Happy When I’m Hiking

By Sandra R. Nachlinger

“I’m happy when I’m hiking, pack upon my back.”(Old English hiking song)

I sang those lyrics as a Girl Scout, but only recently did I really take them to heart. Last spring I picked up a brochure from the Auburn (Washington) Senior Activity Center and studied the list of hikes and walks scheduled for the coming months. Descriptions included each trail’s location, length, and how much time the hike or walk would take. Walks were described as shorter than three miles; hikes would be longer and had been rated as to difficulty.

For a fee of ten dollars or less per outing, I’d get transportation from the senior center to the trailhead and be guided along a path by an experienced leader. What a great (and safe) way for seniors to get out into nature. Inexpensive too.


1 – Paved and/or smooth trail surface; no significant hills; no more than 5 miles.

2 – Moderate; sometimes paved; some hills; may be over 5 miles.

3 – Some difficult terrain; substantial hills and/or steps; elevation gain under 1,200 feet. Walkers with health problems should use caution.

4 – Difficult; steep hills; may be poorly maintained or very irregular; over1,200 feet elevation gain; may be over 5 miles. Walkers with health problems should use caution.

As a newbie, I decided a walk seemed like a cautious start and a good way to determine if I would be physically able to keep up. I figured these types of activities would not only be less expensive than joining a gym, they’d also be more fun. I enrolled in a walk that sounded interesting.

On a breezy March morning, I laced up my sneakers, stashed a PB&J sandwich and bottled water in my decades-old day pack, and boarded the senior center van for my first adventure. I was apprehensive but determined. The group welcomed me as if they’d known me for years and reassured me that I’d be able to keep up with their pace. We chatted all the way to our destination: Marymoor Park on Lake Sammamish, Washington. The paved path around the lake dazzled with beautiful views of the water and gorgeous azaleas and rhododendrons blooming along its shores. The outing proved to be an exhilarating opportunity to stretch my legs and get my heart beating. I had a great time. I signed up for more walks and added a few tame hikes too.

It didn’t take long, however, for me to realize I was poorly equipped. Almost every week, as we rode to a trailhead, conversations included assessments of hiking gear. One hiker demonstrated new trekking poles that can be collapsed until they’re small enough to fit inside a backpack. I bought my “sticks” after struggling up a steep, rocky slope at Tolmie State Park. It’s amazing how much they help to navigate over roots, up and down hills, and through muddy patches. Another walker praised the waterproof qualities of a jacket she’d just bought from REI. I discovered the benefits of rain gear on the boardwalks at Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge during an afternoon of relentless downpours. Before our next outing I purchased a coat and pants to keep me dry. A sturdy pair of waterproof boots rounded out the ensemble, after a stumble on wet rocks at Little Si left me red-faced with mud coating my rear. The latest find by a fellow hiker is a spiffy pair of gloves. They have a special fingertip coating that allows the wearer to tap the screen on her smart phone without having to remove a glove and risk freezing her fingers. Those are at the top of my must-have list.

The more I’ve walked and hiked on those low-cost outings, the more gear I’ve accumulated. Since I joined this group, I’ve also purchased:

Lightweight backpack with lots of compartments, hip belt, and padded shoulder straps; shoe inserts – no more plantar fasciitis; headlamp for hiking through the Snoqualmie Tunnel; hydration pack with bladder; plastic water bottle to replace hydration pack that leaked (lots of teasing about my leaky bladder); Epsom salts – 3 pound bag for post-hike soaks.

After spending money on all that equipment, are my hikes and walks still a bargain? I think so. When my husband raises his eyebrows over my latest splurge, I remind him it’s money well spent, especially when compared to the cost of medical care for “sitting disease.” Besides, having the right gear makes my hikes and walks more comfortable and, therefore, even more fun.

“Whatever makes you happy,” my hubby says.

And hiking and walking do give me joy: The jaw-dropping vista of Mount Rainier filling the horizon on the Naches Peak Loop Trail; the roar of water cascading down Twin Falls of the Snoqualmie River (after walking down 104 steps to the viewing platform, and then back up!); the snow-capped peaks at Olympic National Park. All that beauty is part of me now. I am stronger physically and mentally as I stretch the limits of what I can achieve.

