Back in May of 2007, I had been living in the Seattle area and would frequently go on exploration hikes. I would get in the Jeep and drive to some general idea of a location. This was usually as defined as, I'm going west today and see what I find. I was always looking for someplace pretty to explore. It was a time before I considered myself a photographer or had even really thought about what that meant. I was on the look out for an afternoon get-a-way. I had a camera and a tripod although I really didn't know how to use either very well. On these explorations, I would drive until I found something that looked interesting, stop and check it out. On this day in May, it was a beautiful spring day. I had stopped earlier at Lake Cushman. After spending maybe an hour here, I decided to move on. Hopped in the Jeep and headed into the Olympic National Forest. This is a lovely drive. Everything was green and lush. Eventually I ended up at a sign for Mount Ellinor. The peak is only 5944' I thought. It's a beautiful day and early enough let's do this. If it gets hairy or looks like I am going to get lost, I can always turn around and walk back down this trail. Easy day hike!
I jumped out of the Jeep, grabbed my light corduroy jacket, backpack with camera gear and strapped on my tripod with a bungee cord and headed up the path. This is nice I thought. There is no one out here. I can hear wild birds chatting with each other. As expected, there was a slight uphill climb on this trail. About 15 minutes into my relaxing hike, I saw a small patch of snow in the shade of a fallen log. Cool, snow! As I continued along, more snow. And more snow. And more snow. It was getting thick but I was on a well defined path. There was no fear of getting lost. I could certainly turn around at any time and be back at the Jeep in about 20 minutes. So I kept going up and so did the snow levels. I actually came to a sign that pointed to the summer trail. At this point, I figured the snow was several feet deep because it came up to the bottom of the sign. The summer trail was nowhere to be found. I kept along the path in the snow. There was now a heavy fog. All you could see was white and the faded evergreens. The path was getting deeper and deeper. It was up to my ankles on the sides of the path. I could see tree tops sticking up out of the snow only a few inches.
"Gloves would have been good"
"Ice axe and heavy boots are required"
That left me and the two "voices" guys on top of this mountain in the middle of the wilderness of Olympic National Forest. They were very nice and generous too. They noticed that I didn't have a snack and shared their feast of fruit and nuts with me. This got the attention of a chipmonk. He had to come check us out. As we ate and chatted, one of the guys decided it was time to ask. "What are you doing up here?" This came out most likely in reference to my very obviously unprepared state. I think even the chipmonk was wondering what I was doing up there. I said I was out hiking and taking photos. What else would I be doing with this 25 pound pack with no food or water ( I had two bottles of water but had finished them by this point) and a tripod bungeed to it? I knew it had been a rhetorical question. I looked at all their trekking gear and was pretty proud that I had made it up without all that and had extra stuff. I had to ask though. "What are the ice axes for?" I was then told how you get down off this mountain.
1. Always read the sign
2. Always bring more food and water than you think you need
3. Have the proper gear
4. "What are you doing up here?" can refer to what we are trying to accomplish in life too. I was in up to my ears but swam with the sharks and still came out the other side. I have done what others thought couldn't or shouldn't be done. I overcame doubt with vision and self determination. I came out stronger and smarter.
Do you have a photo trek that you learned some important life lessons?