Our trip to Wallace Falls State Park in Washington
I love the Pacific Northwest - its dense forests rich with life, and the impossibly deep greens in everything - if it hadn’t been for a combination of factors (the rain, the traffic) we’d probably still be living somewhere just on the outskirts of Seattle. It feels like such a foreign idea now that we call Idaho our home, but there were so many amazing things about that area that it really was hard to leave.
Shortly after we had moved to Seattle from Nevada I felt this unusual sense of hopefulness; I had landed myself a great job in marketing just out of college, and right outside my door there was this lush wilderness just begging to be explored. It seemed like every week I was hiking the Cascades or biking the paved trails, and Russell and I were camping more than we ever had back in Nevada. More than we had in a really long time.
We had roommates at the time, and though it seems like a strange concept looking back, I’m happy we did. It afforded us the opportunity of sharing our experiences with a larger group of people (not that we have any qualms traveling with just ourselves and our fur-buddy for companionship), and taught us to be accommodating to people with all skill levels and tolerance thresholds for the outdoors. For me it’s all systems go as long as there’s some form of a restroom, and with Russell he’s fine either way (oh to be a man), but some people don’t handle things quite like we do. It’s important to respect that when traveling with friends, but even more so with people you would consider acquaintances at best.
Working at such an exciting place, I wasn’t surprised to find that I got along well with a few of the guys in the creative department. We’d all chat at work or during the weekly ritual of Whisky Friday, and soon we started creating real friendships outside of the professional walls. Given our household’s constant camping excursions, it came as no shock when I found myself inviting my coworkers to Wallace Falls for the weekend.
Here are just a few things I learned about camping with coworkers:
DO: First and foremost, DO invite your coworkers camping - if camping is something you love and something that your coworkers or acquaintances are interested in, take them with you; it will be an experience that you can all bond over, and will give you plenty of opportunities to learn about each other. What better place for buddy building than around a campfire with hotdogs and s'mores on sharpened sticks?
My coworkers had grown up around Seattle their entire lives but had never been to Wallace Falls State Park, so it was a journey of discovery for all of us. We had no idea what to expect, but went in hoping for nothing less than a good time - and it was great. Like much of the environment in that area, this one was alive with a myriad of vegetation, and promised short hikes to cascading waterfalls. Just what the desk-job doctor ordered.
DON’T: Don’t waste your time worrying whether or not your coworkers are having a good time. Just because you invited them, doesn’t mean it’s your responsibility to make sure that they are having fun at every moment. Camping has some lulls, it has some lazy moments where you all just sit around camp and graze on snacks, and that’s okay.
We spent the entire first night roaming around near the campground in search of the perfect place for Russell to catch a photo (long exposure pictures of the stars are ideal, but we aren’t picky) and wound up near this eerie abandoned water wheel. Something about the setting had us all on edge, but it was exciting to get our hearts racing like that and I really think it made the night. It was a topic of conversation for the rest of the camping trip, of course, but we were still talking about it when we were back in the office, too. You don’t often get the chance to explore the unknown at night - it’s the type of thing you aren’t likely to forget.
We also spent a few solid hours hiking up this insanely steep trail to find Wallace Falls, and of course it was a glorious trek, but we were all completely drained afterward. At that point we welcomed a cold drink around the campfire like we were being offered a last meal. We probably spent the rest of the trip with our butts parked in those canvas folding chairs and enjoyed every second of it. When company and setting are good, fun times are just bound to happen.
DO: Do push outside of your comfort zone. I’ll (shamefully) admit that I have a hard time wanting to spend long periods of time with people I don’t know well when I’m in uncharted territory. Situations are unpredictable, and I’ll be the first to say that I’m somewhat vain, so the thought of professional folk seeing me without a proper shower or face of makeup makes me feel a bit weird. I’m also not the type of person to let that hesitation keep me from having a good time. There will always be something to be uncomfortable about, there will always be excuses. But there won’t always be the opportunity to bond with new people in new places. Take a chance, you might be pleasantly surprised to see where it finds you.
Were all of us experienced hikers that could easily tackle the few-hour walk? No way. Did that stop any of us from going? Heck no. We set out one foot in front of the other, took breaks where it was needed and added extras where it wasn’t for good measure; we talked about how fresh the air was and how cool it was that moss was thriving on everything; we laughed together at the Nature Police who couldn’t help themselves but to yell at us for accidentally wandering off the trail. As a group we took much longer than we would have if it were just me hiking, but it was so much more about the journey than the destination (isn’t it always?).
At the top of the hike was beautiful Wallace Falls. There isn’t much in the way of a panoramic view of the falls, no real designated observation area, but you can see most of it fine from where the trail ends and that was enough for me. I could hear the powerful crashing of water, smell the subtlety of the damp leaves that surrounded it. I was perfectly content catching the wonder from the safety of the trail, but a few of the others were feeling a bit more brave.
DON’T: Don’t force your coworkers into anything. Remember those thresholds I mentioned earlier? They’re meant to be respected, and in situations that include a small bit of danger, they’re critical.
I’m a big baby, so the thought of standing on the edge of a medium-sized waterfall just doesn’t appeal to me. Sure I might wind up losing out on a few good vantage points from time-to-time, but I’ll walk away safely guaranteed, and for me that’s just more important. Russell on the other hand is a wise adventurer through and through; always up for a rush of exhilaration so long as it can be done smartly and safely. This characteristic found him over the safety fence and on the edge of the falls for a better picture. A few others in the group followed suit and climbed the small bars of wood as if they weren’t even there - and some of them stayed back with me.
I would never force someone into a situation they weren’t comfortable with much like Russell never tries to force me onto hikes I deem unsafe, or ledges that I’m just not sure of. If you aren’t comfortable, you aren’t having a good time; and while I think it’s important to test your own boundaries now and then, I think it’s best to do on your own terms, when you know that everything will be okay.
We all came back with something a little different from our camping trip to Wallace Falls State Park; my most notable part was the hike for instance, while Russell best remembers taking our spooky picture at night. That’s the best thing about travel though; the trip is never the same for two people, and no matter what you do you’re bound to come out a little different on the other side.
Once we moved to Boise I inevitably lost touch with most of these people, but I’ll never forget them. We conquered mountains together, stood in the dark and looked fear right in the face; we just hand a downright good time hanging out in nature, which is what it’s all about for me. So step outside of your comfort zone and invite your coworkers on a camping trip or day hike - the worst you’ll come out with are some memories and a story to tell.