time!  We can’t wait until we get back out West where hikes are closer and more plentiful.  I’d really love to hike Mt. Rainier, Machu Picchu and anything in Utah someday!  Are you a hiker or backpacker?  What are some of your favorite destinations?  What’s on your bucket list?

Top Ten Tuesday: What I Miss about Washington

We’ve lived in Florida about 6 months now.  While we like it here in the Pensacola area, we miss Washington!  There’s no place like home.  Today, I’m posting my first “Top 10 Tuesday” which I’ll do every first Tuesday of the month.  As an Ode to Washington, I’m posting the Top 10 things I miss most!

10.  The Mountains – Oh how we miss the mountains!  The Cascades.  The Olympics. The breathtaking, magnificent views are unparalleled, you have to remember to pick up your jaw when you see these sights in person, and each time you see them it’s like seeing them for the first time.  The mountains surrounded us, almost serving as our daily reminder to come outside, explore something new, take in God’s beauty.  I don’t just miss the beauty of the mountains but the feeling of being with nature: bliss, calmness, peace.

Cascade Mountains.  I had to steal an image from the web because I don’t own a fancy camera, but even the best camera ever couldn’t do these views justice.

The Olympics.  I mean…even if you don’t hike or backpack, you can appreciate the beauty they possess.

9.  Coffee – You haven’t seen a caffeine addiction like that of a Washingtonian’s.  In the small town of Oak Harbor where we lived, there were 4 coffee houses and about 6 coffee stands, this is all within a 5-mile radius.  There’s literally a coffee stand on every corner, and that’s just in my small town.  If any of my Washington friends want to send me some coffee, here are my faves:

Image result for whidbey coffee 

8.  Sweater Weather – You can wear a sweater 365 days a year in Washington, even in the middle of summer you may feel a cool breeze, especially if you live by the water.  Sweater weather is my favorite weather!  Layers, scarves, boots, I’m all about it!

7.  Misty Rain – Since we’re on the topic of weather, I even miss the misty kind of rain we got in Washington.  I love the rain, there’s just something about its cleansing and soothing effect that makes me feel relaxed and comfortable. When people here ask if we left Washington because of the rain, I have to laugh because Florida probably gets more rainfall (in inches)  than Washington.  In the Pacific Northwest, we got a misty drizzle, drip type of rain, yes it would fall all day, but I could still do stuff: run errands, run or hike, because as they say “If you wait for perfect weather to do something, you won’t do anything!”  I never had to use an umbrella in Washington, now I have an umbrella in my car because down here, we get what Forrest Gump calls “big ol’ fat rain!”  Case in point:

IMAG3632Rain in Florida.

IMG_88498830144868Rain in Washington.

6.  Outdoor Activities – Backpacking, Camping, Hiking.  There’s so much to do in Washington, and this is where my husband and I truly discovered our inner “outdoorsmen.”  Washington’s Hiking trails are some of the best in the country, I could probably search everywhere and not find trails that compare to the ones in Snoqualmie or Olympic National Park.  I miss them so much!

IMG_3855IMG_3644

IMG_3005IMG_3689

L-R: Mt. Pilchuck, Goat Lake, Fort Casey, Big Four Ice Caves.

5.  Washington Craft Beers – I don’t drink so this actually for my husband.  There’s over 200 craft breweries in Washington, a haven for a beer enthusiast.

30 Things No One Tells You About Leaving Washington

4.  The Greenery – They don’t call it the Evergreen State for nothing.  See #1 and #5, you get the picture(s)!  Okay, here’s one more…

IMG_3631

3.  Nature – Clean air, bald eagles soaring overhead while I’m on a run, deer crossing the street in my old neighborhood.  Washington isn’t just a state with wondrous natural beauty, but it’s a state where people have a reverence for nature and preserving the planet.  Recycling bins everywhere, bans on plastic bags, I’m down!

2.  Pet Friendliness – Sadly, pets aren’t welcome everywhere like they are in Washington.  We used to take Junior everywhere we went: public parks, the beach, dog parks, hiking trails, camping.  Now we have to make sure he’s even welcome 😦

IMG_3048IMG_3751IMG_12461794529_10152168150590280_2134314143_n

1.  Deception Pass Bridge – Every time we drove off the island, my husband and I would joke about how people come from everywhere to see the bridge, take selfies and pictures.  There are people on this bridge every. single. day!  Rain or shine, it’s really quite an attraction.  Every time we come back from a trip, or from living somewhere else, when we get to the bridge, we immediately announce… “we’re home!”  There’s just something about this bridge that is familiar, and it always feels like it’s welcoming us home 🙂