EVERETT — Monica Reinoso got hooked on hiking as a young woman, backpacking through Southern California mountains with her boyfriend.
Neither a subsequent breakup, a move to Seattle, nor a demanding nursing job at Swedish Edmonds has dampened her enthusiasm.
“It never gets old. The same trail never gets old. I just love it,” Reinoso said.
This month, she is combining her passion for hiking with another concern: caring for senior citizens.
Reinoso, 56, is traversing a 245-mile stretch of the Pacific Crest Trail to raise money for the Snohomish County Meals on Wheels program, administered by Homage Senior Services.
She has hiked sections of the trail before, but not for charity.
“Doing this fundraiser for this hike has given it so much more meaning and purpose,” she said. “It’s a whole different feeling.”
Reinoso got the idea for a charitable hike from a friend she met on the Pacific Crest Trail, Denise Gower, who was raising money for domestic violence.
Reinoso was inspired to choose Meals on Wheels by one of her former patients, who started driving for the organization and told her it was the most rewarding thing he’s ever done.
“We sweep (seniors) under the rug,” she said. “They don’t get the help they need. One thing I like about Meals on Wheels is that it’s a community; it provides connection. We all need each other.”
She reached out to Homage and met Kit Massengale, the agency’s director of philanthropy.
“Monica and her story immediately resonated with me,” Massengale said by email. “We are hoping as people become aware of what she is doing, they will be generous and donate to Meals on Wheels.”
Homage set up online fundraising pages, helped Reinoso publicize her hike, and provided links to her Facebook page.
Her initial fundraising goal was $5,000, but she had raised almost $4,000 by the time she left on August 1.
Meals on Wheels uses fundraising money to help provide hot and nutritious meals for nearly 4,000 seniors and people with disabilities. In 2018, the program cooked almost 300,000 meals, either delivered to doorsteps or served at sites such as senior centers.
Delivery drivers also bring seniors fresh fruit and vegetables, pet food and a three-day supply of shelf-stable foods in case of inclement weather. They are trained to check on clients’ well-being, referring them for help with a medical condition or home repair.
According to a 2018 survey, Meals on Wheels’ service allows 97 percent of its clients to continue living in their homes. Ninety percent of clients no longer worry about having enough food to eat, and 93 percent have reported eating healthier diets.
Reinoso said she’s seen her share of senior citizens while hiking previous sections of the Pacific Crest Trail.
There was the 85-year-old man who completed his final stretch of the trail with his daughter. The hiker who celebrated a 70th birthday near the top of Snoqualmie Pass. And the 71-year-old man who recited Rudyard Kipling’s poem, “If,” on the day of the 2017 solar eclipse.
“So much magic happens out there,” she said.
Three friends will ferry boxes of supplies for Reinoso to strategic stops along the trail. She will stay one night in hotel, and one in a bed-and-breakfast, before ending her journey Aug. 31 at the Snoqualmie Pass summit pancake house.
She is carrying a 38-pound backpack, but said “the joy and purpose of this trip will make it a lighter load.”
Reinoso hopes to repeat the fundraiser annually. She has one more section of the 2,653-mile Pacific Crest Trail to hike in Washington, but she doesn’t plan to stop there.
“I’d like to finish the entire thing,” she said, “by the time I’m 65.”
HOW TO HELP
Donations for Monica Reinoso’s hike will be accepted through the end of August. Donors can pledge for each mile completed, or contribute a set amount.
To donate, go to homage.ejoinme.org/MyEvents/MonicaReinoso2019/tabid/1066284/Default.aspx