You’ll Fit Right In With That Plaid
By: Allison Snyder
“I really don’t feel like camping. Can you just pull over and drop me off?”
I suppose I shouldn’t have been surprised by this admission.
My friend hadn’t exactly been enthused by the plans we’d hatched over beers the prior night. Since I’d picked him up an hour earlier, he’d been robotic. But we hadn’t spent any time together since we were seniors in college, so I figured that the decade in between might have changed him. As it turned out, he just didn’t want to go camping.
"You just want me to drop you here?”
"Yeah. I’ll walk home.”
We were about a mile from his house, and two miles from the storage unit that held his tent—the tent we’d planned to pitch that night somewhere east of Seattle. As I slowed the car, I didn’t begrudge him for not wanting to go, but I did begrudge that he hadn’t shared the news with me eight hours earlier, before I’d waited all day for his shift to end.
He yanked his bag from the backseat of the rented Toyota Prius that had transported me around Western Washington State. It was the first road trip I’d ever taken alone, and though I’d spent every day immersed in the state’s natural beauty, I didn’t yet own a tent, so I spent my nights at motels.
"It’s okay.” I nodded.
But I wasn’t so sure it was okay.
It was approaching 4 p.m. on Saturday afternoon.
I had no tent.
I had no camping gear.
I had no plan as to where to go.
And I had two days before a plane would take me back to my life in New York.
I drove north, away from Seattle, and figured I’d run into something. I ached to fill my final hours of vacation with the glowing emeralds of the Pacific Northwest.
I veered east to a quaint country town. The streets were lined with antique shops and cafes. I wondered into one café and asked the clerk, who looked active, for advice on where to go if I’d like to trail run. He had no ideas, but advised that I’d be best off getting a motel back where I’d just driven through.
With dusk approaching, I heeded his advice. I drove back to Everett, a suburb about 30 miles north of Seattle (I hadn’t made it very far) and pulled into a parking space to call motels.
My unplanned visit coincided with a logging convention.
Near defeat, I tried a Days Inn with a long list of customer complaints on the Internet. Vacancy. I took it.
I slid my key in the door and pressed against the peeling paint with my other hand. I dropped my bag as the metal slammed behind me and I turned to the window. It framed the motel parking lot, which overlooked a mall parking lot, which was illuminated by glowing red letters and tarnished lampposts. Not the vista I’d envisioned when fantasizing about this trip at my desk in Manhattan.
So it goes, I thought, as I grabbed my journal and walked across the street to Bob’s Burgers and Brew—an unlikely place to find a vegetarian who was craving a soda water.
As I scribbled notes under the bar’s dim light, at my right, two men in pinstripe jerseys clanked pint glasses and yelled at the television.
“Do you always wear uniforms to watch baseball games?” I asked during a lull in action.
They laughed. “We were at a softball tournament this afternoon.”
“What are you doing here?” The younger one, who later introduced himself as David, eyed my journal.
“I’ve been trail running and hiking around the state for the last week. I was supposed to camp with a friend. But he bailed last minute. So here I am with only two days of vacation left and no plan.”
David’s face lit up as he planted his empty glass on the bar. “I got it. Here’s what you do. You wake up early tomorrow morning. You drive two hours east on Highway 2 to Leavenworth. You’ll fit right in with that plaid.” He nodded toward my shirt. “You’ve got hiking boots, right?”
“Is there hiking there?”
“I don’t know. I don’t hike.” He swiped the suggestion away with his hand. “But, every time I stop there for a beer on my drive through, the pub is packed with people who look like they spent their days outdoors.” His friend nodded in agreement as he ordered them another round.
“And.” David leaned over his beer, his eyebrows creased, and his tone softened. “On your way, you’re going to stop at the Sultan Bakery for breakfast. Get an egg sandwich. And when you’re eating it, you’ll think, man, those guys really knew what they were talking about.”
Back in my motel room, I pulled out my phone and typed: Trail runs near Leavenworth.
I scanned the results, and clicked on a blog post by a female trail runner. She had connected several loops in the Alpine Lakes Wilderness Area, and her description removed any question as to whether or not I was going to heed David’s advice.
The next morning, I woke at 5 a.m., and started toward Leavenworth. For most of the drive, clouds shrouded the sun giving a bluish-grey tint to the evergreen-lined highway.
The tint lingered for the first eight miles of my run. But by midday, the clouds drew back to make way for cobalt slices of sky. When I arrived to the second lake described in the blog post, I perched on a boulder at the shore for lunch. I gazed at the glassy surface rippling in the breeze as I piled apple and cheese onto a slice of bread. I thought about the men in the softball uniforms. Even though my lunch rivaled the egg sandwich I’d ate for breakfast, they did know what they were talking about. And I was glad I had listened.
I was learning how to listen and open myself to the universe, especially when it sent me curveballs.
I sat on that boulder two years and nine months ago.
I didn’t know then that eleven months after David and a blog post sent me to the Alpine Lakes Wilderness, I would return to explore more trails there, and while doing that, I would befriend a man.
I didn’t know that two months after that, I would climb a mountain in Southwest Colorado with that man and he would invite me to park my car, which I was living out of at the time, at the house of the woman who wrote the post.
I didn’t know that two days later, she would invite me to run thirty-two miles through the San Juan Mountains and we would fall into a friendship.
I didn’t know that six months later, I would move to Southwest Colorado.
And I didn’t know that thirteen months later, her roommate would move out exactly when I needed a place to live.
When I read her blog post in July 2015, I could not have fathomed the chain of events her words would ignite. But I opened myself to it. And here I am, writing this story in the apartment that we share.
AUTHOR: ALLISON SNYDER
In 2016, Allison traded Prada heels, a Manhattan high-rise, and a decade-long pursuit of law firm partnership for running shoes, a used car, and an adventure in the American West. During her travels, she fell in love with Colorado's San Juan Mountains, where she now writes, runs and explores.