December 23, 2012

Hiking group taking steps toward inner health

By Elizabeth Lee

---- — This week I hiked with a group of women who hike every Wednesday morning all year long. I felt that I was in the company of greatness — as though I’d joined “the Order of Walkers” as the naturalist John Burroughs called those who invest in regular walking.

The members of the group known as the Wednesday Women’s Hiking Cooperative have lost count of the precise number of years and outings they’ve undertaken, but they remember the companionship and the scenery. Organized through a reliable and unobtrusive email network, the group resists being over-organized. No bylaws or officers or fees. They just like to be outside.

Linda Bogardus of Keene, one of the two women at the center of the group, explained that the members are from all over Essex County.

Meredith Johnston, the other informally delegated coordinator added, “We get exercise, fresh air, learn of new places to explore and enjoy the natural wonders of the Adirondacks! Enough said.”

Eighty-five names are on the Wednesday Women’s Hiking Cooperative email list but attendance is around 5 to 10 on a given week. 

Members range in age and interests. They range from those who climb to those who prefer flat land. Some like roads, some like trails. Some like snowshoes, some need trekking poles. Some come year-round and others take off summers to paddle or winters to downhill ski. Each one takes off when family or health dictates. There are newcomers and long-timers. They talk of deer scat and oak galls and grown children in foreign countries and the difference between Apple TV and a Roku box.

This week I joined them for a combination of a bush whack and a road hike. We headed off the road in the direction of Styles Brook. Down a steep bank we came across a game trail along the brook that wreaked havoc on the Town of Keene. This year it still shows its power with a steady, rugged flow over dramatic, rocky drops.

After paying our respects to the brook, and realizing that where we stood would have been 20 feet below the surface of the raging water last Aug. 28, we climbed back up the trail. Meeting the road, we headed uphill, climbing to what the day’s trip leader, Monique Weston, called the “altiplano,” because it resembles the vast, high plateau in the Andes Mountains.

The group of seven on this hike made easy work of the elevation gain then stopped to take in the turkeys in the field and a magnificent farm barn made of rock. 

At the height of land there was a grand view upward, toward a small range where just the lightest snow gave everyone festive smiles. Mention of the deep sadness of recent news receded. For a moment there was a simultaneous stillness. In my mind I heard the words of the Christmas carol, “Let heaven and nature sing.”

Peace on Earth and to us all. May 2013 reverse the fears and sadness we have felt and fill us with the inward health that derives from the forest and water and sky that surround us.

Elizabeth Lee is a licensed guide who lives in Westport. She leads recreational and educational programs focused in the Champlain Valley throughout the year. Contact her at