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Hiker, artist reflects on long life in HR Valley

Lois Talbot calls herself a “PK.” A preacher’s kid. You know, the ones who get in the most trouble.

Talbot is 93 and lives in a neat apartment at Parkhurst House, but she still has a twinkle in her eye and a sharp wit that tell you she could probably yet hold her own with the best of them.

Talbot’s spunk has taken her far in life — literally; she’s logged 3,995 miles on hiking trails in and around the Hood River Valley.

“I don’t know why I didn’t do five more,” she says. Talbot began hiking young, accompanying her father on Sunday outings after he got through preaching the weekly sermon at Hood River Christian Church. In 1927, when she was still in high school, Talbot climbed to the summit of Mount Hood with her father. On her apartment wall is a photograph taken that day of about two dozen climbers resting at the top of the mountain.

That was the last time she was there.

“I didn’t have any ambition to climb things over and over and over again,” Talbot says. “I wanted to do new things.” She continued to hike after graduating from Hood River High School and becoming a piano teacher, following a path her mother had laid out for her. Talbot taught more than 400 students over the course of a quarter century.

“I see old ladies in the store now,” she says, “They come up to me and say, ‘Do you remember me?’ They were my students!”

But despite her obvious talent at the keyboard, Talbot’s heart wasn’t in music. One day she “up and quit,” and took up something she’d always longed to pursue: art.

“It wasn’t very kind to the students,” she says. But that was her only regret; Talbot never played the piano again. These days, she’ll occasionally sit down at the piano at Parkhurst, but only on a whim and never for long.

Talbot began painting with watercolors (“I liked watercolor because it was stubborn,” she says) and became a renowned artist in the area despite taking up art later in life and having no formal training. Her works, many of them with a mountain theme, sold briskly.

“It made my bread and butter and I had more fun than I ever had with the piano,” Talbot says. After she quit music and became an artist, one thing that remained constant in Talbot’s life was hiking. By then, she and two friends had formed a hiking group known affectionately as “The Idiot’s Club.” The trio would meet each Thursday, load up in Talbot’s Volkswagen Beetle and drive around until they found a trail they wanted to explore. Their ventures took them all around the Hood River Valley and Mount Hood, up and down the Columbia Gorge and across the river to Washington.

“We never planned anything, we Idiots,” Talbot says. “We never used a map. We’d just see a trail, wonder where it went and away we’d go.” Along with her Thursday outings, Talbot hiked whenever she got a chance.

Though she ranged far and wide around the area, the multitude of trails on the slopes of Mount Hood always remained her favorite hikes. She explored plenty of trails on Mount Hood’s cross-river sentinel, Mount Adams, but is adamant in her opinion of that mountain’s stature.

“Mount Adams looks like somebody cleaned out their attic and the basement and left it on the sidewalk,” she says. “That’s what Adams is.”

Talbot would often return home after a hike and paint from her memories of that day’s outing.

“That was better,” says Talbot, who never painted while she was out in the wilderness. “I could come home and paint the good things and leave out the details.”

Talbot’s hiking days drew to a close a few years ago but she continues to walk around Parkhurst House.

“You can go in circles around here,” she says, gesturing toward the hallway. “The doctor said, ‘Don’t go anywhere without the walker.’ So I take the darn walker.” She used to do four laps, which was nearly a mile, but she’s recently cut back to three.

“But I am 93, so I think I can let up a bit,” she says, grinning. Talbot’s doctor recently told her to keep up her walking, that it had contributed to her ongoing good health.

Talbot says she intends to keep walking, but not because the doctor told her to.

“I believe in walking, but not because it’s good for me,” she says, “but because it’s fun.” And that has made all the difference.

“I’ve spent my life doing what I wanted to do rather than what I should have done,” Talbot adds with a toothy grin. Coming from a preacher’s kid full of spunk at 93, that’s worth taking as advice.

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