Unplug & Unwind
Holiday Hut Trip With Friends
By Greg Balkin
A few winters ago, my girlfriend and I found ourselves in a group text asking if we had plans for a weekend in December. Our friends had secured extra permits for a few nights at High Hut, which happens to be one of the nicest backcountry shelters I’ve ever stayed in. It’s a beautiful two-story hut, complete with a wood stove and full kitchen that looks right out toward Mount Rainier. It may be a little tricky to get to, but once you get there, it’s paradise. That first winter, the stress of the holidays had crept up on us, and we didn’t know if we could make the trip. But we scoped out some photos, talked to our friends, and finally agreed to join them. And just like that, my girlfriend and I started one of our favorite holiday traditions together.
Even though we shared the hut with a few strangers the first trip, we quickly realized the importance of putting all of our holiday stress on hold for a few days and taking some time to get outside with our community. We were only a few hours from Seattle, but it felt like we had been transported into some winter paradise out there. Feet crunching in the soft snow, dodging snowballs that I may or may not have thrown from the back of the group as we packed in, and the sound of water hitting the hot stove as we boiled down buckets of snow. Spending a few days with the people we love brought us back to what’s important. We’re off of our phones, away from emails and computers. Instead, we’re playing games and building puzzles that are somehow always missing a corner piece (even when someone writes “found on this date” on the inside box). As the sun goes down at a wonderful 4 p.m. up in the Northwest, we have a chance to relax by the fire or brave the cold and watch the night sky together.
Over the years, it has certainly been more challenging to continue holiday traditions from when I was little. I don’t live close to home anymore, I’m traveling often for work, and the holidays don’t feel like a strong priority in my life. But I’ve both grown to be part of this amazing community in Seattle—all of whom feel like an extension of our family. So why not start a new tradition of our own?