After graduating from college, I had a lot of free time to finally enjoy Washington beyond the Seattle city limits. The only problem: I was unemployed, spending my last weeks in the state "stay-cationing" and my friends had jobs, so I didn't have any hiking buddies. Begin: solo hiking. I was nervous, but excited and empowered by being alone in the mountains. Mason Lake & Mount Defiance was my first real solo hike and it was so amazing. I didn't make it all the way to the top of Mount Defiance, but got pretty close.
- Date: 7.6.15
- Miles: 10 mi
- Elevation Profile: +/- 4,575 ft
- Trail Type: Out-and-Back
- Cost: $5 Day-use pass, Northwest Forest Pass, or any National Interagency Passes
Since this was my first legit solo hike, I thought about taking it easy, maybe only going up to Mason Lake and then turning around. 7 miles seemed like a really nice start for solo-ing!
From the beginning, the hike was beautiful. The wildflowers were beginning to bloom, and since it was early morning in the middle of the week, it was so, so peaceful. I remember feeling really "at one" with nature. I love hiking with friends, but I tend to skip things and not notice the details when I'm chatting on the trail.
After the beginning shaded section, I broke above the treeline and the views were so beautiful! The Central Cascades were showing off, and I even got a surprise show from Mount Rainier. I was especially excited when Mount Defiance came into view from the trail. It didn't look that far away, and the climb seemed very reasonable! I had a feeling I wouldn't be turning back at Mason Lake.
Finally, after 3.5 miles, I made it to Mason Lake! I found plenty of campsites here, and I began to fantasize about setting up a basecamp here in the future and exploring the surrounding lakes and mountains I had seen on the map. Again, since it was mid-week, there were so few people, and it was so serene! Mainly other solo-hikers, so I felt in very good company. I relaxed around and dipped my feet in Mason Lake since I was super hot from the exposed climb to the lake. I even saw a Newt/ Salamander swimming in the water! I think I spent a good 20 minutes watching the little guy swim around. He was so cute!
After a little while, I decided that I wanted to continue on to Mount Defiance. The switchbacks up from the lake were no joke! I was getting really tired, probably because I hadn't been on this long of a hike before... like maybe ever? But I'm a little stubborn and like to be an over-achiever, so I pushed on, even though a little voice in the back of my head was saying "Let's go back to the car and get an iced coffee".
I'm glad I pushed on. I met another solo lady when I broke above the trees and we chatted for a little bit. It was comforting to me to see another solo female out there. It gave me more confidence to continue hiking by myself.
The trail along the mountain side was gorgeous. More wildflowers and beautiful views. I was especially excited to see this one. The large lake is Mason Lake, where I had just come from! It's always so exciting to see where you came from and look at the progress you made.
Unfortunately, I didn't make it to the very top of Mount Defiance. I made it to the part of the trail where you have to scramble up boulders to make it to the top. I was tired from my hike, and I didn't trust myself on the rocks without my trekking poles for stability. I could hear my parents from miles away chastising me for pushing past my comfort zone when I was out alone. So I stopped, and turned around. Still to this day, I think about pushing ahead and getting to the top of this mountain. Sometimes I regret turning back. But sometimes becoming more experienced and comfortable outdoors can cause you to be more critical of your previous lack of experience. At the time, it was good that I turned around. It taught me that if I wasn't feeling safe, there's no shame in turning around. It definitely humbled me. But it also made me yearn for more experience, so I could feel competent in the outdoors by myself. I hate sounding cliché: how could a hike to an inconspicuous lake be life-changing? But it did change the way I viewed myself in the outdoors, definitely for the better. And it left me wanting so much more adventure in life.