Nostalgia at Timberline Lodge

Six years ago I visited Oregon for the first time. This marked the start of a new beginning as I was making the move to the Pacific Northwest for college. Little did I know that moving across the country would be one of the best decisions of my life.

When my college search began, I really had no clue what I was looking for. Rowing was at the top of my priority list, but I didn’t have too many other specifications. As a young and ambitious coxswain, I was ready to take a risk on my university and try something new. Washington State University showed interest in my abilities early on and the more I communicated with the staff, I knew this was where I was meant to be.

Attending my official visit, the fall before my freshman year was the first time I had visited the PNW. As I rolled into an unknown town in the middle of the night, met incredible athletes that would one day become my family, and saw the prestige of the Snake River all signed the deal and put my name on the roster for the following year. I remember the coaches asking how going to school on the opposite coast of my upbringing would be, but I kept thinking that there was nothing left for me there. My mother had recently passed away and I was in the process of moving out of the house where I grew up. Although my support network was still in Maryland, my heart was no longer there.

I signed my life away to Washington State rowing the following month and was counting down the days until I could make my way west. My senior year of high school was a blur of homework, rowing, and work. I felt as though I was just going through the motions of life until moving day finally arrived. With my life packed into duffel bags, I boarded a plane to Portland, OR, into the unknown.

Walking off the plane on my new home coast was exhilarating. My dad picked me up and we drove to Mount Hood. I was amazed by the beauty of the Pacific Northwest and blown away by the fact that people were still skiing in August. My final night as a “child” was spent at the base of Mount Hood in the Timberline Lodge. Little did I know that I was setting foot on the Pacific Crest Trail for the first time.

That afternoon, my dad and I wandered through coniferous forests and snow fields. A small portion of our hike was actually spent on trail as we navigated our way to the spots with the best views. We reconnected with the PCT, which I thought was just another trail, and made our way back to the lodge. When we returned, my dad treated me to a fancy dinner in the restaurant overlooking the valley. The magic of the Pacific Northwest was setting in and my excitement for my next adventure was growing.

The following morning, I was off to Pullman, WA, home of the Washington State Cougars. This small town, nestled in the Palouse of Eastern Washington, became my home over the next four years. Pullman was a place where I redefined the meaning of hard work and discovered strength in myself I never thought possible. I transformed as a coxswain and grew to be the best version of myself each day. Yet my eligibility for rowing was running out fast and I needed to figure out the next step in my life.

After completing a monthlong pilgrimage in Northern Spain the summer before my senior year, I realized the outdoors was calling. I completed my degree in kinesiology with a 50-day Outward Bound course in Washington. This was my second exposure to the PCT, and this time I knew the next time I encountered this trail, I would be hiking to Canada. But life went on and the PCT was put on hold.

Last summer I returned to Timberline Lodge for the first time in five years. As I drove up the long, twisting driveway to the lodge, I was inspired. My plans to hike the PCT the following year were coming into place and I visualized myself hiking to this place from Mexico. Thirteen months later, that visualization became a reality.

Like a child at Disney World, I feel the magic of Timberline Lodge every time I’m in its presence. The south-facing side of the lodge overlooks the snow-capped peaks of the Central Cascades. I remember being blown away by my dad’s knowledge of these peaks as he identified each one when we got out of the car. Little did I know that I would be calling those mountains my home as I follow in his footsteps as an aspiring outdoor educator.

I remember being in awe of the magnificent construction of Timberline Lodge from the moment I walked through the massive wooden door. The same feelings resonated as the clouds cleared and the lodge finally came into view. Motivated by an all you can eat buffet, a warm and dry place to sleep, and a visit from my uncle, I cruised through the last few miles. The previous night was the first time it actually rained on trail, so everything in my pack was wet.

As I rounded the final corner to the lodge, tears were in my eyes. I was having one of those moments when I realized that I walked to this magnificent place from Mexico. Timberline Lodge has developed a special place in my heart, from an incredible send-off to college, to inspiration for future adventures, and of course walking here on the PCT.

In my short time at the lodge, I managed to see long-lost friends from the trail, crush the all you can eat buffet twice, and witnessed an incredible sunset. I am so grateful to my dad and stepmom for putting me up in the lodge as a belated birthday gift. I was able to recover from the buffet in a comfy bed and take possibly my last shower on trail. Thank you for another incredible send-off; this time, however, it’s to Canada!

Oregon has been a blur of big miles and smokey skies. Blue skies are on the horizon and the mountains are peeking out. After close to two weeks of hiking 35 miles a day, I feel recharged and energized for the final leg of this journey. I’m looking forward to reconnecting with my trail family and slowing down the pace once again in the place I call home. Next stop… Washington!

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