West McMillan Spire

  • Date: July 27-28, 2019
  • Start: Goodell Creek Trailhead
  • Distance: 19 miles
  • Duration: 2 days
  • Elevation gain: 9,000 feet
  • Type: Out-and-back
  • Resources: The Mountaineers
  • Ancestral land of the Nlaka’pamux people

My eyelids fluttered open. I looked at my phone and groaned. The alarm had yet to go off, so why was I awake? Rainwater trickled down the fly as I unzipped the cold, damp door and pulled it back. My jaw literally dropped. A star-studded night sky greeted me and there in the distance, after being shrouded in thick clouds all the previous day, was the clear silhouette of the jagged spires comprising the Southern Pickets. 

I first heard about the Picket range maybe three or four years ago, even before our very first trip to the North Cascades. Summer after summer I considered planning an adventure out there, but phrases like “daunting” and “not for the faint of heart” and “experienced mountaineers” kept me from going. I wanted to be ready. I wanted to do it right.

Ironically, this first trip was planned almost completely on a whim and not coming at a good time in terms of where I was at mentally. Over the past month, I’d backed out of or failed to complete a couple bigger climbing goals, I dropped from the 100K race I’d been training months for,–this climbing trip would be the same weekend as the race–and, in general, I’d been feeling hollow, an empty shell, for much of the summer. Like I wasn’t doing enough or pushing myself or challenging myself enough. Like I wasn’t enough. Last week, after finally giving in to my anxiety and withdrawing from the aforementioned race, all I knew was I wanted to be in the mountains. And I wanted it to be the Picket range. 

Summit of West McMillan

Day 1: Goodell Creek Trailhead to Terror Basin (7.2 miles; 7 hours 45 minutes, breaks included)

Following a restless evening attempting to sleep at a rest stop and a long wait for overnight permits at the Wilderness Information Center in the morning, Caylee and I finally pulled up to a surprisingly full parking area shortly before Upper Goodell group campsite. The air was thick when we stepped out of our cars. I tried not to think about what this would mean for the lower, brushier section of the approach along Goodell Creek. 

I knew the climber’s trail was going to be a doozy, gaining somewhere between 4,000 and 5,000 feet over the course of 2.5 miles, but what I didn’t expect was the 4-4.5 mile approach TO the climber’s trail to be as miserable as it was! Despite only gaining about 1,000 feet, there were what felt like hundreds of downed trees to crawl over,–never easy with an overnight pack–long sections of sopping wet brush (thanks to the recent stormy weather) to push our way through, and, worst of all, incessant, vicious, bloodthirsty mosquitoes that ate us alive no matter how fast we hiked or how often we swatted them away! The Pickets were already living up to their notoriety. 

After a couple of hours we reached the well-marked climber’s trail turn off and began the steep ascent to Terror Basin. The trail was thankfully well worn and easy to follow despite being unmaintained. There was still some brush and downed trees to contend with, and the trail was seriously steep, but at least we weren’t being aggressively hunted by ravenous mosquitoes! Although now it was gnats unintentionally getting stuck to our sweaty faces. I occasionally checked my phone to make sure we were following the gpx track I’d downloaded ahead of time, but the trail seemed so clear that I didn’t keep a super close eye on it [gpx track]. Then, somewhere around 4,000 feet, we lost it in a boulder field at the base of a sheer rock wall. Confused, I pulled out my phone. Sure enough, we were off-route and should’ve ended up somewhere ABOVE  the rock wall, not below it. 

We wasted nearly an hour trying to figure out how to get back on the correct, least resistant path. After several attempts to seek out a path above the boulder field (which only led to thick patches of devil’s club), we started hiking back, scanning the area carefully for an uphill turn off. I stopped at a spot that earlier had made me think, “Huh…that’s weird,” because a medium sized rock, with no other rocks in close proximity, sat in the middle of the trail near a downed tree. I looked on the uphill side, past the downed tree, and there, slightly obscured under a low hanging branch, was a small cairn. Finally, here was the turn we’d missed. Despite being back on track, we were in low spirits following the navigation mishap.

“Beer and burgers sure sound nice right about now,” said Caylee, more seriously than jokingly.

