A love of hiking and appreciation for how it can benefit a person’s life is clearly stated.
“Happiness is one step at a time”; this statement is on many of the patches and other materials that publicize the Indianapolis Hiking Club. One of the largest and oldest hiking clubs in the country, there are more than 500 members who hike 1 to 20 times per month. (www.indyhike.org)
I was invited to join the club shortly after moving to Indianapolis and have been happy with that decision. Hiking in the Indy Hike Club is an open definition, hikes take place in the forest where hikers are clad in boots, coats and hiking sticks or hikes take place in a mall where we hang our coats up and just wear our sturdy comfy tennis shoes. The long hikes take place on weekends where the trek can be 10-12 miles and last up to 4-6 hours depending on terrain. Most other hikes take place any day of the week and are 3-7 miles long lasting 2-3 hours. Being somewhat fit is necessary for hiking, but it is surprising how easy it is to just keep taking one step at a time and complete 4-5 miles buoyed by friendly hikers who do not leave anyone behind.
In 2016, the centennial for Indiana State Parks, the club decided to challenge its members by scheduling a hike in every state park that year. The inaugural hike was at White River State Park downtown Indy on Jan 1. It was a cold day, but 143 people showed up for that hike. By the end of the year 38 hikers made it to all 25 state parks for a hike! Many others hiked several of the parks. I managed just 5 parks, but most were in new places for me.
What I like about hiking. First it was the sense of accomplishment. After my first 5-mile hike in Eagle Creek Park, I limped to my car; limped to my home, showered and then just ‘rested’ for several hours. After becoming more fit, that same hike was just ‘a walk in the woods’ with none of the aches pains and complaining and resting that happened during the first hikes. Second, the Indianapolis Hiking Club members are some of the most interesting, friendly and kind people who live here. There is no competition between members; you compete with yourself for mileage and accomplishments. Third, there is no fashion requirement meaning hikers wear clothes comfortable for the weather and walking, if you wear the same coat all winter, so be it; if you don’t have one article of clothing that was purchased in a hiking section of any store, that’s OK.
We hike for exercise and companionship and for the badges. The club provides a name badge with miles achieved at certain intervals. Some members have hiked in excess of 20,000 miles. For me I have a treasured 2,000 mile achievement badge.
Members volunteer to be hike leaders; some have led the same hike for many years, others volunteer to lead when it’s a special occasion such as “join xxxx for her 70th birthday” hike. Others will create special out of town trips and lead hikes there. For 23 years the club has gone to the Smoky Mountains for a long weekend hike in April. Leaders there vary but there is always someone willing to serve.
In 2014 I organized and led a 6-day hike along Hadrian’s Wall in northern England (average age of 22 hikers was 68 years). Others have hiked in Germany, Switzerland and recently several more trips to England. Hikes have taken place in northern Michigan, Ohio, California, Illinois, Florida, Virginia and West Virginia. We even had a Washington DC hike led by members who formerly lived and worked in the area. Most of those hikes were 4 to 7 days with members finding their own way to the starting hike. Still popular are the several times a year that the club hikes on a weekend in Indiana State Parks.
Hiking is one of those activities that gives me a thrill. I am energized after a hike and grateful for being able to be outside whether it’s sidewalks or trails. There is so much that one can see when on foot even in familiar neighborhoods. The social aspect of hiking with others is important. While members are from very different backgrounds the love of outdoors and nature binds us to each other while hiking.
Contributed by: Jackie King
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