Winter lesson: Day hikes good for physique only if feet go along

Seabury Blair Jr. Mr. Outdoors

Here's how to lose 25 pounds: take 89 day-hikes on the Olympic Peninsula and around Mount Rainier and don't write a book about it.

Here's how to gain 25 pounds: take 89 day-hikes on the Olympic Peninsula and around Mount Rainier and write a book about it. Walking the walk is good for losing weight, while talking the talk yields the exact opposite.

I know, because my inseparable companion Stummick is now 25 pounds heavier than he was last June. Last year, Stummick guided me along about 660 miles of trail, then sat down in front of a computer to help me write about 50,000 words in one- and- a-half day-hiking guidebooks.

The original plan was simple: My good friend, Ron C. Judd (a.k.a. Wimpfoot) would write a day-hiking guide for Mount Rainier and Mike McQuaide, the author of "Trail Running Guide to Western Washington," would write "Day Hike! North Cascades." I was supposed to write "Day Hike! Olympic Peninsula" and Sasquatch Books would publish them all at once.

All three guidebooks hit the shelves last week. Now I'm trying to get rid of the fat legacy a winter of word-processing, as they say, left for me.

Judd, McQuaide, Stummick and I began by hiking trails all over the place.

In an effort to prove that trails get longer as one gets older, I pushed a bike wheel and cyclometer on many of the trails I'd hiked decades before.

Somewhere around 400 miles into his research, Wimpfoot injured his knee and couldn't finish his hikes. I'm grateful that he asked me to help him out, and I ended up hiking and writing about 20 of the trails in his book.

In all, I hiked 521 miles on 69 trails on the Kitsap and Olympic Peninsula and 141 miles on 20 trails around Rainier country. I started hiking the Olympic trails in March 2001, finished around the last of August and then completed the Rainier hikes by the first week in October.

By that time, I was in pretty good shape and Stummick had all but disappeared. Then I sat down to write all that stuff, and Stummick grew like a big ugly tummy tumor.

Except for the big belly, it was a great experience. It was a chance to cover big gulps of wilderness in a short period of time, reviewing miles of trail I'd hiked over the past three decades.

There were some surprises:

I learned, for example, that the trail to Lower Lena Lake has indeed gotten longer since I first hiked it. The old trail was 2 miles long; today it stretches to 3.2 miles.

Some trails I hadn't previously hiked that looked easy on a map turned out to be tough. One of the trickiest was the Lower Dungeness Trail, which looked like a pleasant walk along the river but turned out to be better suited to a mountain goat.

Several of the shortest trails were the most difficult, such as the notorious Lake Constance Trail. It's only about 2.2 miles, one way, but gains more than 3,300 feet. The trail is almost as tough as the climb of Mount Constance, above the lake.

Not only that, but to get to the Lake Constance Trail today, you've got to hike about 3 miles of the Dosewallips River Road, closed by a washout last winter.

And I got a chance to hike some of my favorite trails:

The Cape Alava Loop, a 3-mile walk along a plank trail through the rain forest to 3 miles of pristine Pacific Ocean beach, then a 3-mile hike back along a second rain forest trail.

The 6.4-mile round-trip walk along the quiet South Fork of the Hoh River to Big Flat. Read Joan Carson's splendid description of this area in last week's bird-watching column.

The summer wildflower hike to Roaring Winds camp from Obstruction Point, a 6.4-mile round-trip walk with a one-way option for hikers with cars parked at Obstruction Point and Deer Park.

My all-time favorite hike: the 18.8-mile High Divide Loop, which traverses some of the most beautiful alpine scenery of Olympic National Park. Though the trail is long, wilderness pedestrians in good condition can make a long day's trip out of this hike that is overused by backpackers.

Now, here's my biggest problem: I'm stuck with Stummick and it appears that the only way I can get rid of him is to drag him out into the woods and see that he gets lost. But frankly, I'm more than a little tired of hiking. Published in The Sun: 06/23/2002

Elder Bob's site button

search site button spacer TRAIL REVIEW button spacer MAIN MENU button spacer SITE MAP button