I agreed, but I knew if we dwelled on that thought for too long, we’d definitely end up turning around. We kept slogging on uphill.

The next portion of the climber’s trail took us through a series of class 3 (not exaggerating) tree root scrambles. And I thought getting over downed trees with an overnight pack was difficult! The strong tree roots did make for good veggie belays though. At long last we finally exited the forest onto a more open ridgeline…with no views. Where there should’ve been mountains upon mountains for miles and miles, there were heavy clouds. That forecast for “clear, sunny” skies after 11 am–it was now past 4 pm–was a load of crap. At least they were moving, and we did occasionally get glimpses of blue sky and mountains as we hiked higher. We followed the trail through heather meadows and boulder fields up to a notch at around 6,000 feet. Terror Basin and the prospect of camp, as well as an end to the day’s tortuous approach, were now just a few hundred feet below us!

Caylee hiking toward the notch; starting to get a little bit of a view

We carefully picked our way down the steep, slick scree slope, working hard to stay balanced with our bulky packs. Now that we were over the notch we could see the camp area. At least three or four tents dotted the basin below. After getting off the scree, we plunge-stepped down steep, soft snow to finally reach our home for the night. 

Terror Basin is known for having absolutely breathtaking views of the Southern Pickets, well worth the arduous undertaking to reach the basin. Unfortunately, we were completely socked in. From speaking with some other climbers in the basin, the weather had been terrible, even downright raging, for a good part of the day. My hope for decent climbing weather the next morning began to dwindle, but I worked to keep that small sliver of positivity alive.

I messaged Mack from the inReach to let him know we’d reached our camp. While we’d been trudging up to Terror Basin, Mack had been racing in the inaugural Wy’east Howl 100K (a race that I had also planned to run but ultimately dropped out of earlier that week). I hadn’t seen him since Friday morning. As silly as it sounds, it was the longest we’d been away from each other in nearly a year. His non-presence had left a noticeable void, which I felt even more as I lay in my tent, completely alone, for the first time ever. I’d been thinking about him all day, looking at the time, wondering what part of the course he was on, how he was holding up. His goal was to podium. I stared at the inReach screen for a few minutes, hoping a message from him might pop up. Nothing. I turned it off to conserve the battery. It was still light outside, but me and Caylee had crawled into our tents early, our battered bodies ready for sleep and probably not ready to climb the next morning. 

Socked in at Terror Basin
First time ever sleeping completely alone in a tent!

Day 2: Terror Basin to West McMillan Spire summit, then back to Goodell Creek Trailhead (11.8 miles; 13 hours 50 minutes, breaks and packing up camp included)

The morning brought renewed hope and excitement as I stepped outside to unobstructed views of the Southern Pickets and the day’s objective prominently front and center. While researching and planning this climb, I’d gazed starry-eyed at accompanying photos on Google. But being there and experiencing it in person after only seeing it through someone else’s photos for years? I could’ve cried I was so overwhelmed with gratitude. 

We waited until it was light enough that headlamps weren’t necessary before setting out. A group of five climbers from the Mountaineers group had started shortly before us. We followed their path, but, after the previous day’s mishap, I also kept a close eye on my gpx track.

“How long do you think it’ll take to reach the summit? Maybe another hour or two?” asked Caylee, about an hour into the approach. 

“Maybe,” I started, “but to be more conservative, I’d estimate closer to three.”

“Three more hours?! I’m not sure I’m up for that…”

Caylee paused, mulling over her options, looking at West McMillan and looking back at camp. 

“I’m going to call it here. I’m just really not feeling it today,” she concluded. 

I was sad to see her go, knowing we wouldn’t get to share the summit together and that we’d both be hiking back to our cars alone on that god-awful terrain. For a moment, I considered turning around with her, a little uncertain about completing the remainder of the climb by myself. A relaxing morning in camp and getting back to the car by early afternoon sounded nice. But when was I actually going to make it back out here to attempt West McMillan again? And how many climbs had I already bailed on over the past few weeks? I couldn’t turn around. Not yet. Time to embrace being alone and uncomfortable.

