When I brought in my mail that late spring day in 1989, little did I realize that the advertising circular I held in my hand would change my life forever. The circular was a sale advertisement for Rock Creek Outfitters, then located on Hixson Pike near Northgate. Of course, I was interested in the sale, but what really caught my eye was an announcement that, on May 22, at the Chattanooga Nature Center, Rock Creek was hosting a meeting to determine the interest in forming a hiking club in the Chattanooga area. I had been hiking some in the last year with a loosely structured hiking organization at TVA, just enough to let me know that this was something that really appealed to me. Expecting 10 to 15 people, Dawson Wheeler and Marvin Webb from Rock Creek were really surprised by the forty who showed up for the initial meeting. By the middle of June we had published the first issue of a newsletter, with the following hike schedule: June 24, Lookout Mountain Bluff Trail Dayhike, and Jacks River Falls Overnight; July 8, Springer Mountain Overnight; July 15, Lost Cove Cave Tour; July 22, Fiery Gizzard Dayhike and John Muir Dayhike; July 29, Standing Indian Overnight. A rather ambitious schedule for a brand new club! At the June 12 meeting, we decided we would meet every other month (the even-numbered ones) at the Chattanooga Nature Center at 7:00 p.m., unless changed for some special function, such as a Christmas party, or August picnic. This practice continues today, and we've had some fantastic programs, from equipment demonstrations, trail cooking demonstrations, wildflower talks, slide shows of the Appalachian Trail, as well as of other areas, and lectures on the right way to hike, backpack, or administer first aid. By August 7, we had elected officers: Stan Johnson, president; Ellis Walters, vice president; Rita Willson, treasurer, and Katie Walters, secretary. The following agreed to serve as committee chairs: Bobbie Steffner and Dawson Wheeler, outings; Susan Seay, bylaws; and your writer, newsletter editor. Membership grew very quickly and by the end of our first year, totalled more than 100. Of the 40 at the initial meeting, only four are still members: Bob Butters, Karen Dale, Lynne Finnell, and Mary Young. By April 1991, membership was at 185. It's impossible to mention everyone who has served and helped to build our organization into the fantastic club we have today. Hundreds have contributed, many of whom have moved on to other locations, and/or to other interests. However, presidents of the club have included Stan Johnson, 1989-91; Ellis Walters, 1991-92; Lynne Finnell, 1992-94; Brenda Ellis, 1994-95; Clint Strohmeier, 1995-96; Eric Skrivseth, who now serves as newsletter editor, 1996-98; Betty Petty, who designed and maintains our web page, and who was destined to lead us into the twenty-first century, 1998 - 2000, and our current president, Donald Box who is leaving his own distintive mark! Some highlights over the years: August 1989, first trail maintenance trip - between Snoopers Rock and the Natural Bridge in Prentice Cooper State Forest; December 1989, adopted the club name, The Chattanooga Hiking Club, March 1990, formal instruction in trail maintenance conducted by Bob Campbell of the Tennessee Division of Forestry; April 1990, adopted our official club logo; April 1990, adopted the 12-mile Pot Point Loop in Prentice Cooper as our official trail maintenance project; May 1990, built the side trail from the Pot Point Loop to the Raccoon Mountain Overlook; November 1990, built the side trail from the Pot Point Loop to the Ransom Hollow Overlook; August 1991, took orders for club T-shirts; May 1992, adopted Making Tracks as the name of our newsletter; Spring 1991, built the Blue Blazes Trail on Moccasin Bend; November 1992, helped build section of Benton MacKaye Trail in Rough Creek area of Big Frog; March 1995, completed the Scenic Spur Trail in Little Frog area; June 1995, added the footprints to Making Tracks; May 1997, added pictures to our otherwise perfect newsletter; June 1997, Chattanooga Hiking Club web site up and online; September 1998, began rebuilding project for Licklog Ridge Trail in Big Frog Wilderness. We've planned outings to accommodate hikers with varying abilities: one-to two mile hikes, 5 milers, our most widely attended weekend hikes, those of 10-12 miles; death marches, 18-24 miles (in one day); backpacks, carcamps, our very popular Wednesday dayhikes, coordinated by Che Carico since 1993; and joint hikes with other clubs. Hiking destinations have included Lookout Mountain, Raccoon Mountain, the Chickamauga Battlefield, Signal Point, Prentice Cooper State Forest, South Cumberland, the Savage Gulf, the Bowater Pocket Wildernesses, the Great Smoky Mountains, the Appalachian Trail from Springer Mountain, Georgia to Mount Rogers, Virginia, the Citico Wilderness, the Chatooga River area (Ellicott Rock Wilderness) in South Carolina, the Walls of Jericho, the Cherokee National Forest, the Cohutta Wilderness, the Chattahoochee Wilderness, state parks in Tennessee, Alabama, Georgia and North Carolina, Big South Fork, Mount Mitchell, the Nantahala National Forest, Shining Rock Wilderness, Bald River area, Joyce Kilmer/Slick Rock Wilderness, the Pinhoti Trail, the Benton MacKaye Trail, the John Muir Trail, the Bartram Trail. Several of our members are section hiking the Appalachian Trail, and we've had one member, Lin-Fa Lee, and one former member, Clayton Pannell, through-hike the AT. We've had at least two weddings of members who met in the club: Jane Anne (Taylor) and Bob Seale; and Pat (Gibson) and Ken Heck. Margaret (Whittaker) and Jeff Newton were both members of the Club when they met, but they actually met on a canoe trip. There may be others -- let us know! So now, we're more than 200 strong, with active participation every weekend and every Wednesday. We have from 15 to 20 come out for trail maintenance. We have Christmas parties, and annual New Year's Day hikes. And most importantly, we have an enthusiasm about hiking that permeates the club, that not ever, in my wildest imagination, could I have predicted that spring day in 1989! - Mary Young
