News from our member organizations

Manufacturer Proposes Increase in Bee-Toxic Pesticide on Crops

News from Beyond Pesticides - Tue, 09/09/2014 - 12:21am
(Beyond Pesticides, September 9, 2014) Multinational pesticide manufacturer Syngenta has petitioned the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to raise the allowable levels of a systemic pesticide on a number of crops. In certain cases, such as hay from wheat, the company is asking for a 400x increase in the tolerance level set by the federal agency. […]

House Vote against Clean Water Protections Ignores Toledo Lessons

News from NRDC - Mon, 09/08/2014 - 10:00pm
WASHINGTON (September 9, 2014) —One month after the toxic algae disaster in Toledo demonstrated the perils of water pollution, the Republican-controlled House today passed a bill (H.R. 5078) to block improvements in the Clean Water Act that would help prevent such crises in the future.

Bike and Hike the Stillaguamish this Weekend!

(and join us Saturday morning at the Fortson Mill Trailhead to celebrate the partnerships, progress and potential of the Whitehorse Trail)

With next weekend’s temperatures forecast for the upper 70s and low 80s, the Pacific Northwest’s September Summer continues. And we have ideas for your weekend trip – visit Snohomish County’s Stillaguamish Valley for a Bike and Hike adventure. We’re excited to partner with our friends at Washington Trails Association and Washington Wildlife and Recreation Coalition for their suggestions on where to hike in this fabulous gateway valley to the Glacier Peak Wilderness.

Additionally, be sure to join us 10:30 am Saturday morning at the Whitehorse Trail’s Fortson Mill Trailhead for a special event to join community leaders in celebrating the progress, partnerships, and potential of the Whitehorse Trail following the SR 530 landslide.

Get up to Darrington and Gravel Grind

Nestled between impressive Cascade peaks at the northern tip of the Stillaguamish Valley, the town of Darrington is a hotbed of gravel adventure riding opportunities. Over 100 years of mining and logging industry have left a large network of gravel roads snaking their way through the forests around town.

The routes listed range from 5-23 miles. Because they all loop back to town, they can easily be combined for longer days in the saddle. Check out the Washington Bikes rundown on gravel grinding the Stilly.

Bridge to Nowhere. Photo by George Winters.

When you’ve had your fill of gravel adventure consider swinging by Mountain Loop Books and Coffee to refuel. The owner Tony bike toured across Ireland and loves to chat with his customers. Or quench your thirst at the newly opened Whiskey Ridge microbrewery located in the old City Hall building. Gateway to the Stilly: Centennial Trail from Arlington to Nakashima Barn With 12 trailheads across its 30-mile span, the Centennial Trail can be broken into a nearly endless number of rides for beginners to experts alike. One of the most scenic is the short stretch from downtown Arlington to the northern terminus of the trail at the old Nakashima Farm site. And at just 15.5 miles roundtrip on a flat, car-free multi-use path, the ride is truly accessible for anyone, families with children included.

Whitehorse Trail spur off of the Centennial Trail. Photo by Debora Nelson

Immediately north of Arlington, the Centennial Trail intersects with the Whitehorse Trail, a 27-mile rail corridor owned by Snohomish County Parks. The western segment that abuts the Centennial Trail is best suited for hikers, horses, and really fat mountain bike tires (note: seven miles of the Whitehorse Trail’s eastern section is very bikeable in Darrington). In response to the SR 530 tragedy in Oso, Washington Bikes is working with partners including Snohomish County Parks and leaders in Arlington and Darrington to coordinate and acquire funding to develop the entire 27-mile corridor to spur bike travel and tourism and connect the Stillaguamish Valley to a growing trail network across the Puget Sound.

The Centennial Trail ends 7.8 miles from Arlington at the site of the historical Nakashima Farm. The Nakashima Family bought the dairy farm in 1937 having worked on it for nearly 30 years prior. It was the first and, to-date, only dairy farm in Snohomish County owned by Asian Americans.

From there it’s just a matter of turning around and heading back the way you came to Arlington. Where you can enjoy the fantastic downtown with shops and restaurants, as well as Legion Park, which has a great Farmer’s Market from 10am to 3pm on Saturday.

