As I slowly drifted back into consciousness and became aware of my surroundings, I first noticed the now unfamiliar biting cold that reached deep into my bones. I opened my eyes and stared at the window above my head, taking in the pale gray light of the early morning. I could just barely make out the silhouettes of bare trees through the blinds, against a densely overcast sky. This was the start of my first day back home in the pacific northwest, and all I could do was lie there on our loaner air mattress and try to take it in.
It was Christmas Eve and I had just awoken in Washington for the first time in nine years, it was difficult to fully comprehend after dreaming of for so long. Once the cobwebs of sleep had been brushed away I began to feel the rising excitement. My family no longer lives in Washington and I haven’t spent a holiday with any of them in many years, so this was as close to going home of the holidays as I had experienced in some time. We were staying with very close friends, who opened their home to us during an already hectic time of year for which we are eternally grateful.
We stayed with them into the new year which gave us time to explore, so we tried to pack as much in as we could from revisiting old favorite restaurants to hiking trails we had never been to before. During this time we tried to balance our time between the city and nature, which both have such amazing things to offer. Though it has grown substantially over the years, Seattle still remains one of the most stunning cities. Whenever I would hear people talking about San Diego being the most beautiful city, which they did a lot, my first thought what always “So you’ve never seen Seattle?“
We had planned a wonderful holiday dinner together and since we had made it a day early we were able to begin the preparations with them. We packed into our friends’ car and began our errands around town, attempting to finalize all of our dinner plans for the next day. I felt like a child, leaning over the people on either side of me in the backseat to gaze out the fogged up windows. The lakes, the forests, the mountains off in the distance… I had almost forgotten how unbelievably breathtaking Washington is. Sights that I had grown up seeing frequently were all of the sudden awe inspiring, and I swear I had the goofiest grin on my face the entire day. We headed down to Fisherman’s Terminal for some fresh seafood, and I spent some time just admiring the stillness of the ocean. Staring at the water, feeling the cold wind stinging my face, eating some local salmon jerky… I was home.
Once we had obtained the remaining ingredients of our holiday feast, we settled in for the evening next to a warm fire. When the snow started falling from the sky I thought my heart was going to burst with joy! We all sat quietly at the window, watching and listening to the hush that had fallen along with the flakes. Jeremy and I were grateful that we had arrived a day early, as we would have likely hit some rough weather on our journey had we waited as originally planned. Neither of us had really seen snow in years and we were just so grateful to be where we were, at this moment in time. The snow kept falling overnight, and we were greeted the following morning to a white Christmas.
The day was spent bustling around the house, everyone participating in what almost appeared like a choreographed dance through the small kitchen space in an attempt to perfect their contribution for dinner. We ended up with a total of fifteen people, so you can imagine there was much to do. I haven’t spent a holiday with anyone other than Jeremy in quite some time, so it was exciting to be around close friends and meet new people. At one point it did end up being a bit much for me and with everything that had been going on, between our move, the long drive, and the loss of my grandmother just two week prior I found myself overwhelmed and feeling slightly down. I had to spend some time alone in our guest room, and I put on meditation music to drown out the cacophony down the hall and recenter myself. Though I felt guilty for my antisocial behavior during a holiday gathering, especially since I was meeting some of Jeremy’s lifelong friends for the first time, I also needed to do what was right for me at the moment. Eventually I reentered the gathering and helped with last minute preparations before we all settled down at the table for our meal.
Once the holiday was over we could breathe a bit better, there weren’t so many people around and we didn’t have any pressing errands or events to worry about. The winter weather around southern WA and Portland was still a bit active for our taste, so we decided to stay until the new year. We used this opportunity to soak in this gorgeous region, which we started with a trip out towards the mountains where there was still plenty of snow. Once again we packed into our friends’ car, and headed east as far as we could make it safely with no chains or 4WD. There were plenty of other people around, as this seemed to be near a popular trail head. We walked around for a while and just took some time to appreciate the amazing winter scenery.
We found a small trail that led down to the river so we climbed down and just sat for a moment, listening to the rushing water cutting through the otherwise heavy silence.
