Feature: Lessons from Legends

Feature: Lessons from Legends

Lessons from Legends: Washington’s Hiking Icons


Coordinated, written  and edited for Washington Trails magazine


Visit the published article here


How do you leave a legacy for trails? That’s a big question. For inspiration in answering it, we went in search of wisdom from some of the most epic—and impactful—hikers we know. None of them set out to leave a legacy. Some of them didn’t even start out as hikers. But all of them have changed the face of the outdoors in Washington. Their stories and lessons show how you can do the same.


Joan Burton: Introduce Kids to the Outdoors

(Photo above)

In the Washington outdoors scene, Joan Burton is nothing short of a celebrity. As a teenager, she climbed six of the highest mountains in Washington and was featured in the second-ever issue of Sports Illustrated for summiting Mount Rainier—and camping in the crater rim. She was friends and climbing partners with the legendary Ira Spring and Harvey Manning. And she’s the author of Urban Walks: 23 Walks through Seattle’s Parks and Neighborhoods and the popular Best Hikes with Children: Western Washington and the Cascades (now on its sixth reprint). Many would say Joan is a role model and icon for women climbers everywhere.

But Joan never set out to be an icon. It all started when her father introduced her to the outdoors as a young child. He was a passionate hiker, and he loved showing Joan and her sister, Carol, the wilderness he craved. His approach was unconventional by today’s standards. He didn’t choose easy hikes or short hikes. He simply took the girls wherever he was going. Even as young as seven years old, Joan was hiking challenging alpine trails—it never occurred to her that the hiking was difficult. She’ll tell you with a smile that she didn’t know any better. It just felt good to be hiking with her dad.

Joan recalls vividly that it was love at first hike. Before long, there wasn’t anywhere else she wanted to be. She planned hikes like other girls her age planned weddings. She wanted hiking boots, not a hope chest. When they were 13 and 12, Joan and Carol decided they wanted to hike around Mount Rainier. Their dad couldn’t get the time off work, so he encouraged them to join The Mountaineers. The girls signed up for a climbing course led by Harvey Manning. That one course led to a friendship with Manning and Ira Spring, the Sports Illustrated photo shoot and, eventually, Best Hikes with Children.

So many things in life come full circle, and for Joan, it was no different. As years passed, one of the greatest pleasures in her life became introducing young people to the outdoors. It started with her own kids, then the scouts she led and then her readers. Over time, her mission in life has become getting kids outside. After all, she may just inspire the next icon.


Goldie Silverman: Don’t Be Afraid to Go Alone

Goldie Silverman pic

Over the years, Goldie Silverman’s books Camping with Kids and Backpacking with Babies and Small Children have encouraged and equipped many parents to introduce their kids to wilderness. They’ve also increased the number of women and children on trail. But the most impressive thing about Goldie isn’t her writing. It’s the spirit of independence and adventure at the root of her books.

Now 81, Goldie grew up in an age when there weren’t many women camping and hiking in the outdoors. Those who did were usually accompanying a spouse. But Goldie didn’t let that faze her; she just wanted to get outside. Nothing illustrates that more than her first experience with backpacking, more than 35 years ago.

Back then, Washington Trails was simply known as Signpost, a hiking newsletter run out of Louise Marshall’s barn. Goldie and her husband, Don, had dabbled in hiking but didn’t consider themselves serious hikers. The seeds were there, though; they loved Signpost and devoured each issue as soon as it arrived. In one issue, Goldie read about a family in Stehekin that led “Hike and Like It” backpacking trips. She and Don had never tried backpacking, but suddenly it was all she could think about. Don could tell how much Goldie wanted to try it, so he encouraged her to go. She did and fell in love with backpacking.

Goldie wound up taking four trips with “Hike and Like It” before Don finally joined her. Eventually, they became quite serious about hiking and backpacking together. But Goldie will always remember the time when she loved backpacking enough to go it alone. That spirit of independence and adventure is what makes Goldie’s books meaningful—and worth learning from.

