A KEEN ADVENTURE
Written By Ryan Weier | Founder of Explored Co. + Outdoor Enthusiast
In Collaboration With KEEN Footwear
After a long, cold winter, spring finally peeked its head around the corner, marking one of my busiest seasons, largely spent chasing adventures around the Pacific Northwest. Each time it comes around I give into temptation and get a few pieces of new gear for the season. Out of all the gear I got this year, I couldn't wait to test out a pair of KEEN Targhee III Waterproof Mid boots. They came out of the box looking like they were ready for anything. I even got another pair for my best friend and adventure buddy, Zahn, as a birthday gift. Checking my calendar, I saw that his birthday was this weekend. Only 4 days away, it was time to make plans.
After a last minute phone call, that went something like “You have any plans for the weekend? No? Great, I’ll pick you up Friday at 7.” I secured my adventure buddy, Zahn and it felt like I couldn't get on the road soon enough. Friday came around and I found myself tossing the essentials in my car, – camera gear, food & drinks, some camping supplies and two new pair of KEEN boots. I hit the road. As the rain started to fall, I picked Zahn up. He came out with a huge grin, looking like he was mentally ready for the adventure I had in store for us, but quite underprepared. He was wearing a pair of slip-on Vans that had been around the sun one too many times and was carrying a bag that couldn’t consist more than a sleeping bag, a small tent and some water. I was sure glad that I was prepared and stoked to surprise him with his gift in the morning. After packing up, we headed north on I-5 leaving Seattle and the fast-paced life behind.
Our home for the weekend was an A-frame cabin nestled underneath towering, mossy pines and surrounded by the mountains and rushing rivers of the Skykomish. While unpacking the sun showed itself for the first time that day so we strung up a few hammocks, and talked the weekend's plans over while being lulled by the river.
Waking up, we peeked our heads outside the cabin, to see the fog had socked us in, but our spirits weren't dampened, in fact excited for the possibility of epic shots. After a quick breakfast of a granola bar and 2 big glasses of mineral-rich well water, we hopped in the truck in search of Deception Falls National Recreation Area. After a quick drive, we soon pulled up to an inauspicious rest area just east of Skykomish, hopped on the tailgate and started lacing up our new KEEN boots. Venturing towards the sound of the rushing water, I couldn't help but appreciate the day, and the new boots. Many previous trips have been spoiled by new boots that hadn’t worn in, but the Targhees hugged the contour of my feet right away. Even when climbing sheer, loose slopes the Metatomical Footbed allowed us to push right through with its added support. As we passed massive old growth trees, the trail gave way to a roaring waterfall, stoked by the week’s continual precipitation. Taking a minute to breathe, we took off our jackets and pulled out our cameras. The fog had lifted, but the forest still felt damp especially with ominous clouds hovering on the horizon.
While setting up a shot, I came across a real test for my boots, nervously I waded into the icy creek, heading for a rock in the center. Even as I moved deeper and deeper into the water, to my surprise my feet stayed completely dry, I guess KEEN.DRY technology really works after all. After that realization I gleefully chucked and kept wading through the stream for the next 10 minutes, looking for unique angles, check them out below!
After peering and grinning at each other's camera’s screen while scrolling through the day's snaps, we high fived, in triumphant celebration of a great day in the woods. We hit the trail with a pep in your step, even more in awe of the nature surrounding us. The fog was rolling back in, starting by wisping off barely visible peaks disguised by the treeline, to being right back on top of us, silencing the verdant forest. While completely immersed in nature, staring upwards towards the trees, I managed to stumble off trail into mud. Zahn, following behind me, let out a muffled laugh. Scraping the mud off my boots is usually an undignified task but this time it was much easier than usual. Five minutes of walking later we were out.
Just as we reached the parking lot, the clouds opened up and it started to pour. We brushed our damp hair off as rain sheeted across the windshield of the truck. After checking the forecast our adventure prospects looked truly grim. No let up in the weather for the next week, a constant deluge of rain and just above freezing temperatures. We only had a day. I turned off the light in the truck feeling defeated. We had no place except for our tents to sleep that night.