A Multi Day Adventure: USBR 10 or Mountain Loop Highway

Great mountain views, even when cloudy! Photo courtesy of Josh Cohen

Looking for an overnight ride this weekend? Start in Arlington and bike up the Stilly on SR 530 (remember to stay aware and not stop through the SR 530 landslide, especially as it will be one-way through September 20) and continue along through Darrington (stop by and enjoy the town!) SR 530 north to SR 20 (aka Washington’s first US Bicycle Route) and then loop back to Arlington. Bike Overnights provides a nice writeup of a recent adventure along this route.

Another option is to head south from Darrington along the Mountain Loop Highway and then around to Granite Falls. Spectacular scenery abounds. Rough Stuff Cycling Northwest took this loop the opposite way and provides great photos and some descriptions on their trip.

Join us Saturday, September 13 to Celebrate the Partnerships, Progress and Potential of the Whitehorse Trail!

Completing the 27-mile Whitehorse Trail will connect Arlington and Darrington through the stunning Stillaguamish Valley and will tie into the Snohomish County Centennial Trail system. Activity to complete the Whitehorse Trail has gained traction in response to the SR 530 slide near Oso. As the residents of the Stillaguamish Valley seek to recover from the tragedy, completing the Whitehorse Trail serves as one economic redevelopment strategy to attract bike travel and tourism to the area.

Join us at the Fortson Mill Trailhead at 10:30 am on Saturday, September 13 to celebrate the partnerships, progress, and potential of the Whitehorse Trail for helping to redevelop the Stillaguamish Valley’s economy. We’ll be joined by elected officials and staff, as well as leaders from Darrington and Arlington to recognize the great work already accomplished and the task ahead.

Bike and Hike this Weekend to Support the Stilly Valley

September’s a great time to get up to the Stillaguamish to support the communities hit hardest by the SR 530 landslide. At Washington Bikes, we’re proud to support Arlington, Darrington and the communities across the Stillaguamish Valley impacted by this natural disaster. Luckily with all of the great opportunities up and down the Stilly, it’s easy to enjoy the natural scenery and great attractions on your bike. Enjoy!

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Billings Gazette article: PSC approves NW Energy’s $870M purchase of PPL’s hydro dams

News from NW Energy Coalition - Mon, 09/08/2014 - 12:13pm
On Thursday, Montana's Public Service Commission approved Northwestern Energy's proposed $870 million purchase of 11 hydroelectric dams. While the purchase provides stability and clean energy for NorthWestern Energy customers, it will lead to a rate increase of about 5%. NorthWestern still needs final approval from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

New Book Explores Life, Work in Pacific Northwest Woods

News from Washington Trails Association - Mon, 09/08/2014 - 11:50am

Local historian, environmental educator, restoration expert, WTA contributor and author Russell Hanbey has had a lifetime of getting to know Washington's backcountry through years of seasonal work with the Forest Service and the Student Conservation Association. In a new book, he brings the best of those stories to life.

Walking on Trees: Views from the Back Country opens in 1967 with Hanbey's first day on the job as a seasonal worker with the Darrington District in the Mount Baker National Forest. Imagine a 17-year-old young man making his way in the rough-and-tumble town of burly loggers and garrulous Forest Service workers!

Hanbey’s subtle, well-timed humor is cleverly placed within solid storytelling. Each story is a short page-turner—from a rescue of 18 people stuck on the wrong side of danger at Kennedy Hot Springs after a series of floods to poignant impressions of his duty as a fire lookout at Green Mountain.

Meet the author and discover why the book is titled Walking on Trees

Hanbey is giving a series of a presentations about his new book around Washington, starting tomorrow.

  • Third Place Books in Lake Forest Park tomorrow, Sept. 9 at 7 p.m.
  • Mountain Loop Books and Coffee. Darrington, Wednesday, Sept. 10, 6 p.m.
  • A Book for All Seasons, Leavenworth, Saturday, Oct. 25
  • Page 2 Books,  Burien, Saturday, Nov. 1.

Fall Aspens in Hope Valley

News from American Rivers - Mon, 09/08/2014 - 10:00am
Fall Aspens in Hope Valley | Julie Fair

Fall is coming quickly to the Sierra Nevada. As always, the region’s high elevation makes it one of the first places in California to display the change in season. For American Rivers, this means squeezing in a couple last field visits out to our Sierra meadow restoration sites before the weather turns sour, and ultimately before the snow flies.

