It has been my delight in recent weeks to write about Mount Rainier National Park for a special package appearing in the Sunday Seattle Times. It’s my sorrow to learn on the eve of that publication of the apparent loss on Rainier of a respected and veteran colleague.
Outdoors writer and avid hiker Karen Sykes, 70, didn’t return from a hike Wednesday on the park’s Owyhigh Lakes trail, where she was researching an article. No official identification has been made as of this writing on Saturday night, but a female body was found in the area around 3 p.m. Saturday. (Get details here.)
At the Times I worked with Karen a few years back as she wrote a number of freelance articles for our Outdoors section. She clearly loved writing about what she loved doing: hiking and exploring Northwest forests and mountains. She wrote about wildflower hikes, good hikes for kids, day hikes in Mount Rainier’s Sunrise area, hikes for first-timers. I knew her as a tough old bird, dogged in pursuit of topics that would get more people outdoors. She led outings with The Mountaineers, and many Washingtonians learned at her elbow, just as she inspired many hikers with her pen (though it was actually a cantankerous computer that she often cursed).
It’s a sad day, but Karen was an authentic Washington outdoorswoman and it seems she finished her days in a place she loved. Next time you stop to appreciate the bloom of paintbrush, the scent of an alpine fir, the glint of sun off a glacier, the dust of a trail on a warm July day — think of Karen Sykes, who would have happily led you there.