On July 9, a group of about 80 hikers camped out in the athletic field behind Issaquah Middle School. The day’s hike would be the longest yet, and the second to last of the week. The 16-mile hike from their campsite to Coal Creek Park in Bellevue, would mark the eighth day of Mountain to Sound Greenway’s 20th anniversary celebratory trek.
The 130-mile biking and hiking trek began July 2 in Ellensburg and finished July 10 in Seattle.
Such hikes began in 1990 when members of the Issaquah Alps Trails Club made a 57-mile hike in hopes of creating awareness for the area’s wildlife. The inaugural hike’s success laid the groundwork for Mountains to Sound Greenway’s formation a year later.
“Their whole purpose was to get people aware of all the things in North Bend that needed protection,” said Doug McClelland who completed both the hike 20 years ago and the anniversary trip. “It wasn’t about the trek, it was totally about land conservation.”
McClelland was one of only a handful of returners from the group 20 years ago, a group which included his wife, Christie, who was eight-months pregnant with their son, Jacob, now a youth leader on this excursion.
But it was the newcomers, like eight-year-old Holden Breckhaus, who the group hopes will carry the organization’s wilderness conservation goals. Holden, a red-headed spark plug, made the trek with his mother, Amy, but spent most days racing other participants up and down the biking and hiking trails.
When asked if he usually won, he responded with a defiant “yes.” Adding that even his mother couldn’t keep up with him on most of the biking days.
The group even featured a certain international flavor, with Mitchell Miller, a native of Perth, Australia, taking part and enjoying the area’s wildlife.
“I just enjoy the vegetation. It may surprise you, but I find it very exotic.” Miler said.
Craig Burlingame, another first-timer and college roommate of McClelland, said that a special camaraderie had been built amongst the group over the nine days, leaving many of the men looking quite gruff.
“Those of us who’ve been on the whole trek have decided we aren’t shaving until Waterfront park,” Burlingame said.
Burlingame, who had considered riding the STP (a Seattle to Portland bicycle race), said that he couldn’t be more happy in his decision to make the trek instead.
“I say sign me up for the 25th [anniversary trek] or 30th or whatever.”