My hiking group has been hiking together for more than 15 years. During that time, of course, many people have come and gone, but the original two are still part of the gang–my husband Don and me. In the picture, nine of us are at the top of Maple Pass; the photographer, Jon O., set the camera and ran into the top row.
It takes only two really committed people to start a hiking group. Don and I hiked with our children on weekends when the the kids were young, but when they were all in school we began to hike in the middle of the week on his day off. Soon we were joined by a few of my good friends, women whose husbands didn’t hike. Don was a super good sport to put up with my friends. They were good friends but not good hiking companions. Someone might announce, when we met for the day or even when we were on the trail, “I have to be home early, we’re going out tonight.” Or “I can’t go that far away. I have to get home to prepare dinner for my husband.”
Hiking with these people, we were very limited in our destinations. Don and I knew that, living in Seattle, with two national parks and the Cascade mountain range only an hour or two away from home, there would be lots of great opportunities if only we drove a little further or stayed out a little later. Neither of us liked to come home tired after a hike to face the prospect of cooking dinner; stopping for dinner at a restaurant on the way home would give us a chance to relax and rest after the hike, and come home happier. We made an announcement: from now on, no rushing home early for evening events. We would go farther, stay out longer, and stop for dinner on the way home.
My friends accepted these new conditions! At first they prepared dinner for their husbands before they left home, but they soon stopped. They discovered that these gentlemen were ignoring the dinner in the fridge and going out for pizza or burgers. So for several years there were five of us, Don and me in the front seat, and three ladies squeezed in the back.
As time passed and we grew older, we were joined by some retired men, whose wives also appreciated their night out, and by several retired couples, newly arrived in town. Now we often have three carloads, instead of one. I have 33 names on my email list of people interested in knowing about our hikes. Not all of them hike–some are members of other hiking groups, with whom we share information. I send out a notice on the weekend of where our next hike will be and where we will meet. People respond by email to let us know who is coming.
Our hikers carry their lunches of course, and also water, hats, extra warm clothing and rain gear, and we all have good boots and walking sticks. Some also carry first aid kits, maps, sit-upons and phones. We usually have between 8 and 12 on a hike, but sometimes as many as 18. The median age of our group is probably 75. In fall, winter and spring we go on urban hikes (one man calls them “urbane”), stopping for lunch at a nice cafe or restaurant. In summer, we head for the mountains. We used to set our limits at 8 miles round trip with 2000 feet of elevation gain. Now we go no more than 6 miles, with up to 1000 feet of gain.
I like to explore new territory so I am always on the alert for hiking information from park departments in cities and counties surrounding Seattle. I subscribe to Washington Trails, an excellent organization with a magazine and website full of suggested hikes, and I trade destinations with other hiking groups. Several of the people in our group are also good planners, especially for the urban hikes, so we are never short of destinations.
We have only one problem: as we have aged, many of our members no longer feel up to driving an hour or more to the trailhead. We are recruiting younger members who are willing to drive. We’re like that commercial: “Drivers wanted.” I have had to turn down people who wanted to join us, because there is no more room in our cars. So if you are looking for a hiking group, pick one other person, decide who will drive, and go have fun! The others will find you.