RICHLAND -- If you want to start off 2010 in hearty fashion, look no further than the Inter-Mountain Alpine Club's annual New Year's Day Badger Mountain hike.
Hikers of all ages and skill levels are invited to join IMAC at 10:30 a.m. at the Skyline Trailhead off of Dallas Road.
There is no fee for the trek, which is categorized as DH-1 -- or "easy" -- by the 60-year-old club's classification system.
Trip co-leader Claudette Stephens said the ascent is 800 feet, and on a clear day the summit provides "a beautiful 360-degree view".
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"On a clear day you can see Mt. Rainier, Mt. Adams, Mt. Stuart, and when it's very clear you can see Mt. Hood," Stephens said.
There is no guarantee that Jan. 1 will bring clear skies, but Roger Stephens, trip co-leader and Claudette's husband, said there is very little weatherwise that will dissuade dogged hikers.
Roger said that rain, wind and snow has not once in 60 years caused cancellation of the journey. The only known impediment were some "No Trespassing" signs posted a few years back at the top of the mountain.
"For two years, we didn't have it (the hike). The top was off-limits to hikers -- they put up signs for no trespassing. Eventually, it led to the forming of Friends of Badger Mountain," he said.
Friends of Badger Mountain since purchased land integral to the annual hike.
The group continues to this day in its campaign to make available to the public continued access to open spaces and scenic views.
Hikers also have faced varied weather during past New Year's Day events.
"Lots of storms up there, winds coming, snow coming horizontal, below-zero temperatures," Roger Stephens said.
He also said that it's usually 10 to 20 degrees colder on the mountain than in the Tri-Cities.
Claudette Stephens said that hikers should bring a daypack with extra clothing, some water and something to eat -- energy bars being the suggested snack.
"It's usually windy up there. You might need to add an extra layer or two," said Claudette, adding that cotton-based clothing would be a mistake as the fabric holds onto perspiration.
"Polyester, nylon things that dry quickly," Claudette suggested. "By the time you get up there, if you're moving quite fast, we want to make sure you're still warm. And good boots for good traction. It can be slippery up there."
Hikers may want to carpool to Badger Mountain, as the parking lot holds "15 cars, 20 at the most" and will fill up fast, Roger Stephens said. Parking anywhere along the road also could be an option.
IMAC member Carol Gurwell said that anybody wishing to carpool can also meet at 10:15 a.m. near the Spudnut Shop at Uptown Plaza in Richland.
"Sometimes, it's absolutely gorgeous," Gurwell said of weather on the 4-mile roundtrip walk. "Anything goes. You never know."
Although IMAC is playing host to the event, the Stephens' don't expect participants to move up the hill en masse.
"People go in groups of two, three, five and eight," Roger said. "They go within 15 to 30 minutes of each other. People don't all get there at the same time, and it's too cold to stand around."
For more information about the club, visit its Web site, www.imacnw.org
* Rocky Morrow: 509-582-1507; firstname.lastname@example.org