Northeast Ohio Hiking Clubs Offer More Than Just A Walk In The Woods
CLEVELAND, Ohio – Whether your goal is to get fitter, reconnect with nature, or make new friends, Northeast Ohio’s hiking clubs can help. Put on your boots or walking shoes and get ready for the adventure.
Hundreds of organized hikes – for all skill and fitness levels – take place every month across the region.
“Everyone does what is best for them and for that reason hiking has a lot to offer many different people,” said Peggy Koesel, President of the Cleveland Hiking Club. “If you can walk a mile, you can walk with us.”
The Cleveland Hiking Club, run by volunteers, founded in 1919, has approximately 1,200 members and offers 400 to 500 hikes per month in very remote locations, including parks, trails and even along neighborhood sidewalks.
Approximately 3 mile “recreational hikes” will suit those who prefer a relaxed pace. Those looking for a little more action can join moderate 5 mile hikes. The group also offers 20 and 26 mile hikes. Plus, the true devotees tackle a 40 mile day hike every May.
the Northeast Ohio Hiking Club also offers hikes in a variety of settings.
“I thought hiking was only in the woods, but you can hike anywhere,” club member Kim Grencewicz commented.
Urban hikes are among the most popular outings, according to Grencewicz, although the group tackles a variety of landscapes in and around Cuyahoga County, as well as occasional weekend trips to the Hocking Hills in the south. from Ohio.
Slower paced beginner hikes typically last around 3 miles, while more advanced hikes can be over 10 miles.
The club uses Meetup to facilitate outings, which mostly take place on weeknights and weekends. The hikes are free, although participants sometimes donate to the cause.
About 50 hike managers work hard to ensure a diverse offering, including historic hikes, dog rides, and even an upcoming hike and yoga event.
The Cleveland Hiking Club offers similar “themed hikes” that combine educational aspects with an invigorating getaway. Koesel recommends knowing the interests of the various hiking managers to ensure a rewarding experience.
“The experience is remarkably deep,” Koesel explained, and curious hikers can learn about everything from flora and fauna to architecture and history.
The Cleveland Hiking Club also offers the opportunity to experience landscapes far beyond the beauty of Northeast Ohio. Members have traveled to nearly every national park, South America, the British Isles and other remote areas.
Organized hikes also have a social purpose. The Northeast Ohio Hiking Club sometimes combines hikes with trips to area breweries or similar activities, and members of the Cleveland Hiking Club frequently congregate after hikes or mingle at Camp Onwego, group ownership in Hinckley Township.
Nonetheless, those who are just looking to improve their fitness while spending time in the great outdoors don’t need to feel pressured into morphing into social butterflies.
“It’s not like going to happy hour,” Grencewicz said. “There is no pressure.”
Yet even for introverts, there are strong incentives to walk with a group.
“You are never alone if you hike with us,” Koesel noted. “There’s always someone around.”
Companions not only offer companionship and share knowledge, but they also provide a certain level of safety, as well as additional incentives.
“It’s inspiring for me to bring people together for fun and watch them grow healthy in the process,” revealed Greg Madachik, lead organizer of the Northeast Ohio Hiking Club. “I feel like there’s something about the group mentality where we all feel pressured to go out regularly.”
Hikers often cite stress relief as another key reason for taking the trail.
“You had a hard day at work and you go hiking there with your friends and you forget all your problems,” Grencewicz observed.
Stress relief is a motivator for many people who attend club rides, although it’s not the only one, Koesel said. Bored retirees, people who have recently moved to Greater Cleveland, and those who want to get back in shape without the pressure of a gym flock to the Cleveland Hiking Club.
The hikes take place throughout the year, including winter, although organizers from the Cleveland and Northeast Ohio clubs strongly encourage participants to know their limits and wear appropriate clothing. Poor quality shoes and clothing can turn a pleasant outing into a frustrating and miserable job.
Joining the Cleveland Hiking Club requires a bit of commitment, although there are many additional rewards. Everyone is welcome to join a hike, but must identify themselves as a guest. After completing six guest hikes per year, hikers are invited to participate, which involves an annual membership fee and initiation fees.
Members of the Cleveland Hiking Club earn awards for meeting mileage goals, including patches, plaques, and maybe even a park bench with their name on it. Club members also receive the monthly newsletter, have access to the members-only section online and receive the first information on excursions and events at Camp Onwego.
The Cleveland Hiking Club is also involved in a number of philanthropic activities that benefit children and help maintain and build trails.
After a difficult 2020 in which the Cleveland Hiking Club managed to continue offering socially remote hikes, 2021 is shaping up to be a banner year. Three members are expected to accumulate 50,000 lifetime miles with the group. Ken Howard, Alice Kruse, and Rose Prisko somehow racked up enough miles to circle the Earth – twice.
Still, there is no pressure to complete “planetary” mileage when joining a hiking club. Take to the track, relax, make friends… the journey really is its own reward.