Checking my watch again it read, 4:12 p.m. Darkness started to descend on the parking lot, the rain pounding even louder against the glass. I was staring straight ahead when Zahn turned on the light and to me with a cheeky grin “No point in staying around, let's head for it, let's go east.” I couldn’t have agreed more.
100 miles seemed like 50 that night, making it over the pass in record time. We set up our tents in the dark, huddled in my sleeping bag and laying on my back I could see a small patch of clear sky filled with stars, we may have finally escaped the rain.
Rising at dawn the next morning called for a big pot of coffee which let off amazing amounts of steam in the cold air. Warming our hands on the cups we grinned, feeling the first rays of sun hit our back. Tired, and a bit dusty from a windy night near Ellensburg we made our way to town for a real breakfast. After fueling up on diner food, and quite a few more cups of coffee we made our way back out of town.
Ready for a challenge, we set off on a Forest Service road in search of Coleman Falls. A close friend of ours that had done the hike reminded us to bring gloves if we go. Whatever that means, it's just a hike with an awesome waterfall at the end, right?
After finding the overgrown trail, we realized that we were the first ones on it this season and started our descent to the falls. Evidence of a recent rainstorm was present, green grass rose from the usually golden landscape, moss swelled and the silty trail had been turned to mud. As the trail progressively got steeper we were forced to start clambering down sideway and the KEEN Targhees never lost their grip. We passed Ancient basaltic columns, results of volcanic activity 16 million years ago, and started to hear the sound of the waterfall. As the waterfall got into sight, we could see the real task at hand and why we were recommended to bring gloves.
We pushed our heads over the drop and saw 100 feet of slippery, moss covered rock that was nearly straight down, with just a rope to support ourselves. The waterfall was rushing quickly, spray forming miniature rainbows in the air. I can tell you this, Zahn and I sure learned the importance of proper footwear quickly that day. The rock was slick with a mixture of mud, moss and organic matter sloughed off from the rains. We started to repel into the canyon, the waterfall’s spray feeling closer and closer. Holding the rope tightly at the start seemed like a true necessity, unsure of my footing, not wanting to slide off in any shape or form. As we climbed lower and lower the rock was chock full of mud, but our new Targhees seemed to perform better and better, loosening my grip on the rope. I never before trusted a pair of new boots with my life before but there was just something different about these boots. Maybe it was the fit or was the great tread, maybe it was the stiff outsole or the waterproof outside. Whatever it was, KEEN sure had built a great boot.
Zahn threw up the drone as soon as we got down, passing the controller to me and going on an ill-advised free solo climb up a basaltic column, inspired by the new-found confidence in his boots. I grabbed a few shots of him hanging on the rock, we tore through a quick lunch, and watched the light play off the waterfall. Finally sitting in the sun, we basked in the glory of a weekend well spent. Away from it all, purely spent searching for adventure. In what seemed like minutes there was little light left in the day so we hit the road, stepping across countless long shadows cast by the fading sun. The sky turned a stark blue just as we reached the truck, the chill returning to the air.
Heading back to Seattle, I kept thinking about one thing. Time spent in the mountains is beyond special, it's not just about enjoying nature's vast beauty, it's really about reframing your own life through its lessons, whether that be resilience, hope or hard work.
I dropped my Zahn off, unloaded our gear from the truck, and sat in the garage, reluctant to return to the mundane world. My gaze fell upon my new KEEN boots, and I couldn't help but reflect on their pivotal role in our recent adventure. Without these durable, waterproof boots, our weekend would have been cut short by the relentless rain on day one and our inability to safely traverse the rocky terrain leading to the waterfall on day two. As I unlaced my Targhees, I knew that they had surpassed my old favorite boots and set a new standard for all future outdoor excursions.
In a world where fast fashion and disposable products are the norm, it's refreshing to find a company like KEEN that prioritizes quality and sustainability. Their commitment to using organic materials in their products not only benefits the environment but also results in footwear that performs at a higher level. My experience with the Targhee boots on this trip was a testament to that.
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