Clarity in the Cascades

I woke up to the weather forecast of a warm, sunny Tuesday in the state of Washington. With excitement, I began to plan the day’s adventure to the Cascades.

I wanted to maximize my time actually spent on the trails, unlike my daytrip to British Columbia where I spent almost 7 hours driving. I chose to explore Wallace Falls State Park, which was only 45 minutes away.

The drive to the park was gorgeous, because I was driving straight toward the Cascades. At one point, I quickly pulled off the road to take a photo of the breathtaking mountain views. I ran over several potholes in the process, continuing my tendency to abuse rental cars.

I arrived at the nearly-empty parking lot and set out on my hike. It wasn’t long before I felt warm enough to take off my long-sleeve layer in favor of a racerback.

The short walk from the parking lot to the beginning of the trail already felt immensely rewarding, because it offered a lovely view of the Cascades. I was hooked on these mountains.

Cascades Wallace Falls State Park

Once I stepped onto the trail, I knew it was going to be a memorable day.

Bright green moss coated nearly every visible surface. Lively groups of birds chirped cheerfully. The morning rays illuminated the natural details of all the trees and plants. The river flowed with certainty as its water glittered in the sun.

I smiled widely, taking in nature’s beauty.

I may have been 2,340 miles away from my house in Michigan, but I was completely at home in the Cascades.

Tree Details - Wallace Falls State Park

I hiked to the lower waterfall and spent a while admiring the view and sounds.

I stared at the trail map, unsure if I wanted to make the trek forward or turn back.

I noticed two hikers whom I had seen earlier on the trail, so I asked them if they had been to the upper falls before. They told me that it wasn’t too bad of a hike, and they were going there.

What was there to lose? If I get too tired, I could always turn back.

I opted to proceed in the good company of the two hikers. The hike was definitely worth the sweeping views of mountains and the upper falls.

Olympic Mountains

On the way down and back, I had a choice: I could head back to the trailhead, or head north to a lake.

At this point, I had already hiked about 5 miles. Choosing to go to the lake would add another 5 miles to my journey.

I wasn’t sure if I could, or even should attempt the hike.

But I remembered just how much I had already underestimated what my body was capable of today. The hike to the upper falls that I wasn’t sure about was totally doable.

Wallace Upper Falls

My intuition said, “Go to the lake.”

I just had a feeling that I should keep going.

I said my farewell to the two hikers and headed towards the lake without spending any time to talk myself out of it.

Only a half mile into the hike and I already began to question if I had made the right decision. The elevation was going up all over again and I found myself completely out of breath.

I reminded myself that I had to be patient with my body. I persisted and took as many breaks as I felt I needed to catch my breath, blow my nose, drink water, and eat snacks.

I was the only one on the trail; it was just me and nature. This made me as equally anxious as excited. But I was in full control of my actions, my direction, and my footsteps. This empowered me.

I had nowhere to be except in this forest.

I ventured deeper and deeper, admiring giant tree stumps decorated with fungi and catching glimpses of the surrounding mountains through the trees.


Though I hiked alone, I never really felt alone. In nature, the trees, rivers, waterfalls, and mountains are my company. I was completely content for the entire hike to listen to the forest and to my own thoughts. I never put on a podcast or audiobook.

I listened.

I challenged myself.

I paused.

I continued.

I grew.

I made it further and further along the trail. I was grateful for the trail markers and my trail app telling me how far I had hiked!

I took careful note of a sign indicating when and where a bear had been seen, hoping I wouldn’t cross its path.

Finally, I made it to my destination. I sat down for a minute, enjoying the solitude of being so far into the wilderness. I snapped some photos of the lake and started heading back.

Wallace Lake - Wallace Falls State Park

On the way back, I decided to challenge myself for pace. I walked quickly and persistently until my heart rate quickened to a rapid pace.

As I walked closer and closer to the trailhead, my lower body grew wearier. I allowed myself to slow down and take it step by step.

After I reaches the trailhead, I paused and took time to enjoy the view again. I sat down on the picnic bench and gazed longingly at the mountains. I felt so close and connected to them.

As I gazed at the Cascades, I realized this was a significant milestone for me.

I had never completed a hike longer than 4 miles, especially not with this level of elevation gain. I definitely exceeded that during this trip. Just a few days prior, I hiked 3.3 miles with an 1,450 foot elevation gain in 3.3 hours. Then on this day, I hiked 10 miles with a 2,400 foot elevation gain in 7 hours. Fortunately, I managed to complete those hikes without getting lost or injured!

Pleased with my accomplishment, I took a deep breath of fresh air and smiled. I was sweaty and sore, but in the best way possible. I savored one last gaze at the mountains before heading back to my car.

The Cascades truly found their place in my heart. I’m excited to return to the Pacific Northwest for another adventure.

Clarity in the Cascades - Strong with Purpose

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