Some came for adventure. Others wanted to challenge their bodies and their minds. But each of the 65 people who set out July 2 to bike and hike past snowcapped peaks and crystalline lakes of the Mountains to Sound Greenway had one thing in common: They were retracing the path of those who made the journey some 20 years earlier.
In 1990, dozens of people hiked more than 70 miles from Snoqualmie Pass to Seattle in an effort to raise awareness of the natural beauty east of the city.
They saw the need. To Seattle's west is water, and development had already claimed much of the natural area to the north and south. Those on the march knew land to the east would be the next to go unless they could figure out a way to protect it.
To gain the funding, political support and commitment a long-term solution would require, they had to forge a new path. The year following their journey, trekkers collaborated with leaders of local communities and environmental groups like the Issaquah Alps Trails Club to form the Mountains to Sound Greenway Trust.
Since then, by acquiring land and forming partnerships with other landowners, Mountains to Sound has successfully preserved more than 200,000 acres of forests, parks and other natural areas. East along the I-90 corridor, they created a Greenway, 1.5 million acres reserved for wild lands, sustainable farming and forestry practices, and recreation.
Those who organized the original march joined those of us seeing it for the very first time on a nine-day, 130-mile trek to honor this precious resource and bring together its supporters.
When I arrived at Kiwanis Park in Ellensburg, adjacent to the John Wayne Pioneer trailhead, the enthusiasm for the coming days was palpable. When we all set out the next morning on bicycles, horse-drawn wagons and mules, we were bright-eyed and invincible. Then the wind came, and it came hard. As it turns out, 26 miles on a bike, railing against 35 mph winds can make for a challenging start to your journey.
Still, trekkers smiled and laughed at water breaks. We talked like friends with strangers we'd just met, and we pushed on toward distant mountains. That night at the retired Cle Elum train depot, trekkers young and old danced together in the grass and prepared for the next 100 miles.
That was the remarkable thing: No one ever complained. We were all here because we want somewhere to breathe fresh air and stretch our legs, and because we all believe that Greater Seattle is special for retaining what other cities have lost. With Ellensburg only two hours away by car, we got nine days of recreation through dense evergreen forests, expansive meadows and glacial lakes. We are wealthy for this reason, and because these trails and rivers and mountains hold something special for each of us.
By Day 4 we found ourselves deep inside those "far-off"