I plan to keep hiking and walking as long as I’m able to put one foot in front of the other. Now I finally have all the necessary gear, although lately I’ve been hankering for a waterproof hat that keeps showing up on my Facebook feed. It provides protection from the sun’s harmful rays and comes in several attractive colors. A bargain at only $45.00. Whether I buy the hat or not, I know I’ll be happy “Out in the open country. That’s the place for me.”

About this writer

  • Sandra R. Nachlinger

    Sandra R. Nachlinger

    Sandra R. Nachlinger is the author of two novels (so far!): I.O.U. Sex (co-written with Sandra Allen) and Bluebonnets for Elly. She enjoys sewing, quilting, writing, reading, spending time with her granddaughter, and hiking in the beautiful Pacific Northwest. She blogs about all those things and more at SandraNachlinger.blogspot.com

You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

24 Responses to “Happy When I’m Hiking”

  1. Mary Maxwell says:

    Don’t fence me in! Loved reading about your walks and even your ‘necessity splurges.’ Just wish I was there to walk with you!

  2. Thank you, Sasee, for featuring “Happy When I’m Hiking” in your magazine. I hope my essay encourages your readers to enjoy the outdoors.

  3. Lori PJ says:

    Exactly how I feel about hiking! Thanks for sharing!

  4. Judy Nill says:

    You make it sound so fun! What a great way to enjoy nature, improve health and meet new friends. A catchy idea!

  5. Colleen L. Reece says:

    Great article, Sandy–hope to see more of your work in Sasee. And happy that you “keep on keeping on” with the hikes and excursions.

  6. Lynn Waggoner Ainsworth says:

    Sandy, this sounds so wonderful. I wish I lived closer. I would be right there with you. We have a great Senior Center, but unfortunately in flat Dallas there aren’t many vistas to see. There are some nice places around though. Maybe I’ll go up to the Senior Center and suggest we do something similar. Walking is great exercise! Having something beautiful to view would make it even better. When I was working, I would walk almost every day in Greenwood Cemetery in Uptown. People I was a little crazy to walk in a cemetery, but the people there were nice and quiet and the trees protected me from mist and too much sun. Happy Hiking!

  7. Dace Pedecis says:

    I love your descriptions and lively writing, Sandy! Makes me want to take a hike. This is a good guide for anyone contemplating taking up your hobby.

  8. Irma Fritz says:

    Oh gosh! How many times have I thought of doing just what writer Sandra Nachlinger describes so well here in “Happy When I’m Hiking.” Some years ago I had actually signed up for one of those senior hiking events. But when the day came it rained buckets and I chickened out. In the meantime I’ve been diagnosed with COPD. It’s a slight case and while I’m a good walker and try to do 5 miles 5 times a week on the elliptical, I can no longer climb up hills or mountains. So I guess I read Sandra’s wonderful description of her hiking adventures with great joy and a bit of longing.

  9. Patricia Thomas says:

    Wonderful to hear about your experiences with the senior center. It sounds like a great way to get outdoors and meet new people. Thank you for this great article. I look forward to reading more. I might look into similar events near me.

    • Our group hikes all over the King/Pierce county area–Snoqualmie, Mount Rainier, Tacoma. Because of this hiking program, I’ve seen areas of the Pacific Northwest that I never would have explored alone. I hope you’re able to find a similar group.

  10. Erika Hoffman says:

    You make me want to lace up my boots! Enjoyed your informative piece.

  11. Melanie MacDonald says:

    Great article! You’ve inspired me. I may join you someday soon.

  12. Loved your article. Makes me want to join you, but unfortunately, I’m still tethered to a job. I have to make do with seven circles of the walking loop at the Y.

  13. Rose Ann says:

    Great tips and inspiration! Enjoyed your article, Sandra.

  14. Linda O'Connell says:

    We are kindred spirits. I’d rather be outdoors, too. But I am a walker not a hiker…unless i am on a beach, and then I can walk miles. Enjoyed your story.

  15. I so admire Sandy’s energy and get up and go. Walking in the woods has always invigorated my soul and spirit. It’s a brave person that wanders into the Washington woods these days. Recent stories of bikers being attacked by cougars were a sobering reminder that the wilderness is still a dangerous place sometimes. I’m glad you hike with a group, Sandy. There is safety in numbers.

Leave your mark with style

Comment in style

Stand out from the crowd and add some flare beside your comment.
Get your free Gravatar today!

Make it personal

avatar versus gravatar Close