Several weeks ago, a writing partner told me she’d mentioned my blog to a hiking friend of hers. Her friend didn’t find what she was looking for in my recent posts. It appears she was looking for long, tough hikes with huge elevation gain. When my friend called her friend a “hiking snob,” I laughed. Perhaps she just wasn’t interested in the change messages I shared. But on a family hike to Peek-a-Boo Lake yesterday, I thought about how stringent rules make us miss a lot in life. How might you rewrite the rules to get more from your life?

My hiking partners are ready to rewrite the rules with me.
My hiking partners are ready to rewrite the rules with me.

The Drive

We left Seattle yesterday morning at 7:40 under overcast skies. We mistakenly headed toward Monroe before realizing we needed to go due north to Everett. Oops. I didn’t calculate the distance properly; my estimation of 1.5 hours ended up being closer to 2.25 hours.

When we pulled into the Beaver Lake Trailhead to use the Portapotty (since Peek-a-Boo doesn’t have any facilities) I checked the mileage sign for an idea of other hikes in the Darrington area. Refreshed and certain we were close, we drove up the forest service road toward Peek-a-Boo Lake. And that’s when the wonder and awe began, along with a very long, slow drive.

Five miles of brushy, one-lane, potholed road. By giving myself permission to rewrite the rules, we get to explore pristine forests in out-of-the-way places where berries burst off bushes and nobody else is there to bother us.
Five miles of brushy, one-lane, potholed road. By giving myself permission to rewrite the rules, we get to explore pristine forests in out-of-the-way places where berries burst off bushes and nobody else is there to bother us.

Obstacles

How long can five miles take to drive? Forever, if the road is narrow and brushy. The one-lane road was in fairly decent shape, but we had to hop out several times to clear branches and debris. A downed tree across the road provided JUST enough clearance to pass underneath without getting stuck. We proceeded slowly so the branches wouldn’t damage the paint on our car.

A downed tree across the road provided just enough clearance for our vehicle.
A downed tree across the road provided just enough clearance for our vehicle.

Rewards

Eight ruffed grouse, about the size of chickens, ducked in and out of the brush. My husband, a master birder through Seattle Audubon, pointed out that they collect gravel from the road to help with digestion. This sighting boosted my hiking bird list to 32 unique species in August, one of the less birdy months of the year. The other dozen species on this trip included golden-crowned kinglets, western tanagers, and evening grosbeaks.

Fog loaned an ethereal quality to the morning. Water droplets collected on spider webs, highlighting the silver strands and making the mossy mountainside mysterious and mystifying. We finally pulled into an empty parking area with space for about a dozen cars. I couldn’t wait to discover what this trail had to offer.

Delicate maidenhair ferns - my favorites - covered in droplets. I never would have guessed the Pacific Northwest had been in a drought since early July.
Delicate maidenhair ferns – my favorites – covered in droplets. I never would have guessed the Pacific Northwest had been in a drought since early July.

Why Hike Peek-a-Boo Lake?

Why Peek-a-Boo? Both my husband and daughter preferred something under eight miles without much elevation gain. At five miles and 1500 feet of gain, this hike fit perfectly. My daughter wanted to explore another alpine lake and perhaps collect berries. Ajax likes shade, running water, cool temperatures, and the ability to hike off-leash with his family.

In some ways, I resemble the hiking snob. Ajax and I usually cover 8-15 miles with 3-4000 feet of elevation gain. We prefer overcast and cool days with a crack-of-dawn start to avoid foot and car traffic. This summer I’ve had to rewrite the rules. I chose nine hikes that my daughter (a night owl) could enjoy. When my husband offered to join us, I put my intended destination, Island and Rainbow Lakes, on hold. Time to rewrite the rules.

Fascinating old-growth trees with interesting shapes and textures reach up into the fog. If we don't rewrite the rules, we might miss out.
Fascinating old-growth trees with interesting shapes and textures reach up into the fog. If we don’t rewrite the rules, we might miss out.

Could we visit a beautiful place I’d never been before? Have some unique bird encounters? Find a trail nobody else was using? The trail register just beyond the parking lot indicated that the last visitors were two hikers three days earlier on Sunday. We had the trail to ourselves. Success!

Berry Surprise

We reached the lake around noon, chatting about my daughter’s teachers over the years. Keeping both my husband and daughter talking means I don’t have much time to think about my blog. But this was my birthday. Last year we took a boat tour to the Kenai Fjords in Alaska. This year, we could include our dog. Rules are meant to be broken. And when you’re working with a wellness coach, you learn how to rewrite the rules.

The biggest surprise was finding bushes all along the lake bursting with berries. For an hour we collected wild huckleberries and blueberries. It reminded me of the family trip to pick alpine berries on Mt. Catherine two years ago, another hike that doesn’t “fit my usual rules.” Frankly, if you intend to spend any time picking berries, you probably don’t WANT to be on a long hike!

A handful of blueberries we picked at Peek-a-Boo Lake.
A handful of blueberries we picked at Peek-a-Boo Lake.
Lakeside bushes bursting with berries.
Lakeside bushes bursting with berries

Could I Rewrite the Rules?

I started writing this post thinking we wouldn’t return to Peek-A-Boo Lake. It takes so much effort just to reach the trailhead. But then I asked myself one of the “crazy questions” that Precision Nutrition coaches like to ask when they guide clients to rewrite the rules.

What could get me back there? I realized I needed to continue to rewrite the rules. If I hosted someone who wanted a shorter hike, the conversation in the car could make the long drive worthwhile.

If I were camping at the Clear Creek Campground for a week, I’d set myself up with a bunch of shorter day hikes to explore including Peek-a-Boo. And if I wanted to have a writer’s retreat away from the craziness of busy Seattle, what better place than visiting a lake that few people hike to?

Our rule is to go into any alpine lakes we visit. I chose to rewrite the rules for Peek-a-Boo Lake on a foggy, chilly day: wading works for me!
Our rule is to go into any alpine lakes we visit. I chose to rewrite the rules for Peek-a-Boo Lake on a foggy, chilly day: wading works for me!

Your Turn To Rewrite The Rules

How about you? Do you have any unspoken rules that are weighing you down? Where did they come from? Who made them? Think of a rule you’d like to change. Maybe it’s as simple as “I can’t watch TV without eating a snack,” or “I can’t see a movie in the theater without popcorn and soda.” Have you ever tried? What could your new rule look like?

Another common rule might be, “For exercise to count, it has to make me sweat and be longer than an hour.” Says who? If you have five minutes, you have enough time to exercise.

Ajax is on high alert watching a squirrel race up a tree. He's so well trained, he knows not to chase.
Ajax is on high alert watching a squirrel race up a tree. He’s so well trained, he knows not to chase.

If you like what you read in this weekly blog and you’d like to talk to me about what you’d like to change, please connect with me. I’d love to help you discover your unspoken “shoulds” and help you rewrite the rules. Please share in the comments.

Published by Courtenay Schurman

Co-author of The Outdoor Athlete (2009) and Train to Climb Mt. Rainier or Any High Peak DVD (2002), author of Mountaineering: Freedom of the Hills/conditioning chapter 4 (3 editions), and Peak Performance column for the Mountaineers Mag (2014-present). Member of PNWA, SCBWI, EPIC. Served on the steering committee for WOTS (2019-present). Completed UW Certificate program for Children's Literature and Memoir. Co-owner of Body Results, Inc. in Seattle. Climb leader with Seattle Mountaineers for over 15 years. Volunteer at Woodland Park Zoo since 2014.

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