Dan Evans: Bring People Together

Dan Evans pic

Almost no one has done as much for wilderness in Washington as former governor and U.S. Sen. Dan Evans. His list of legislative accomplishments includes being at the forefront of the 1984 Washington Wilderness Act, which established 19 new wilderness areas, and the 1988 Washington Park Wilderness Act, which created wilderness areas within Mount Rainier, Olympic and North Cascades National Parks. He also founded the first state-level Department of Ecology (the blueprint for President Nixon’s Environmental Protection Agency), and he co-founded the Washington Wildlife and Recreation Coalition.

Although his political accomplishments are impressive, Dan’s introduction to hiking was anything but. He readily admits that his first hike was almost his last. As a 12-year-old Boy Scout, Dan went on his first hike to Silver Peak. It was November, and the weather was cold. On the trek up the peak it started to rain—and then snow. Woefully unprepared for the harsh weather, Dan had only one thought: “If I ever get off this mountain, I will never do this again!” Fortunately, fate intervened. The group reached the summit, the snow stopped falling, and the sun came out. By the time Dan was back at the trailhead parking lot, he was a convert. “When I got home,” he says, “All I could talk about was climbing Silver Peak.”

As a young adult, Dan became interested in politics and, at age 39, he became the youngest governor in Washington history. As a political conservative with liberal environmental beliefs, Dan was a master at uniting the uncommon—and he wasn’t afraid to be different. Under his leadership (and before the greater environmental movement took hold) Washington took bold steps toward protecting its natural resources and public lands. It wasn’t easy; it required bipartisan coalitions and widespread cooperation, things that seem absent in politics today. But bringing people together was something Dan excelled at. It became his life’s work.

That work took him from Olympia to Washington D.C., from the governor’s mansion to the U.S. Senate. There were many highlights along the way, including personally meeting with President Ford to champion the Alpine Lakes Wilderness, and getting one of his favorite spots, Lake of the Angels, protected as part of the 1988 Washington Park Wilderness Act.

Now, at 88 years old, Dan is retired. But that doesn’t mean he has slowed down. He’s still an avid hiker and champion of the outdoors. And he loves passing on his love of wilderness and stewardship. Just don’t ask him to hike Silver Peak in November.

Rich Landers: Influence with Intention

Rich Landers pic

Journalist Rich Landers, one of the biggest proponents of hiker interests in the Spokane area, has always been a writer and an outdoorsman. What he hasn’t always been is a hiker. Although he grew up hunting and fishing with his dad, it wasn’t until college that he had an epiphany: he could get farther into the wilderness if he ditched his jeep for his feet. And although Rich entered college a hunter and fisherman, by the end of his freshman year he was also an avid hiker and conservationist.

His lifestyle became his work. During his senior year at the University of Montana he started the school newspaper’s first conservation column. After college, he interned with Field and Stream. Since then, he’s written for publications from Montana Outdoors to Outside. He’s best known as the outdoors guru for the The Spokesman-Review. Through his writing, Rich has introduced thousands of people to outdoor activities—including hiking—on the east side of the state.

But his writing is significant for more than just that reason. It’s noteworthy because, from the beginning, Rich has intentionally written about the outdoors with two goals in mind: bringing outdoor enthusiasts together by helping them focus on their shared love of the outdoors rather than on the differences in their approach to recreation, and cultivating a widespread conservation ethic to encourage people to recreate responsibly.

Writing with intention isn’t always the popular thing to do. Rich admits that it’s a good way to make more enemies than friends. But it does yield real results. When Rich writes an article on hiking safely during hunting season, there are fewer conflicts between hikers and hunters. When he recommends trail work parties, people show up and volunteer. In the end, Rich doesn’t care if the trails in Eastern Washington are better known. He doesn’t care if he wins any awards for his writing. What he does care about is using his influence as a journalist to make the outdoors a better place.

Create Your Own Legacy for Trails

  • Be kind to those you meet on trail.
  • Practice and encourage Leave No Trace hiking.
  • Introduce someone new to hiking.
  • Set a personal hiking goal—any goal!

Let us help you!

  • Submit a trip report— with photos—on wta.org.
  • Connect with other hikers on our Facebook page.
  • Attend a trail work party or Volunteer Vacation.
  • Give a gift membership.

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