"She's been hiking all her life," said Connie Pearce, a member of Happy Hikers, a group that's been active for more than 40 years. "She's the kind of person that encourages us on … If Dorothy is still going, I can go."
Recently, Pearce and 20 fellow Happy Hikers laced up their boots and pulled out their hiking poles for a gentle walk on the Lime Kiln Trail in Granite Falls.
"It's the best thing I've ever done for myself," longtime member Dale Frits said of the group.
During the seven-mile walk at Lime Kiln, many of the hikers stopped to take in the atmosphere of the forest: sunlight filtering through the trees, vegetation creeping onto the trail.
"(We) get out here in this wonderful nature, it's just a recharging thing," Pearce said.
Della Ramsden has been a Happy Hiker since 1979. She met one of the members while playing a game of bridge and later decided to join the group herself. She said she enjoys the outdoors and the companionship of hiking with others.
Gail Konen, a 15-year Happy Hiker, said she was first introduced to the group after going on a wildflower hike with one of her friends. For her, the best part of hiking is being outdoors and "enjoying what Washington has to offer."
The group started in 1967 with local hikers Mariana Winn and Louise Marshall. Beginning with just a few members, the group has since grown to more than 50. Pearce said that the average attendance is anywhere from 20 to 30 people per hike.
Winn, a longtime resident of Lynnwood, died on Dec. 11, 2005, at 84. In her memory, members of Happy Hikers dedicated a bench and planted a cedar tree in the lower and upper areas of Meadowdale County Park.
One of the group's elders, Leonard Back (pronounced Bawk), 89, has been a Happy Hiker for more than 25 years. Like many of the members, Back also appreciates the social aspect of hiking, though he admits he can't always keep up with the rest of the group. He joked that he was trying to win the competition as the slowest hiker.
Back, reflecting on the many hikes he's taken, said Washington has some of the best hiking trails in the country. He also enjoys boating near the San Juan Islands.
"It's a hell of a way to spend the last years of your life," he said.
Today, the group continues to hike every Tuesday on trails around the state.
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