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Originally published Sept. 12, 2012
By Nicole Tsong, former Fit for Life writer

FOR MY FIRST group hike with the Seattle outdoors group the Mountaineers, a moderate pace seemed quite reasonable. An after-hours hike sounded like the perfect way to spend a summer afternoon/evening.

Thing is, the after-hours hikes are apparently known (to everyone but me) as rather brisk. Hike and learn.

I showed up at the meeting place off Interstate 90 for our hike up to Dirty Harry’s Balcony. Our group of seven was experienced and packed with avid members of the Mountaineers, including other people who regularly lead hikes.

The group looked strong. But I was more concerned about how to answer the call of nature with a bunch of strangers than I was about speed as I chatted with our group leader, Bill Borom, and Mountaineers regular Rich DuBois on the carpool to the trailhead. (Group solution to the call of nature: Call out “party separation,” and separate.) I also was excited about the safety of a larger group with a sweep to see what’s going on.


Then we got going. The group fell silent. It was a beautiful trail, and the woods soon filled with the steady sound of boots on dirt, poles thwacking rocks and heavy breathing.

Was that just me?

I usually hike with friends. We talk a lot on the way up. I suppose when you talk less, you can go faster. The Mountaineers group went faster. Twenty minutes in, I was covered in a sweaty sheen.

Borom acknowledged that the pace edged toward “brisk” rather than moderate, but the group was up to it. Because we had only about 1½ to 2 miles of uphill on the hike (about 5 miles round-trip), he decided to keep it up while keeping an eye on us. He said he would have slowed down if it looked as if anyone needed to.

All I can say is: If you’re looking for a good workout, the after-hours group is your crew.

We made quick time up the trail, taking a couple of breaks to sip water and catch our breath. We slowed once to head off to Dirty Harry’s Museum, which required some bushwhacking to get to. Some in the group had been there before, and I was happy to push through tree branches behind them as they looked for the “museum,” which I will not spoil. Once we crawled around and took a few pictures, we set off for Dirty Harry’s Balcony, which offers beautiful views toward the south of I-90.

Borom was our guide, our timekeeper for breaks and our head-counter. Basically, he kept us all in one piece, and it was awfully nice to have him around. With a 4:30 p.m. start, we made it back to the trailhead before dark.

There are many reasons to go on a Mountaineers-led hike — for a new trail, for the safety, for the incredibly friendly people, for the workout. Any and all of the above are more than enough great reasons for me.

Tip: When picking a hike, regulars recommend, in addition to the pace, to also look at elevation gain, mileage and how much time has been allotted for the hike. It is key to knowing whether you are with the right group. If all of that seems like a lot of information to take on, consider taking a beginning hiking seminar, also offered by the Mountaineers.