One site we’ll be visiting this fall is Hope Valley, where American Rivers is leading an effort to restore one of the largest and most iconic meadows in the Sierra. Located just south of South Lake Tahoe along the Upper West Carson River, Hope Valley is an important recreation destination and integral component of one of the Sierra’s major watersheds. Fall is an amazing time in Hope Valley, due to the fall colors of the Aspens that surround the meadow. Most people don’t think of the West as having great fall colors, but Sierra aspens are certainly worth a look, with fall colors ranging from yellow to orange to even deep red.

View of Hope Valley through the Fall Aspens | Daniel Nylen

This September, American Rivers’ local partner the Alpine Watershed Group will be hosting the first annual Alpine Aspen Festival to celebrate the fall colors of the aspens. It will be a ‘colorful’ event, including activities like artist workshops, fly fishing classes, trail rides, and live music. The Alpine Watershed Group will also continue its tradition of engaging the community in conservation by including ecology-focused educational hikes and hands-on restoration and monitoring activities. This work builds on the Alpine Watershed Group’s Meadow Stewards Program, where a group of local community members volunteer to conduct hydrologic monitoring for the Hope Valley meadow restoration project.

The Alpine Aspen Festival promises to be a fun, beautiful, and engaging event. It will be held September 25th- 28th. For more information, check out

Big Things Happening at Bloede (Behind the Scenes)

News from American Rivers - Mon, 09/08/2014 - 6:00am
Bloede Dam | Latrent Smith

If you’ve been following our blog for the past couple of months, you have learned that dam removals can take time to complete. It can entail dozens of moving parts (and partners) and several steps to reach the finish line. For several years we have been working to restore the Patapsco River in Maryland. First, we removed the Union Dam in 2010, and then the Simkins Dam in 2011. Next on tap? Bloede Dam, which is downstream of both the former Union and Simkins sites.

Removal of these dams restores more than 65 miles of spawning habitat for shad and river herring, and more than 183 miles for American Eel. We are making progress toward that goal – slowly, but surely.

Currently, we are in the process of working with our contractors and partners to design the removal of the dam, as well as the placement of an overlook at the former dam site and the relocation of a portion of the sewer line that runs through the dam. The location of Bloede Dam within the watershed makes removal trickier than at a site like Simkins. It sits at the tail end of a drop in gradient and around a slight bend in the river, which increases erosive potential at the site. The project becomes even more complicated when that dam is in the middle of a busy state park… and has a sewer line running through it. We have to consider questions such as: How do we move heavy equipment in to remove the dam (and move the sewer line)? How do we minimize impacts to the park visitors while ensuring the efficient completion of the project? And even, where do we place an overlook that is secure, safe, and provides a nice view?

Bloede Dam Sewer Abutment

Having to work around the sewer line has presented a whole separate set of challenges. We have had to consider alternatives for placement of the relocated line, what activities and disturbances would be involved with each of those options, and what would be the most cost-effective approach. Significant rock formations and the confined river valley add further constraints.

A project such as this requires a great investment from funders as well as the community. The latest project supporter is the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, who is providing a $2.48M grant to restore aquatic passage, eliminate a safety hazard, and increase resiliency. They join a number of great partners who support the effort to remove this dam.

So, what is the next step in this process? We are currently reviewing the draft design plans and are planning a public open house to present those plans in November. Check back here and on our Facebook page for more information on this open house!

Doctor Links Allergic Reaction to Antibiotics Used in Food Eaten by Child

News from Beyond Pesticides - Sun, 09/07/2014 - 9:01pm
(Beyond Pesticides, September 8, 2014) It was quite a shock that a blueberry pie could give a 10-year old girl such a terrible allergic reaction that it led her to be taken to the hospital. She experienced facial flushes, hives and irregular breathing. Fortunately, she recovered in the hospital after they treated her with epinephrine. […]

Auction Donations Needed!

News from the Bicycle Alliance of Washington - Sun, 09/07/2014 - 11:09am
Annual Auction & Gala Supports Our Work to Grow Bicycling Statewide

It’s been a big year for bicycling in Washington state and we have some key things to celebrate at our 22nd annual auction and gala on November 8: retaining our status for the 7th year in a row as the most bicycle friendly state in the nation; official designation of US Bicycle Route 10, Washington’s first route in the national bike network; and the release of Cycling Sojourner Washington, the first multi-day bicycle tour guide book for the Evergreen State in over a decade.

