The Best of 2016: Our Outdoor Adventures

If you are alive and awake and have experienced pretty much anything that happens on the internet you may have noticed that the majority of the internet feels like 2016 was not a great year. In the short sighted nature of the internet many people are even deeming it the worst year ever . While I’m pretty positive that if you look back through history you’ll see plenty of seriously rough years, there are definitely a couple of events in 2016 that made me nauseous. However, as an individual this year had some redeeming qualities. So without further ado I present the now annual blog post: The Best of 2016! (I’ll be using the same categories as I did in last year’s The Best of 2015)

Our favorite climb:

Unlike 2015 we didn’t get to spend nearly as much time climbing in 2016 (something that is hopefully going to pendulum back the other direction in 2017). However, there are still a couple of mountains to choose from. While Mt Whitney was an awesome summit (highest peak in the lower 48) it lacked the classic elements of a big mountain. No snow or step kicking or ice axes or any of that fun stuff. So I am going to have to go with Mount St. Helens, which we climbed with my mom, her friend Teresa and Teresa’s partner Mark. For starters we learned some amazing Mt. St. Helens trivia on the way down, which you can read more about in the original blog post I wrote: My New Favorite Mountain, Part One. The climb itself was a blast. Teresa and Mark knew a secret route up a gully that no one ever climbs so we had the mountain all to ourselves. We did it as an overnight, which was eventful and provided my mom with her first ever snow camping experience. Summit day was stunning and safe. We reached the top with relative ease and had an exhilarating glissade back to the bottom. All in all it was a climb just the way I like ’em: a long slog with beautiful views, great weather, and summit success. To see more pictures check out My New Favorite Mountain, Part Two.

 Our Favorite Camping Spot:

Ah, another hard one considering we basically camped for four months straight. However, despite many amazing campsites one stands out pretty clearly in my mind. In fact we basically cut our hiking day in half so that we could stay there, forcing ourselves to hike thirty miles the next day. But when you find a flawless camp spot in Goat Rocks Wilderness with unbeatable views of Mount Adams you say screw it to the next ten miles. And you take a ton of pictures.

Our Favorite Backpacking Trip:

We really only went on one backpacking trip this year… The entire Pacific Crest Trail. So that one is obviously going to take the cake. To keep things interesting though (and to challenge myself) I will attempt to choose our favorite little section of the PCT (basically one stint out between towns). Not an easy task, mind you. Of course the Sierras were amazing, and I would say I especially enjoyed the first half from Kennedy Meadows to Independence via Kearsarge Pass. It was our first taste of granite snowy splendor and we had left the desert behind. Wild flowers were everywhere and water flowed abundantly. We were also starving and getting eaten alive by mosquitos. So amazing: yes. My favorite spot: no. Honestly for me, my favorite section of trail was the section between Stevens Pass and Stehekin. It is an extremely remote part of Washington and often the trail is rough and unmaintained, but the views were mind boggling, the lakes aquamarine, and Glacier Peak stands watch as you pass it to the west. It is a section of trail that I can’t stop thinking and smiling about.

 The Most Beautiful Backpacking Trip:

Errr, clearly 2015’s categories don’t fit 2016’s adventures. To satiate you I will now share beautiful pictures of the first half of the Sierras.

   Our Favorite Trail Run:

Kyle and I actually had a really lovely trail run at Eight Mile Lake outside of Leavenworth Washington this fall. It is a pretty well maintained trail but still has its fair share of roots and rocks, which I think are fun running obstacles. At the end you get to have a snack and a rest by a very pleasant lake and then zoom down the trail on the way back to the car. All in all it was just a stop on our way home but it ended up feeling like a wonderfully fun outing.

The Best Scramble:

Okay we didn’t reeeeeeally do any scrambling this season so I am going to fudge this one a little bit and say San Jacinto, which is an optional summit along the PCT. You do have to scramble up some rocks at the end to get to the summit so technically…

The Biggest Sufferfest:

No question about this one: 53 mile day in Northern California. Double marathon day. A day that will live in infamy.

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Our Favorite Post Adventure Meal:

This is another hard one because we had a lot of great in town meals while we were on the PCT but honestly, my expectations for how good town food was going to taste always resulted in disappointment when town food didn’t live up to my fantasies. I mean, it was good to eat a real meal, don’t get me wrong, but we always had to run errands and do chores and by the time we actually ate… There are two times that stand out though as exceptional. The first was in Independence, half way through the Sierras. There isn’t really a restaurant in town and we actually ended up eating dinner from the local taco truck, but right when we got in we were starving so we went to the co-op to get some snacks. We wandered around the store and for some reason what was really calling my name were the apricots. They were local and fresh and looked so good. I got a whole bag. And ate all of them. And bought more the next day. I still think about those apricots. The other time I felt truly happy and satisfied was when we went into South Lake Tahoe and before we could get to our hotel Grace dropped us off at the grocery store. We did some shopping and then decided to grab a deli sandwich so we wouldn’t have to do the rest of our chores acting like zombies. That deli sandwich was just about the best thing I have ever eaten. Seriously. I will wander the earth looking for its equal.

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Our Favorite New Piece of Gear:

Exped Double Hyperlite Snymat. Laymen’s terms: Our double sleeping pad. That thing was amazing. I mean it is a complete game changer for couples. Also, when we did pop a baffle Exped overnighted us a new one so it would get to our next resupply stop in time. That is some serious customer service.

Favorite New Piece of Clothing:

Another obvious answer: Patagonia’s Sunshade Hoody. I wore mine until it was SO dirty I looked like someone had covered me in glue and rolled me around in the dirt. Kyle wore his even after we had cut the sleeves off to make it a tank top, and still wore it when we had to cut the bottom off because it had grown longer and longer until it was basically a dress. We have already purchased new ones. So what are these shirts good for? Anything involving sun, but awesome for desert hiking and mountaineering. The fabric is comfortable, the fit is great, they have thumb holes, and come in great colors. I have a couple problems with the women’s version: why does the hood have to be so fugly? But other then that we were very happy sun shirt owners.

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The Best Money Spent:

It is tempting to say our Zpacks Duplex Tent but when I zoom back from our gear I know that the best money spent was buying train tickets home so that we could flip to Snoqualmie pass and start hiking south. Looking back I am quite certain that decision saved our hike. Buying those tickets changed everything, but they also made everything possible, and for that I owe them a big thanks.

Best Picture Taken:

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Obviously this picture isn’t from the PCT. But damn Mount Hood looks good.

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As Edward Abbey said, "An indoor life is the next best thing to a premature burial."

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