We had come to the end of our time in Washington. It had been an epic two weeks. We’d kayaked, hiked, camped, and road tripped our way through some of the most beautiful wilderness we’d ever seen, but there were still a few things we wanted to do before our Ladycation was over.
Our flight out of Seattle departed at 10:30pm so we had the entire day to explore. We had some things we still wanted to see, but after hiking over 85 miles, what we really wanted was breakfast and a massage.
We checked out of our hotel and headed to Portage Bay Cafe. If you’re ever in Seattle this should be your number one destination for breakfast. Holy deliciousness. Everything is made with locally sourced, natural ingredients, and it’s all incredible. I have never seen such enormous pancakes in all my life, but the best part was the bar. I don’t mean booze, I mean the bar with all the toppings you could ever dream of putting on your pancakes: fruits, nuts, berries, fresh, homemade whipped cream; it was breakfast paradise (did I mention the bacon was also amazing?). We loaded our plates and savored every last bite until we felt like we were going to burst. It was like Thanksgiving; you know you’re full, but the food is so plentiful, and it tastes so good, that you can’t stop shoveling it in your face. It definitely ranks among the best meals I’ve ever had. It was that good. We had to wait over an hour to get a table, and it was absolutely worth the wait.
We hadn’t found a spa in the area with availability (and we really needed some time to digest our meal) so we decided to head to our next destination: Chateau Ste Michelle, maker of one of my favorite wines (their late harvest Riesling is the bomb). The grounds were beautifully manicured, with a large estate and separate building for tastings and purchasing merchandise. There were families dotting the lawn having picnics, or just enjoying the sunshine and scenery. The women were what I imagine when someone says, “ladies who lunch,” so I felt a little out of place in my jeans, Red Hot Chili Peppers tee shirt, and flip flops. I also wasn’t nearly stoned enough, so the noisy throngs of people, and the extravagance of the estate were a little overwhelming. After going through the tasting rooms and deciding we didn’t want to wait in line for one, we went outside, away from the crowds, and walked among the grapevines; even tasting a few grapes before moving on.
Once we got back in the car Lindsey started calling spas again and finally found one with openings. It was tucked into the corner of a nondescript building occupied by random shops and offices. There was a tiny waiting area inside the door, with a tinier desk, and a couple of plastic chairs (normal sized). Everything was a weird pink color, like being inside a bottle of Pepto-Bismol, and it smelled funky. I couldn’t quite identify what the smell was, but it seemed to be a combination of ass and pungent incense (an attempt, I presume, to cover the ass). We kind of looked at each other uneasily, both wondering what the hell we’d just gotten ourselves into.
A very friendly, petite, Asian woman came down the hallway to greet us, and quickly ushered us into our rooms. Minimalist would be a generous way to describe the decor of the room. It was sparse, random, and bordered on bizarre. There were silk roses glued to one wall, on the adjacent wall were bird decals like you’d expect to see in an old lady’s window; a table covered in various lotions and oils sat in one corner, a shabby chair in the other, with the massage table in the middle of the room. It was all a bit confusing and I stood there for a hot minute just trying to make sense of it all. I remember thinking, I’m not even remotely high enough for this.
After I’d undressed and was laying Naked and Afraid on the table in this strange, smelly, little pink room, my masseur came in. Like the woman who’d greeted us, she was petite, cheerful, and, I learned, Chinese. She asked what kind of massage I wanted, how much pressure I wanted, and then she got to work.
I’m not going to say it was a bad massage because it wasn’t . . . for the most part. At first it felt amazing. It was just . . . odd. She kept massaging my bones like she thought they were knots in the muscle–which wasn’t particularly enjoyable–but when she did find the muscles it was fantastic.
Outside the room, this place was hoppin’. I heard at least a half dozen customers come in while I was there and, interestingly, they were all men. Their interactions seemed sort of off to me. Everyone was just a little too flirty and familiar. Sometime around Man #4, I had a disturbing feeling that I knew why this place seemed so strange. It wasn’t the funky smell or the weird decorations. We’d apparently stumbled upon the kind of massage parlor that caters to those wanting . . . uhh . . . release at the completion of the massage; a “happy ending,” if you will. It was all beginning to make sense.
At the end of my massage the masseur did the karate chop move–which I didn’t know was really a thing. I thought that only happened in the movies, so I was very confused. But there I was, getting chopped by this tiny woman, in this strange, little pink room in Seattle.
Just when I thought it was over (and, frankly, that it couldn’t get any weirder), she picked up my feet and let them fall to the table. Uh, okay, that was weird. Then she picked them up and let them fall again. What the actual f*ck is happening right now? When she did it a third time I couldn’t hold in my laughter any longer. What was she doing?! It was too much. When I laughed she sort of giggled, and said something I didn’t understand, before telling me to go ahead and get dressed on her way out the door.
I was still befuddled and cracking up when I walked into the lobby and saw Lindsey, who looked like she’d also had quite an interesting experience, waiting for me in one of the chairs. We were given little Chinese mints and sent on our way to ponder what had just happened. We both concluded we had come across an establishment better suited to men with a fetish, but we did feel relaxed, and we couldn’t stop laughing, so all in all it was a positive (albeit bizarre) experience.
It was late afternoon by then, but we still had some time to kill before finding a place for dinner and heading to the airport. We wanted to be outside. It was a beautiful day; our last few hours in the Pacific Northwest. Being inside wasn’t an option. We looked at our map to see what was nearby and found a park at a place called Cougar Mountain. It sort of seemed like destiny.
Cougar Mountain turned out to be mostly residential: beautiful, newer neighborhoods of modestly sized, charming houses on quiet, hilly streets. We parked the car and went for a walk on a short trail, then sat down to kill some time in the pavilion at the trailhead.
As we sat at the picnic table we were so full of gratitude and joy. We’d spent two weeks hiking on volcanoes and mountains, through ancient forests and along the ocean. We’d fallen in love with Washington, with backpacking, and rediscovered why we’d been best friends for a decade. It had been one of the most incredible experiences either one of us had ever had.
This trip transformed me. It’s much easier to get clarity and perspective when you completely disconnect from all the distractions of everyday life: work, family, social media, current events; it all makes the world seem so loud. Leaving it all behind, getting out into the peacefulness of nature for that long, is a truly therapeutic experience. My mind was clear and focused, and I felt an inner peace I’d forgotten was even attainable. It was like all the mental clutter had been washed away.
You know when you clean your house really well, light some candles, pour a glass of wine and put your feet up to admire your work (moms are less familiar with this phenomenon, but I promise you’ll get there)? The laundry is caught up, the bills are paid, the kitchen is full of groceries, and you get to just relax for a minute. That’s how my mind felt: simplified, organized, focused.
As sad as I was to leave, I felt centered. I went home knowing that travel would become a bigger part of my life. I started looking up new hiking trails, places I wanted to explore. Forest bathing is everything it’s cracked up to be, like spring cleaning for the soul. We knew this was only the beginning of our travels, and we couldn’t wait for our next Ladycation!
Huge thank you going out to everyone who’s stuck with me though this whole adventure. I value and appreciate each and every one of you. Though Lindsey and I’s Bestieversarycation has come to an end, I hope you’ll keep coming back for future Ladycation adventures. Next week begins the tale of my 40th birthday adventure trip: Arizona and the Grand Canyon! Stay chill and keep hiking, my friends!