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Hiking Firsts: Photos and Stories of Hikers Trying New Things

Posted by Jessi Loerch at Jan 07, 2022 01:23 PM |

To celebrate the beginning of a new year, we're sharing some firsts, shared by contributors to our Northwest Exposure Photo Contest.

Do you remember your first hike? Or first backpacking trip? Or perhaps the first time you spotted a marmot or a bear? Those moments make for powerful memories — and it’s always beautiful when you can share one with someone you love.

At the new year, we took a look at photos shared by contributors to our annual Northwest Exposure Photo Contest. We wanted to celebrate folks getting out and exploring in new ways. We chatted with some of them to hear the story behind the photos.

If you have something planned for this year, we’d love to hear about them in the comments. Or take some photos and then enter them in our photo contest when it opens in August. We can’t wait to hear about your firsts.

First big hike for pup


An apricot-colored dog, with curly hair and soft-looking ears, looks at the camera with bright eyes. Evergreen trees, a lake and mountains are visible in the background.

David took his dog Bailey, who was 10 months old at the time, on his first big hike to Snow Lake and Gem Lake. David said that he and Bailey do a lot of hiking on trails around Discovery Park in Seattle, which has helped them learn leash skills on trail. For this trip, David had trekking poles, and managing poles and a leash was a new skill — one that he’s still trying to perfect.

David has been extremely happy to hike with Bailey, even as he’s had to go for shorter trips than he’s used to as the pup gains endurance.

“I’ve found that it’s a joy hiking with a dog,” David said. “Exploring nature with Bailey reminds me a little bit of hiking with children — there’s an immense curiosity and desire to explore, and it gives me a different perspective on the outdoors. It forces me to notice different things, stop at different points than I otherwise would, and is definitely an enriching experience!”

First hike for baby

Rita Chakkera

A hiker stands behind a bench with a baby in a baby carrier on her chest. Another hiker sits on the bench, with his arm around a large orange dog. Fall colors and evergreen are visible in the background.

Rita Chakkera took this photo of her grandchild Elias on his first hike. He was just a month old at the time. Emily, Jay and Elias, as well as their rescue pet, Phoebe, all posed for the image. Emily, who is an avid hiker, chose the Tradition Lake Loop in Issaquah for the trip. It had rained that morning, and the colors on the trail were especially vibrant.

“Everyone enjoyed the hike, including baby Elias, who did not fuss and seemed to like being outside,” Rita said.

Two firsts

Terri Keith

Three hikers, two adults and a baby, all smile at the camera for a selfie. Everyone is wearing hats and the baby is wearing a cozy fleece outer layer.

Terri Keith caught this photo while she and her husband, Zach, were on their first hike with their daughter, Charlotte, who was 6 months old at the time. They hiked the Naches Peak Loop Trail in October, not long after moving to the area. They had wanted to get a hike in before the winter.

“We were prepared for the cold, but there was more snow than we anticipated — it was our first time using trekking poles, and we wondered how we ever hiked without them,” Terri said. “Charlotte was pretty quiet on the way up, until she got hungry (aka hangry). We stopped for lunch at the turn, and she slept the whole way down. We could hear her snoring.”

First backpacking trip

Kathryn Perkins

A teen cooks over a backpacking stove, with his grandfather standing nearby. The stove and other kitchen equipment are spread out along a large fallen log. Two tents and a lake are in the background.

Kathryn shared this photo of her grandson, Blake, who is 13, and her husband, Charlie. They all hiked into camp at Packwood Lake, where they set up for the night before playing in the lake and making dinner together. Then Blake taught them how to play gin rummy by headlamp light. Not bad for his first ever backpacking trip.

“Blake really enjoyed the hike,” Kathryn said. “We found that he also loves to take photos with his iPhone. We spent lots of time waiting for him to get just the right shot and he took some amazing ones! A few weeks later, my husband got to accompany Blake on his Boy Scout troop’s first overnight hike!”

