August 1, 2023
Grit and Glory in the Pacific Northwest
BY: CHASE JANCEK
Chase has been taking a solo trip to celebrate her birthday for the past few years. This year she decided to explore the PNW and found that right combination of hard work with exceptional rewards throughout her adventures. From climbing to the tops of mountains to meet the sun to paddling in the ocean, this is her story in her own words about what happened there.
We have been inspired by the adventures Chase finds every time she goes on a trip. This is why we've included her story in our Sunny Days collection. Follow Chase for more adventures at @chasejancek.
My birth week solo adventure trips have, at this point, become a cornerstone of who I am and who I am becoming. Much to the concern of those who love me and always want me safe, I have now made it tradition to take off the day before my birthday and begin my exploratory excursion into some new region of the US. To celebrate the past year, and to welcome in the next year of my life.
In prior solo trips I have explored the East Coast (notably Acadia National Park, Maine and Niagara Falls), driven out to Montana and back to see the Tetons, Yellowstone and Glacier (… 55 hours of total driving time. It is safe to say my road trip desires have been quenched) and last year flew out to Southern California to visit the National Parks, take surfing lessons, and watch my favorite band Caamp perform front row at their Santa Barbara show.
As I’ve gotten better at trip planning and more comfortable travelling alone, each trip is more adventure packed than the last. This year was no exception, and perhaps my favorite one yet.
This year, the Pacific Northwest called my name as one of my last remaining unexplored regions of the US.
After countless flight delays and general travel inconveniences, I, by the grace of God and the kindness of the Hertz car rental attendant, arrived in Seattle at 2am. A freshly minted 25-year-old by PNW time, but still in the throes of my youth by the Michigan clock. Frankly, time didn’t feel real after the barrage of travel woes I had just endured.
Nevertheless, I was HERE I had made it, and this would be the best birthday EVER.
I won’t bore you with all the intricate details of every hike I hiked or every sight I saw. I will let my pictures and Instagram story highlights speak to that. I have found not only is someone describing the beauty of nature a bit insufferable to listen to, but I also don’t really care until I see it for myself. So, you’re welcome.
I will however provide an overview of my itinerary because my hope in sharing all of my adventures is that you too can go experience and see for yourself the absolute splendor of the Pacific Northwest and witness the beauty of all of God’s Creation!
Days 1 & 2: NORTH CASCADES NATIONAL PARK
Trails Hiked: Maple Pass Loop (6.7mi), Cascade Pass / Sahale Arm (~12mi), Diablo Lake Overlook
Of all three National Parks I would visit on this trip; the North Cascades remained my favorite. It is far less touristy than Rainier and Olympic and feels like an authentic, rustic escape into nature. I saw the most wildlife and hiked my favorite trails at this park!
(I also lost the most toenails here, but despite enduring the trauma of self-amputating my own body parts, this park remained a favorite...that should tell you how awesome it is.)
Day 3: SAN JUAN ISLANDS
Sea Kayaked: Rented through Discovery Sea Kayaks out of Friday Harbor.
Did you know the San Juan Islands are one of the best places to see Orca Whales in the entire US? Well, I did, and that’s why I went here. I unfortunately did not see any whales. But, given that my choice of transportation and activity for the day was a small sea kayak that could be easily toppled by a rouge whale with a taste for flesh in an instant, I am like, a little bit okay with not seeing them while in their home turf.
Days 4 & 5: OLYMPIC NATIONAL PARK
Trails Hiked: Hoh Rainforest, Mt. Storm King, Rialto Beach to Hole in the Wall, Mt. Ellinor
Truthfully, I think you need more than two days to truly see Olympic NP in all its glory. It is pretty spread out, so you need kind of pick a region per day and stick to it. The variety of terrain and diversity of sights to see here is truly impressive, I was blown away by the coastline. As someone who lives in Michigan, I was fully prepared to be unimpressed by the beach, but my expectations were blown out of the (literal and metaphorical) water when I experienced a PNW beach.
Days 6 & 7: MT. RAINIER NATIONAL PARK
Trails Hiked: Mount Fremont Lookout, Skyline Trail +
Reflection Lakes + Narada Glacier
I was entirely unprepared for the sheer magnitude and beauty of Mt. Rainier. Hiking the Skyline Trail was truly the most scenic hike I have EVER done. I spent 10+ miles prancing through wildflowers & wooded meadows, crossing flowing streams, (peeing in the woods an inordinate amount because I was, for some reason, drinking water at an alarming rate. A consequence of which I would suffer from later as I ended the hike extremely dehydrated. Bring more water than you think you’ll need kids.) all while gazing up at the majesty of Mt. Rainier. It felt like a fairytale.
Day 8: Mount ST. HELENS
Trail Hiked: Mount Saint Helens Summit via Ptarmigan Trail (8.6 mi)
I cannot think of a sharper contrast to my Mt. Rainier fairytale hike than my Mt. St. Helens Summit from HELL. This was not a hike I would put on any travel guide unless the reader is also a glutton for punishment as I am. If you desire nothing more than the satisfaction of putting your body and mind through agony in the barren hellscape that is Mt. St. Helens post eruption, then this hike is for you. Am I being dramatic? Always. But this hike was super hard. All grit, no glamour. Felt pretty cool to accomplish tho ngl.
Day 9: Portland
Sights Seen: Japanese Gardens and Rose Gardens, Elephant Delicatessan, Powell Books, Mt. Tabor St. Park
I truly did not anticipate loving Portland as much as I did, having only ever heard stereotypes of it post 2020 riots and from watching the show Portlandia. The real Portland however is unlike any other city I’ve visited. Granted some stereotypes ring true (i.e. the first person I met went by “Sunshine Dave” and ran his own manifestation house, no one’s hair would be a valid selection on the drop down menu when applying for a passport, and the amount of facial piercings would give airport security a run for their money) but everyone I met had the kindest soul and the entire layout of the city is brilliant, beautiful and completely integrated with nature. Totally need to go back.
WHY I DO THIS
People often ask me why I solo travel. If I get lonely or afraid. To tell you the truth, I am more afraid to NOT solo travel. I am afraid of missed opportunities, waiting for timing that will never be perfect, or telling myself “Someday when I’m brave enough”. Of all the certainties in life, the most important one to recognize is that tomorrow is not guaranteed. I refuse to wait for perfect conditions to live my life, I will only regret the things I didn’t do.
Solo travel is a spiritual experience for me, a time where I feel closest to God and most in tune with myself.
The opportunity to witness the splendor of creation firsthand, deepens my faith and draws me closer to the creator of it all. To know God and know yourself are the ultimate pursuits & I am SO thankful for all the opportunities I’ve had to do so.
I’m even more thankful I’ve gotten to share these experiences with the world! I hope through viewing, listening, or reading about my adventures that someone else is inspired to take a step out of their comfort zone and into the world and all the adventures it has to offer. There is no time like the present, and the diems must be carpe’d!
Chase lives in Michigan inspiring people to live their passion. If you're needing help planning a trip or finding the courage to spread your wings, follow her light at @chasejancek.