Would you like a weekend getaway in Port Angeles? We have a vacation home available in this year’s auction!

Whatever your reason and wherever you ride, you can help support Washington Bikes’ vital work on policy and legislation, creating safe routes to work, school and beyond, promoting bike travel and tourism, and making biking accessible to everyone with a donation to our annual auction.

This year’s theme is Create Adventure–highlighting our bike travel and tourism efforts. Donations that play on this theme–like weekend getaways, biking or outdoor adventures, and unique experiences of all kinds–are needed. Other helpful items include themed gift baskets, handcrafted items, restaurant gift certificates, massage/spa packages, tickets to cultural and sporting events, and more.

Use our online donation form to submit your donation today. Not sure what to donate? Cash is always helpful!  Contact Louise McGrody if you have any questions.

Thank you. Your donation helps grow bicycling all across Washington.

And please plan to join us on November 8 at the auction! Come ready to meet friends, have fun, and bid. Visit our Auction Page for more information.

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Your Vote Counts with the American Trails Awards

News from American Rivers - Fri, 09/05/2014 - 10:00am
Photo by DNR Staff Shelly C

It’s that time of year to nominate your Trail heroes for the American Trails Award! This award has a number of categories where you can nominate your Trail champions – from the Lifetime Service Award to Trails Advocacy to Outstanding Trail Sharing; the American Trail is looking to recognize the tremendous contributions of volunteers, professionals, and other leaders who are working to better both urban and rural trails around the country.

American Trails has extended their deadline for submitting nominations for all of the categories in the 2015 American Trail Awards.

Check out their website and nominate your Trail Hero – I sure will!

Tell the Washington Legislature: Focus on Safety and Complete Connections

Going into the 2015 legislative session — an important budget-writing year that sets the two-year transportation budget — we hope to build on our success in 2013 in getting an all-time record investment of over $40 million in biking/walking projects. We’ll be working for a forward-looking approach to transportation funding that recognizes how people want to move.

As the recent poll on kids and safe biking and walking showed, Washingtonians overwhelmingly want the legislature and their local leaders to invest in safer connections. Add your voice with our petition that asks the legislature for two fundamental things: making safety a top priority and funding complete bike connections.

Join me in asking #WAleg to focus on safe, complete bike connections for all.Click To Tweet - Powered By CoSchedule

Washington State Capitol – courtesy of Cacophony

Petition for Better Bicycling

Getting more people on bikes is good for our personal health, local businesses, our towns, our economy, and the air we breathe.

That’s why we call on the governor and the state legislature to make safer bicycling a top priority and to invest in more bike lanes and trails and improved road designs to create a complete network of bicycle connections.

Name * First Last * Last Email * Phone Address (Optional) Providing your street address lets us identify your legislative district and send you information about issues and votes in which your state legislators play a key role when they come up. Address Line 2 City * State * AL AK AR AZ CA CO CT DE DC FL GA HI ID IL IN IA KS KY LA ME MH MD MA MI MN MS MO MT NE NV NH NJ NM NY NC ND OH OK OR PA RI SC SD TN TX UT VT VA WA WV WI WY Postal Code *

Just signed petition to #WAleg asking for focus on safety, $$ for better bike connections.Click To Tweet - Powered By CoSchedule

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In Pacific Islands, Tomorrow’s Leaders Must Act Today

News from Conservation International - Fri, 09/05/2014 - 7:00am
CI intern Danita Strickland writes about her experience speaking about protecting oceans and biodiversity at a youth forum at the U.N.'s International Conference on Small Island Developing States.

Pull together for Clean Water

News from American Rivers - Fri, 09/05/2014 - 6:00am
Crew Team on the Housatonic River – Shelton, Connecticut | Maureen Boian

September, the first month back to school. High school and collegiate rowing teams are heading to rivers across the country to train and compete. As an undergraduate at Fairfield University in Connecticut, I used to be one of them, getting up at the crack of dawn to set out on the Housatonic River for crew practice. As the coxswain of the boat, I was in charge of keeping all eight rowers in-sync, for in order to move forward, everyone has to pull together.

