In Praise of Easy Hikes, Friendship and WTA's Hiking Guide
Sometimes it is the company that makes time on trail so important in our lives. A WTA member shares her reflections on the joy she finds in hiking with a friend.
By Marilyn Smith
As we were returning to Sunrise, tired from our hike, two silver-haired gentlemen passed us, turned to face us, and said, “We have bad news for you.”
I flashed back to the quick detour I had made to view a waterfall. Had I left something behind on the main trail?
“Yes?” I said with trepidation.
“We’ve been hiking all day, and you’re the first people we’ve passed.”
That was old news to us. We’re used to children skipping by us in flip-flops while we toil with our backpacks, filled with most of the Ten Essentials, and our hiking boots. People pass us on their way up and again on their way down.
My friend Gail and I started hiking together when we were in our mid-60s. After our first, one-off hike, we felt so good about getting away for a bit and getting the exercise that we decided to do it regularly. Since then we have gone once a month, occasionally missing a month because of illness or travel.
I do not experience the joy and exhilaration that many people hiking in the woods and mountains do. I don’t like sweating. Hiking is something I do because I like getting out of the city. I feel virtuous and physically well afterwards, and I enjoy my time with Gail. Gail has had more experience in the outdoors than me. She is the map reader and the one who knows how to follow the trails. She always has the Ten Essentials, rain pants, a rain cover for her backpack and gorp. She drives. She knows rocks and trees and where the smoked meat stores are near Mount Rainier. She gets excited at the prospect of seeing a bear.
My role is to find hikes, which is how I discovered WTA. After using the Hiking Guide for months, I realized I had to become a member. The hike finder tool makes it possible for me to find places for us that suit our abilities and needs: usually that means a short distance, small elevation gain, often what is described as “suitable for children,” and within a reasonable driving distance. The trip reports are invaluable for providing information about trail conditions and problems getting there. They enable me to eliminate hikes where people saw bears.
As we’ve aged into our 70s, we’ve gotten a little less adventurous. Because we pick our monthly date a month ahead of time and stick to it, we’ve found ourselves hiking in wet snow and real rain, something we now try to avoid. If the weather is bad, or the ground is too snowy or muddy, we take urban hikes or hikes on paved trails.
I am faster than Gail going uphill, she is faster going downhill, but we are always nearby on the trail. We don’t worry about holding the other up, or having to wait, or being so far apart that it feels like we are hiking alone. We agree about when it’s time to turn back. In the several years we’ve been doing this, we’ve rarely gone to a place more than once.
Always it is the WTA Hiking Guide, trip reports and work on trails, and Gail’s company, that make this possible for me.