Cate Tambeaux - From Naive Midwesterner To A PNW Hiking Regular

Cate Tambeaux - From Naive Midwesterner To A PNW Hiking Regular

Hello! Who are you and where are your hiking roots?

My story does not start in the mountains. It does not really start in the outdoors. Growing up in the midwest, I was never really outdoorsy or athletic. I was never forced to push myself or step outside of my comfort zone. I did not have any role models in the outdoor world.

Prior to moving to Seattle four years ago, I could count the number of my outdoor “adventures” on one hand, and they included a couple attempts at car camping and a failed attempt at canoeing.

About a week before I left Chicago for Seattle I ordered a pair of hiking boots. My friends at the time found this super amusing - the girl who never spent time outdoors, hated bugs, with zero coordination or athletic ability thought she was just going to move across the country and start hiking… so comical, right? I’m still not sure what inspired me to get hiking boots, but I knew I wanted to take my dog, Rodger, and get outside more.

Four years later and hiking has become a regular weekend activity. 

What’s your Story From The Mountain?

My story, the one that I truly define my outdoor passion and experience around, takes place on more than one mountain. It has taken place on all of them. 

One month after moving to Seattle, a naive Midwestern girl and her mildly out of control, juvenile lab, decided to join a Meetup and go on her first hike: Little Si. It was an extremely uncoordinated and comical experience.

My biggest piece of advice for anyone new to exploring the outdoors is to ask all of the questions!

Armed with hiking boots, some water, and other things that Google had suggested, I stumbled my way up to the summit. My flat land upbringing really showed itself here as I struggled on all of the incline. Meanwhile, Rodger, my dog, had zero focus and enjoyed dragging me around.

The way down was even worse. Lack of coordination continued and combined with a pulling dog and some downhill… I’m sure we were a sight.

I’m honestly not sure why I kept hiking after that. I had never been one to really persevere through difficult situations, specifically through physically difficult or strenuous situations. I went on a few more hikes that summer, and each one was a bit better. The summer after that I added some more trails to my list.

My third year hiking was really where things escalated quickly. It started out with signing up for the 52 Hike Challenge as a way to continue hiking. I thought it might be a good challenge and I really wasn’t sure I would be able to complete it.

A month later, I spontaneously applied for a permit for Mt. St. Helens, thinking this would be a great thing to spend the summer training for. 

By the end of that year, I had done 80 hikes and climbed both Mt. St. Helens and Mt. Adams with my dog. A little less naive, a little more educated, and definitely more motivated to continue to branch out in this new to me outdoorsy world.

It has been a four year journey where I have stepped way outside of my comfort zone. What started as a really ugly first hike has turned into something way more. Now it is super rare for me to not spend a weekend in the mountains with my dog. (Oh, and his mountain manners have gotten way better, just in case you were wondering.)

Through hiking/climbing, have you learned anything about yourself or nature you’d like to pass on to others?

Getting into hiking has taught me so many things, the biggest being to challenge my own perceptions of what I am capable of. Growing up I had never been forced to do things I found difficult or to challenge myself. Now, with each hike I find myself working through that. Each hike is another opportunity to remind myself that I am capable of more than I think. 

I can thank my dog for being my biggest motivating factor to hit the trail. Regardless of how unenthusiastic I might feel about hiking sometimes, especially in the lovely Washington winter rain and grey, my dog won’t let me just stay home.

If a Saturday morning rolls around and we haven’t left to go hiking, he will sit there and whine at me until we do. Rodger and his love for the trails has really driven me to continue to explore and push myself. 

What’s your favorite item in your pack?

It is really difficult to pick a favorite item (aside from candy, of course). I think the most unique item in my pack would be my Pack-A-Paw rescue harness for Rodger.

I’ve worked pretty hard to figure out the world of dog gear when it comes to hiking. I’d estimate that just about half of my pack is gear for Rodger, depending on the season (and yes, he is spoiled and I don’t make him carry it himself).

Along with his booties, special first aid stuff, and extra water, the Pack-A-Paw is always in my pack. One of my worst fears around hiking is having my dog get injured miles from a trailhead with no way to try to get him out.

The emergency carry out harness helps to comfort that fear. Although I’m sure I would destroy my back in the process, it gives me comfort knowing I could do something to get him back to safety if we were ever put in that situation.

Do you have any advice for other hikers who are just starting out?

My biggest piece of advice for anyone new to exploring the outdoors is to ask all of the questions!

Don’t be afraid to reach out to someone, either in person or via social media, to ask them a question or get their advice. Do you follow someone on instagram who you admire for their adventures? Just reach out to them- you never know what connections you’ll make or what you can learn from them. I’ve learned so much from other hikers that I have connected with on social media. 

What have been the most influential hiking books, podcasts, or people?

Previously, I worked for Fred Hutch and on the Climb to Fight Cancer - that program and the people who participate in it are some of the most inspirational people I have gotten the privilege of connecting with in the outdoors.

Getting into hiking has taught me so many things, the biggest being to challenge my own perceptions of what I am capable of.

The Climb to Fight Cancer is a peer-to-peer fundraiser that brings together community members who have been impacted by cancer to raise crucial funds for cancer research at Fred Hutch. I’ve gotten to participate in two different climbs, Mt. Hood and Mt. Rainier, and both times the sense of community that has been formed among these strangers has been incredibly powerful.

Each climber has a different background, a different story, different experience level, but the shared motivation for each climb creates a really unique bond within the group.

Where’s your next adventure?

I have a few bigger goals for this year. I’d like to continue to work toward climbing larger mountains, with my ultimate goal to summit all five Washington volcanoes,  and I would like to run a half marathon. Both of these objectives I find intimidating and I know will challenge me mentally more than anything.

Where can others learn more about you?

Instagram @catetam

Or you can catch me on the trail in the pnw :)

Want to share your Story From The Mountain?

Hey, I'm Greg Kamradt, the founder of Terra Mano.

We interview awesome hikers/mountaineers/climbers/photographers and share the stories behind their ambition. By sharing these stories, we want to help others become inspired to reach their goals.

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