I was raised to have a rich appreciation of nature, experiencing numerous road trips through Appalachian and Rocky Mountain ranges, summer weeks spent on the Superior Hiking Trail, secret sunset-watching spots in the fall, frigid winter evenings spent cross country skiing and spring breaks backpacking in Utah.
Although London has countless beautiful parks to satisfy my outdoor cravings, I was overjoyed to get a taste of authentic fresh air when I traveled to northern Wales last weekend. After riding 4 different trains, my friend Nicola and I happily arrived in the heart of Snowdonia National Park.
Not only did the names of Welsh villages—like Cerrigydrudion and Abergwyngregyn—prove our distance from London, but the landscape most certainly did as well. It was breathtaking to watch the gently rolling English hills become even more lush and green, slowly forming their way into steep mountains. London’s bustling city streets, black taxis and red busses gave way to hundreds of clear lakes, big campers and people sporting dirty hiking boots.
We stayed at The Vagabond Hostel in the little village of Betws-Y-Coed, and it may have been my favorite hostel in the entire world because they had unlimited FREE TOAST! 🙂 As soon as we dropped off our bags, we went on a hike to a gorgeous mountain lake. I felt like I was wandering about in a pixie-land on our trek there, like a million fairies could just pop out behind the mossy green trees at any moment.
After the lake, we hiked to some waterfalls called ‘Swallow Falls.’ I was expecting just a little, mini waterfall, but out of nowhere emerged these powerful tiers of waterfalls. Here’s a picture of Nicola and these gorgeous falls:
After hiking back and eating a hearty meal of fish and chips at a local diner, we returned to our hostel for the night where I chowed down on more toast. That night, we were in bed by 9:30 p.m. Party animals.
The next morning we woke up with the ambitious goal of hiking the tallest mountain in Wales: Mount Snowdon. It was possibly the worst weather for the occasion—almost freezing cold and dreadfully rainy, but that didn’t stop us. We caught a ride to the base of the mountain with a guy named Andy, who was staying in the same hostel of us.
We started the hike confidently, but unfortunately our confidence was short-lived. Wearing absolutely no waterproof clothing, my entire body was soaked and I had giant puddles in my shoes within minutes.
I was so ashamed of myself for being so unprepared for this mountain hike. I’ve been on big backpacking trips since I was in 6th grade, and my dad has spent years training me on hiking etiquette and safety. He’s so faithful to these rules that he’s even trained me to swallow my toothpaste while we’re on backpacking trips and even drink the water we wash our dishes with. Gross, I know. But one of his main rules is to always be prepared. “You can’t ever predict the weather, and you’ll need your rain gear even on the sunniest days.” I can hear him saying it now.
For some reason, I disregarded all the things my dad has taught me about backpacking. So, Nicola and I continued to hike up the mountain. We were completely soaked and chilled to the bone. All other groups of hikers were in full rain suits. Some groups even had icepicks. As for us, Nicola was wearing jeans and fashionable combat boots. And I was wearing my fur-lined, polyester parka and infinity scarf—clearly not proper attire. When were were only 200 meters below the summit, we eventually came to the terms that we were the stupidest people on the mountain. If we continued hiking, the temperatures would drop below zero and then we’d actually freeze.
Disappointed, we turned around. But there was Andy (the guy from our hostel) to our rescue. He told us he had “pulled a muscle” and decided to take our easier route rather than his strenuous trail. I’m positive he was lying and actually came to save us from freezing to death. Turns out Andy leads group hikes on the mountain. So, after cheerfully telling Nicola she looked like a wet rat, he shouted “come on, ya crazy yanks” and took us on an incredible trail back down to the base of the mountain. Here’s some pictures that don’t even do the beauty justice:
We were so lucky to be Andy’s “crazy yanks.” Once we made it back to his car, he even drove us back to the hostel. We thanked him a million times, until he probably couldn’t take hearing our voices anymore. The hostel is technically closed during the day, but luckily someone left the door unlocked. We rushed inside, ran straight to the hot showers, miraculously found a dryer, laughed for about half an hour straight out of pure happiness for being warm, and spent the afternoon sipping on hot tea.
What a day. What an adventure. I’m so thankful for all the kindness we experienced, all the luck we had and all the laughs we’ll have forever when we think about the time we tried to climb a mountain in a rainstorm with absolutely no waterproof clothes, not to mention an ice pick. But there’s one thing I had that I’m sure all of those other prepared-hikers didn’t… a backpack stuffed full of free toast. 🙂