We recently chatted with one of our favorite Instagrammers and avid hiker, @heartgoeshere, Ashley of PNW Hiker Collective. If you’re like many of us around the Northwest, you love to hike, and the mountains may have even drawn you here, if you weren’t lucky enough to be born in the region, that is. Ashley is no exception – she is one of the pair of PNW hikers who “is on a mission to explore all the trails the beautiful northwest has to offer.”
With so many spectacular images of the PNW on her Instagram feed, we wanted to find out more, and we hope you’ll enjoy the introduction too.
Can you give us an overview of what you do?
My day job is as a receptionist, but what I do is hike! Every single weekend, I can be found on the trails in Washington and Oregon, usually at Mount Rainier National Park or somewhere in the Columbia River Gorge. My boyfriend, Kyle, and I also run a blog/hiking group (@pnwhikercollective) where we write detailed posts about trails we’ve been on recently, and try to get like minded people out on the trails with us. Hiking is always more fun with friends!
How long have you been hiking/climbing/mountaineering, and how did you get started?
I’ve been hiking nearly my whole life. I grew up in Hawaii and we lived up against the Ko’olau Mountain range, so my sister and I would run around like wild children on all the hiking trails behind our house when we were kids. I started getting into climbing and mountaineering just about four years ago. I had been living in the Pacific Northwest for nearly five years without taking advantage of all the nearby wild places. In early 2014, I left for France to finish my degree, and when I returned it was like seeing the PNW with new eyes! A short time after getting back, I hit the trails. That quickly evolved into mountain climbing and it’s been all uphill from there!
What have you accomplished that you’re most proud of?
My proudest accomplishment is probably climbing Mount Whitney, the highest peak in the continental United States. Kyle and I trained for months and took on the mountain when we’d never been above 12k feet before. Everything was against us – the mountain had gotten 116% more snow than usual, there was an unexpected heatwave in California, and in the end, altitude sickness got the better of me just 800 feet shy of the summit. It’s always a tough decision to turn around when the summit is so close, but it got us back down the mountain safely. Everyone we’d talked to (including the park rangers) said people were turning around between 9 and 10,000 feet. But just before the altitude sickness kicked in, I felt great, made it much further than expected, and felt like all the training on the Cascade volcanoes paid off!
Is there something about you that not everyone knows?
Aside from the outdoors, my other passion is language, and I have a degree in Spanish language and literature, and also speak French. I’ve spent time studying German, Russian, Hawaiian, and Norwegian as well (but wouldn’t be able to hold a conversation in those!).
What are some of your other favorite things to do around the Northwest?
I definitely take advantage of all the amazing food and local beer in the Northwest (especially after a long hike). I’m a big fan of a cold beer on a brewery patio during the long summer days, and there are more good breweries here than I can count! Some of my favorites in Portland are Base Camp Brewing, Breakside, Ex Novo, and Culmination. When I’m in Bend, Oregon I always go to 10 Barrel Brewing and Sunriver Brewing. Capitol bar in Portland also has killer vegan mac and cheese.
If you had to describe what you love about the Northwest in 3 words, what would you choose?
So. Many. Mountains!
Is there anything else you’d like people to know?
I spend nearly all of my free time outdoors and love to help other people get outside, too! I do adventure and travel consulting – whether it’s helping plan a trip to Europe (there are so many great places to hike over there) or helping figure out the best way to pack for someone’s first outdoor backpacking trip, I can do in person or video chat consults via my website, www.ashleypdx.com. I also love meeting new people to hike with, so if you see me around Portland, come say hi!
K.C. Dermody is the author of hundreds of travel articles both online and in print as well as the author of the “Best Travel Guide for First Time Visitors to Ireland.” She has traveled throughout the world and has a passion for imparting what she has learned from her experiences to others, but always appreciates coming home to the beautiful Olympic Peninsula in Washington State.