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The Link: Bruce Sundquist

| Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Age: 72; Residence: Monroeville

Bruce Sundquist spends time hiking through Laurel Ridge when most guys his age have taken up a more leisurely activity like golf. He has led hiking, biking and backpacking trips for the Sierra Club's Allegheny Group for more than 35 years. He tells Trib p.m. about his adventures.

Question: What's the longest trip you've ever been on?

Answer: Thirty-five miles. It's been a long time since I've done that. This was way back when (John F.) Kennedy was president. He had a 50-mile trip on the C&O Canal Towpath. So then that became the rage of the day, and everyone wanted to do a 50-mile hike. So we started out at 4 a.m. one morning, and we made it 35 miles. It was getting dark, very dark in fact, so we called a ride and had them come and get us.

Q: Where's your favorite place to hike and why?

A: The Quebec Run Wild Area. That is in Forbes State Forest in the Chestnut Ridge. It's very scenic, a lot of campsites and a lot of nice trees.

Q: Have you ever had any close calls while you were out?

A: Yes. In fact I almost died.

Q: What happened?

A: This was ski touring in a remote part of West Virginia, and I wanted to go to a place called Snowy Knob. Three of us set out, and one guy turned back after a little while. Me and another gal made it to the top, but by then we were socked in with fog. We got lost in the fog, and it turned dark, and there was no moon. We skied until 2 p.m. that afternoon until 10 that night. Near the end we discovered a logging road, which we came in on.

Q: So you were pretty lucky to find your way out?

A: Yes, people die that way. Ski touring is a very safe sport, but every year a few people die because they get lost. When ski touring you wear enough clothing to stay warm when you're moving at a good clip, but when you stop for more than 20 minutes or so you get chilled. So you have to keep moving. When you get lost you can't ski tour all night long; you have to stop and get some breath. And that time gets longer and longer, and you get hypothermia.

Q: Have any of the hikers on your trips had problems?

A: People who have been on my trips, their hiking boots have fallen apart. Luckily they had sandals. Somehow they managed to deal with backpacking in rocky terrain for a day and a half with sandals on. I don't know how they did it.

Q: Has anyone told you you're too old for this yet?

A: Not yet. But I'm waiting for them to pretty soon.

Q: What's coming up next?

A: An annual inner tube, biking and hiking trip. We bike along the (Youghiogheny River) from Connellsville down to a sandy beach on the Yough. We inner tube through some rapids to a take-out spot, hike up to the bike trail, then ride back to Connellsville. It's nine miles of biking, three miles of inner tubing and three miles of hiking.

Q: What do you do when you're not out on trips?

A: I have a huge Web site. That's my main activity now. Mainly I do research on the degradation of soils and crop lands, forests, gaming lands and fisheries. I do research on globalization and Third World issues.

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