Remembering Hiker, Writer Karen Sykes
The Washington hiking community lost an inspiration with the sad death of Karen Sykes, a local hiking guidebook author and columnist.
This past week the hiking community lost a longtime inspiration, hiking columnist and guidebook author, 70-year-old Karen Sykes. The news about her death comes after three days of intense search efforts along the Owyhigh Lakes Trail in Mount Rainier National Park. An experienced, prepared hiker, searchers found Karen's body on Saturday afternoon in steep, rugged terrain. More details should be forthcoming.
Karen shared trip reports with the WTA community for many years, but she was perhaps best known and loved for her weekly hiking column at the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. She was a guidebook author, having co-written the Best Wildflower Hikes: Washington and written Hidden Hikes of Western Washington, both published by Mountaineers Books. More recently, she contributed articles to The Seattle Times, Seattle Backpacker, and Visit Rainier, for which she was reportedly researching an article when she died.
Karen's passion for Washington's wild places and wildflowers inspired thousands of new and veteran hikers to get out and explore, to protect and to treasure the landscapes she so clearly loved. As a hiker, writer and friend to so many on Washington's trails, she will be dearly remembered.
WTA's Kim Brown recalled fondly both her curiosity and her humor on trail. "She always enjoyed having fun with nature – like picking up shed antlers to pretend she’s an elk, or using a mat of moss for a toupee. Once when we were hiking the Lime Kiln Trail she got all excited about a bit of ice hair, ran up to take a picture of it, only to discover it was Kleenex; she laughed so hard at herself."
It's memories like this that the many people whose lives she touched are remembering today. Hikers are expressing their feelings and recollections about Karen on a message board at nwhikers.net.
All of us at Washington Trails Association send our sincerest condolences to Karen's family and friends. And through the words she left behind, may she continue to encourage others to seek out the joy found among Washington's fragile wildflower meadows, along river valleys and from ridge-tops.
NOTE: There will be a public celebration of the life and legacy of Karen Sykes at the Seattle Mountaineers (7700 Sand Point Way NE) on July 14 at 6:30 p.m.