Tri-Citians on the trail of adventure with InterMountain Alpine Club

Jane Fox's favorite trail is usually the one she's on.

And after becoming a member of the hiking and climbing group InterMountain Alpine Club about five years ago, the Pasco woman's next favorite trail is never far away.

InterMountain Alpine Club, or IMAC, formed more than 65 years ago and now includes about 140 members, the vast majority of whom call the Tri-Cities home.

Day hikes are planned almost every weekend throughout the year, and most spring, summer and fall months include multiday and even weeklong expeditions.

The group has evolved over the decades, said IMAC President Steve Ghan of Richland. Mountain climbing, once one of the club's staples, has decreased in popularity, while low-impact day hikes have gained.

"I think the club -- it really does serve a social function," Ghan said. "So, the people who do the day hikes really value that social aspect."

But one thing has remained constant over time -- hikers are in search of an experience.

"Most people who have not hiked (in the region) would be amazed by the wildflowers," Ghan said. "And we know where to go to see that."

Recent IMAC hikes have covered vividly green stretches of Snow Lake, the Elkhorn Crest Trail in Oregon, the North Cascades, Hamilton Mountain and the Twin Peaks Trail.

After learning that her local health club didn't offer many outdoor excursions, Fox ventured online and found IMAC.

"I went to their website, and the rest was history," she said.

It wasn't long before Fox ventured outdoors. She's now a regular on IMAC hikes.

"I like (the trail) to be well-maintained, so there's not a lot of blowdown (of branches)," she said of her ideal hike. "I like it to be challenging, but I don't like to be frightened."

Fox is especially looking forward to leading IMAC's Laughing Water Creek day hike on Sept. 13, which will take the group through a scenic section of southeastern Mount Rainier National Park.

"There are no places that frighten you," she said. "There's no scrambling."

IMAC members carpool to the hikes, which are chosen months in advance and include member suggestions.

The group holds board meetings the first Tuesday of each month at members' homes.

Besides hiking, the group has been especially active in land stewardship.

A group of IMAC members partnered with the local Audubon Society and the nonprofit Trust for Public Lands to raise money for the purchase of Badger Mountain almost 10 years ago. The Friends of Badger group was created and fundraising commenced.

The deal was cemented in 2005, and the land was turned over to Benton County shortly after. Friends of Badger emerged as a standalone group, and the first formal trail was built in 2005. A second trail and a small parking lot followed in 2006.

Badger Mountain has become an integral tool for IMAC.

"We now use Badger as a training area," Fox said, explaining that trip leaders often gauge people's fitness levels with questions about how well they can handle Badger. "(The trip leader) has to know how physically fit you are. And one of the ways we do that is to ask how often they do Badger."

How to join:

-- Cost: IMAC annual membership fees are $14 per person or $20 for couples. Fees drop 50 percent between July 1 and Oct. 31. Membership is free in November and December.

-- More information: Contact and membership information can be found on IMAC's website, www.imacnw.org.