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Column: Exploring area on trails proves to be rewarding

by Brad FuquaWestern News
| August 20, 2009 12:00 AM

When it comes to writing, one of the biggest rewards that a reporter can receive is feedback from the public. When folks go out of their way to comment on something you’ve written, it means they’re reading your stories and it generated a reaction – whether it’s positive or negative.

Through two decades of reporting for various newspapers, I’ve had certain features or beats that led to a lot of interaction with readers. Here in Libby, I’ve been pleasantly surprised at the number of readers who have commented on the series of hiking articles I’ve published over this summer.

“I enjoy reading the hiking articles because I can re-live it through the eyes of someone experiencing it for the first time,” one person told me a couple of weeks ago.

The kind comments are appreciated and I’ll continue to explore our incredible region until the snow gets too deep. Even then, my wife said something to me the other day about snowshoes – I’ll need to think that one over.

Besides the fun of writing such articles, one of the primary reasons for starting the series was to promote our area in a positive manner. In particular, Libby has taken a beating in the press and on online – especially after the public health emergency designation. Since the outdoors represents our biggest asset, I thought the hiking series would give people a different view on the area.

Hiking has always been an interest but I’ve never really had the opportunity to explore much in other places of residence. I lived at the Grand Canyon for close to six years and believe it or not, I probably hiked less than a dozen times. People come from all over the world just to hike Grand Canyon’s trails.

But since I’ve lived here, the hiking bug re-energized and I get out as much as my schedule allows. Through the first 10 months before my wife moved up from Arizona, I hiked maybe a dozen times – most often by myself. Then while walking through a dark part of the Parmenter Trail, I thought I heard something following me. It could’ve been my imagination but it also could’ve been a bear or mountain lion. I envisioned a headline in my own newspaper, “Western News editor mauled in freak occurrence.”

So, I waited another three or four weeks until my wife moved up before resuming my hiking activities. It’s more comforting – and safer – to hike with at least one other person.

I am by no means an experienced hiker and for those who take a good look at my articles, you’ll see that I’ve gone on many of the shorter routes. Two weekends ago, my wife and I completed 10 miles on the Cedar Creek Trail and it felt like a true accomplishment – at least for myself. My wife has a few longer hikes in her past.

So far, we’ve done nine hikes and we’re planning to get out again this weekend for the 10th. I’ve had many suggestions on hikes to try and this weekend, I’m hoping to hit Geiger Lakes on the recommendation of a friend.

Thanks again for the comments and maybe we’ll cross paths on the trail. I’ll be out there exploring to see what’s around the next bend.

(Brad Fuqua is managing editor of The Western News. He can be reached at thewesternnews@gmail.com )