Celebrating Cancer Freedom: An Adventure in the North Cascades

In this piece from Mountaineer magazine, we meet Hannah Grage - an 11-year-old Mountaineer and cancer survivor who is excited to get outdoors.
Bri Vanderlinden Bri Vanderlinden
Assistant Director of Development
August 13, 2019
Celebrating Cancer Freedom: An Adventure in the North Cascades

When Hannah Grage was four years old, she found herself face to face with a cancer diagnosis. Life stopped for Hannah, her mom Carrie, and the rest of her family. Thanks to a heroic fighting spirit and modern medicine, after three brutal years she beat it! 2017 marked Hannah’s five-year anniversary of being cancer-free.

To mark the huge occasion, Hannah, now 11-years young, and Carrie signed up for The Mountaineers “Our Parks | Your Adventure” challenge (OPYA). It invited Mountaineers members and supporters to pick an outdoor challenge and complete it while raising money for Mountaineers youth programs. This year, we raised $11,000 with 191 different donations. Hanna and Carrie are responsible for almost 10% of that.

Together, they designed a bucket-list-trip. The adventure combined two things Hannah loves: fire lookouts and canoeing. It was a multi-day canoeing, camping, and hiking trip covering 29 miles across Ross Lake, up Desolation Peak, and back.

The Grage girls both find joy in trips that don’t go exactly according to plan. When they met strong winds on Ross Lake while paddling, they used it as an opportunity to strengthen their communication. While hiking down Desolation Peak, they got peek of the whitecaps awaiting them. On the return paddle, the wind blew waves up and over the boat. “I was paddling as hard as I could and it felt like we were just moving backwards,” said Carrie. “I started wondering if we needed to pull off and figure out a new plan. I’m stressed and worried, and I had to say to Hannah, “This is really hard and I’m not sure we’re going to make it.” But Hannah remained encouraging every step of the way, “Its ok mama, we got this!” She continued to paddle and didn’t stop once to take a break.”

It took 90 minutes to travel the 1.88 miles to camp, but they made it, together. “Hannah did great,” Carrie beamed, “and the best thing about it was her attitude. Her attitude has always been this instant acceptance of challenge.”

This trip was about more than just celebrating. To Hannah, the chance to leverage her struggle with cancer to “help other kids live the good life” was incredibly meaningful. Hannah was particularly excited that her story could contribute to help other kids get outside. “It was such a self-esteem boost for her,” Carrie said. “She felt really proud of what she was doing and I thought that was awesome too.”

For Carrie, the challenge was an amazing reason to turn this special trip into reality. As Carrie describes “Wilderness adventure is truly a gift, especially for our youth. It provides a connection with something you instinctively belong to and a sense of self-worth that only comes from having struggled and persevered. Getting to see the beauty of an alpine lake, the sea of peaks after a hard hike, or the colors of sunset before you crawl in your tent; this is living the good life. We want others to experience that too. We should definitely provide that for as many people as we can, equipped with the knowledge of how to do it safely.”

Thanks to the efforts of people like Carrie and Hannah, The Mountaineers is able to inspire people to explore the outdoors, give underserved youth outdoor experiences, advance a tradition of volunteer-led outdoor education, and create the next generation of stewards and fierce protectors of our public lands and waters. The Mountaineers is a 501(c)3 nonprofit, so donations to are tax-deductible. Learn more about how you can help.  

This article originally appeared in our winter 2018 issue of Mountaineer Magazine. To view the original article in magazine form and read more stories from our publication, click here.

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