In my work at American Rivers, I often think of back to when I spent almost every day on (or sometimes in) the river. Although I never drank the river water on purpose, there were many times when I would get a mouthful from a splashing oar or end up thrown in by my teammates after winning a race! One spring I was unwillingly thrown into the cold water of Orchard Beach Lagoon in Pelham, New York after winning a Varsity Lightweight Final in the Metropolitan Intercollegiate Rowing Association Spring Championship Regatta. We didn’t think too much about the quality of the water at the time, but now I wonder – just exactly how clean was the water that I was in contact with almost every day?

The good news is that the Clean Water Act, enacted in 1972, did a pretty good job at cleaning up many of our nation’s rivers. However, despite nearly thirty years of comprehensive protections, two Supreme Court cases and the resulting Administrative guidance left small streams and wetlands vulnerable to pollution and destruction. These are the waters that contribute to our drinking water supplies, filter out pollutants, and help to protect us from flooding.

Currently the EPA and the Army Corps have a proposed Clean Water Rule that would once again protect these important waters. The proposed rule would clarify which waters are protected by the Clean water Act and would include all tributaries and adjacent wetlands. This is an important step forward to restoring historical levels of protection.

How You Can Help The proposed Clean Water Rule impacts you whether you row, swim, fish, or even if you enjoy a glass of water from your faucet. Clean water is important to everyone.

The Proposed rule is open for public comment through October 20, 2014. You still have time to make your voice heard!

For the proposed rule to move forward we all have to pull together for clean water. Every comment counts. Let the EPA and Corps know that you value the quality of your waterways big and small and you want them to be protected.

Study Finds EPA Favors Industry in Pesticide Safety Evaluations

News from Beyond Pesticides - Thu, 09/04/2014 - 9:01pm
(Beyond Pesticides, September 5, 2014) A study published in a scientific journal finds that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) favors the chemical industry when making determinations on pesticide safety. Under the Federal Insecticide Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA), EPA conducts risk assessments to determine whether a new or existing chemical is eligible for registration or reregistration […]

The Adventure Gap: Q&A with Author James Edward Mills

News from Washington Trails Association - Thu, 09/04/2014 - 6:45pm

James Edward Mills is an outdoors journalist, the creator/producer of The Joy Trip Project and the author of upcoming book The Adventure Gap, a new book set to be released by Mountaineers Books in October 2014. In it, Mills chronicles Expedition Denali—the first all-African-American summit attempt on Alaska's Mount Denali—and creates a compelling case for all Americans to embrace their place in the great outdoors. WTA recently spoke with Mills about his upcoming book.

What is the adventure gap?

James Edward Mills: We’ve often heard of the education gap, the prosperity gap and the technology gap. But one of the things I realized through the course of my personal experience, as well as my career, is that there is a very comparable divide when it comes to people of color and participation in outdoor recreation. I call that the adventure gap.

"By 2042, it’s predicted that the majority of the U.S. population will be non-white. If nothing happens to change the disparity between those who spend time in nature and those who don’t, we’ll have a constituency of voters in this country that have little or no relationship with the outdoors." What is your background in the outdoors and how did you first get exposed to getting outside?

Mills: Although I grew up in Los Angeles, Calif., I had the really good fortune of being involved in one of the oldest Boy Scout troupes west of the Mississippi. From the time I was nine years old until I was eighteen, I had opportunities to go camping, climbing and to the beach. I was encouraged to take up things like backpacking and snowshoeing and cross country skiing. Even though I lived in an urban environment, my parents and many of my friends growing up made it a priority to spend time outdoors. I had a lot of really good, positive experiences early on that made it a big part of my life, ultimately allowing me to choose it as a career once I got out of college.

Why is the issue of underexposure to the outdoors one that affects us all?

Mills: By 2042, it’s predicted that the majority of the U.S. population will be non-white. If nothing happens to change the disparity between those who spend time in nature and those who don’t, we’ll have a constituency of voters in this country that have little or no relationship with the outdoors. Long term, that means when it comes time to allocate funding or cast votes for environmental preservation, there will be very few people who will work to protect wilderness.

There’s also the possibility of having a much more urbanized population. And with urbanization comes a variety of different social and physical problems, everything from obesity to high rates of diabetes or  something as simple as vitamin D deficiency because people aren’t spending as much time outdoors. If a majority of our population has no affinity with nature, ultimately I think that it puts our entire population at risk.

