Mountaineer of the Week: Leslie Romer

Meet Leslie, a 29-year member, active steward in our Olympia Branch, and fire lookout enthusiast whose happy place is a trail bordered with big trees and native wildflowers.
The Mountaineers The Mountaineers
March 03, 2023
Mountaineer of the Week: Leslie Romer

Each week we bring you a personal story from one of our members. For our member profile this week we talked to...

Name: Leslie Romer
Hometown: Brigantine, NJ
Member Since: February 1994
Occupation: Retired and writing hiking guide books to fire lookout sites
Favorite Activities: Hiking, bicycling, classic Nordic skiing



A number of years ago, I was looking for a hike to do the following Saturday, and of course most on The Mountaineers schedule were already full. Then I noticed one to Surprise Lake, near Bearhead Mountain, just south of Mount Rainier. I contacted the leader in Tacoma, who interviewed me to know that I had experience to enjoy the hike, and let me know where we would meet, off Highway 410. When I got there, I learned there were only three of us. The hike was not very long, but offered fabulous views of Mt. Rainier at the destination. Because it was still the middle of the day, our leader answered our questions about other hikes in that area, and showed us other lakes that could easily be reached nearby. His willingness to spend extra time with us, beyond leading the listed hike, and the camaraderie we all felt that day made this an outstanding Mountaineer experience for me.


Olive Hull was a longtime leader in the Olympia Mountaineers who developed the Olympia Branch Lookout Patch awards. I had the opportunity to hike to many fire lookout sites with her early in this century. Her lookout hike trail notes started me thinking about writing a hike guide with historical notes. My first book, Lost Fire Lookout Hikes and Histories: Olympic Peninsula and Willapa Hills was published in 2021. Olive hiked well into her 80s, which I certainly hope to do as well.


Finding my way to a fire lookout site I haven't visited before is always an adventure for me, whether I have a guidebook to follow or not. I have learned over the years that I do not notice the steepness of the trail on my first trip to a lookout - I might notice a steep slope on the way down, or when I return to lead others to the destination, but not on the first trip! Another adventurous component of a first visit to a fire lookout site is searching for artifacts. If I have notes of someone else's visit to the site, can I find the artifacts they found? Can I find more remnants of a building that stood on the site, that tell me more of that fire lookout station's history?

Anything else we should know about you? 

Conservation, environmentalism, and earth justice are central values in my life. The second Mountaineers class I took was the 2002 Northwest Environmental Issues Course, for which I commuted to Seattle weekly for the 8 session class. I participated in Olympia Branch Stewardship Committee Planning meetings and work parties for more than a decade. The Olympia Branch Stewardship Award I received in 2010 recognized my trail work for Mountaineers and WTA, but also my efforts in local interfaith earth stewardship, articles for the Olympia Green Pages, and work for the Capital Land Trust. I initiated and continue active participation in the Olympia Unitarian Universalist Congregation's environmental team.


Sunrise or sunset? Sunrise
What's your 11th Essential? A thermos of hot tea for winter hikes
What's your happy place? A trail bordered with big trees and native wildflowers

Post-adventure meal of choice? Vegetarian pizza
If you could be a rockstar at any outdoor activity overnight, what would it be? Lead hikers to the Finley Peak fire lookout site


Mountaineers come in all shapes and sizes, varying widely in age, outdoor experience, and length of time involved in The Mountaineers. Part of what makes our community so unique is the broad diversity of our membership, and we hope these weekly features highlight who we are and why our community plays an important part in feeling belonging in the outdoors. We are always seeking self-nominations for our Mountaineer of the Week, and we invite you to share your story. Trust us, we want to hear from you!


Want to nominate a friend? Email Skye Michel to make a recommendation.