Seniors & Aging

Hikers who are ‘no spring chickens’ walk in all weather

Jacqueline Anderson, left, Mike Welch, Ward Pletcher, and Peggy Vander Yacht, all members of Senior Trailblazers, enjoy a laugh during their April 2015 hike to Pine and Cedar lakes in the Chuckanuts.
Jacqueline Anderson, left, Mike Welch, Ward Pletcher, and Peggy Vander Yacht, all members of Senior Trailblazers, enjoy a laugh during their April 2015 hike to Pine and Cedar lakes in the Chuckanuts. Courtesy to The Bellingham Herald

Not long after he became a member of Senior Trailblazers, Al Heezen joined a group hike in 2001 to Heliotrope Ridge, near Mount Baker. He was in his early 60s then, and the outing included several hikers in their 70s and 80s.

“I could do this for another 20 years,” Heezen realized at the time.

I get a kick out of getting somewhere on my own steam, and I really like the lively conversation.

Al Heezen, Senior Trailblazer

Since then, he has remained active with the Trailblazers, and leads one of two groups that venture outdoors each Thursday.

“People come out in ridiculous weather just to get a workout,” Heezen says. “I get a kick out of getting somewhere on my own steam, and I really like the lively conversation. We go to the most beautiful places.”

Over the past year, members have hiked every Thursday but one. Distances vary from 4 to 10 miles, some with significant elevation gain. Heezen leads the faster group, tackling more difficult trails; Pat McGovern leads the second group.

The club is for hikers 50 and older. Most are in their 60s to their 80s, and often bounce back and forth between the two groups.

“There are no spring chickens,” says Owen Bamford, a frequent participant with both groups

Trailblazers must be members of Bellingham Senior Activity Center. No advance sign-up is required, and all hikes depart from the center.

During winter, destinations include the Chuckanuts, Mount Erie, and Lookout Mountain, among other lowland places. During summer, members head to Mount Baker and the North Cascades for easier routes, such as the Chain Lakes loop, and for more challenging trails, some of which gain 1,000 feet elevation in a mile.

Members meet quarterly to plan their outings.

If you join a hiking group, you meet like-minded people.

Owen Bamford, Senior Trailblazer

“We try to stick to the schedule, but it’s fluid,” Heezen says. “Mountain and snow conditions intervene.”

Besides leading weekly hikes, Heezen also maintains the roster of 150 members. About 30 participate regularly.

On sunny summer days, as many as 18 show up for a hike, and they split into two groups. On rainy winter days, three to seven hikers typically come.

Bamford appreciates the social aspect of the outings, especially for members who move to Bellingham in retirement, as he and his wife did.

“If you join a hiking group, you meet like-minded people,” he says.

▪ The Button Walkabouts, another walking group, also meets at Bellingham Senior Activity Center. Their walks depart 9:45 a.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays and last about 90 minutes.

Senior Trailblazers

Online: http://geezerhiker.com/trailblazers/info_page.html

Email: trailblazers@geezerhiker.com

Button Walkabouts

Contact: Bellingham Senior Activity Center, 360-733-4030

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