Arts and Entertainment

MOUNTAINEERING KITSAP | Who are The Mountaineers?

Katha J. Miller-Winder poses with a pile of weeds at a recent Mountaineers clean-up party. - Courtesy Photo/David Winder
Katha J. Miller-Winder poses with a pile of weeds at a recent Mountaineers clean-up party.
— image credit: Courtesy Photo/David Winder

The first documented connection between The Mountaineers and this area, that I know of, occurred 100 years ago. The Mountaineers have maintained a connection every since purchasing their first piece of property in 1913. Given those facts I’m constantly amazed to discover what a low profile we’ve managed to keep.

The Mountaineers is a club for outdoor enthusiasts. The club is headquartered in Seattle and has branches in Everett, Tacoma, Bellingham, Seattle, Snoqualmie Foothills, Olympia, and Kitsap. Although The Mountaineers presence goes back a long way the Kitsap Branch has only been in existence for about seven years.

The philosophy of The Mountaineers has always been that people have more fun outdoors if they have the training necessary to safely engage in their preferred activity. For this reason The Mountaineers offers courses that focus on safety. The Kitsap Branch offers courses in such things as alpine scrambles, climbing, mountaineering oriented first aid (MOFA), photography, sea kayaking and winter travel. Other branches may offer courses in additional activities but the Kitsap branch is still relatively small. From time to time the Kitsap branch also offers short seminars on hiking and backpacking.

In addition to active programs in climbing, hiking, photography, sea kayaking, scrambling and snowshoe, the branch also has a very active conservation committee. Full disclosure here, the conservation and outreach committee is my mission so I know it most thoroughly. All parts of the branch respect and support one another but as with any organization you know your own part the best. Conservation and outreach are closely related. The branch has a commitment to participating in National Trails Day, an annual event where outdoor groups from around the nation work at building and maintaining trails, cleaning up the environment and so forth.

For this event we have worked with the Clear Creek Task Force on a clean up and weed removal in Old Mill Park (2008) and partnered with Stream Team and Noxious Weed Control on the first steps in habitat restoration at a Chico Creek site that may someday become a salmon viewing park similar to the Fish Park in Poulsbo (2009). Clearly this is conservation as it works to improve the environment and encourage the success of native plants but because it is partnerships with other groups and designed to benefit our wider community it is also outreach.

Education is an important aspect of conservation and outreach. A few years ago the branch started a salmon safari program to teach about the lifecycle of salmon and give participants a chance to view a healthy salmon run in a natural environment.

The other program under the umbrella of conservation and outreach is the theater camp. Theater has always been an important part of The Mountaineers in Kitsap County. Since the first group of hikers stumbled upon the area that is now part of the Rhododendron Preserve and made it a regular destination with skits around the campfire. This grew into a planned and rehearsed, annual production.

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What's up columnist Katha J. Miller-Winder is Conservation and Outreach Chair, scribe extraordinaire, for the Kitsap Mountaineers.

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