It’s time I told you a little about myself. For starters, my name is Michele Harrod. Yes, you saw correctly, that is Michele spelled with one L. I spend as much time as I can in the outdoors, camping, hunting and especially hiking. Because of all of the time I have spent in the woods, and my love for the outdoors is my inspiration for this journey. My goal, and why I am here, is to hike every trail in Washington. Yes, every trail! This means, almost every, hike I do is brand new to me. I work to never counting repeating hikes, because there is always new hidden territory to explore!
At this moment in time I am working to write up blog posts for all the hikes that I have done so far on this journey. So bare with me for a little while until I get myself caught up! Some of the post that I release now, I will be updating in the future, adding more details and photos.
Below I have jotted down a little, okay.. maybe a lot of, details of how I got to where I am today. Feel free to read on, or don’t- it’s up to you!
How I Got Here
I grew up in a little mountain town, which is now one of the most popular, or the most popular, tourist towns in the PNW, Leavenworth, WA. I love my little mountain home. One of the questions that I get ALL of the time is, “So, what is it like growing up in Leavenworth?” My answer, “Its normal, I don’t know any different.” Then people laugh like I am joking, I am not. This is my HOME, its not just a tourist filled town to me. True Leavenworth locals only know it as the small, quiet, quaint town where you have known everybody for a lifetime, surrounded by mountains, rivers, tree and more trees. Growing up in Leavenworth, was so special. Social Media, and the Internet hadn’t brought in that influx of tourism as it does today. When I was a child, you were shocked to find that every parking spot in town was full, today (even during week days) you are shocked to find a parking spot open. Sadly, today, town is flooded with tourist, and there is no place to get away- not as special anymore. Doesn’t mean I don’t love it, it just means I work harder to find new hidden sports that the tourons (family joke) haven’t found yet. Which is what inspired this crazy journey of mine.
I was always extremely involved in organized sports. Started playing soccer when I was about five years old, basketball when I was in third grade, and started running track in fifth grade. Soccer and running track were my life, basketball not so much as I am only 5′ 3″. I worked very hard and made Varsity Soccer my freshman year, yeah I know not all that impressive due to the fact I attended a 1A school with less than 400 students. Also, was successful enough in track to make it to state as the only freshman on the 4×400 team (yes, I know running the 400 is hell- but my favorite kind of hell). I absolutely loved organized sports, the team bond that becomes a family, togetherness to achieve goals, the push you get from the others energy around you and the fact that you a part of a community of people who love the same thing as you.
When High School came to an end, all I wanted to do was continue to play soccer. Thankfully, I had the best coach in the world, who helped me achieve that goal. With his connection in the soccer community, he was able to find me a spot on a Community College team. Peninsula College, it was their first year with a Women’s Soccer team, it was perfect! A group of 100% freshman girls, coming together to build a new community, a new team with in a very well known soccer community with amazing coaches. August came and the 20-30 of us girls all moved to Port Angeles to pursue our dreams of Colligate Soccer. It was happening, and it was oh so amazing.
As the season started, practices began everything was going so well. Roughly a month of living in Port Angeles, together, women’s and means team all boarded the Black Pearl and drove down to some hidden soccer camp north of Olympia. During our time here, we played soccer three times a day and spent every waking minute together. This is when my life took a turn, better or worse I am still not 100% sure- today I am thinking it’s for the better but, some days I don’t feel the same. During one of our drills, I collided with one of my team made- hard. Both of us were running full speed, had our heads turned away from each other, and boom. I feel to the ground, landed on my tush, and whipped my head back smacking the cold hard ground. I was told I lost consciousness for only a couple seconds, but of course I don’t remember that, or remember sitting on the ground after. At that moment in time, my soccer career was over although, I tried to deny it for months and months to come. I took it easy for the rest of the day, but the following day was when I realized something was off with my body. The girls on my team though it was strange, that I was giggle at the spaghetti saying it looked like we were eating a bowl of worms and joking that my name was Henry- I just thought it was normal, but hilarious. My coach did the right thing and didn’t let me continue to play while the team was at camp.
After we got back from Soccer camp, my coach sent me to the hospital to get my head checked out. After my brain scan, I left with a sheet of paper saying “Michele has received a SIGNIFICANT concussion, and can resume play in one month.” To me one month was the end of my world, I was just starting the season hadn’t even played in one game yet. After the month passed, and several doctors visits, I was still having daily migraines, or one long migraine that just never ended. Now, I was being told that if I had any consistent headaches that I still am not able to play. I signed myself up for Cranio-Sacral Therapy, hoping to help adjust the bones in my skull to relieve my pain and migraines. Didn’t help. So I did what a lot of 18 year old college students do, I lied. Told my coach that I was fine, headaches were suddenly gone, I know deep down he didn’t believe me but he let me start practicing again.
