Summits, Sunsets and Swanky Spas

logo-travel-effectEditor’s note: This post is part of a series themed to The Travel Effect, a national advocacy campaign created by the U.S. Travel Association.  Visit Seattle is committed to promoting the importance of travel and we remind our hard-working team members with a “Spontaneous Getaways” program. Each quarter, we award one employee a trip of their choosing. We provide the transportation and allocate extra paid time off, they return rejuvenated and sometimes even write about their travel experiences. We hope this post inspires you to book your own trip soon. 

Mount Adams - photo by Danielle Decker

Mount Adams – photo by Danielle Decker

Mount Adams, Washington State’s second-highest peak at 12,276 feet, towers over the small town of Trout Lake which sits more than 10,000 feet below the summit and is the last town before the South Summit Climb trailhead.  This is also where we stopped at the ranger station to pick-up a Volcano Pass which is required if you plan on hiking higher than 7,000 feet.  Our goal that weekend was the top; so, after the five-hour drive from Seattle we made the quick stop to pick up our pass and then hit the road for another slow hour along the one-lane washboard road to the trailhead.

It was roughly a month prior to this that, through an employee drawing, I was a lucky winner chosen to experience my own Travel Effect.

It didn’t take me long to map out a plan on what to do with my newly awarded days away from the office.  My husband and I were going to southern Washington and we were going to spend the weekend attempting to summit Mount Adams followed by a couple days relaxing at Skamania Lodge.   I’d say it was a perfect plan: dirt and discomfort, plush pillows and jetted tubs, some ying for my yang.

I had been aspiring to summit Mount Adams this year to complete my goal of reaching the top of Washington’s three highest peaks. But, being six-and-a-half months pregnant, I wondered if my window of opportunity was running short. Ultimately, this gave me just the motivation to bite the bullet.

Mount St. Helens - photo by Danielle Decker

Mount St. Helens – photo by Danielle Decker

We arrived at the trailhead at 6 p.m. on a Friday and decided to get a few hours of hiking in before calling it a night.  When dusk rolled in we were at the top of the tree line and found a great flat spot to pitch the tent. With a hot bowl of food we sat back and enjoyed a show so spectacular that only mother nature could take credit.  As the sun set, the neighboring Mount Hood and Mount St. Helens were wrapped in layers of pink and purple that slowly evolved into a starry black ceiling.  The darkness was our queue to settle in for what I can confidently call my last night of this pregnancy attempting to sleep on the ground.  It’s a good thing for us that our expectations of sleeping prior to a summit attempt are minimal at best. Nevertheless, when we finally decided to roll out of our sleeping bags in the dark and strap on our gaiters and pack,  adrenaline stepped in and picked up the slack.

Camp on Mount Adams - photo by Danielle Decker

Camp on Mount Adams – photo by Danielle Decker

With the tent and sleeping bags left behind and only our gear for the day in tow we made our way along a rocky spine that led us to a snowy chute that pointed directly to the Lunch Counter, which is the primary camp for most climbers. Once we set out on the snow we put on our crampons and were thankful for the hold they provided in the soft summer snow.  Straight up from Lunch Counter is the mother of all “staircases;” this 2,247-foot wall of snow leads straight up the side of the mountain to Piker’s Peak, also known as the false summit.  There is little left to the imagination on how to get there; and for the next few hours we went about placing one foot in front of the other. All the while, I played mind games with myself to keep my cheerful Pollyanna spirit alive and well when a majority of me just wanted to throw myself into the snow and wait for P-Diddy to send his helicopter to my rescue.

Luckily for all, I avoided any diva-like meltdown and we ascended to just yards  from the crest of the face.  That is when I began to notice the climbers ahead of us were acting rather strangely once they reached the top.  I couldn’t identify what seemed off and continued plodding upward until I came over the edge myself and was immediately blasted with a wind so strong it almost knocked me straight back over and down the very wall we just came up.  I could barely gather myself as I hunched over and proceeded against the force of the wind to a rock pile that provided some relief for all of the climbers who had reached the top of Piker’s Peak before me.

On Piker's Peak - photo by Danielle Decker

On Piker’s Peak – photo by Danielle Decker

When we found a nook in the rock to tuck into and could hear our thoughts over the wind we began to evaluate the situation and watch how others were deciding to proceed.  From where we were we were only 600 feet below the summit but had to lose some elevation in the saddle before climbing back up to reach the top. It looked so close but there was no where to hide from the wind from that point on.  As we sat back and watched, curls of wispy clouds were spurting up from the opposite side of the summit and dispersing into the blue sky.    It was evident though that we had reached our summit for the day and so we sat back and had some lunch quietly wishing the wind would die before we started down.

Not surprisingly, nothing changed before we were ready to roll so we removed our crampons, pulled out our ice axes and sat back for the easy and quick glissade back down to Lunch Counter.  From Lunch Counter we made great time back to our camp and, as we began to tear down the tent, we watched as the once wispy clouds rolling over the summit were now engulfing it.  With a nod of self-approval we were off again and on our way to hot showers, comfy beds and amazing food that beckoned us from Skamania Lodge.

Once we were back to the truck we hit the road and made it to Stevenson in an hour-and-a-half.  We pulled into the grounds and chattered with excitement; the lodge is a grand building that faces out on the Columbia River and is surrounded in natural beauty.  It has a vibe that relaxes you as soon as you arrive and we didn’t need any further invitation.

View from Skamania Lodge - photo by Danielle Decker

View from Skamania Lodge – photo by Danielle Decker

We spent the following two days basking in the sun from Adirondacks, playing mini golf and croquet and loosing hours at the spa where they offer a number of drool-worthy services but chose a hot rock massage as a reward to a hike well done.  When it was all said and done and we made it back to Seattle I felt as though we had been gone forever and had been a world away.  Not that I wasn’t before, but I can honestly say that I am a tried and tested, full-on supporter of The Travel Effect.

About the Author

Danielle Decker

Danielle Decker is Tourism Manager, Special Projects at Visit Seattle. She loves spending time outdoors, whether that’s hiking in the mountains, snowboarding or grilling on the deck with friends and family.

More Posts By Danielle Decker
Danielle Decker

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