Clear views in the morning; can you spot my tent?
Southern Pickets are gorgeous

I caught up to the Mountaineers group shortly after Caylee turned around, staying a short ways behind to avoid leapfrogging with them and/or accidentally dividing their group. We all eventually stopped for a brief break and got to chatting.

“You look familiar,” said one of the guys. “Is your name Theresa by chance?” 

The climbing community is a small world, made even more close-knit with the advent of Facebook groups, where Jonathan had seen some of my posts from other climbs and recognized me. A funny coincidence indeed. A coincidence though that also made me feel a little less alone and nervous about being without a partner on this unfamiliar mountain. (Sidenote: Jonathan wrote a fantastic trip report about this climb and took some gorgeous photos to accompany the report! Check it out here!)

After their group stopped for another break further up, I decided to keep pushing on, anxious to get up and start the tedious task of downclimbing. I saw the two other climbers we’d met in camp the previous day making their way up the steep snow to the saddle below the west ridge route. I laced up my crampons and followed their tracks up. The snow was still firm (which wasn’t my favorite for trying to kick in steps with trail runners), but up higher I found some great steps kicked in by the climbers in front of me and took full advantage of them. I got off the snow a bit earlier than I should’ve and ended up doing some sketchy scrambling on heinous, chossy rock to reach the beginning of the west ridge. I thought after the snow the summit would seem closer. Wrong.

Terror Glacier and the Barrier

It took almost another hour of precarious and exposed scrambling on varied terrain (scree, talus, dry and wet slab–class 3 and even some class 4 sections) to finally reach the summit ridge. Far more involved than I’d anticipated! I dropped down off the spine and followed a surprisingly mellow path to the true summit though. It was 9 am when I stepped onto the summit, about 3 hours and 40 minutes since I’d left camp. 

The two climbers before me, Mary and Vazul, were just about to head back along the ridge when I arrived. We chatted for a few minutes and Mary mentioned she’d seen some of my posts on the PNWOW Facebook page. Another small world coincidence! What a morning! I stayed on the summit by myself for a few extra minutes, signing the register, and soaking in the 360-degree views of this mythical range. Three years of daydreaming and I was finally getting a small taste of it. I could’ve sat there for hours honestly, but I knew the downclimb (especially of the west ridge and the steep snow) was going to be 10x more difficult than the climb up. Time to get moving! 

Inspiration Peak
Looking toward the Northern Pickets, Koma Kulshan, and Shuksan
Azure Lake
Summit selfie
Summit register

I passed the Mountaineers group and Mary and Vazul on the summit ridge as I descended. Knowing the risk of rockfall on this section, I was happy to be putting space between us. Aside from a couple of airy moves, the downclimb of the west ridge wasn’t too bad. Getting back onto the snow was a different story though. I knew I’d gotten off the snow too early on the way up, but I was nervous about taking a different way down, so, likely against my better judgement, I opted to take the same way down. That heinous rock that I’d had to scramble up earlier was even more terrifying to downclimb! I took slow, deep breaths for each sketchy move I had to commit to, desperately hoping the rock would hold my weight and not crumble beneath me. Once I was close enough to the snow, I got back on, even though I was still a ways from where I’d planned to. 

The steep snow, though a little nervewracking, felt far safer than the questionable rock. Part way down, I looked up to see Mary and Vazul. They’d made it onto the snow much quicker than I had since they were smart and DIDN’T attempt to scramble down terrible rock. Vazul breezed by me about halfway down the snow slope. Once the slope angle mellowed out, I turned and plunge-stepped/standing-glissaded down the rest of the way to where the rock began again. Mary and the Mountaineers group arrived a few short minutes after. 

