Words and photos by Stephanie Wright
Smoke from the recent wildfire season had started clearing only days before, but we were finally able to see the deep blue skies that Seattle summers are known for. We were lucky enough to have friends in town and it was obvious we were all antsy to breathe some fresh mountain air and stretch out our stiff legs. Where do you take a Coloradan, two Pennsylvanian globetrotters and a nomadic van-dweller to really “wow” them? We knew just the spot.
Tank Lakes isn’t an easy place to get to; you really have to work for it. It requires miles of shuffling across a valley floor, followed by a test of physical and mental strength as you huff your heavy pack up thousands of feet through the thick forest. All the while you’re questioning the person who chose this trail and kicking yourself for not hiking more over the summer. At one point I visualized a mental map of my pack for the location of my headlamp. My energy was fading rapidly, as was the light in the sky.
8 hours, countless energy gummies and a few tears later, we finally crested the last ridge to feast our eyes on Tank Lakes. We made it just in time for sunset – that blazing ball of fire and gas just had just settled into the jagged peaks across the valley. We threw down our packs and ran around, making sure we saw the show from every angle and came back only when our bodies were too cold and tired to commit to another lap. Eventually, the stress of the journey to Tank Lakes hit us and we hastily made tortellini by headlamp, blew up our sleeping pads and retired to our tents.
The next morning was long and slow. We filled our vessels with hot coffee and oatmeal and filled the air with easy conversation and laughter. With no agenda for the day but to be outside and let the time pass, it felt so good to just be. We ended up spending our day exploring the lakes, eating, napping, reading, eating some more and making up games with a hacky sack. It was the perfect end to a busy season.
Summer is always a busy season. We keep ourselves busy maximizing the longer daylight hours even if we don’t have much to give. Luckily, backpacking is a sport of simplicity. You’re required to bring only what you need to survive and, as a result, you force yourself to slow down. No need for phones or frills, just a primitive trail and bonus points for good views. In the end, the hike was a hit with our out-of-towners. They were wowed by both the alpine landscape and the group’s ability to indulge in downtime. In the end, those are the kinds of people I want to spend my last summer weekend with.