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Group hitting trails for more than 20 years

By: Marci Seither
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With the start of a New Year, many people may resolve to get into shape. For the last 20 years, one group has stayed in shape by taking weekly hikes on one of the many trails in the area. “We used to say we hiked for fun,” said 79-year-old Dutch Flat resident Peggy Ewing. “Now we say we hike for life!” Ewing is one of 20 hikers who meet every Tuesday. While some of the hikers may have slowed down a bit, all are determined to keep moving for as long as they can. “We have an ‘A’ group that takes longer hikes, and a ‘B’ group that stays at a six-mile maximum,” said Ewing who joined the group in 1994. “Both groups meet up for lunch or coffee after our hike.” The group formed in 1989 when three local couples broke off from a hiking group in Grass Valley to start one closer to their homes in Alta and Dutch Flat. “In the first few years, we met at the Alta firehouse and would ask each other where we wanted to go,” stated Virginia Wolfe, one of the founding members. “Then I put up a flier in the post office and announced we were open to having more people. That is when we realized we also needed to get better organized.” At that point, the group began to chart out the trails they would take and, weather permitting, head for destinations that many had never seen. “We have some people who take their cameras and others who take videos of the hikes. The scenery is beautiful, but you never know what to expect from one year to another,” Ewing explained. When asked about the most memorable trip, long time hiker Margie Dolezal responded, “Getting to the peak. Any peak. It is just being able to look down and see where you have come from. That is breathtaking.” Members of the group agree the hikes are not just about physical activity. They believe the camaraderie adds to the adventure. “One time we were looking for a seep garden, which is a marshy area in a crevice where wild flowers grow,” Wolfe recounted. “Anyway, we never found what we were looking for. But when we got to the top of the steep hill, one of the hikers, Mary Ann Marker, began twirling like Julie Andrews in the opening scene from ‘Sound of Music.’ “The next year when we took the same hike another gal had a tape recorder in her backpack. When Mary Ann began to twirl, she turned the music on. Mary Ann exclaimed ‘Oh my God! I can hear it!’” Not all of the group’s hikes have been as pleasant as a scene from a movie, however. The group’s photographer, Nancy Harvey of Colfax, has compiled a book in which she reserved a few pages for what the group agrees was “The Hike From Hell.” “We looked at the map and it didn’t look like it was too long, but what it didn’t show was the difficulty,” commented Ewing. “There was one part of the three-mile loop that was so steep we had to sit on our bottoms and slide down the trail!” To add to the misery of the hot and exhausting experience. A few of the hikers who had walked ahead had spotted a bear in the meadow. They urged the older members to take a detour. “At one point we just wanted to get back to camp,” added Wolfe. “Finally we made it to a place where we could hitch a ride back to camp. They had showers so we changed into our bathing suits and climbed into the pool. We hollered like a bunch of crazy ladies. We had so much fun.” The group is so connected they go on a yearly camp-out with their spouses and spend New Year’s Eve together. And they encourage others to begin hiking the area. “All you need is a water bottle and a good pair of shoes to get started,” concluded Ewing, who is looking forward to revisiting old trails as well as exploring a few new ones.