My best friend, Ashlee and I had been trying to plan a show shoeing trip to Mt. Rainier for some time. Finally a sunny weekend in April worked out for us. She got the snow gear and I got the beer.
The type of beer you drink changes with the occasion, reason, and company you're with. So I knew I had to find a beer that inspired me to adventure and try something I've never done, yet is in the spirit of the Pacific Northwest. The Descendant IPA caught my eye, in a green can with a mountain and valley landscape. Good Life Brewing is out of Bend, Oregon and supports the active communities that exist across the PNW. And of course, we'd be going up and down a mountain, just as the label says "Up one mountain, or stream, or trial, or rock wall, and down another. Makes ya parched!" Another consideration was bottle or can. With a bag accompanied by a camera, water bottles, snacks, and snow gear, cans seemed more conventional. And easier to smash when empty and fit nicely back into a bag.
In preparing for the trip, we had to look up weather conditions. Little did we know Mt. Rainier seems to have it's own climate. We bundled up in the morning but as we drove up into Mt. Rainier National Park, the low clouds disappeared and we were greeted with bright sunshine. Rainier is an active glacial volcano. Because of that, it stands alone in the Cascade mountain range. It reigns above all other ridges in the vicinity. Even from a distance in Seattle, Rainier rules the southern landscape. But being in the park, and actually on the mountain, was a humbling experience in more than one way.
Ashlee and I are active ladies but people in WA don't fuck around when it comes to their outdoor activities. This proved useful when we borrowed show shoes, boots, and pants from friends and family without having to buy or rent any equipment. But at an altitude height of about 9,000 ft, just trudging through flat snowy terrain proved to be a feat. Without any expectations, we took off following what could hardly be considered a path, a map of boot prints and ski tracks, not knowing where we'd end up. But it didn't matter. We were on fucking Mt. Rainier. And she towered in front of us. Not in a menacing way, in a glorious one. In a way that graced us with it's presence and welcomed us to an unknown world that is usually a mirage in the backdrop of city life.
We eventually came to the first (and what became our last) major incline on the snowy path. The west facing slope was steep. Maybe a little too steep for our experience level. And the sun hadn't hit that side of the glacial rock leaving the snow icy and hard. Our wide snow shoes became cumbersome among the icy footprints created before us. The incline continued to steepen. I looked back to Ashlee, 20 feet below me. This climb was higher than expected. She yelled at me to not look down. With my heart rate increasing I fell to my knees, attempting to lower my center of gravity, fearful it would pull me back down to the ground where I belonged. I jammed my toes into the snow, hoping my shoes were digging in deep enough to support me. I started grasping at ice chunks with my hands. I was getting closer to the top but this was not getting easier. Suddenly my foot slips, my heart drops and I fall flat onto the frigid slope. I'm fine but I'm afraid. I lay with my stomach to the mountain, I had surrendered. I had surrendered to the mountain. What made me think I could just walk up a glacier without issue? What had I gotten myself into? But at this point all I could do was keeping going. So I didn't look down and pushed forward. One clobbering snowshoe at a time, crawling on my hands and knees, fully realizing human's inferiority to nature.
With intense focus on each footstep, steady breathing, and an internal mantra "You got this. You fucking got this", the terrain suddenly flattened out. We made it to the top. And I finally had the chance to look around at the expansive view in every direction. Without a cloud in the sky, the sun beat down, a reward for a shadow-lain, icy incline. Yet my heart could not stop racing. I was in awe, overwhelming, and still quite frightened. I immediately took two cans of the Descendant IPA out of my bag and buried them in the snow.
When the beers were cool enough to drink, we popped them open and cheered to climbing the mountain and accepting the reward of the scopic view. It's an unreal feeling, drinking a beer with your best friend on top of a mountain. It feels like the way this IPA was supposed to be consumed. While it did aid in calming my nerves, it was so much more than that. It helped me take in all the beauty of the Cascade mountain range and everything beyond it that we could see. Drinking the Descender IPA on Mt. Rainier encompassed what drinking craft beer in the Pacific Northwest is all about.
Good Life Brewing // Descender IPA // Bend, OR // 7% ABV // 70 IBU
Color: Since I didn't haul glassware up a mountain, I didn't get the chance to observe the color except for the last drips that fell out onto the snow after crushing the can.
Smell: Trying to capture aroma from a can proves to be challenging. But I was abzle to pick up on bright, citrus hops.
Taste: The cool sensation of a snow-cooled beer coming out of a aluminum can was rejuvenating. Balanced hop profile (brewed with 5 different strains) with high notes of lemon and pine. Probably the most refreshing IPA I've had (based soley on circumstance).
Overall: There's really nothing that compares to the taste of a beer chilled by the snow on Mt. Rainier. It's the taste of accomplishment and refreshment. And there's nothing better than sharing the view and a beer with my best friend.
After the Descent, it was time for our descent down the mountain. The sun now had time to move across the sky and melt the snow a bit. After testing out the snow conditions we came to the conclusion that the best way to get down was to slide on our butts. Ashlee strapped on her snow pants and just went for it. She slid down the entire way picking up speed and making a snow chute behind her. The incline that had terrified us before turned into a post beer and lunch playground.
If this snowshoe trip taught me anything, is that nature rules everything around us. And every once in a while you need that reminder that our human egos are not as big as we think they are. Oh, and also bring a beer for every outdoor expedition.