Thursday, March 12, Terrace Heights: A photo shows a tightly posed group of 20 Cascadian Pathfinders before they embarked on a 5-mile hike across the grasslands. Afterward they reconvened at Provisions at several tables pushed together for the Cascadians’ version of a Happy Meal: animated conversation, reminiscences about past hikes and hikers, updates on friends.

Then, SCREECH! All that stopped with COVID-19.

The world shut down. Even friendly elbow bumps were out. So were carpooling, dozens of hikers converging on a trailhead and especially all the hikes, campouts, climbs and get-togethers planned to celebrate the outdoor club’s 100th anniversary in Cascadian style.

Given that, I’ll forever remember 2020 and surviving — so far — COVID with gratitude and appreciation of friends made through Cascadians and the solace of the out of doors.

In the early days of The Plague, we found our comfort zones and our own paths to get our outdoor fix.

Mine evolved to be my ideal of all ideals: a Chowder and Marching Society. That is a Pathfinders-level hike (we used to be called the Pokies) followed by lunch out, either outside dining, takeout to a park or tailgating. All while maintaining social distancing and health guidelines. And reveling in the good company and humor of the society. Bonus points for supporting local eateries.

Gov. Jay Inslee’s shutdown order allowed “small behavioral support groups.” And that we were: the Three L’s — Libby and Leroy Werkhoven of Sunnyside and Linda Gordner of Yakima — and me. Three of us in our 70s; all retired. We favored wearing “Life Is Good” T-shirts.

Our numbers varied. Leroy returned at summer’s end to his volunteer job teaching shop at Sunnyside Christian High School. Linda devoted time to caring for her elderly mother. Cascadian member Anita Maas of Grandview joined us on several outings as did Phyllis Kaiser of Sunnyside.

We usually followed the Pathfinders’ Thursday hike schedule. But we could be flexible — switching to a Friday hike so we could eat lunch at Bron Yr Aur near Naches.

We hiked Snipes Mountain in Sunnyside three times as the year progressed, replenished afterward by fare from Doc’s Pizza in Granger. Ditto Lady Bird Peak on Konnowac Pass. Toured the Toppenish murals, Granger dinosaurs and Sunnyside statues. Did Pleasant Valley trails north and south as well as Grove of the Patriarchs and Silver Falls at Ohanapecosh. Walked Roslyn Coal Mines Trail, then ate lunch on the patio at Basecamp Books and Bites. Selah Cliffs Natural Area Preserve, then Second Street Grill takeout.

We trekked around and up Badger Mountain for territorial views of the Columbia River Basin and ate afterward at the Country Market. Dined on the Gold Creek Station patio while watching chipmunks, squirrels and birds doing likewise. Discovered Don Mateo’s Salvadorean fare in Tieton after hiking Snow Mountain Ranch. Found a sunny spot in Chesterley Park Dec. 3 to eat our Powerhouse Grill takeout after walking from Gleed toward Naches on the new leg of the Greenway pathway.

We kept spirits up during the lockdown by exchanging books, magazines, texts and treats: microwave-in-a cup brownies, cans of tropical fruit. Enjoyed a summer and a fall round of new Life Is Good tees. Libby turned bounty from my garden into the best rhubarb pie I’ve ever eaten.

And we helped each other cope with the pandemic’s oddball shortages. No. We’ve always managed our own TP supplies. I’m talking about sanitizing wipes, the Adams unsalted crunchy peanut butter I crave for home lunches, the Minute Tapioca that Libby needs for her pies. And I felt family honor-bound to provide the Werkhovens with Campbell’s tomato soup, especially when my Safeway began offering four-packs of the coveted stuff.

Other highlights over the months included:

Flowers. Cacti in bloom along the Tieton River Nature Trail on June 11. Loads of lilies afloat on Yakima Sportsman State Park pond on June 25. Avalanche lily and bear grass rimming the Sand Lake trail July 17. And when the weather gave us our one day of drizzle and gloom Aug. 6 at Sheep Lake, we were treated to a lush, spectacular show of wildflowers.

  • July 23, Naches Peak Loop Trail. The 3 L’s and I started from Tipsoo Lake, going counter-clockwise to the usual route so that I could locate the spot where our family scattered the combined ashes of my parents, John D. and Celia G. Campbell. About a half-mile in we found it. Looking straight into Mount Rainier with low clouds around its base. Dwarf alpine trees and huckleberry bushes just below the trail.
  • Being miles away from Yakima and several thousand feet up when we encountered Cascadians on hikes of their own: Ron and Sue Graham at Sunrise on Mount Rainier Aug. 13 and later that day as we returned from the top o’ the world vista of Dege Peak, we chatted for a few minutes with Carol Stuebs, who was making the trek with family. We crossed paths with Lynne and Gerry Collins at Lunchcounter on Naches Peak.

Closer to home, we came across Donna Oliva and Kathy Mathison Nov. 5 on Umtanum Creek Trail in the Yakima River Canyon. A traditional Pathfinders’ Halloween hike for its fall colors, the landscape was blackened by the Evans Canyon Fire, turning it into a surreal and eerie scene.

Throughout the shutdown, Donna and I got together about once a week. Early on we walked the Yakima Area Arboretum, tracking the goslings as they grew, seeing the succession of flowering trees and witnessing a “snowfall” of cottonwood fluff against the sun. Later we shifted to the Barge-Chestnut Historic District, burgeoning with garden and home improvement projects as the shutdown progressed. We checked out the contents of the Little Free Libraries, waved to neighbors and fellow walkers and watched the coming of fall colors and the going of leaves, to be replaced by shining Christmas light displays. And to cap it all, the rows and rows of luminary candles neighbors placed to light the way through Gilbert Place.

So 2020 will be a year I will remember for the good things it brought: people coming together to help each other weather the crisis, treasured friends and miles of trail explored.

Life Is Good.

Terry Campbell of Yakima retired from the Yakima Herald-Republic in October 2015 after a 33-year career as a copy editor. She has been a member of the Cascadians outdoor club since 1983.