Pilot story and photos

by Bill Schlichting

A break in the weather last weekend provided an opportunity for more than 40 people to test their fitness level on a hike between Whaleshead and House Rock viewpoints.

The hike, sponsored by Curry General Hospital, is part of the Sole Pursuits program, which is geared to get people off the couch and get exercise by walking. Frances Guthridge, nurse practitioner at the hospital's Brookings Clinic, led the hike.

People gathered at the Whaleshead View point parking lot and were told what to expect by Frann Grossman, hospital publicist. Three options were given: A hike to view two waterfalls before returning, a hike to House Rock where shuttle vehicles were waiting to provide rides back to Whaleshead, or complete the round trip on foot. More than 35 made the two-mile ascent to House Rock.

The trail provided a leisurely walk through trees and vistas of Whaleshead Beach before making an ascent to near the top of Coon Creek Falls, which is visible through trees.

Continuing south, the trail meets the highway before turning in to the trees and provides a view of Bowman Creek Falls. At this point, hikers were given the option of continuing for turning back.

Those who continued quickly learned that the remainder of the trail does not follow the grade of the highway. The upper leg of the trail began a descent to a bluff overlooking the ocean.

After viewing the ocean, hikers followed the trail into more woods and tunnels created by salal bushes. The path continued downhill briefly before making a long ascent to House Rock Viewpoint.

At the top, people sat on the rock fence for a rest. A group that started together became smaller groups that straggled off the trail onto the parking lot. When everyone was gathered, people hopped into the vehicles and were driven back to the bottom of the trail where their cars were parked.

According to hospital officials, although the hikes are for anyone, walkers should be in good shape. Grossman said that on this hike, some people complained that the pace was too fast and others said the pace was too slow.

Grossman offered these tips for people interested in walking to keep in shape:

Beginners to walking should walk for a few minutes a day building up to 30 or more minutes. Walkers may keep track with Curry General Hospital walking cards available at the hospital or The Brookings Clinic on Alder St. Cards can be turned in for prize drawings.

On March 28, hospital officials will draw for a winner of a $50 gift certificate from The Escape Hatch, donated by Chetco Federal Credit Union.

Aim to walk a mile in 15 to 20 minutes for maximum benefit, about three to seven days a week.

People don't need to walk 30 minutes at once. It can be done in increments throughout the day. Choose to walk to work or park the car a little farther from the grocery entry.

andquot;Everything counts,andquot; Grossman said.

In a recent Stanford study of more than 6,000 men, researchers found that tolerance for exercise, tested on a treadmill, more strongly predicted risk of death than high blood pressure, smoking, diabetes, high cholesterol and heart disease.

Forthcoming Sole Pursuits hikes include:

?April 26 - Brian McNulty leads the group through the prehistoric and geologically fascinating Indian Sands.

?June 7 - Investigate the aftermath of the Biscuit Fire in the Windy Valley/Snow Camp area of the Siskiyous. Skye Seiber, U.S. Forest Service guides. This hike may be rescheduled.

?July 19 - Loop along the easy, but breath-taking, Shrader Old-Growth Trail east of Gold Beach with Pam Tracy, RN.

?Aug. 9 - Azalea Middle School coach JoAnn VanDerschaaf leads hikers across the river at low-water and up the Chetco River Gorge Trail.

For information, phone Sole Pursuits at Curry General Hospital, (541) 247-3187; or (800) 445-8085, ext. 187.