First trip to Rainier

Nikki Womac

Two people stand on a rock wall with their backs to the camera. They are both wearing hiking boots and looking out at Mount Rainier, which is lit up by early morning light.

“This is a self portrait of my oldest son and myself looking at Mount Rainier up close for the first time,” Nikki said. “We are on our way up to volunteer for the WTA program for my son’s school project. … It was the most beautiful morning, so we had to stop and take it in for a moment. I am a photographer and not usually in front of the camera. So it’s extra special that I got an image that captures both of us together.”

“I am a novice when it comes to hiking and the outdoors, so I really enjoyed learning more about the outdoors and how to be a part of preserving nature and making it more accessible to all.”

First trip to the springs

Lisa Giegel

A hikers squats down to take a photo of a spring using her phone. The vegetation surrounding her is lush and green.

Lisa and her friend took a trip to check out the springs at the Spokane Aquifer; it was the first time her friend had seen the springs and Lisa hadn’t been there in more than a decade. Her friend was also delighted to see teasel, which is her favorite. Lisa has since been back to the area, and was pleased to see trail improvements.

“Though it's a short hike, it's diverse and beautiful,” Lisa said. “The unmarked trails are a bit confusing to follow at times, but the improvements made since our trip — as well as future improvements — will make exploring the area easier for newcomers.”

Lisa loves that the image reminders her of time in nature with her friend. And a memory of a cool spot with green vegetation during a very hot summer.

First hike in Washington

Brenda Pineda

An adult hiker and three children sit on a boulder next to a flowing river, with lots of green evergreens in the background. The adult is holding a dog on a leash. Everyone is smiling, even the dog.

Brenda caught this photo of herself, her children, and their dog, on their very first hike in Washington. They choose a hike along the Nooksack River because it was easy enough for the kids and their dog was welcome. She likes that this image shows her and her family enjoying themselves while surrounded by nature. They’re from south Texas, so they saw many plants and animals on trail that they’d never seen before.

First hike back home

Junelle Lawry

A mother and her adult daughter pose for a photo together. The daughter has her arms wide and is smiling at the camera. Her mother is laughing with her eyes closed and a huge smile. A lake with a raft of floating is visible in the background.

“My daughter is a park ranger who was working in Texas for the past 4 years, but recently got a job transfer back,” Junelle said. “This was our first hike since her return to Washington. Once on Harry's Ridge, we set up our DSLR camera on a tripod with the timer. This photo was one of the outtakes of the series of our mother daughter pics. It captures the fun and joy we had enjoying the outdoors.

“I really missed being able to hit the trail with my daughter when she was working in Texas. It was so wonderful to have her transfer back. And our first activity together, of course, had to be a hike! Hiking is one of our favorite bonding activities.”

First hike

Erin Moya

An adult and two kids pose for a photo on a large rock slab. The kids look dubious about the height. A number of hikers are visible in the background.

Erin shared this photo of her and her husband, son and daughter on hike up to Rattlesnake Ledge. It was the first hike up there with their kids, and her daughter’s first hike ever. After a bit of moving around the country, the family had really wanted to land back in Washington. And once they did, they made a goal to hike once a month. A trip to Rattlesnake was the first of those hikes.

“It was their first time on Rattlesnake and I was a little worried it may be a bit too steep to start, but they did great,” Erin said. “And even better, they had a great time! My son actually has a disability called Spina Bifida, so when he is able to do things like this it's a really big deal. I have taken him on an easy hike at Mount Rainier before, but this was his first one with any real elevation gain.”

Erin said that her son was a bit nervous about the heights, and her daughter showed off her goofy side for the photo and pretended to be scared. They’re all looking forward to getting out for more hiking soon.

first in-person meeting

Kimberlee Rud

Four hikers wearing matching green shirts and holding books and drinks pose for a photo at the top of a rocky outcropping. A lake and evergreen-covered hills are visible far below.

This hike was the very first time these members of the Evergreen Readers book club had met in person.

“We're a fun, eclectic group of readers local to the PNW,” said Kimberlee Rud, one of the group members. We all really enjoyed each other's company and supported each other throughout the whole thing.

