Tuesday, December 20, 2011

I like you, so I'm going to give this to you

One last adventure in Washington for the year, a decidedly touchy year that is ending on a major upswing. Way to pull it out in the final inning, 2011.

The weekend began as all fine weekends should: game faces at the Bagel Oasis.
Then take the interstate out of town, fifteen miles on a gutted back road, and six miles mountain biking on a track of pure ice and rock. It was pretty easy as long as we didn't try to slow down, change directions or stop.
Andrew Oberhardt Photo
Andrew Oberhardt Photo
I spent the weekend with my friends Chris and Andrew, who I know from years of cragging at Index and evening climbing gym sessions followed by drinks at the fire lit High Life or the crowded, cacophonous Tin Hat.  Accompanying us was a gorgeous Kathryn Heigel look-alike named Courtney, whose raunchy tales of dinner dates with pot smoking evangelical Christians topped all our whitewater stories by a long shot. She is brand new to the world of outdoor exploration, and I have to hand it to the girl. Winter camping in frigid woods and naked hot springs is a bold choice for a first excursion.
By late afternoon we'd set up camp at the base of Goldmeyer hot springs, scalding aqua pools hidden deep in the foothills of the Cascades.

We stripped off our clothes and soaked in the dreamy atmosphere of the snowing, starlit forest. Next to us was a charging creek which put Chris, Andrew and I in the mood to recount all our paddling epics. (To be more honest, they have paddling epics, I have epic paddling mistakes.)
To get to the hottest and strangest pool you have to climb through a little opening into a narrow tunnel of rock. When night fell, we waded to the back of the cave and sat side by side on a submerged wooden bench. There was only room for one person to stand up at a time. We took turns standing up and telling stories, steam rising around us, the only light coming from a candle balanced on a shelf in the rock wall. We were all without clothes. It may have been the best story telling event ever hosted on the planet.
When the overwhelming heat sent us wading towards the mouth of the cave, we saw that  it was snowing.  The people lying in the pools glowed white, as if they were made from solid moonlight.

When we finally started to grow dizzy, we pulled on layers of down and wool and headed back the steep, slick half mile back to camp. We sat around a water bottle lantern drinking whiskey and rum out of flasks and breaking off pieces of frozen caramel.

Usually when we are out in the wilderness we're gearing up to tackle something vertical, demanding and potentially dangerous. I'm always a little bit wary and preoccupied thinking about it. On this night, we had nothing to think about, no maps to study, nothing to rest up for. If we didn't want to get any sleep, we didn't have to. We didn't have to ration the cheese or the alcohol or the water. We ate everything, drank everything, told every joke and story we could think of, and pushed each other around in the snow wearing down from head to toe. Long after Courtney retired to her sleeping bag, wide eyed with cold, Chris, Andrew and I were  growing more and more animated, lighting new candles when they melted into circles of wax. Chris at one point got overcome with joy and rum and told his kids' birth stories while I punched him repeatedly and said "Don't cry dude, I can't handle when men cry."

It was one of the happiest evenings I've ever spent.

That night I shared a tent with Andrew, one of the best adventure companions I've ever had. At this point you may think that I'm just abusing superlatives, but I've meant every word so far.  Every time we leave the city together it means multi-pitches, sleeping on roadsides, pretzels with peanut butter for dinner at the base of the rock. The very first time I hit my combat roll we were together, paddling down the Wenatchee river three and half years ago. I'll always remember that odd feeling of twisting and breaking through the surface for the first time, seeing him smile at me, excited and relieved and just as surprised as I was.

We stayed up for a few more hours, decently warm inside luxurious sleeping bags. I fell asleep whispering a story about the two of us being taken political prisoner in Cambodia.

I think we'd run out of true stories by that point.

The next morning, in a hurry to get to work by the afternoon, I biked out alone. It was snowing tiny white points which added the barest traction to my ride.
Andrew Oberhardt Photo
I made it to North Bend with just enough time to eat breakfast at the counter of the Diner in town. I put down an over sized classic two-egg plate with bacon and lots of other stuff in just under four minutes. The guy behind the counter refilled my mug and then wouldn't let me pay. "I like you, so I'm going to give this to you," he said. He seemed impressed.

What a perfectly simple phrase.

It makes me think of Chris, who made the reservations and invited me along in the first place. He's such a generous guy. Being asked to come along on such an occasion is the finest thing in the world. It's basically saying, "I know this place where there's hot water and snow, and we can spend a few days doing nothing but relaxing and having a good time. I really like this place, so I want to give it to you."

I'll take it! And I like you, too.

For tips on your own trip to the hot spring, check out my article Hotspringing 101 on Trailsedge.


dig this chick said...

Love your storytelling, that I always seem to hit just before bed.

You have such a lovely, honest, approachable, humorous, endearing way of representing your badassness....sincerely, it is a skill. More so than any extreme sport.

I lived in Jackson, WY only to ski so I was around an insane amount of hardcore people. I know of what I speak.

Adore following your journey.

Lots of love and spirit,

Melina said...

Thanks Nici, I can't wait to visit and ski with you and we can be hardcore goddesses. Then we'll go home and craft. I love how we get each other. ;)


Adriana Iris La Dulce Vida said...

it's been awhile since my last visit. i just love the way you transport this snow free non climbing mama to new heights. thanks for that. when I come back you know my the next life... I want to explore Gaia like you do.