Kyle Jensen / The Record — Langley resident Richard Renninger, left, discusses possible routes in Saratoga Woods with the Meet Feet hiking group.

Trail blazing Whidbey Island, surrounding areas, by foot

While Langley resident Richard Renninger believes the less-crowded a hiking trail is the better , he admits it’s nice to explore with a group.

Luckily, he’s in good company.

Renninger is a trip organizer and a regular hiker with Meet Feet, a Whidbey Island-based group that organizes weekly hikes on the island and surrounding areas. Eager, explorative and laid back, the people in Meet Feet aim to cover all sorts of terrain, from heavily forested trails to sandy spits, with the occasional wading through water.

“We’re always trying to do all sorts of hikes,” Renninger said. “Our options in the area are really nice and we try to cover it all. Everyone is invited to join; we have members from all parts of the island.”

Meet Feet meets most Saturdays, although the group sometimes plans Friday hikes during the summer months. The trail blazers meet at 10 a.m. for roughly two-hour hikes, regardless of how many show up. At least one person will always hit the trails, and the numbers for the hikes typically range from five to 15 people. If more than 15 show up for a morning trip, the club tends to break up into smaller groups based on what people prefer to see on their hike.

Those interested in joining the treks can be added to the group’s email list for correspondence on the weekly hikes. Renninger says the group is always looking for new members, as the numbers on hikes varies per trip. About 80 people across the island are currently on the email list and at one point membership reached 150. Carpools are organized from both ends of the island. For more information, visit http://maxxeon.com/meet feet/ and join the email list by contacting meetfeetonwhid bey@gmail.com.

In the past month, Meet Feet has hit the trails close to home on Whidbey and as far as the Elwha River Trail on the Olympic Peninsula. Hikes in the Puget Sound area are the target for the group, and trips as far inland as the Cascades are rare. But from the group members’ perspective, if there’s a journey to be had, it’s possible.

“We do a lot of different hikes, including beach walks throughout the year,” Renninger said. “One year, Roger (a regular hiker) was adamant about hiking around the entire island in a series of hikes. He was able to make that happen with group members.”

While hitting the trails with the group, it quickly becomes clear some of the hikers in Meet Feet naturally fall into de facto roles based on their skills and background. Perhaps the most eager of the lot, Renninger ends up being the pace setter and often gets far ahead of the group.

A local hike on the island often means Langley resident Paul Goldfinger, the nature historian of the group, can provide a historical perspective on Whidbey’s trails and surrounding lands. Goldfinger, a former Whidbey Camano Land Trust board member, is knowledgable when it comes to stewardship on Whidbey and can provide context for how land was purchased and trails established.

On Saturday, the group trekked through the dense Saratoga Woods trails. At various points, Renninger and others would turn to Goldfinger and say something along the lines of, “What’s the story with the trail?” Every time, Goldfinger was quick to respond.

“I like to share what I know, and I like to show people the beauty of Whidbey Island,” Goldfinger said. “The thing is, often the hikes I do with Meet Feet are in areas I’ve never been before. But if it’s on Whidbey, I often know the history.”

For the hikers, Meet Feet is a social lens through which to see the trails in our backyards. The hiking options are one of the perks to living on Whidbey Island, which has such a variety of trails within a 30-minute drive, Goldfinger said.

Experiencing that nature with neighbors is just a plus.

“There are some trails on the island that I think are really spectacular, such as the Bluff Trail in Ebey State Park and trails at Deception Pass,” Goldfinger said. “There are such good places to hike only five minutes away from your house, and it’s nice to experience that with other outdoor enthusiasts.”

Kyle Jensen / The Record — Renninger typically sets the pace on Meet Feet hikes, although his speed sometimes separates him from the group.

Kyle Jensen / The Record — About five to 15 people typically join Meet Feet hikes. If the numbers are high, smaller groups will form.

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