About 10 years ago, give or take the slips of memory, half a dozen ladies began walking together at Liberty Lake.
Ranging from “40-something” to 75 years old, they still walk for friendship and health. “And to see our beautiful lake area and hear the birds,” said Lorna Freeman.
They throw golf balls over the 8-foot golf course fences to grateful golfers. They give directions to confused drivers.
“In the last year, we also started picking up litter,” said Barbara Gamble. “We do that at least three times a week. And each time, we think there won’t be much this next time. But there is.”
Most of these “ladies of the lake” have lived at Liberty Lake for more than 20 years.
Gamble and her husband, Bob, moved in 36 years ago, when they rented a new house for $125 a month. They loved it and stayed, as have hundreds upon hundreds of others.
The walking ladies have watched the huge influx of housing, pouring north from the lake like a slow-moving river. They’ve seen MeadowWood Golf Course come in, and Burger King, Albertson’s and other retail businesses. As the businesses have come, they’ve seen more trash by the roadsides.
“We’ve been talking to the businesses to see if they can help sponsor people to clean up in their area,” Gamble said.
Not all their sights reflect progress.
“We see deer on the road and bunny rabbits. Once we saw a rattlesnake sunning itself on the asphalt,” Gamble said.
Freeman remembers the winter the snow was so deep, it buried the stop sign at Molter and Sprague.
Dottie Smith, the eldest of the walkers, seems to be the unofficial leader of the group.
“They call each morning to see if we’re going to walk,” Smith said. Barring doctor’s appointments or icy roads, they do, at least three mornings a week. Their route takes them along Sprague, under the locust trees that border the Liberty Lake Golf Course. Then, down past the former Sandy Beach resort, up the hill onto Neyland Avenue, and north until they drop back down the hill, between the two golf courses.
Sometimes they vary their route, with annual appearances at Bloomsday and Manito Park in the fall. One fall day in 1991, they walked south of Liberty Lake to the cedar grove.
“Coming home we smelled smoke, and it was dark. Not knowing what was happening, we discussed which way to go if we saw fire,” said Connie Momb, another of the walkers.
“By the time we got back to the car, we were covered with ash.”
That was Fire Storm.
Four of the ladies are still walking - and two are healing up from minor injuries, waiting for their doctors’ OK to walk.
Mostly, they walk Monday, Wednesday and Friday. They exchange recipes, renew their friendships. Their regular route takes about an hour.
“The time just goes so fast, we’re so busy jabbering and talking and laughing,” Gamble said “We laugh the whole way.”