In Washington state, hiking is something that almost everyone tends to claim as one of their hobbies. As a single woman on dating apps, I've had this conversation plenty of times:

Them: "I saw you're into hiking!"
Me: "Yeah, I really enjoy getting outside and photographing landscapes."
Them: "That's so cool! What's your favorite hike?"
Me: [Insert my current answer, usually Colchuck Lake, Kendall Katwalk or other hike I've recently done]
Them: "That's awesome! I haven't done those but one of my favorites is Lake 22! Have you done that one?

And here's the thing, I have done that one. Many times. But good lord there are so many other better hikes in this beautiful state of ours and there's only so many times you can fake a "oh yeah, that's a good one" response on a dating app before feeling like you're selling your soul.

After too many versions of this exact conversation, I can confidently say that this is my most controversial opinion: Lake 22 is the most overrated hike in Washington State.

With that said, I woke up this morning at 6am (thank you Willow) to a rainy Bellingham, and decided that maybe this trail was worth another chance. After all, it must be popular for a reason, right?

Almost three years ago, I hiked this trail for the first time. It was the hike that reignited my love for hiking and launched me fully into adventuring and landscape photography. With all the changes I've been going through with my recent move, I figured it couldn't hurt to revisit a PNW classic.

Just a few minutes into the hike, my resolve started to soften as I took in the summer drizzle. After a mile, I started to realize that these were the same kind of woods I grew up in. The kind of woods where the trees were 100 years older than the house I lived in. The kind where berries grew that I never dared to eat. The kind where flowers bloomed when I didn't yet know their names, before I had tattoos of them adorning my arm. Where my siblings played Survivor with the neighbors, where my sister and I played make believe in the growth that changed every year but also somehow always stayed the same. Where blackberry bushes scraped my everything, but I didn't notice until mom made me shower.

I notice immediately now.

The little scrapes and bug bites, the twisted ankles and sore knees, they all demand my attention. I notice what I didn't immediately before, but I'm still focused on other things.

I'm focused on the live things growing out of the dead ones. Focused on the birds that scatter at my approach but are still only a few hops away. I'm focused on the beauty. But somehow in my head there's also room for more.

There's room for seeing where people have died exploring ice caves and risking avalanches. Where arms were broken and ankles were twisted hopping across boulder fields. At the same time, there's also room for how this path somehow remains winter after winter under the snow and ice.

I'm left thinking about how we might impact nature, but how it changes us even more.

And then I turned back to trod down the path I came up and everything else came back to me.

The rain-speckled granite slabs test my ankles while they amplify the sound of hiking groups around. I'm caught in between two sets of two that make up a hiking group of four that won't stop talking about their grandchildren and their questionable beliefs and actions. I'm stopped by group after group heading up the trail as I'm trying to make my way back to the car. They ask me how much further to the lake as they hault my progress and inner thoughts because they don't know anything about the trail. The kids complain to their parents about how tired they are as they throw their orange peels on the ground.

This hike might've earned its way back into my rotation because of my own nostalgia. But only on weekdays. Early weekdays. Early weekdays during the off-season.