Can you talk a bit about the barriers that have kept some communities of color and people in urban areas from being exposed to the outdoors?

Mills: That’s a really hard question to answer. And frankly I’m loathe to offer a definitive answer because it varies from person to person.

Historically there have been prohibitions that prevented people of color from doing a variety of things, dating back to our history of slavery, to the enactment of Jim Crow legislation, through the 1960s after reconstruction, leading up to the Civil Rights era and institutionalized segregation and urbanization. African Americans literally couldn’t move out of cities because suburbs were protected under social mores. The result was forced urbanization.

When you take a look at the culture that’s created around forced urbanization, ultimately there’s not a tradition of spending time outdoors. Eventually, people don’t have any good reasons to spend time in nature simply because it’s not part of their cultural identity. At the end of the day, though, it really is a personal choice. I think as individuals today we decide whether or not we’re going to spend time in nature.

What was the experience of writing the book like for you? How long did it take?

Mills: Some of the passages in the book are excerpts of other stories that I’ve written over the years. As a person of color in the outdoor industry, it kind of fell to me as the de facto person who told these stories because, frankly, there are no other African American journalists in the outdoor industry, at least none that I’m personally familiar with or aware of.

Over the last several years I’ve cultivated a wide variety of different narratives, some of which wound up in this book. Over the course of those conversations with people, the book had already kind of gotten started. But what pulled everything together was the catalyst of the Expedition Denali project, which gave me a contemporary narrative to tell. The ultimate writing of the book was a combination of almost 18 months of writing and research and editing.

When Expedition Denali was happening you were in Alaska, right?

Mills: Yes, I was. Originally, I was supposed to be on the summit team. But unfortunately, while we were training in Alaska the previous year, I was having some difficulty with my legs. I came home and was actually diagnosed with osteoarthritis in both of my hips, and I had to have them replaced.

Fortunately, surgery allowed me to become physically fit enough to make it to Alaska to spend the summer there while Expedition Denali was on the mountain. I was actually able to fly in with the team and see them off at base camp. And then I spent two weeks in Denali National Park and then the following week waiting for them to arrive at the NOLS base in Palmer, Alaska. During that time, I was receiving satellite phone transmissions via email. Through that I was able to chart the team’s progress on a day-by-day basis, in terms of what they were experiencing and what was happening at the time.

Want to be part of Expedition Denali as it unfolds? Check out the accompanying documentary, An American Ascent. Photo by Hudson Henry.

When it comes to closing the adventure gap, how can everyday people be part of the solution?

Mills: I think it’s important that people are aware of the difficulties and limitations that other people have. We all need to do whatever we can to support one another, and stop telling others (and ourselves) that there are things we can’t do—especially when it comes to very impressionable people at young ages. It speaks to the concept of vocational training. We need guides. We need environmental scientists. We need foresters. We need people whose job it is to spend time in nature. And I think we should stop telling each other that that career path is a dead end.

If people could walk away from your book with one thing, what would you want it to be?

Mills: More than anything else, I want people to understand that this isn’t exclusively an issue of race. This is a conversation about everyone’s adventure gap and getting more people outside. We all deal with some type of barrier. For some, it’s institutionalized racism. For others, it’s a disability. Oftentimes, it’s just us telling ourselves that we can’t do something. I want people to break down those barriers.


An American Ascent

To experience the drama and adventure of Expedition Denali on film—with video diaries, breathtaking views of Denali and one-on-one interviews—check out An American Ascent. The documentary is co-produced by James Edward Mills (author of The Adventure Gap) and is expected to debut on the adventure film circuit in November. Public screenings and distribution of the film will follow. Watch the trailer on vimeo—or below.

Expedition Denali Promo from Distill Productions on Vimeo.

Reflections on Hiking and Fear: One Hiker Faces Her Nemesis

News from Washington Trails Association - Thu, 09/04/2014 - 6:04pm

Thirty years ago, a friend invited Carolyn Schott to hike to Melakwa Lake. A less-than-ideal first experience turned her off hiking for the better part of 25 years. Last month for WTA's Hike-a-Thon, this hiker, author and supporter of WTA and trails, returned to Melakwa to face down the trail that nearly conquered her. Read what brought her back to hiking below or on her blog, where this story first appeared.

