The hiking community lost a passionate champion for trails this past week when hiking columnist and guidebook author Karen Sykes died in Mount Rainier National Park.
The search effort along the Owyhigh Lakes Trail in Mount Rainier National Park was called off on the afternoon of Saturday, June 21, after searchers found a body believed to be Karen Sykes’s in steep, rugged terrain.
At this time, Karen’s family is considering a public memorial service. Please watch this post for details as those are made available.
Karen directly introduced hundreds of people to the outdoors through the countless hikes, scrambles, and snowshoeing trips she led for the Mountaineers, and tens of thousands more through her “Trail of the Week” columns for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, her freelance articles for the Seattle Times Outdoors section, and the guidebooks she authored.
“Washington’s hikers and climbers were Karen’s community. She paid tribute to those who came before her and became a leader in her own right. Her depth of knowledge was hard earned, and punctuated with joy,” Mountaineers Books Publisher Helen Cherullo reflected.
In Hidden Hikes in Western Washington, her first project with Mountaineers Books, Karen shared lesser-known trails that offered solitude.
“Some of these trails go nowhere in particular … in the usual sense of the word … What you will get from exploring these trails is the thrill of discovery, a sense of play, the fun of following ‘clues’ and looking for treasure,” wrote Karen in her introduction to the book.
Her willingness to share tips and tricks earned on the trail, as well as hidden hikes that others would have kept all to themselves, inspired a new generation of hikers.
For her next project with Mountaineers Books, Best Wildflower Hikes, Karen carried a torch that was passed to her by prolific guidebook author Ira Spring. Ira, author of the classic “100 Hikes” series, had been working on this book when he was diagnosed with cancer. When Ira was unable to get out on the trail any longer, Karen stepped in for him. She put her own projects on hold to complete the fieldwork for him so the book would be up-to-date - a credit to his memory. Fellow Northwest icons Art Kruckeberg and Craig Romano joined Karen in completing this work.
“Karen was gracious, strong, and passionate about the outdoors. She was committed to being physically engaged and she was inquisitive—seeing and documenting through words and images the beauty and daily surprises of the wild natural world,” recalls Cherullo.
The Mountaineers and Mountaineers Books send our deepest condolences to her family and close friends and also to the hiking community she inspired, knowing that Karen’s passion for the sharing the joys of the wilderness will live on for generations to come.
We will remember Karen as playful, knowledgeable and curious, with a boundless sense of wonder. Tell us how she touched your life in the comments section below.
The Mountaineers are hosting a public memorial for Karen at our Seattle Program Center on Monday, July 14. Read more information about her memorial and please leave your memories of her in the comments below.