I followed Mary and Vazul back to camp so I didn’t have to navigate the sea of granite slabs by myself. We made the time pass with talk of past and future climbs and goals. I was amazed that this was Mary’s first season of climbing and she’d tackled a peak in the Pickets! Watching her climb, I wouldn’t have guessed it was only her first season! I rolled into camp a few minutes after them around 1:30 pm. As expected, Caylee’s tent was gone. A small part of me had hoped she’d still be there but I knew the chances were slim. I wouldn’t have wanted to wait around either, especially since I returned way later than I’d anticipated. The climb had taken an unexpected EIGHT HOURS round-trip just from camp! I slipped off my socks and shoes to air them out, hastily packed up my gear, and got a quick message out to Mack that I was about to hike back out. To my delight, I saw a message from him when I turned on the inReach. He’d taken 2nd place in the Wy’east Howl!!!! Despite how exhausted I was, reading that filled me with so much joy, even more joy than standing on the summit of West McMillan. My eyes welled up with tears at the thought of him crossing that finish line and finally getting to stand on that podium he’d trained so hard for. I was ready to go home now and congratulate him in person. 

Terror Basin seems so far away…

I was off and heading up to the notch around 2:15 pm. Once over the notch and back on some semblance of trail, I moved quickly, stopping once every hour to get a swig of water–it was super toasty out with the sun beating down on me!–and attempt to stomach a snack. I didn’t want to get too caught up in taking photos despite finally having clear views, but I did take a moment to snap one of the Southern Pickets before re-entering the forest.

As expected, the tree root scrambling to get back into the forest was slow and frustrating, but once back on less technical terrain, I made an effort to jog what I could. By the time I finally made it down to the junction with Goodell Creek “trail”, my knees felt like they were about to burst and I was completely soaked in sweat from the heat and humidity. Since the summit of West McMillan, I’d descended about 8,000 feet over 5-5.5 miles. Ugh. I collapsed next to the cairn and lay there for a few minutes to mentally prepare myself for the next slew of mosquito-infested miles back to the car.

It was bad. Really bad. In addition to the endless mosquito attacks, I’d somehow forgotten about a lot of the brush and, more importantly, the seemingly endless obstacle course of downed trees that I had to belly flop over because I was too tired to pick up each leg. And of course, each time I slowed down to maneuver over each tree, the mosquitoes swarmed in full force.  I finally extricated myself from that bullshit mess when I stepped out into the parking pullout at 7:15 pm, five hours after leaving camp. 

I called Mack in Marblemount when I got enough cell service and practically broke down in tears. After three days of almost no sleep and completing a more difficult adventure than I’d anticipated, I was utterly exhausted, filled with a lot of emotions, and stressed about the 5+ hour drive back to Portland. Everything hurt, I was on my period (why did I think this climb was a good idea?), I was surviving off half a bagel, a pack of Gushers, and a couple measly bites of a tuna sandwich (which was all I’d managed to stomach throughout the day), and all I wanted to do was lay down and not move for hours. At the same time, I was overjoyed to finally hear Mack’s voice again (although it was filled with concern about my current mental state). Ultimately, I didn’t make it home until 7 am the following morning, opting to pull over and rest my mind and body to avoid putting myself and other drivers at risk. 

All in all, it was one of the more difficult climbs that I’ve done (especially since I didn’t expect most of it to be solo). Despite the numerous physical and mental struggles, I can only look back on this adventure with fondness though. My first foray into the Pickets, where I proved to myself that I am stronger and more capable than I often think I am. 

Goodbye, Southern Pickets!
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Womxn of the PNW: Sara Pedrosa

Sara is an esthetician, cosmetic tattooer, salon owner, and endurance runner currently based in Ogden, UT, where she moved to from Portland, OR after 15 years to be closer to the mountains.

Bonneville Shoreline Trail right outside my door!!

What brought you to the PNW?

I was 24 and living in Baltimore, MD. I didn’t have much direction really. I was working, had a boyfriend. Life was FINE. But I knew I wanted more. I visited a friend in Portland in 2005 and loved it. It was so DIFFERENT from the east coast. I came home to Baltimore, packed up my stuff and moved.


Has the outdoors always played a significant role in your life? How were you introduced?

My parents! Both of my parents were (still are!) very active and loved all things outdoors. We camped, hiked, boated, and swam in rivers. Both my parents were runners as well. When we were kids we would hike up the trails and jog down.

Maroon Bells, 28-mile loop

Where is your favorite place to adventure in the PNW?

I LOVE the Columbia River Gorge. There is nothing quite like it it. Every trail has it’s own special personality and depth of challenges. It’s supplied me with endless good (and bad haha) times and it’s been great training for bigger mountain races. My absolute favorites are: Table Mountain, Coyote Wall, & of course, Tunnel Falls.


