AT 44 YEARS OLD, a diagnosis of a genetic, degenerative heart disease inspired me to write my first “bucket list.” Item number 1: Take a backpacking trip with my son, sooner rather than later.

Cover story: Nuclear-weapons testing and cancer: A Snohomish teenager carries her family’s legacy to the summit of an Oregon mountain

Nuclear-weapons testing and cancer: A Snohomish teenager carries her family’s legacy to the summit of an Oregon mountain

My documentation of the resulting arduous hike with my 7-year-old across the White Mountains of New Hampshire, through hail and high winds, was published in Outside Magazine and entitled, “Grappling with Mortality in the White Mountains.”

Meanwhile, preparing for the inaugural See You at the Summit trip, founder Heather Rose Otto read my story and knew we had to talk.

I fell in love with the purpose of her work (the Northwest adventure program, according to its website, “uses wilderness therapy to help teenagers facing a cancer diagnosis reclaim their lives and personal sense of power”), and before I knew it, I was headed to the airport in New York with my backpack once more.

Advertising

Aside from my camera and my notebook, I felt that the greatest contribution I could make to the adventure would be open ears and mind. In that way, Josie Alldredge’s story found me.

It is far from over. Josie, a senior at Monroe High School who was diagnosed with Hodgkin lymphoma at 15, took part in See You at the Summit’s inaugural hike in August 2019. Her adventure was nothing short of totally transformative.

She since has gotten a job at Costco. “She’s doing really good,” says her father, Travis Alldredge. “Really enjoying it, and it’s been good for her to be around people and have more contact.”

Josie attended a fall SYATS fundraiser and gave an emotional speech about her experience that moved many attendees to tears. She is planning on returning as a volunteer and has been made part of the advisory board.