Hike Tri-Cities is just what the nurse practitioner ordered

Paul Shoemaker loves the solace and beauty of the Tri-City desert landscape.

A nurse practitioner with a news background and a passion for healthy living, the West Richland man is happy to share his favorite hikes and walks with the community.

The 56-year-old’s passion for the outdoors and what the Tri-City area has to offer prompted him to post favorite hikes and walks online so others can enjoy them too.

Shoemaker launched HikeTriCities.com in 2010 with more than 30 hikes. Today it has more than 50 with more being added all the time.

“It just grew and grew. My ultimate goal is to help people enjoy the beauty around us,” he said.  Eastern Washington offers its own “special desert kind of beauty” in stark contrast to the evergreen side of the state.

His list of hikes range from paved, accessible paths, like the 2.5-miler at Park of the Lakes in West Richland, to the remote White Bluffs area of Franklin County. Shoemaker ranks his hikes from easy to difficult.

White Bluffs is one of his favorites.

“Only a half hour or so drive from the Tri-Cities, the remote nature of this hike makes it quite appealing and you get a close-up view of the White Bluffs which you can see on a clear day from the top of Badger Mountain,” he wrote on his website.

Shoemaker’s website began as a blog for family and friends. He started logging his hikes and the list grew. So, he searched for a website domain and thought HikeTriCities.com was perfect place to park his top trail picks.

“I started putting maps and mileage and features of the hikes and directions to trailheads and listing hike difficulty, all the things you see on the hikes now,” he said.

Over the years, he’s also updated the website behind the scenes so “it has a better look on smartphones and tablets to keep up with technology,” he said.

Get active outdoors

Shoemaker is on a mission to encourage exercise, though he prefers calling it “physical activity” to avoid a negative connotation.

He said a sedentary lifestyle can be devastating.

And he should know.

The nurse practitioner has worked at Kadlec for more than a dozen years.

“I want to encourage people to share the website with others, so people can see it and utilize it and get off the couch and get on to the trail,” he said.

He advises his patients to swap screen time for physically activity.

If they need inspiration about where to walk, he’ll tell them about his website.

“What I tell people is I’d like to see them getting out and going for walks. Walking in nature, it’s just bonus points as it improves your emotional health just to be in nature,” he said.

Shoemaker said being active is more important than ever to avoid Coronavirus Sedentary Syndrome, which he says is responsible for anxiety, stress, weight gain, back, shoulder and neck pain, and more. Getting up and out and moving every day is a key way to fight it, he writes on his website. A strenuous hike isn’t necessary, as the benefit can come from a 30-minute walk.

Shoemaker encourages people to be mindful about their distancing but not at the expense of being a shut-in.

“My thoughts are it’s safe to go out as long as you’re practicing physical distancing. Being cooped up in a house and sitting in front of the TV for eight hours a day is not healthy. Even if they’re walking around their block, an hour walk, or doing a hike on the website, it would be good,” he said.

He doesn’t wear a mask when he’s out hiking but he does move off the trail to create distance.

“At this point, we’ve flattened the curve and hospitals are empty. I think we can get back to life—except for those who are vulnerable. They should stay in for a while longer until we get things more settled down. People going out should practice precautions, distancing, handwashing, and if you’re sick, stay home,” he said.

Paul Shoemaker stands near a Volkswagen bug-sized boulder of banded argillite. The erratic is a non-native rock that was rafted here during the ice flows. Shoemaker’s hike at the Rattlesnake Mountain Recreational Preserve features “some great views of some remnants of the ice-age floods that helped shape the geography of the Columbia Basin.” (Courtesy Hike Tri-Cities)

Physical and social health remain important to overall health, he said.

“So many of the people I see in my medical practice are there because of their lifestyle choices. This is a big part of that—it is moving around,” he said.

Seniors can walk around their block or the perimeter of their yard.

“It’s a scary time and being in a vulnerable population, you see the numbers. But being sedentary and anxious and emotionally ill is also a very real thing as far as negative health impacts,” he said.

New hikes, trail etiquette

Shoemaker doesn’t update his list of hikes as often as he used to.

He plans to add hikes near the Washington State Patrol area in south Kennewick and one near Walla Walla.

In addition to the walks, his website includes a section to help identify wildflowers and tips on hiking basics and trail etiquette.

Litter and vandalism sometimes force the closure of trails so it’s important hikers stay on them, he noted.

The shortcuts people take make “spider veins all over,” he said. “It’s important to respect the trails that are built.” He said to heed the old saying, “Take pictures, don’t take flowers,” so others also can enjoy them.

“It’s unfortunate that people don’t respect the land and then it gets closed down,” he said.

Another of his pet peeves is owners who don’t mind their dogs, particularly the stuff they leave behind.

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