What do you say to strangers asking to shack up with you for the night?
My friend Taylor flew out from Utah for a last minute adventure and we decided we would try and camp in the coveted first-come first-serve Park Butte Lookout near Mt. Baker. The WTA says that if you have any hope of “claiming” the lookout show up at 10- to 11 in the morning. We car-camped at the trailhead the night before so we could get an early start up to the L.O. We were up at 5:30 AM, on the trail by six, and at the lookout before nine – not a soul in sight. It was serene, beautiful solitude. Mt. Baker loomed ahead of us and we were surrounded by the peaks of the North Cascades, tall evergreens, and wildflowers. We set up our stuff in the L.O. and took a much-needed nap on the bed. People started to show up around noon and we all enjoyed the splendor of the mountain air. Early in the afternoon, while Taylor and I were enjoying our summit beer/cider off to the side of the L.O., a guy called over and politely asked if we were staying in the L.O. and if we would be willing to share with him and his crew. They were shooting a production and were hoping to use the lookout in the video and accompanying photos. We said sure, after all, sharing is caring right? He said 2-3 people would sleep inside while the rest would tent-camp or sleep bivy on the deck. To be totally honest, we weren’t stoked about it in the beginning. We woke up early and hiked up so that we could have this sought-after solitude in one of the most beautiful places in the PNW. As is life, things rarely work out the way you plan – there’s a lesson in expectations right there.We walked over to the hut to eat our lunch of tortillas filled with hummus, summer sausage, and vegetables (anything is good in a tortilla!) and the guy walked over to introduce himself. Greg and his production crew, Yeehaw Donkey, was filming a holiday video for a company both Taylor and I love (not totally sure if I can say but one of the reasons we were cool with sharing the lookout). We were excited to watch first hand how these types of videos were made and were excited to see the process unfold.
When we were alone again, Taylor leaned over and said “that’s Greg Balkin and Adam Wells…” The names rang a bell. Then I remembered geeking out over a recent trip they did kayaking through the Puget Sound on their Oru Kayaks. I had recently started following them on Instagram but didn’t recognize them on the spot – not to mention I would have never expected to meet them in person.I’ll be real honest, I fan-girled hard after that for a while – until it sunk in, until I talked to all of the more, until I realized how down-to-earth and awesomely “normal” they were. You don’t really expect to meet people you admire and are inspired by on social media, in person. I got to see first-hand that they are all total hams and goofs. They dedicate their time to getting after it in the great outdoors doing what they love.Later that afternoon/evening, while Taylor and I were reading peacefully in our sleeping bags, a gal came in with all her backpacking gear and asked about the sleeping situation. Yes we were staying in the lookout and there was already a large group sleeping on the floor inside. She exclaimed she didn’t hike all the way up there to not stay in the lookout and promptly unrolled her sleeping mat, calling over to her friend to do the same. (By the way, she had another large group on their way up).Let me just put this into context. If you roll up to a 1st-come 1st-serve campground and all the campsites are taken, you wouldn’t just find one that had some room and pitch your tent without asking right? And even if you asked, you probably shouldn’t expect them to say yes. Yeah, it sucks because you put in all that effort and you have to find an alternative and turn around, but that is just the way it is.
Now, I could write about how it feels to have your hard-earned solitude intruded upon by 14+ people, but I want to write about a different take on it. After all, I am an optimist. With perhaps a little exception to the semi-aggressive girl that came later, everyone was incredibly kind and very enjoyable to be around. I have recently thought a lot about the idea of tribes and the type of people I want to surround myself with.This group was quick to laugh and loved the outdoors. Taylor and I didn’t get our quiet night in the mountains, but we were surrounded by people that were as passionate about nature as we were. We all laughed and joked and shared moments of pure awe as the sun went down, generally stoked and overwhelmed by the beauty around us. (All of them were also pretty much professional photographers so that was neat too).
And those are the type of people I would want in my tribe! So the next time strangers ask to intrude on your perfectly planned evening, let them. You never know who you might end up meeting, the connections you might end up having, and the laughter you might end up sharing.
When I woke up the next morning to Adam’s 5 AM alarm so we could all watch the sunrise, I rolled over and looked out the window at the dawn-covered cascades and thought to myself, “this trip couldn’t have gone any better.”This post was not written in partnership with Probar but I love their bars and all my adventures are #fueledbyPROBAR. Take my word for it, they are delicious, and go buy some for your next adventure! Check out their products here!