Crystal Mountain, WA | March 19-20

I left Mount Bachelor midday on a beautiful bluebird Sunday. While I was really enjoying it, I'd been there nearly a week and it was time for me to move on. I had a 6 1/2 hour drive ahead and a planned stop in Portland.  I was able to get to Portland in time for a wonderful yoga class, and enough time to grab dinner before moving on. I've never been to Portland, but the area where I ended up stopping was beautiful, Nob Hill. I caught a great class and then enjoyed a nice dinner at Bamboo Sushi. I love sushi and hadn't had it since just before leaving Denver.

As I mentioned in my last post, the drive through Oregon was beautiful, but I still had a ways to go to get to Crystal Mountain. I wasn't going to stay in Portland that night, so I had to get going after dinner. I continued north on I-5 towards Washington and stopped with about a 2 1/2 hour drive to go. Crystal Mountain is right by Mount Rainier, and I wanted to take the scenic route the next morning. The drive, again, was gorgeous.

I arrived at Crystal Mountain for a stunning day of bluebird skiing. After I picked up my lift ticket, I walked to the Mt. Rainier Gondola, the lift operator had a quote on the sign that I really liked. "Doing what you like is freedom, liking what you do is happiness. -Unknown" hmmm...
On my lift ride up, I thought about that, I think I night be doing what I like, but I'm not quite sure if I'm liking what I do. Perhaps part of this trip is about finding what I like to do, or perhaps who I'd like to be.

At the top of the gondola, there is a stunning view of Mount Rainier, right off the lift. The conditions were soft, spring corn skiing. I love skiing in these conditions, but I still haven't had my fill of powder days for the season. Although the mountain range around here was vast and gorgeous, it's easy to forget that its a much lower altitude than Colorado. While Mount Rainier stands quite tall in the background at 14,410', the highest lift at Crystal takes you around 7000'. The surrounding views of the Cascades were beyond stunning. The first day, Mount Rainier was surrounded by clouds, but still, incredible.

There was a row of comfortable recliner chairs so you can sit at the top and enjoy the view of Mount Rainier. After a few runs, I decided to stop to enjoy this for a bit. Some people would think that I've seen so many mountain ranges before they all begin to look the same, but I can tell you having stood on top of them from coast to coast, the views from the top never, ever get old.

While I was sitting in one of the recliners, I heard a couple of people taking about how to get to the other lifts and other areas of the mountain. Since I had just arrived, I asked if they were headed that way and if I could join them, I met Andrea and John. On our lift ride up, I found out that this was Andrea's home mountain and she offered to show us around some of the trails. John was a snowboarder who, like me, was traveling around skiing various resorts around North America. He also happened to be from Colorado. His project is to ski 1000 trails in a season and to donate money to "Wings for life," a non-profit dedicated to finding a cure for spinal cord injuries. Info on his project can be found here: http://www.1000trails.org. For a while before I set out on this trip, and while on the road, I've been asking myself how I can turn this into something meaningful where I can do something good for a cause. My initial thinking was that perhaps my writing would reach someone where it might encourage them to take some risk in their life, to try something they've been dreaming about. Perhaps I can turn this personal challenge into something like else like that.

John and I were literally crossing paths in the opposite directions. He had just been snowboarding in BC, where he met Andrea, and was heading down to Oregon, while I was heading north from there. Andrea, having grown up near Mount Crystal, was nice enough to show us 2 ski bums the best trails on the mountain before she went back home to Seattle. That afternoon, the 3 of us even skied from the top of "Campbell Basin" A small 2 chair lift which took us to the top of a ridge line with some of the best views on the mountain, and some of the steepest skiing. Traverse in either direction, or take a hike up the ridge to "The Throne." We didn't hike that afternoon, but I planned to the next day. Once we traversed out a little ways and dropped into the bowl, we found that the snow was fantastic. Although there was only a little bit of fresh snow reported that day, there was a lot more from previous storms that was still untouched. Really good skiing. I knew I'd be back there the next day.

We skied until last chair and took an awesome lap from top to bottom. At the end of the day, there are only 2 places to visit for apr├Ęs, "The Bullwheel," and the "Snorting Elk." We stopped into the Bullwheel for a beer. Andrea was headed back to Seattle, while John was heading to Mount Hood. I was going back to my truck to find a camp spot to sleep for the night and to ski another day at Crystal. After all, I still had some hiking and more skiing to do here. We all decided to grab dinner at the "Snorting Elk." I love meeting good people on the ski hill, and its even nicer when you can join them for a bite and a beer afterwards.

It was after dinner that I experienced my first major setback on this trip. Someone (almost certainly drunk) hit my new car in the parking lot and left without leaving a note. I walked outside to find a ton of damage to the side of the truck, and I went through a huge range of emotions. I was livid, then I was sad, then I questioned what I would do if it was worse or if I was sleeping in it at the time, or if I was somewhere more remote. It still was drivable, but I was so upset. I kept trying to remind myself, it's only a thing, it can be fixed, but the fact that someone would cause damage and not be courteous enough to leave a note made me furious. I don't think it wasn't so much the act, but it was combined with the fact that I was already nervous about being alone, cautious of where I was staying, and questioning if the next couple of legs on my journey were the right move. Combined with the fact that my car is virtually brand new, 3 months old. (I know, I'm venting, which is not exactly what people want to read about, sorry.)

There were only about 20 other cars in the lot, so I walked around in an attempt to find any witnesses or evidence. There was very little, most places on the mountain close by 5 and it was about 7pm. I was so worked up that I didn't want to spend the energy finding a place to camp, nor did I want to keep looking at my damaged new car. I booked a night at the lodge on the mountain and stayed there, hoping to find some evidence the next morning. I'm not materialistic, far from it, I gave up just about everything I owned and moved it into this truck, perhaps thats why I was so protective, I don't have much left, even what I have is more than I need, but I try to take care of it, and I'm obviously relying on it. The following morning, I went into the office, asked for help from cameras etc, and with the exception of one woman who was very friendly, most people there didn't really care. I realize that in the grand scheme of things, it's not a big deal, but someone getting away with this combined with people who seemed to care less just infuriated me.

I realized I was not myself, or at least not being the person I want to be. I felt bad, I'd shared my disappointment about the accident with my Mom and my Dad, and I later apologized to them and explained that it upset me that I wasn't being myself. I don't actually want to feel that mad at anyone or about anything, but I do wish that people were decent enough to do the right thing.
I also called my best friend, Rett, to ask for help. He knows me very well and offered some great advice. I needed to take pause. He reminded me that the point of this trip was self discovery, it's not all about the skiing, although that's what I'm using to push myself. He is also my friend that I've discussed this trip with, perhaps too much, over the past few years. I was with him in November when I committed to the decision to take this trip. It was very reassuring to be reminded of this purpose. He suggested I take some time to really think about what I was feeling, do some journaling, and go from there. It was good advice.

I jumped back on the gondola a few more times that day. I hiked the ridge line I'd scoped out the day prior, and did some incredible top to bottom laps off the gondola. I even saw a speed flyer land and take the gondola back up with me. I've only ever seen this sport in videos, but it's something I'd like to try one day. I can only imagine what that must feel like, to ski and take off... wow.


Still, I knew I needed a reset. I was less than 2 hours from Seattle, and I thought that spending a few days in a city, writing, resting, and considering next steps would be well spent. I booked an Airbnb near the beach in West Seattle and relaxed. After all, I needed to think more about "What I'd like to do."
Next stop Seattle, Washington.

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