Foothills Volunteer Spotlight: John Gilbert

Meet John, a Foothills hike, scramble, snowshoe, and cross-country ski leader who loves the "warm" and "dry" weather of Seattle.
Lori Heath Lori Heath
Foothills Communications Volunteer
January 08, 2024
Foothills Volunteer Spotlight: John Gilbert
John near the summit of Little Tahoma looking up at Rainier.

Meet John, a hike, scramble, snowshoe, and cross-country ski leader who is also the Chair of the Foothills Cross-Country Skiing Committee and organizes the Foothills Wilderness Navigation course. John has earned numerous Key Leader, Key Instructor, and Super Volunteer badges for his contributions to The Mountaineers.

Why did you volunteer for The Mountaineers?

I love volunteering with The Mountaineers, but the reasons have changed over time. Twenty years ago, it was so I could pick the dates and destinations of my scramble trips. I found that if I wanted to go to a peak, there were always other folks that wanted to go there too. Later on, as my kids got older and I had more free time, I began to enjoy teaching and sharing what I learned from The Mountaineers with the next generation of students.

What brought you to the PNW?

My wife Tracey and I moved to the Seattle area from Juneau, Alaska in 1985. We loved visiting Seattle because it was always so warm and dry compared to Juneau! If you have been to Juneau, you would understand. On one trip down here, we ventured east on I-90 and discovered the town of Issaquah, the foothills surrounding it, Lake Sammamish to the north, and the Cascade Mountains further east. I realized that this was where I wanted to spend the rest of my life. We decided to buy a house in what is now the city of Sammamish even before we knew the names of any of those mountains. We still live in that same house.

What attracted you to The Mountaineers?

I don't remember how we heard about The Mountaineers, but in 1987 we learned we could go on a weekend campout / hiking trip to the Teanaway area with The Mountaineers without having to pay any initial dues. With a young family, the zero cost of participation was almost as appealing as the comradery of being in a group. I only wish somebody had told me they don't have water faucets at the Beverly Creek campground.

What are your favorite volunteer memories?

I have two categories of favorite volunteer memories. As a scramble leader, among my favorite memories are leading groups to the summit of Mt. Stuart, Witches Tower (in the Enchantments), and Steamboat Prow (on Mt. Rainier). As a course leader, my favorite memories are teaching scramble students to use an ice axe and helping wilderness navigation students visualize the actual terrain contours by studying the puzzle of contour lines on a map.

Where is your favorite place to recreate in the PNW?

If you checked my Gaia tracks, you would conclude that my favorite place to hike is Tiger Mountain. But that's just partly because it is so close to home. My favorite all-day-trip place to go is anywhere on the east side of Mt. Rainier between Summerland and Sunrise. On a bluebird early summer day, that is the most beautiful and readily accessible place I have ever visited. Please lead a hike, scramble, climb, or trail-run up there!