What is your favorite outdoor experience/memory of all time?

Oh jeez I have SO. MANY. With so many awesome people. I’m going to name two, quickly:

The finish of my first 50 miler was pretty special. It was in Moab and the last 8 miles were SO LONG. I have never been more proud of myself/happy to be done with something in my life.

My first 14er was with my friend, Michele Dillon (@missshellshock). I told her I wanted something with a lot of miles and hard in prep for an upcoming race in Peru. OH BOY did she deliver. It was Longs Peak, which is definitely the longest and one of the harder 14ers. A lot more exposure than I had expected. Like, A LOT MORE. She talked me though a lot of anxiety and tears to get me to the top. It’s one of my favorite days in the mountains and I can’t wait to go back and do it again and not cry haha.

Running the Sierra Andina 50k in Peru at 15k!!
Table Mountain

As someone who works in the beauty/cosmetic industry, what are your thoughts on the prevalent stereotyping of womxn and the idea that certain identities and characteristics are mutually exclusive (i.e. you can’t be considered “outdoorsy” if you enjoy make-up and manicures)?

This is so hard to answer! I want to be like, some people care about their appearance and some don’t, but I don’t think that’s true. I think there are levels of what and how much you care. Like, I get botox in my forehead because that is something that bothered me BUT I will seriously live my whole day in disgusting muddy, wet running clothes and be like, “deal with it world” haha. I guess at the end of the day, it really doesn’t matter. Never make excuses for why you may want (or not want) to wear mascara when you run (I do this, then quickly regret it because then it’s everywhere but like oh well), get botox/filler, get your hair done, get a manicure, or whatever. You do you, and never apologize for it.

Running the Clackamas River trail with my friend Theresa 😉 

Trail running and ultra/endurance running appears to be your absolute favorite outdoor activity. How did you get started? What have been the most rewarding aspects of this sport? Any advice for those interested in getting started?

I was always in sports as a kid. Mainly a competitive swimmer from ages 6 – 17. I love competing and challenging myself. I ran my first half marathon (road) in 2010 through the Columbia River Gorge (Bridge of the Gods half) and LOVED IT. I ran on roads for about a year until I thought to myself ‘man I love hiking and running, maybe I can do both like, at the same time’. I signed up for Hagg Lake 25k and then Mount Hood 50k for that next year. I ran Wildwood E2E solo to train. It was scary and I felt like a newb, but who cares. I just wanted to get out there. And now it’s become my drug. I am obsessed. Totally. It has helped me beyond what I can even explain. It’s helped me to get over some terrible anxiety and depression issues, and helped me overcome a lot of issues with food.  Has it cured me of all these things? No. BUT it has given me the mental and physical strength to push through whatever life throws at me.

I would say the community of people that I have met, run with and inevitably become great friends with has been one of the most rewarding things. It’s so positive and supportive. My suggestion for people who want to get out is to JUST DO IT. But, like, actually. Grab a friend, go alone. Walk, jog, run if you can. Don’t put pressure on yourself. Women always say to me “Well I ran, but just a 5k” or “I ran 8 miles today, but that’s nothing”. NO! No more negative self talk guys! Come on! Anything you can do is awesome. Just be out there to BE OUT THERE. I really enjoy adventuring alone and I feel like I’m generally prepared for what life throws at me, but if you are scared go with a friend. Or go somewhere local and less remote. Forest Park! Or wherever you may live. There is a lot to see and I plan on hiking/running/death marching to see as much as I can before my time is up.


What are some goals you’ve set for yourself this year? 

I’m running Never Summer 100K put on by @gnar_runners in July. I just want to finish and like not be totally miserable. Sub 20. And on a personal note, to just keep growing and letting go. I’m a very VERY Type A person. I’m trying to learn to balance my type A-ness while giving others room to like LIVE around me haha! I’m still learning patience. It’s been a long road with that one, but its slowly settling in.