I’m surprised I survived.

Thirty years ago, a friend invited me on a hike. The distance (nine miles) concerned me—that was three times the distance of my favorite, completely flat, three-mile walk around Green Lake. But my friend assured me it was a “moderate” hike. Moderate didn’t sound too bad. Maybe a hill or two.

I should have asked more questions. I should have asked to see the guide book in which she found the hike. But I didn’t.

The hike—30 years ago

The trail was very pleasant at first—just what I expected moderate to be. We wandered through the woods, generally going uphill. And then it got steeper. And steeper. And rocky. And the switchbacks kept going and going and going.

At first, I was fairly good humored about it. Sweaty, but good humored. I figured it was a hike in the woods so a person had to expect some rocks. But as my feet slipped on the rocks, as my muscles screamed, as the grade increased, so did my misery.

The first time I hiked this trail, I was too miserable to notice the beautiful waterfall.

You have to understand—I’d never hiked, am not graceful or a natural athlete, and was not in great shape. My family didn’t do active sports things on vacations and weekends. (My dad grew up on a farm. When hard work is part of your daily life, I guess your idea of vacation is not to work hard.)

I was completely unprepared for this hike—tennis shoes instead of hiking boots with ankle support; diet Coke, a sandwich, and chips instead of water and protein bars. A third of the way through the uphill ascent, I was cranky. Halfway through, I was miserable. Sometime after that, I never wanted to speak to my friend again. I arrived at the destination (a beautiful mountain lake) with no appreciation for the view, but only thankful for the opportunity to stop. I blocked out of my mind the fact that I needed to hike back down. I’m sure the only thing that kept me from crying was centuries of stubborn, proud German ancestors whispering in my ears, “There’s no crying just because something’s hard.”

To be fair to my friend, she hadn’t done much hiking either so I don’t know how carefully she read the trail description. And I certainly should have asked more questions. But there’s no way that could be considered a beginner hike. I don’t remember how long afterward I felt the effects, but I think I was hobbling for a week. I know that post hike, I almost fell out of the truck because every muscle in my body had frozen up in the half hour drive to the pizza place we went for dinner.

Clearly, hiking was not a fun activity that I ever wanted to do again. And the experience taught me about the need to balance friends with gung-ho-let’s-dive-in-and-give-it-a-try ideas and a more realistic view of my own capabilities.

Trying again

Five years ago, I was lured into trying hiking again although I’d successfully avoided it for 25 years. A friend who grew up hiking in Montana wanted to get back into it and I’d been watching friends’ Facebook posts (and fabulous photos) talking about all their great hikes. It seemed worth a try. My friend and I tried a gentle hike, and I found I rather liked hiking through the woods, a small respite from city life and more energizing than a trip to the gym.

As I started to hike regularly, another friend suggested getting involved with a coached hiking fundraising event. I learned about the right equipment, made some great friends, and gradually worked my way up to harder and harder hikes until I reached my goal of hiking the Grand Canyon.

The hike—30 years later

Even though I’d hiked many harder hikes preparing for the Grand Canyon, I’d never attempted Lake Melakwa, that first nemesis hike, until yesterday. It’s funny how much trepidation I had that morning—fear of the hike that conquered me and left me exhausted and demoralized 30 years before.

It’s also funny how clearly I remembered most of the trail even after all this time. “Ah yes, this was the part where I thought the hike would be a piece of cake … this is the part where I started feeling miserable and my friend started getting apologetic … this is the part where I thought we were done with switchbacks and yet there’s a harder set looming ahead … this is where I told my friend to ‘just shut up and leave me alone.’”

The hike to Lake Melakwa is strenuous.There’s a lot of elevation gain and much of the trail is rocky, making the footing difficult. I didn’t just skip blithely to the top yesterday. But it was hard in an energizing way, not an exhausting, miserable way. And this time, I noticed the beautiful scenery that surrounded me.

Thirty years later, I wondered how the 20-something me survived it. Yes, I was 30 years younger, but out of shape, unprepared, and ill equipped. It’s a wonder I didn’t break an ankle or shrivel up from dehydration.

I’ve hiked harder hikes, but yesterday I conquered a fear—the fear of the hike that conquered me.

Hike on.

There's still time to sponsor Carolyn's Hike-a-Thon effort and support WTA.