The Final Pushes!

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The last week of activities have been exciting and motivating for the entire group. After coming out of the Olympic Beach wilderness area, we took a series of ferries to San Juan island, where we got to explore the town center on a beautiful day. First we stopped at the Whale Museum, where Dean enthusiastically learned about the local whale pods. We watched some short videos and tried to calculate our chances of seeing whales while on the water. Downtown Friday Harbor was absolutely charming, and the group wandered into little shops and got ice cream and cheese from local vendors. After having our fill with downtown, we drove to our campsite for the evening and met our kayaking specialist, Erin. We were sure to show her just how hilarious our group is, as we told favorite stories from childhood and Cole and JJ kept everyone laughing. Ana chopped and prepared a huge number of vegetables for our Thai peanut pasta dinner, which we eagerly devoured. Zoe filled her now specialized role of dividing group food and gear among us for the sea kayaking section.

The next morning we coordinated out departure with the tides and set out for a 13 mile paddle to a far point on Orcas island. The sibling boat of Zoe and Cole quickly perfected their paddling technique and we enjoyed the cloudless skies and summer weather. We stopped for lunch of avocado wraps on a beach before crossing the channel toward Jones Island. The long day paddling was rewarded with a beautiful campsite on the water with fantastic views of the ocean, Canada, and even of Mount Baker. Artem posed for photos at the lookout points while Kevin and Ariya took silly pictures together. For dinner we had pesto macaroni and cheese and held Lizzy’s leader of the day hot seat on a lookout watching the sunset. The next morning we got an early start back toward Jones Island, which allowed Cole and Ariya to cook up some quesadillas for lunch. Ana and Stephanie soaked up the sun and took naps on the beach while Artem taught Dean and JJ and some of the leaders a Russian card game. The relaxing afternoon turned to evening over a warm fire and sunset where we told scary ghost stories. Our campfire had some friendly raccoon visitors, who watched our circle but we were one step ahead with our food tucked away for the evening. Ana continued her streak of sleeping outside under the stars, and a few of the others joined in.

The next morning we paddled back to San Juan and after managing our gear we took the ferry back to the mainland for our last adventure: climbing Mount Baker. A few people grabbed ice cream before the boat, where we enjoyed a smooth ride toward Anacortes harbor. There we did laundry, planned our final meals, and even stopped at 7-11 for some slurpees. We arrived at Bayview state park, where we played some soccer and volleyball on a field near our campsite. Our volleyball game built a crowd as our vibrant personalities were hilarious for all in the campground. The next day we continued preparing for Mt. Baker, and as leader of the day Stephanie kept everyone on track. We met our mountaineering guides, replaced any necessary items of gear, and picked up some secret extra candy bars for summit day. The next morning we began our hike in, and arrived at base camp at roughly 5,500′. There we set up our tents in a circle and prepared some carbohydrate-loaded dinner before summit day the following day. We were granted with a gorgeous day that allowed us to see the Pacific Ocean, Mt. Rainier, and numerous other surrounding peaks on our ascent. Split into three groups tied on ropes and harnesses together, we glacier trekked 6,200′ to the summit. Everyone did a fantastic job and immediately recounted it as one of the proudest moments. Ultimately it was a memorable and challenging way to end the trip. After descending to base camp and then the trail head the next day, we can enjoy a relaxing few days playing soccer, cleaning ourselves and our gear, and exploring Seattle. Everyone feels that although it seems we’ve known each other forever, the trip itself has flown by. We can’t wait to recount our memories and stories to friends and family in a few short days!