Saturday, January 29, 2011

Hike on

In 1997 I joined the Indianapolis Hiking Club.   The first time I ever hiked with the club I looked around me and thought man, these people are old.  But I thought I would give it a go.  The people that I judged by the way they looked and their age could hike me into the ground.  I took a long time before I could keep up.  I grew to admire them for the tenacity they displayed.  I was inspired as different ones battled cancer but hiked as they were able. 
For many years the hikes and trips that we took together kept me busy and happy on weekends when my children went with their dad.  I made some very good friends in the hiking club and we enjoyed camping together.  Then I met Doug and he started going with me.  Doug is a very strong hiker.  I don't think I've ever heard him complain on a hike.

Spring Mill State Park, IN  Me, Doug far right.  (Doug in blue hat.)

March '07 Me in red jacket, front and left beside my dear friend Kathy.
 Doug behind me in blue hat.  Spring Mill State Park, IN.

Smokey Mountains,  TN. April '07 me, front and center in green jacket.
 Doug in rear in bandanna.
Hocking Hills, OH '07 me (heavy) and Doug front right.
 This morning, Doug and I drove to Indianapolis and attended the funeral of a man who was basically the father of the hiking club.  Since I moved to Bloomington with Doug and since we adopted Chelsea, we haven't been as active with the club as we were in the past.  We take Chelsea out and hike ourselves.  It was good to see some of our friends.  It was good to honor the life of a man who had given so much to so many.  It was good to pay my respects to his wife.  I got to sit with my friend Kathy.  I met Kathy in the club.  We were both going to camp on a club trip and didn't know one another.  Someone suggested that we might enjoy camping together.  We both eyed one another, not too certain about that idea.  It didn't take long before we were fast friends and camped and roomed together on many trips.  This was before Doug and Tim came along (Kathy's husband).

During the service this morning a man sang the hymn How Great Thou Art and it struck me today how appropriate the words of the second verse are for those of us who love nature- especially those of us who love to hike:
When through the woods
And forest glades I wander
I hear the birds
Sing sweetly in the trees
When I look down
From lofty mountain grandeur
And hear the brook
And feel the gentle breeze

I leaned over to Doug and whispered "pretty appropriate."  Our friend that was laid to rest today had served our country in the military.  Two soldiers, perfectly pressed and polished took the flag from the casket and folded it to present it to our friend's widow.  How perfectly they folded that flag.  My friend Kathy and I sobbed as the ceremony drew to a close. 
I think as I get older, funerals become more difficult.  I think of those who have gone on (such as my Grandma in '06,) I think of those I love.  I think about how precious life is. 

I had allowed my membership in the club to lapse and the loss of our friend caused me to think about the good times and the friendships that I (then Doug and I) had made.  I told the membership secretary "send me a membership form, I can't stand not being a member!"  I love hiking.  To me, it is such an enjoyable form of exercise.  With the club there is laughter and conversation and adventure.  It is camaraderie and friendship. 

When my son was nine or ten or so, he hiked with the club for a few years.  He wanted to be a member but it wasn't allowed.  You had to be eighteen years old to join the club.  The man whose funeral we attended today cared enough for my son to make him an honorary member.  It thrilled my son.  There was a small ceremony on a day we gathered to hike at a camp in Southern Indiana.  For this reason and so many more, the man whose funeral we attended touched my life.  We like to think of those we admire and love being in Heaven and doing what they love without pain or effort.  Our friend was ninety three years old.  Someone had a blanket embroidered with the club emblem and beneath it  the words read "Hiking in Heaven."  I'm sure he is continuing to hike on.


farmlady said...

You make me want to find a hiking club around here and join. I think I would love hiking with other like minded folks. I might even get the old Prospector to go with me.
What a sweet man your mentor must have been. I'm sure that he's "hiking in heaven" this very moment.
Nice post....

ain't for city gals said...

Very sweet post and lots of things to think about..sometimes I think I am not a group person but then think how much I might be missing out on...might give it another try. Hiking is much harder than I found out hiking down into (and then back out) of the Grand Canyon in Dec...

Princess of Everything (and then some) said...

What a beautiful tribute for what seems a very honorable man.

Jayme, The Coop Keeper said...

so many things going through my head after reading this post - in no certain order - I just made reservations to camp at Spring Mill in August....I've wanted to join a hiking club of my last hikes, the oldest gal hiked the best....the funeral sounds so bittersweet, and yes, they get harder the older you get. I am not looking forward to the day that it is our generation, our friends and siblings that are dying....great post Cheryl.

^..^Corgidogmama said...

Aren't those words something? So glad that you've found your way back to the hiking group. Was in your neck of the woods today, and was thinking of you. Driving home (north) on 65 from a quick trip to Florida this week. My 93 yr old mama, fell and was in ICU. Doing better, but her time is coming soon. Goodbyes are sure hard.
Very nice post today, thanks. Hope all is well~

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