I've been hiking with the Senior Trailblazers for nine months. I started last September when it became obvious I needed something more than my daily workouts at the gym to get ready to walk 13.1 miles (in the Dallas White Rock Half Marathon) with my family last December. And I was right! What a way to get in shape and to learn about the hikes in and around Bellingham.
Our group has had around 15 people each week for the last month. In the winter, the numbers were smaller, and the people do vary from time to time. Yesterday we trudged on an old road rather than trail, gaining 2,500 feet in elevation -- a good hike, but nothing like last week's 3,000-foot gain in less than three miles. I have begun to notice a change in my feeling about these people: they no longer seem like strangers, and now I consider them to be my friends.
I know a lot about their lives now; last week when we did Welcome Pass, we had 67 switchbacks to climb, and we passed the time by talking about things that happened in our lives after we passed the 40-switchback mark. At 43, Marjan remarked that was the year (1943) her father lost his car. Another said, "I was in kindergarten." I watched one couple who quietly remarked, "1955, the year we got married." We went through the war years (not always the same war), then moved on to high school graduations, weddings, world events: "Dien Bien Phu!" "Kennedy Assassinated!" "Tail fins!" We trudged through at least three different types of foliage and, finally, into snow. Some of us climbed to the top of the ridge while we had lunch on the snow:
Those tiny little spots in the middle of the picture show our lunch spot, and look at those mountains in the distance! (Click on any picture to enlarge.) If you compare this picture with yesterday's hike (last picture), you can see that the incredible variation in our hikes makes for some really interesting contrasts. Yesterday, mist and fog and no view; last week, sunshine, views, snow.
The subtle shift in my experience of the group was evident yesterday, when I stumbled on the way down and fell, hard, on my knee and right side. It stunned me so I lay there until the pain in my knee subsided a bit. I had been walking toward the trail end of the group on the way down, and once we figured I was okay and continued on, I was touched by their concern. By the time we had all arrived back at the Center (in three different cars), everyone seemed to be aware of my mishap and wished me well before we went our own ways.
This picture was taken yesterday on our 9-mile hike up the Middle Fork of the Nooksack. With an average age of 69 or 70 (depending on who is on the hike), I did think it would be an easy thing to hike with the group, but I have been challenged on almost every hike, and those who are much older than me who live by the adage "use it or lose it" will be joining me for many years to come.