Day One: Grumpy Old Men

Well under 100 MPH on Highway WA 7

The Männer arrived early at our vacation rental. Jet-lagged and exhausted after a long, uneventful flight to Seattle the night before, I was done packing, but I wasn’t ready to go.

Rainier at Night on the Way to SEA-TAC

Rainier at Night on the Way to SEA-TAC

An hour before their arrival, I skipped my opportunity to nap. I was nervous and running on adrenaline. In a hazy flow, I didn’t want to stop. I compulsively doubled-checked my equipment and my supplies more times than necessary. I wanted to make sure I had everything I needed.

Another Gear Check

Another Gear Check

I was also concerned how my family would survive for a week in Seattle without me. Shortly after our arrival, my credit card company in the US, deactivated our cards. Although we bought enough groceries for our basecamp that morning, we were short on cash. My bank in Texas was charging fees for cash withdrawals and our bank accounts in Germany would stick us with expensive transaction costs. I kept an emergency ration of cash and gave the rest to my wife. She had enough reserves until my parents would come to visit in a few days.

Arriving almost two hours ahead of schedule, the Männer were happy to see my family. They paid little attention to me as I finished getting ready. A shower and a welcome change of clothes gave me a second, less odorous wind. I had just enough energy to insist on a photo before we departed.

Grumpy Old Men Can Smile

Grumpy Old Men Can Smile

The ice cold reception of the Männer didn’t change once we were in the car. I was uncertain whether they were mad at me, mad at each other, or just hung over. I received tense, stoic replies to the questions I asked. I understood that their AirBnB was not good, and they were worried about Seattle traffic (rightly so). I decided that further probing wouldn’t resolve the tension. I put my baseball hat on, ducked my head, and took a well-deserved nap.

I awoke somewhere south of Tacoma as we drove towards Ashford. My nap gave me a welcome change of perspective and attitude. I detached myself from the worries and concerns of the Männer. They were trying to beat the traffic and reach town before the restaurants closed. Unlike our trip to Poland where we did not have any alternatives and we had to make good time, Ashford could have waited for us. We failed to explore other options like eating in Seattle or driving after rush hour. Halfway to our destination, I decided to keep such thoughts to myself. I wanted to understand the situation better not antagonize them or escalate matters.

As we approached Ashford, the Männer pointed out places they recognized. We drove past lodges and restaurants with each one soliciting its own Yelp-like review.

Our cabin in the woods was on the other side of town closer to the Mountain. In stark contrast to basecamp in Seattle, the cabin was perfect in every respect. The Männer and I immediately felt at home. Valentine and I praised Jefe for his great pick as we left for dinner.

A Hidden Gem in the Woods

A Hidden Gem in the Woods

A Saturday night, most of the restaurants in Ashford were already packed. Hungry and tired from our travels, we chose Wild Berry whose sign outside announced it was under new management. Two guides from American Alpine Institute sat near us sharing stories that we could not overhear.

Our host brought us menus, which contained an interesting mix of American and Himalayan cuisine. We ordered the Himalayan specialties. They were tastefully simple and rewarding. The light meal was a perfect end to a very long day.

By the time we finished our meal and got back to the cabin, I caught myself nodding off several times. Unable to hold out any longer, I went to bed at 7:00 pm.

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