Saddle Mountain (D) - Seaside, Oregon. 3.11.18

Saddle Mountain pan.JPG

The last couple months have been tough as I have been trying to balance a long-distance relationship, unemployment, working out the details of custody, selling/buying houses and packing for the big cross-country move.  On my last trip to Oregon, Alexis was scheduled to work a 24-hour shift, so I reached out to our close friend Joy, commonly known as Boz, for a day adventure.  I would learn that when you go on day adventures with Boz, it is truly full day.   Around 11am I grabbed bagels, jumped in her car and we headed out.  One of the reasons I am so drawn to Oregon as an East Coaster, are the size of the trees and the year-round greenery.    Evergreens never lose their leaves.  Don’t get me wrong, New England is gorgeous in the fall. The leaves change color, leaving you faced with dry empty trees and brown sludge snow.  The tunes were playing on low as we cruised and caught up on life.  Boz and I have only hung out or talked a few times over the phone, but there seems to be a natural connection between us, seeming as though we have known each other much longer. 


Before I know it, we turn off the main highway to an unpaved road.  The sun beats down as we make our way up the road and it seems like we may be the only ones out.  Before I know it we hit a surge of parked cars.  They are parked on either side of the road and anywhere they can find space.  I should have known better, that on such an amazing day in the middle of winter, we would not be the only ones out.  “It is Portland after all”, or that’s what I always hear when Portlanders explain something unusual to me. The potholes at times feel like the size of the car and we might be swallowed whole.  Boz carefully maneuvers around them as we dodge cars coming down the mountain.  We take a risk, head past all the lined cars and to the head of the trail where we are lucky and find a parking spot. 


I love to hike and be surrounded by nature.  There is something about it that completely soothes my soul, while also reminding me of reality and that the small stuff is not worth sweating.  I jump out of the car with enthusiasm. I’m ready to conquer the mountain and feel as though I’m on top of the world!  Boz’s dog, Charlie, seems to share my enthusiasm and bounds out of the car towards the trail.  We begin our hike. Panic quickly sets in; my lungs burn, and I feel like I am climbing my own version of Everest.  After years of being an extremely fit athlete I have recently struggled with breathing and carry an inhaler.  (I know, I know I should visit to a doctor, but I am stubborn, thinking I can just push through.  As I struggle to breathe, I promise myself that once I get to Oregon I will put this task on top of my list.) I pull out the inhaler, take a huge puff and laughingly ask Boz for the difficulty rating of this hike.  Meanwhile Charlie runs around with sheer joy and Boz keeps us moving.  As we make our way up the switch backs we pass just about every type of hiker imaginable.  We pass three hikers with full packs and gear appearing as though they have just come off the PCT. We pass the hipsters in their cutoff jeans and t-shirts who knowingly are hitting up the local brewery when they are done. There are families with kids, Dad’s making the best effort to heave a small child stuffed into a backpack, and the list goes on.  We approach a point in the trail where we traverse a snowy section that only allowed people to pass one at a time.  At this point we throw the leash on Charlie as a precaution and make our way across.  We manage to stay up right stepping carefully one foot at a time as we witnessed many people coming down practically crawling on all fours from fear.  I wonder what motivates these people to hike? Did they wake up and say I don’t normally hike but let’s take on a challenging route for fun? I smirk and laugh to myself at the site, but truly think it’s awesome that they are out.  I wish more people would choose an active lifestyle. 


Suddenly, we come upon an opening with a gorgeous view.  I was so excited as I thought we had reached the summit.   Here I was on top of the world.  Looking out we saw mountains for miles, and to the right the coast line.  I panned to the right and my heart dropped. “You fool”, this wasn’t the summit, just a mere stopping point.  I look carefully at the rock formation to the right; my eyes work down it to a trail that came down to where we were.  I see little dots of people trudging their way to the true summit.  I peer down at my watch, then over at Boz and realize that this is as high as we would traverse today.  It was already late afternoon and she had made plans to meet up with one of her friends down at the shore, or as I have learned the coast (East coasters call the ocean “the shore” and West coast folks call it “the coast”).  I take more minute, breathe deeply and scan the horizon.  It is during these moments that I let go of all my stressors and free them into the world.  I am of the belief that everything happens for a reason and on these hike, I refocus and know that I can conquer whatever challenges come my way.  After all, I made it to the top of my own version of Everest today, still breathing.


We turn, make our way back to the trail and start the descent.  Charlie can’t get enough of the snow that covers the trail.  She scoots back and forth playfully, at times a little too close to the edge for my comfort, as I envision her rolling over the edge. The hike down is always better for everyone, but not me.  One of the downfalls of playing two division one sports is the physical beat-down my body endured resulting in tendinitis in both knees.  When doing physical activity, I sometimes feel like one knee may burst   As Boz hops down sections with ease and grace, I maneuver slowly behind her, grimacing at times hoping today isn’t that day.  Traversing the switch backs we again pass the array of diverse hikers, I think “this is so different from the east coast”.  In my experience if you go hiking on the east coast you only see the people who appear to hike on a regular basis.  On the west coast the stream of people is awesome.  We pass the people in jeans and sneakers, the sorority girls in leggings and sports bras, the hikers with high top hiking boots, the families, and the list goes on.  The best thing for me is that I tend to notice the finer details in life and make note of every person that passes.  Several times I crack up and ask Boz if she just saw that.  She laughs because she misses it, very time.   As we reach the bottom I could see the trail head in the distance and we pass a gentleman in nice pants, a button down and a wool coat that reached his knees.  He looked like he had just come from church.  I smile and connect eyes with Boz.  Finally, she notices the same thing as me and we crack up.  Good luck buddy.


Back at the car I make a small attempt to stretch as I know tomorrow I will be beyond sore.  Once in the car, we make our way out; down the dirt road still trying to not get swallowed by the pot holes and head towards the coast. There is beer to be had.  It was a great adventure that I immediately told Alexis I needed to complete one day. 


Difficulty - Moderate

Distance - 4 miles

Route Type - Out and Back

Elevation Gain - 1729 feet

Jenna Szyluk