(Edit: Due to an ongoing pelvic injury, Sara will be running Tushars Mountain Marathon instead of Never Summer. She is, unsurprisingly, still kicking serious ass despite her battle with this injury 🙂 )

Finishing Backcountry Rise 50K

Thank you so much for taking the time to share your story, Sara! Is there anything else we should know about you? Fun facts, trivia, etc.?

I love to cook and bake. I was a pastry chef before getting into the beauty industry. I cook pretty much every single meal I eat from scratch. Breakfast, lunch, and dinner. I love it, but it does take some planning. Once a week I order pizza though because like, come on!

Hamilton Mountain

You can follow Sara’s adventures on Instagram: @earth_crosser

Womxn of the PNW: Breanna Bushaw

Breanna is an elementary school teacher, and mom to a 5 year old son. She loves hiking, rock climbing and traveling in her free time.

How long have you resided in the PNW? What brought you here?

I have lived in Washington for over six years. I am originally from Arizona. Growing up, I was never a huge fan of the extreme heat of summers in the desert. I love that the PNW actually has seasons, not just a year long summer. Each year, I get excited for the beautiful change in the colors of trees and blooms of the flowers. Also, you can drive just a couple hours in each direction and have beach, mountains or desert. 


Has the outdoors always played a significant role in your life? How were you introduced?

As a child, we went camping now and then, but my parents were not super “outdoorsy”. When I was in college, a science professor started an “Adventure Club,” and was asking people to join. I decided to go outside of my box and give it a try. I’m so glad I did because it literally changed my life and helped me discover a love for the outdoors and a passion for hobbies I never knew I had. 


Where is your favorite place to adventure in the PNW? 

It really depends on the time of year. In the winter, I love exploring the North Cascades, and working on my skiing skills…they are still a work in progress. In the spring, I enjoy escaping the rain and heading to Vantage for some early season rock climbing. Summer, pretty much anywhere in Washington is gorgeous, but Rainier is the winner for sure. My favorite fall hike, so far, was a thru-hike in The Enchantments last year to see those magical golden Larches.


What is your favorite outdoor experience/memory of all time?

My favorite memory so far was summiting Mount Adams last year. Not because it was my highest peak so far, but the people that I was with who made it awesome. I love the encouragement and motivation to push each other along with great conversation and laughs along the way. It was a small taste of mountaineering that excited me to set bigger goals for myself. Our bodies are capable of amazing things when you put your mind to it.

How has motherhood influenced your outdoor lifestyle?

It hasn’t really, other than I get to share my experiences with my son. When I was pregnant, I was still hiking and backpacking. Kaden went on his first camping trip when he was just a few months old. When he was younger, I would carry him and it was great training weight. Now that he is older, he hikes along with me and can almost out run me on a trail…almost! I just started taking him outdoor rock climbing. I can’t wait to see what other adventures I can take him on as he gets older.


Any advice or lessons that you’ve learned that you think could be helpful for other mothers and parents hoping to cultivate an interest in the outdoors with their children?

Just go for it! There will be plenty of melt down moments and piggy back rides, but it’s all worth the experience and memoirs in the end. Bring a friend, and go with other kids if possible. Play games such as I spy, scavenger hunts, or trail bingo. Start with short, easy nature walks with low elevation, and work your way up from there. SNACKS! You can never have too many snacks.


What inspired you to become an ambassador for the group, PNW Outdoor Women?

I wanted to become an ambassador to connect with other women in my area who had similar interests and hobbies. I had been a member since the first year the group started and had really enjoyed attending events. Being new to the area at the time, this group is how I made a majority of the friends I have now. I really wanted help other women meet people to go adventure with and support each other in the outdoors.


What do you enjoy most about being an ambassador for PNWOW?

I have really enjoyed meeting people who are new to hiking or climbing and teaching them new skills and knowledge in the outdoors. It is the best feeling to watch someone overcome fears or doubts and try something new and be successful. It is also amazing to meet other ambassadors and group members who are accomplishing their goals as well. I am always so inspired by seeing others stories and adventures in the PNWOW group.

What are some goals you’ve set for yourself this year?

SO many goals this year! I have a goal to summit all five Washington volcanoes, so just continuing to train for that and practice safety skills. I would also like to continue to work on my lead climbing and progress in my rock climbing ability this summer. As far as non-outdoor goals, I am working on completing my MBA degree this year and making a career change from teaching. I would love to eventually combine my love for the outdoors with a career one day.