As the season went and I begin to play again, on I struggled hard to keep up physically and mentally with the girls around me although, in the beginning I was at the same skill level as all of them. Now, I was always one big step behind, which for me was not normal. I was known as the player who could always see things before they happened, now I was unable to think fast enough to even stay on track. Mentally and emotionally it was so hard for me.
The season was starting to come to an end, and just my luck I get injured again. Not paying attention, I got hit in the head with a water logged ball. For those of you who don’t know, a water logged ball is comparable to a rock- no joke. I instantly knew that, the hit to my head wasn’t going to be a good situation. Later that evening, I started to loose sight in my left eye. For about 4-5 hours, I couldn’t see out of the left side of my left eye. A couple days later, I finally built up the nerve to tell my coach what had happened. I went back to the doctor, and walked out of the office completely devastated. I was told I am no longer allowed to play competitive sports. That’s it, its was over. The 13 years I had been playing soccer, and my college scholarship came crashing down that day.
It wasn’t all bad. My time spent in the yellow house, was some of my favorite memories I built some great friendships through out my time with my team, and learned a lot about myself and how I process life’s situations. I was even lucky enough to gain a friendship that will last a lifetime, if you are reading this- you know who you are.
After that school year was over, I moved back to my little mountain town. Enrolled in the local community college, finished my AA. After moved to Bellingham, finished my BA. After that, I moved back to my little mountain town. During the rest of my college years, I occupied my time with school and work. Although, throughout those several years my mental and emotional state had just never returned to pre-concussions.
Once I was done with school, I found myself craving that organized community and physical challenge of a sport. My entire life I had school, and competitive sports- now there wasn’t much to keep my mind busy. So, I joined a local yoga studio, Beyoutiful Hot Yoga. Yoga helped me rebuild my body, and my emotional state. I absolutely love yoga. Being in touch with my body, learning my own strengths and weaknesses inside of myself and learning how to heal theme through movement and breath.
The only problem with yoga, in the studio setting, was that I was still getting similar symptoms post yoga as I did post concussion. Dizziness, shakiness, nausea, headaches turning to migraines, inability to fully open my eyes and unfortunately at times getting sick. Even though yoga and the yoga community is judgment free space to grow, I still felt pressured to move as fast as the instructor, to breath with the instructor (which never works out for me), to not lay down on my mat when I really needed to, and to make sure my yoga was always perfect. Yoga is not meant to be perfect, it’s meant to be you. Don’t get me wrong, I still love yoga and I practice regularly on my own time at my own pace.
My problem is when my blood pressure rises, I get serious pounding and thumping with each heart beat in my head. The pressure and pain from the pounding in my head is so strong, that sometimes I have a hard time opening my eyes, or when it gets bad my extremities start to twitch. Sometimes I could deal with the symptoms, most times I can’t.
One day I was laying on my bed, and I was searching my brain (and the gram, not gong to lie) for something that would give me everything I needed from an activity. The ability to push myself, at my own pace and join a community of people who enjoy it as much as I do. So I turned back to my roots.
Mountains. Mountains became my answer. They provided me with more than I could ever ask for, ground me, allowed me to explore, push my limits, and challenge myself, all at no charge. Mountains have no schedule, I don’t have to show up at a certain time. I can go as fast or as slow as I want and there is nobody there to make me feel pressured. I can hike up to 8,000 ft elevation in an afternoon in the mountains, or I can take a really great nap in my hammock- whatever I want, it doesn’t matter. They will always be there for me, and for you.
If my head starts to pound and I get dizzy, well there are always really nice rocks to sit on and wait for the pounding to pass. So far none of my hikes have left me sick or twitchy, it does sound funny but, it’s huge to me.
As I write this story of how I got where I am, I am about two years into my journey and have completed a total of 50 different hikes. There has been other bumps along the way that have set me back several months, but I am still very determined to get after it this year and continue to make personal growth in the mountains!
So here we are now, you reading this lengthy explanation of my life. I am sure I could of summed this all up in a paragraph, but I didn’t for a reason. I want this blog to be as real as possible, so I thought starting with my REAL story was a good place. With out having my own minor personal tragedy, I wouldn’t be here today. Mountains wouldn’t feel as much like home as they do now. For that, I am thankful.