What To Do When The Mountaineers Hikes Have Waitlists…

What To Do When The Mountaineers Hikes Have Waitlists…

…and you really want to get out and hike, because the weather is nice, but if you don’t go with a group, you’ll talk yourself out of going anywhere…

That was my scenario last night, around midnight, when I still hadn’t decided where to go hiking. I had searched the activity listing on the Mountaineer website and all of the March 31st hikes either had a wait-list or were too strenuous for me.

Next, I searched AllTrails.com, to get some ideas, then looked for trip reports on the WTA.org site to see what the trail conditions were like. A lot either still had snow or obstacles (like the destroyed bridge at the Rattlesnake Ledge trail). What to do….what to do…

Then, I remember Volksmarches! What are Volksmarches, you ask? It’s a German word for “people’s march”…an organized hike that can be urban or on a trail, that are usually 5Km, 10Km, or 20Km in length. The program was started to get people outdoors and active. Participants get record books to log all the Volksmarches they do by date and distance. I had done many of them when I was stationed in Germany, which was a great way to see the German country-side and forests.

Back in 2005/06, I found that the practice had quite a following here in the US, organized by the American Volksmarch Assocation (AVA). There are numerous clubs right here in the Puget Sound area. Anyway, back in 2005/06, I had walked a total of 71km over 11 events.

For those who don’t know how kilometers compare to miles, a 5Km hike is approximately 3.1 miles. A 10Km hike is approximately 6.3 miles. I never did a 20Km (12.4 miles).

So, back to last night…after I remembered Volksmarches, I went to the AVA website to see if there was anything for March 31th (know the day was supposed to be nice, but April 1st had a rain forecast). I learned that there was, indeed, an event at Flaming Geyser State Park.

Even though I didn’t get to bed until around 12:45 am, I was up at 7 am and out the door by 8am. I hate early mornings, so until I got some coffee in me, I was wondering what the heck I was thinking!

When I arrived and registered for the event, I was surprised at how many people showed up…close to 100 (is what I heard one of the organizers say).

The large group was such a stark contrast to the Mountaineer hikes, which are usually limited to 12 people to reduce the total number of people on a trail on a given day.

This was just the slow group of hikers at the event…the fast group was about twice this size.

I decided to shoot big and go for the 10Km, even though a 5Km was available. I figured that since I walked around 5 1/2 miles last weekend in Bremerton, this would be a piece of cake…right?

Wrong! I was ok over the first part of the hike, but I was also the slowest hiker (no surprise there). Luckily, a gentleman who was having hip issues didn’t mind keeping me company and had volunteered as the sweep. My AllTrails app showed my average speed at 1 1/2 mph, which was about what I figured it would be after hiking last summer and knowing my body. The slight elevation gain (around 400′) was a bit of a strain…I tried not to be embarrassed that people heavier than me were a lot faster and not having trouble with the incline. I was outdoors and getting exercise, after all, so it didn’t matter how fast I went…at least that is what I kept telling myself.

The old geyser that no longer flames.

The trail was really muddy in a lot of places, but my trekking poles kept me stable. The hard part was the fallen trees over the trail that were just a bit too high to step over easily, for someone short like me.

A beautiful trail of ferns, green forest cover, and moss.

I was about a half mile to the end of the hike, taking a rest, when another guy, who had completed the hike, stopped to talk to my co-hiker gentleman. My hips had gotten really tight and my feet were really hurting (I really hate how my feet have flattened out since I’ve gotten older). I threw in the towel and asked him if he could give me a ride back to my car.

The Green River

So, I didn’t finish the 10 km, but my FitBit said that I had walked 15,467 steps and a total of 5.62 miles (9 Km). I still feel pretty good about my performance this early in the season. Plus, tomorrow (on Easter Sunday), I did manage to squeeze into the Mountaineers Naturalist hike at Bowman Bay (another 4 miles for the weekend).

Oaks Toothwort (?)

Things seen or heard on hike:

  • Red-winged Blackbirds
  • Canada Geese
  • Other song birds (that I can’t identify sound)
  • Skunk Cabbage
  • Oaks Toothwort (I think)
  • Sword Fern
  • Licorice Fern
  • Various Mosses
  • Salmon Berry Blossoms
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