30 Years on the Trail and Still Going Strong
Hiking areas near and far are a great way to take in all Mother Nature has to offer.
by Kurt Beckstrom
USA member Tim Skinner and his wife Carrie have shared a passion for exploring the natural beauty found along the nation’s vast network of hiking trails for nearly as many years as they’ve been married.
“We celebrated our 35th anniversary in April,” said Tim, “and we’ve been hiking together for 30 of those years.”
After 35 years as a sprinkler fitter, including 18 as a UA Local 669 Business Agent and five as an Assistant Business Manager, Skinner retired in May and lives with Carrie in Lima, Ohio. When they ARE home, that is.
Over the years, the pair has logged countless miles on trails stretching across their home state as well as in 33 others, and their adventures have taken them along some of the country’s most famous trails—the Appalachian, Pacific Crest and Oregon Coast to name a few.
And now that they can devote even more time to their favorite outdoor pursuit, “Our goal is to visit 22 U.S. National Parks in 2022,” said Carrie. “So far, we’ve been to 11.”
Having just completed half of a cross-country trip that included several spectacular hikes, Tim and Carrie recently headed to the West Coast to begin the second leg of the journey.
“We’ve found hiking to be a great outlet for us to just get away and disconnect from everybody else; to get away from the world,” Tim continued. “Anywhere there is no phone service, even if it’s for just a weekend.”
Self-described competitors, the duo admits that they try to outdo each other in nearly every activity they enjoy, from tennis to bike riding to board games.
“Hiking, though, is one of the few things we do where we don’t compete with each other,” Carrie explained. “We start together, we head up the mountain and we finish together.”
“Yeah, she’ll get ahead of me every now and then,” Tim added with a chuckle, “but it’s not a race.”
Lest people might get the wrong idea that the Skinners spend weeks, or even months, on the march, Tim and Carrie are quick to point out that all their excursions are day hikes—measured in time spent rather than miles traveled. Elevation and the steepness of the terrain, they explain, dictate how far they walk.
“Ohio, for example, has the 1,200-mile Buckeye Trail, which hits all four corners of the state,” said Carrie. “We like a 6- to 7-hour hike, so we do the trail in sections.”
Even their week-long quest along the Oregon Coast Trail a few years ago was actually a series of day hikes.
“It’s probably our most memorable trip together—from Astoria, Oregon, all the way to the Redwood National Forest in northern California,” said Tim.
The 400-mile stretch connects many state parks within Oregon, they explained. “We drove the 400 miles and hiked in a different park each day,” said Carrie.
“We hiked along the beaches, over the hills along the beach and through the rainforest,” added Tim. “The scenery was beautiful. We probably did about 100 miles that week.”
Gateway to the Outdoors
As an outdoor activity, hiking can be whatever you want it to be, the couple explains. Some seek the challenge of trekking one of the legendary trails such as the Appalachian or Pacific Coast from end-to-end, and the sense of achievement that comes from completing it.
Others, like the couple themselves, prefer to enjoy the natural beauty found on a day trip in the mountains, through a forest or across an open prairie. “We also like to choose a trail where there’s some kind of payoff, or treasure, at the end,” said Carrie, “like a beautiful waterfall or an incredible scenic view—not just a parking lot for people who drove up the other side. That’s happened to us before.”
Tips for Novice Hikers
Whatever the path or the destination, Tim and Carrie offer some pointers for novice hikers. Start locally, they say, in relatively familiar territory and with treks you’re confident you can handle.
As your skills and stamina progress and you thirst for a bigger challenge, the Number One Rule is: don’t get yourself into trouble. Take a paper map or a handheld GPS unit with a mapping feature and understand how to read it. Also, heed notices or warnings that might be posted at the trailhead.
“When we climbed the Echo Canyon Trail on Camelback Mountain (the shorter, steeper of the two trails to the top of the prominent landmark near Phoenix, Arizona), we saw a sign that warned hikers that people had actually perished on the trail,” said Carrie. “It was the most strenuous hike we’ve ever done.”
There were also other notices reminding hikers to pack plenty of water. “We saw people who had one or two water bottles with them; not enough for a hike like that,” she continued. “We actually gave one of my bottles to a couple who had run out.”
Tim prefers a hydration backpack when on the trail while Carrie opts for reusable water bottles. “She likes to keep closer track of her water consumption,” he explained. “I just drink when I’m thirsty.” Neither, they say, has run out of water more than a short distance from their vehicle.
Whether you plan an extended trek or a weekend getaway, let someone know where you plan to be, and when you plan to return. When they’re out of cellphone range, the Skinners can stay in touch with their adult children via a satellite link to Carrie’s GPS unit.
The device also allowed Tim to track Carrie as she hiked solo through Zion National Park in Utah. “It pinged my location and progress to Tim every 10 minutes, and let him know when I was done,” she said, “so it gave us both some peace of mind.”
Hiking can be as relaxing or as strenuous as you want it to be. Starting out, don’t exceed your skills, stamina and confidence. With some experience, however, you’ll soon want to stretch all three. It’s a great way to take in all that Mother Nature offers and the perfect opportunity to pass along the outdoor tradition to others.
Tim and Carrie have many more miles on the trail planned for themselves. If you would like to follow along, catch them on Facebook at “Living Our Travel Dreams,” or on Instagram at “living.our.travel.dreams.”