Do you have a specific idea about what you’d like your outdoor career to be/look like?

I don’t have a specific idea of what I would like my outdoor career to look like. I’m really interested in marketing and if it was for the right company. I would also love to do something that promotes women and kids in the outdoors. It would be great if it could include both environmental science and adventures. I’m really open to trying a few different roles and seeing what fits best.


Thank you so much for taking the time to share your story, Breanna! Is there anything else we should know about you? Fun facts, trivia, etc.?

Can’t think of anything!

You can follow Breanna’s adventures on Instagram: @breezy_adventures

Womxn of the PNW: Melissa Sher

Melissa is a midwest transplant now based in Portland, OR. She is a gym owner and former outdoor guide dedicated to sharing her love for the outdoors. At her gym, which she owns with her best friend, their mission is building strength and capability that people can take AWAY from the gym and experience the outdoors and their lives with more capability.

How long have you resided in the PNW? What brought you here?

I moved to PDX in 2008 after graduating college in Kansas. I’m from Missouri and needed OUT of the midwest 🙂 I graduated with an art degree but realized in my senior year while at a conference for design that I wasn’t on the path I wanted to be. So I, semi-randomly, got certified as a Personal Trainer, packed up my Honda Civic with whatever would fit and drove to Portland hoping for the best!


Has the outdoors always played a significant role in your life? How were you introduced? And what are your favorite outdoor activities?

As a kid we went “camping” but not really…:) The men slept in a tent and the women slept in a camper pop top (don’t get me started on that gender divide…) But my favorite outdoor memory was my dad taking me every summer to this place in Missouri that was like a natural series of rock formed water slides.  I would always come home totally bruised up from banging my shins on the rocks and jumping into the pools that were just slightly not deep enough. I would look at my bruised legs like trophies! I thought the whole thing was the coolest ever.  I was officially introduced to life in the outdoors by my friend Emily who was my first housemate in Portland and now best friend (my partner for the Trifecta). She told me the first month I moved to Portland that I would be going through Raft Guide Training the following year. When I argued she simply said that I had “nothing else better going on.” She was right – I went through training – fell in love with the outdoors, quit my job, lived out of my car for a bit, waitressed on the off-season, and fell in love with the outdoors.

Where is your favorite place to adventure in the PNW?

In Portland: Forest Park is the easiest/closest getaway. In PNW: I love Leavenworth, WA and Bend, OR.


What is your favorite outdoor experience/memory of all time?

My friend Emily and I started planning endurance style events for ourselves that we do each summer. Our first, 2 years ago, we named “The Trifecta.” We started at my house in PDX and biked to Mt. Hood, climbed it, biked to Mt. Adams, climbed it, then biked to Mt. St. Helens, climbed it, and biked home in 6 days (might’ve been 7–I can’t remember). Anyway, the cool part for me was standing on top of St. Helens and looking at Hood and Adams and the distance and terrain in-between. It was really special to me from a perspective of realizing how much we can push ourselves to do and how our greatest experiences can come out of the biggest challenges. We had attempted the adventure the year before but had to stop early due to weather on the mountain. I like to talk about how the process of whatever we do can be more important than the end result. Having this event we dreamed up and trained for over the past 2 years come to a successful end was so great because of the journey it took to get there. Also we took the best nap ever on top of St. Helens.

How long did you work as an outdoor guide? How has being a former outdoor guide shaped your current role as a gym owner, coach, and business womxn?

I worked on and off as a guide for probably 5 years or so in different forms. First as a river guide and then as a cycling and hiking guide. When I met Kimberly, my business partner, we both realized that we had the same dream of a gym. We wanted a space that messaged and trained people to use the gyms as a means to feel strong and capable in activities they love outside the gym. I think my experience outside has made the importance of maintaining fitness so you can do the things you love really important.


What inspired you (and your best friend) to start POINT Gym and Kitchen? 