After some time in the snow we started to head back towards the house, but on the way we decided to make another stop. Snoqualmie Falls wasn’t too far out of the way and is easily accessible for a quick visit, plus neither Jeremy or I had ever been. We parked in the overflow lot across the street, and walked over to the viewing area.
The falls were surprisingly low, which I’ll take a wild guess to say is due to the hot summer and lower rain and snow fall this last year. This in no way diminished the beauty and I could have sat there for hours just watching the mist weave through the trees and listening to the falls crashing into the pool below.
The next few days were spent in the city, showing each other our old haunts and taking in all of the changes that had occurred since either of us had lived there. On New Years Eve, after a hearty breakfast at Linda’s Tavern, we searched for somewhere nearby with a good view of the city. The weather was mostly clear, giving us those crisp sunny winter days that I love so much. The normally breathtaking views of the mountains in the distance were obstructed by a skyline filled with cranes, due to the unfortunately rapid growth of the city. Having been gone for so long I certainly wasn’t expecting the exact same city that I frequented growing up, but this was an eye opening sight. I have always loved the balance of history and modern development that Seattle has kept over time, however it seems with the booming tech industry the scales have tipped towards the latter.
We opted for a quiet evening in, rather than heading out into the city for New Year’s. We chose instead to check out a local trail the next day, something small and fairly easy to stretch our legs and soak in some of the beautiful Washington scenery. Of course, neither of us had been out in a while and our bodies weren’t exactly in hiking form, especially after packing, moving heavy boxes, and days cramped in the car or sitting on a couch with little to no activity.
So we decided on Little Si Trail, the smaller partner trail to Mount Si in Snoqualmie. It has an elevation gain of around 1300 feet and at the end you’re rewarded with some gorgeous mountain views. I am not positive on the actual length of the trail, some day it is less than 4 miles will some put it just under 5.
It turns out that this trail is popular for New Year’s Day hikers, so we were among many who headed out on this bright sunny day. At the start of the trail you’re given a clear view of the surrounding mountains and the trees below, before it winds back into the forest.
The sun illuminated our path most of the afternoon, streaming through the trees and providing just enough warmth on this chilly winter day.
The old forest towered over us and created a vibrant green canopy high above our heads. The farther along the trail we went, the denser and more alive it became.
At this point I reached my limit though. Though we were potentially near the end, the burning in my legs and lungs caused concern that if I continued it would be too difficult for me to make it back to the bottom. We weren’t sure how far we had come, or how much farther we had to go to reach the end. The sun was setting and we would soon be losing light as it dropped below the surrounding mountains. Though we were prepared and this was a well marked trail we were still not too keen on the idea of making our way in the dark. The last bit of sunlight was peaking through the trees but would soon be gone, so we decided it was best to call it a day. This is actually the first time I started a hike and did not finish it, and I cannot pretend my descent was not clouded with shame. Old habits came rushing back as I walked in silence, mentally berating myself for being so weak. I had to stop to remind myself that it is okay to be disappointed, but to not let something like this set me back and keep me from trying again.
Once I got back to the same outcropping near the beginning of the trail I could see how dark it was becoming, and was actually glad that we didn’t keep going as part of our journey back would certainly have been in darkness.
I climbed back into the car with my cheeks and nose stinging from the chill in the air, and my muscles twitching from their sudden use. I felt refreshed and renewed, and though this hike did not have the outcome that I was hoping for it still left me excited for the next one.
This ended our week long adventure in Washington, as the next day we made our way south to begin our new life in Portland. I couldn’t have hoped for a better welcome back home to the northwest! We explored the city, forests, and mountains and was able to visit a gorgeous waterfall. I was given snow for the holiday, followed by bright and crisp sunny days. It was as though Washington was wrapping me in a welcoming embrace, knowing how much I missed it and telling me how it had missed me in return by gifting me with tidbits of everything it has to offer. Gone were any remaining doubts I had about this move, I now know for sure that I am exactly where I am supposed to be.