Kimberlee said the hike to Mount Storm King was amazing. It was during a heat wave, so they got a very early start.

“It was challenging in the best possible way. Lots of laughs, lots of sweat and lots of encouragement,” Kimberlee said. “And of course, views for days. Naturally we had to bring our matching Evergreen Readers book club T-shirts and a book for a photo opp. 

First larch trip

Tricia Gabbard

A smiling hikers poses for a photo, framed by glowing yellow larches with jagged peaks and a blue sky in the background.

Tricia is a travel nurse from Southern California who moved to the Seattle area in April. The fall of 2021 was her first fall in the area and she wanted to see the famous larches.

She took the trip to Lake Ingalls with her boyfriend, who is an avid outdoorsmen and a volunteer for local mountain rescues. Even though he grew up in Washington, it was also his first time seeing the larches.

The weekend was peak larch season, and so they had plenty of company on trail. It was well worth it to see the glowing larches in person.  

“In this photo we both were looking at Mount Stewart admiring the peak and dreaming of summering it one day,” Tricia said.

“I love this photo because it shows me how Jake sees me,” Tricia said.

First hike in a new home

Naama Daniel

Mount Rainies is silhouetted against a clear blue sky. In the foreground, a rocky stream winds through low vegetation with fall colors, with a few evergreen trees grow on a ridge.

Naama and her husband moved to Seattle from Israel over the summer. When Naama’s birthday weekend promised a lot of sunshine, she knew that the best present she could ask for would be to go for a hike and see Mount Rainier up close — they’d been admiring it from their balcony since they moved.

For her first hike in Washington, she choose the Skyline Loop Trail.

“This hike was a great introduction to the amazing nature in the area, and together with the hikes that followed made me extremely grateful to be living in Washington state,” Naama said. “I have continued hiking in Washington state since this trip. We have been to Olympic National Park, Annette Lake, Garfield Ledge, Dirty Harry's Balcony (which was our first hike ever on a snowy trail with microspikes), and many more. We love it.”

First big adventure

Cady Dannemiller

A hiker walks up a steep rock, holding the hand of a toddler, with blue sky and an evergreen tree in the background.

Cady has been taking her toddler on walks ever since she was born. But, between the demands of life and the pandemic, they hadn’t made it far from their neighborhood. After having to cancel a cross-country flight to see family, they wanted something positive to do. So they headed off to Goose Rock on Whidbey Island for their first bigger trip. On the drive, her daughter was excitedly singing about "Dannemiller family trip" and couldn't wait to explore.

“Our daughter approaches the world with boundless joy and trust that she is safe and protected. She will stick her hand up in the air, expecting Mama or Dada to be right there to help her balance on a log or jump off a rock,” Cady said. “Hiking is an incredible opportunity to take a break from the daily grind and hit the "reset" button. It is a beautiful gift to get to view the wonder of nature through my daughter's eyes,” Cady said.

First backpack, first baby elk

Chris Ward

Two hikers with huge smiles and big backpacks pose for a photo on a trail winding through a lush forest.

Chris Ward took this hike with his girlfriend, Carissa Lavery and her brother Sean Lavery. It was Sean’s first backpacking trip. Because they were only able to get a permit for a single night at Enchanted Valley, they put in some big miles, including 19 miles in the second day. It was worth it, though, for the gorgeous trail and a first-time wildlife sighting.

“The most memorable moment was when we stumbled upon a baby elk grazing in a field,” Chris said. “We’ve seen bucks and does, but never a Bambi!”

“My other favorite part of the trip was when we were planning it, her brother couldn’t comprehend the fact most of the mountains in the area still had snow on them in June,” Chris said. “He thought we were messing with him! He was so confident that there couldn’t be snow in the summertime still. Needless to say, we showed him trail reports and reminded him he wasn’t in Kansas anymore (metaphorically). … I love that we got to spend this time together out there and forget about our worldly troubles and experience some of nature’s wonders together.”