Basically, we were both just disenchanted by the messages surrounding the fitness industry. Fitness has turned into this means to an aesthetic end when movement should be fun, attainable and empowering. We had seen it all working in the industry and wanted to create a welcoming space and community where people would feel like they could come as they are and build the strength they need to feel capable in their lives.

What are some goals you’ve set for yourself this year?

I have a few events lined up, but my main goal is to be more intentional while I am outdoors. I can get caught up in thinking about “after I do this thing” mentality – for example: I think about all the potato chips I want to eat or what I’ll be doing the next day. I tend to try and turn my mind to something else besides the physical effort. Now that I am comfortable in the outdoors, I want to be more intentional about enjoying the moments and surroundings and appreciating how lucky I am to be able to experience what I’m doing more in the moment.


Thank you so much for taking the time to share your story, Melissa! Is there anything else we should know about you? Fun facts, trivia, etc.?

Hmmmm. Favorite color is orange. I am addicted to chocolate. I have 2 dogs and a wife that I’m obsessed with. One of the dogs is my adventure buddy; her name is Elton Joan and she loves listening to Elton John music.

You can learn more about Melissa and follow her adventures on Instagram: @makestufftough @point_gym_kitchen @dirtyhealthco

Womxn of the PNW: Samantha King

Samantha is an outdoor enthusiast who loves trail adventures and exploring the outdoors. Running, climbing, and backpacking are just a few of her favorite things!

How long have you resided in the PNW? What brought you here?

I was born and raised in the Portland, Oregon area and have lived here all my life! I can’t imagine living anywhere else. I feel like we have it all! Mountains, trails, beaches, deserts, you name it! 


Has the outdoors always played a significant role in your life? How were you introduced?

Growing up we camped (car camping) and hiked. I loved camping, but I hated hiking. My dad and I laugh about it now. A big part of why I didn’t like hiking was because of heights. Little known fact is I used to be very scared of heights! I am still not the biggest fan of heights and exposure, but I’ve continued to push myself into doing it more, and I’ve gotten better and better at handling it.

Where is your favorite place to adventure in the PNW?

My favorite place to adventure is a hard one, but I’d have to say the Columbia River Gorge. It’s where I first began hiking and running, and it always feels like home to me. 


What is your favorite outdoor experience/memory of all time?

My favorite outdoor memory to date is probably my first backpacking experience. I did the Timberline Trail, solo, having no backpacking experience at all. It rained torrentially the entire time and was thoroughly a sufferfest. However, I learned so much about myself and what I was capable of. I was stronger and braver than I ever could’ve imagined. And I am happy to report all of the following backpacking and fastpacking trips have been much less eventful!

You often run, hike, and backpack solo. What do you enjoy most about doing solo adventures? Any words of wisdom for others who might be interested in doing more solo adventuring?

I love solo adventures! It’s a great time to learn about myself and what I’m capable of. Some basics are to know what you’re doing, make sure you’re carrying appropriate emergency gear, and know your limits. Make a plan and leave your plan with at least one other person, but preferably two. 


I can only imagine that being a mom to two kiddos gets insanely busy. How has motherhood (and family life in general) influenced your outdoor lifestyle? How often do you do outdoor adventures as a family?

Having two kiddos definitely makes things more challenging! It’s so much coordinating and scheduling. I often get up to run at 4 or 5 am while everyone is asleep or it doesn’t happen. I have a very supportive family who helps with the kids immensely and I couldn’t do a lot of what I do without them. I try to get them out for hikes and camping as much as I can. There is often complaining about “tired” legs, but I try to push them a bit. I don’t want them to grow to not like it, but I want to show them what they are capable of. I took them on a little overnight backpacking trip and they did pretty well all things considered! I plan to do a bit more every year and hope that eventually they’ll be able to handle bigger trips with me and I’ll have built in adventure buddies.

What are some goals you’ve set for yourself this year?

My biggest goal for this year is to run from Cascade Locks to the summit of Mt. Adams and down. It will be 100 miles and my biggest challenge yet!


Thank you so much for taking the time to share your story, Sam! Is there anything else we should know about you? Fun facts, trivia, etc.?

My favorite color is pink. Dark pink to be specific! 

You can learn more about Sam and follow her adventures on Instagram: @samantha.mountain.trail