Best of the NW is here to improve the quality of life through fitness in the exploration of the natural world.
I want to encourage you and your family to experience the most of Seattle’s beautiful back yard and get out on the trails year-round.
Here is a bit of the backstory.
Best of the NW Creation Story
Before we start, I have have to confess. I have an agenda for being here.
I am an outdoor recreation evangelist of sorts. It is my mission to attempt to make weekend warriors out of all of you (if you aren’t already). I want to encourage you and your family to experience the most of Seattle’s beautiful back yard and get out on the trails year-round.
This story begins where another ends.
Growing up in SW Montana son of a Forest Ranger our weekends were often spent tramping through the woods. This passion for outdoor adventure led me to attend school at the foot of Mount Rainier where I spent the next 10 years exploring steep wild places in the Cascades.
Then on January 11th 2005 it all changed.
Our identical twin girls were born.
No longer were able to go tramping off the precipitous glacier covered granite hewn peaks. Even the base of the rock climbing areas was not a safe place for twin babies (no free hands to belay).
We had a choice, surrender ourselves to a life of weekend Costco trips and frenetic mall strolling, or venture back outside to the places in-between the high-points. After figuring out a few of the logistics of traveling with two babies in backpacks, diapers, rain gear yada yada yada we each hoisted a pack onto our backs and tromped down a trail.
One hike to a waterfall lead to another stream side stroll to a lake, and another to a corridor with a lookout. The more we ventured out the more we realized the depth of wonders in these places we had previously overlooked. There was magic to be found in the forests, streams lakes, and beaches. As the girls grew we could also witness these discoveries through their eyes. I started documenting these weekly outings on a camcorder. As the weekend explorations went by we found discovered natural wonders during every season.
After several seasons we had completed all 70 hikes in our favorite guidebook which was followed by completing all the hikes in 60 hikes 60 miles Seattle guidebook. Within the decade we had done over 200 trails in Western Washington and have worked with 3 authors to do video guidebook reviews (including 100 classic Hikes WA with Craig Romano). The bucket list keeps growing as we discover the vast areas of exploration in this world-class playground that is in the backyard of Seattle.
If you are a new parent or hesitant to get out there and explore the wild places we have assembled our notes in form of 200+ trail videos, descriptions, links to recent trip reports and GPS maps. We hope this resource inspires an active life of exploration for you and your entire family. We all grow up too fast. Let’s take some time to smell the trees, streams and drink in the mountain breezes.
The next two steps are up to you.
- Formative years in Western MT (see my sister and I in the honk of our sports utility vehicle)
- Father a forest ranger and mother a teacher
- Spent weekends in the mountains, few steps away from Climber Tommy Caldwell’s Dad’s “elective hardships” idea for character building
- Parents transported me cold Montana winters sometimes far below zero temps
- Dad would drag me out of bed (when I was a teenager sometimes literally) to go cross country skiing on the trails he helped design on the Beaverhead National Forest.
- Remember the pre-synthetics days of soggy itchy cold wool mittens, socks, heavey sweaters and hats.
- Must have warped or frozen my mind and locked me into a pattern of reoccurring outdoor adventures
- Have “raced” more like participated in a handful of national and world master nordic events.
- Often finishing in the back of the pack behind ex-olympians and some of the most cardiovascuarlly fit master skiers on the planet
- Claim to fame in the Masters Community wasn’t because of my skiing performance, but my rhyme encoded ice beard (photo was in the US Masters Annual Photo page) after 15k freestyle race in Falun Sweeden 15degrees below zero. If it was one degree colder they would have cancelled the race. Think the race director went over and warmed up the thermometer to keep the race schedule on track.
Enjoyed rounding out seasons in Western Washington Skiing in the winter and alpine climbing in late summer. Pretty stoked! Poured through classic routes in the Becky Guides and Classic Climbs of WA. Tried to imagine what a route would look like from the crudely drawn topo maps. Loved planning trips anticipating what the experience would be like. Using whatever research tools were available, books, web forums, trip reports etc. Spent time cragging around the state preparing physically and mentally for a classic route on great rock. Also loved to document what the route and experience was like. Then when it was business time it was often terrifying. Type 3 fun. Terrifying in the moment by never leaves you afterwards. “Mountaineering”, it’s fun when its over. Had a great stretch of high adventure seasons like this.
Then unexpectedly something life altering happened…
Our identical twin girls were born.
Now what would happen to our life of adventure and exploration? My shirt says “We Just Want to Be Free. Free to Climb. Without being hassled by the man.” Modified easy rider reference I think…
Was it all over?
What kind of life were my children subject to?
Were we relegated to a life of mortgages, Costco trips, parking lots and overcrowd shopping malls for entertainment?
On a national level kids are spending way more time indoors infant of screens.
What would happen to my kids?
Would they have the same formative experiences and character forming “elective hardships” that I experienced growing up?
What was happening to our society at large? “pun intended”.
How would we fight against this?
My imagination went wild imagining a gloom and doom scenario when an idea occurred.
My next question was. What is out there?
What is in between the high peaks and rocky crags that I had spent the past 10 years exploring? The spaces between; alpine lakes, lush forests, cascade waterfalls, stream corridors, became the destination not an approach to get through to reach the base of a climb. We worked our way through multiple size child carriers, front packs, baby bjorns, framed kid back packs and hit the trails. Each weekend exploring a different location with handy camcorder in hand. Experiencing a sense of place and rich history of the areas trails. Here is the Stimson Bullet family fireplace on Squak Mountain. Finding classic routes with backpacks getting slightly heavier with growing kids each outing.
They soon started to explore on their own. And we adopted a “kid relay” technique where one of us would run ahead to the destination, alpine lake or overlook whatever it may be while the other stayed with the kids. We would switch places and meet back at the trail head. We shared wonders of the natural world, plants and animals. Trying to have as much adventure and fun as possible. Pushing them out on their own and encouraging/bribing when we needed to (chocolate works well). In ten years we hiked over 200 different trials in Western Washington and the Cascades. And ten years later started over with a new little one to initiate. We set the goals of completing all the hikes in the Beyond Mount Si guidebook dog-earing the page corners with each completed hike. Followed the Beyond Mount Si Challenge with completing all 60 hikes in the 60 Hikes within 60 miles Seattle guidebook. The last hike finished with guidebook author and trails.com co-founder Bryce Stevens who has been a great mentor for Best of the NW
We packaged up 10 years of footage, GPS maps and trail notes and in 3 years built a You Tube channel with over 150 trail videos and responsive web site to showcase the most loved trails in Western Washington in the Cascades. Here is a 90 second clip to show the trail finder GPS + Video web site that we are developing for year-round trails in Western WA.
We challenge you to be an active participant in your own life. We can do better than living vicariously through reality TV shows and other people’s social media. Get out there and make some memories of your own.
Follow Us to Adventure. Watch weekly trail recommendation videos year-round.