"Live a good life, and in the end, it’s not the years in the life, it’s the life in the years."

The lady who seizes the day

By on March 31, 2019 in Outdoor Fun with 0 Comments
For Gloria Coburn, the horizon is endless and rocks but a small inconvenience along the way as she hikes near Lake Lenore, just north of Soap Lake.

By Jaana Hatton

Gloria Coburn came along for a snowshoe hike on Mission Ridge with Carolyn Dowell and me in late January. 

It was a cold day with a few cautionary snowflakes in the air, and the gray skies were promising to release more. Nevertheless, we were going to pursue our hike along the Pipeline trail.

I had only met Gloria once before while digging up invasive plants at a Chelan-Douglas trail maintenance party, and knew her to be an enthusiastic outdoor person. Well, an enthusiastic person overall — Gloria is an apt name for her; she glows with energy. 

As we scaled the hillside, climbing the initial torture to reach the level Pipeline stretch, Gloria struggled with her snowshoes. The bindings wouldn’t hold, the shoes kept slipping off. After a while she stopped and looked at her uncooperative gear, bent down to fully release the straps and tossed the snowshoes off to the side of the trail.

“I go on hikes alone all the time,” said Gloria. “Just me, myself and I, because it’s hard to find people who will go with me.”

“Okay, let’s go. I’ll hike with just the boots. I’ll get the snowshoes on the way back.” 

“The trail will be softer up there, it’s going to be harder for you,” I said. “Are you sure?”

“That’s okay — let’s move on,” Gloria replied with determination.

And move on we did, up the slope and along the Pipeline trail. During the hike Gloria occasionally sank into the snow knee-deep, but never considered quitting. She was enjoying the fresh air, even with the cold snow beating against our faces.

If I told you no more about Gloria, you might already know what kind of a person she is: determined, joyful and inspiring. She is one of those people who takes each moment as it comes and embraces it.

Gloria has had her share of obstacles, starting at a young age. When she was six years old, her father sent her from Seattle to relatives in Mexico, to stay. Gloria’s mother, a Nooksak Native American, was an alcoholic and the father didn’t want Gloria to witness such a life. In her new home, the little girl had to learn Spanish and the customs of a new country. 

In school Gloria discovered her love of sports, but her aunt wouldn’t allow her to participate, considering it unfitting for a girl. Gloria had different ideas: she wore athletic clothing under her school outfit and joined in sports activities without telling her aunt. To cover up for her long days at school she said she had to clean the bathrooms as punishment for being naughty. The naughty part was certainly true.

When Gloria was 12, she returned to Seattle, grew up and got married. However, it was not a happy union and she began to look for an escape outdoors. 

Now, with the marriage long over, she still enjoys being in natural environments, just for the happiness she finds out there. 

“I go on hikes alone all the time. Just me, myself and I, because it’s hard to find people who will go with me.”

I should mention that Gloria is 70 years old, and many of her peers use walkers instead of hiking poles. Therefore, she may have trouble finding a partner to climb Castlerock after a gym workout or to ride 30 miles on a bike.

“I participated in a really fun bike event once, in South Dakota. It was in the Black Hills region; we covered 109 miles in two-and-a-half days,” Gloria said as casually as if it were something any one of us might do. 

Gloria has one fear, believe it or not: that of heights. 

Regardless, she visited Steven’s Pass for the mountain biking opportunity. To get to the starting point she had to ride the ski lift — not a good experience for someone who is uncomfortable looking at the world from high above the surface. But, a girl’s gotta do what a girl’s gotta do, and Gloria enjoyed her wild bike excursion once off the high-swinging lift.

“I encourage myself,” she stated simply. 

That’s what it all comes down to, doesn’t it: believing in yourself, finding your way on your own. Now, Gloria has found her way into trouble, too, due to her curiosity.

“I was hiking in the Dry Gulch area one time,” she said. “Suddenly I came to a gate blocking the way.”

We all know what she did next: ignored the gate and the “No Trespassing” sign next to it. She just kept walking, visiting if you will. Not really trespassing in her opinion. As luck would have it, she stumbled upon the owner. 

“Did you see the sign?” the owner asked.

“Well… I don’t read,” Gloria replied. She is very good at thinking of excuses.

They chatted for a while and the owner must have been impressed by Gloria’s bravery — or cleverness — when he reached into his coat pocket and slowly pulled out something. It turned out to be tickets for the rodeo. That’s what you get for trespassing — I am not recommending anyone try their luck, though. Gloria is Gloria and that’s another matter.

There is more to life than the hills, if you follow in Gloria’s footsteps for awhile. When she is done with hiking, biking and the gym, she can be found having dinner out with friends, catching as many music and theater productions as possible, and making sure First Friday Art Walks are done.

What’s left for this tireless explorer to do, with all the Wenatchee surroundings and much beyond already done many times over?

“Here are two of my bucket list things: Machu Picchu and Mount Kilimanjaro,” she said.

Now those would be a challenge, for most of us. Maybe not for Gloria though, the lady who doesn’t read signs and just keeps on going. Her life is not so much about challenges as it is about opportunities.

“I wake up every day feeling grateful,” she said. “And I don’t challenge anyone but myself.” 

So that’s what it means when they talk about “seizing the day”: they talk about Gloria Coburn.

A rare moment of stillness for Gloria as she takes in the view after a hike up the slope overlooking Wenatchee.

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