UPDATE ON TEN YEARS OF HISTORY! - Since April we need to add updates to our HAPPY BIRTHDAY article. We noticed in the membership section that Ellis and Katie Walters, founding members of the Club, had renewed their membership. And, probably since she now lives in Knoxville, and we don't see her that often, we omitted Ann Wykle's name. My sincere apologies. Also, we've been informed that new members Fred Pittman and Jeremy Ditto have both through-hiked the Appalachian Trail. Congratulations! - Mary Young
State of Outings, December 20, 2004
During my tenure as outings chair for almost 4 years now, I have enjoyed putting together your hiking schedule and have been rewarded by knowing that we are able to go to so many special places. Our hikes generally go very smoothly and are well attended. However, I am often reminded and have discussed at length the problems that sometimes arise. The problems are rarely about where we go, but much more frequently about distance, elevation, and pace. While most people hike because they enjoy walking in the outdoors and receiving the spiritual and mental renewal that hiking brings, there are also other reasons that attract people to this pastime. And in this club, we have a group of really wonderful, but diverse people. We have members ranging in age from 20 something to - well - retired people! Our needs range from those mostly looking for exercise to those that want to take lots of time and smell every flower and photograph every waterfall. We have members that enjoy the club as a social outing. And we have members that are very passionate and knowledgeable about the outdoors, including naturalists and environmentalists. We have members that workout every day and are training to climb Mt. Rainer or participate in strenuous backpacking trips, and we have members whose only exercise is the hiking itself, so frequently the conditioning level itself is quite different among us. And the truth of the matter is that all of these people and their different needs and desires for outings with the club are equally important! So during the last 4 years, my biggest challenge has not been to find people to lead hikes to just fill the calendar, but to find leaders for you that will offer you the variety of outings to suit everyone's needs. Generally, the hardest hikes to make available are the ones we need the most - those being from 7 to 9 miles with moderate elevation gain and those 10-12 mile hikes that have big climbs and go to especially beautiful places, but need to be led at a more relaxed pace than they frequently are led. During the past couple of years this situation has begun to improve, as we have attempted some different things, such as 2 different options going to the same place. However, I have always needed more people willing to lead those 8-12 mile hikes at a more comfortable and standard hiking pace, rather than the fast pace so frequently encountered. So it has been a challenge to meet everyone's needs, but guess what? There is great news! Your next 6 months contains more moderate hikes and more strenuous hikes that will be led at a reasonable pace than ever before! Thanks to the 25 people that are willing to lead hikes for us during the first half of 2004, we will have 52 weekend outings with a total of 63 options. That averages 10 opportunities a month from which to choose the hikes that best fit your need. 17 of these options will be of a moderate distance of approximately 8 miles and will be to a variety of great hiking destinations! We also have 4 strenuous trips planned this year to the GSMNP that will take us to Gregory Bald, Mt. Cammerer, Mt. LeConte and Maddron Bald that I promise will be led at a comfortable pace! AND in addition to our weekend hikes for those of you fortunate enough not to work full time, there is Che Carico and the Wednesday hikes that she has so faithfully led for years now! So add another 24 outings to the list. And there is more good news. This year we will begin a new series of hikes called the Newcomer Series. These will take place on the first Saturday of each month. They will be about 4 miles in length, close to Chattanooga and will be open only to people new to hiking. Here the leaders will welcome and educate prospective new members, answer questions about hiking, proper footwear and what to carry in your pack. And we will try a series of Urban Hikes in the not-too-distant future. For anyone interested, we will meet about 5:15 once a week for a brisk walk (this will be for exercise) at the Walnut Street Bridge to do about 5 miles in an hour and 15 minutes. Both the Urban Hike and the Newcomer Hike will be advertised in the newspaper, on our website and on Outdoor Chattanooga's Website. I personally really felt the need lately to make sure that we make the club both visible and viable, not just to increase our membership, but to encourage more people to get out and enjoy the outdoors. And hopefully, hiking will not only create a healthier and more fulfilling lifestyle for them, but will promote appreciation of the opportunities available in outdoor recreation, so we can better protect the natural resources for the future. And now for some recognition of your terrific hike leaders! I can't say enough about the terrific people that time and time again agree to lead hikes. My requests are rarely denied and most people just tell me to put them where they are needed in the schedule. They even put up with me when I have suggestions about where we need to go and or what trails to take even if it is not exactly what they had in mind. Thanks so much to all of you for making my job so much easier because of your willingness to be flexible and to give of your time and energy. I would like to introduce a few people that will be leading their first hikes in 2004... Don Van Hook, Jeffrey Hunter, Tim Nicholson and John Rowland. So please come out and hike with these people and show our new leaders that you appreciate their efforts even if you don't know them well. Elizabeth O'Connor, Chris O'Connor, Shawn Durham, Kendra Cross, and Melissa Moreau. These members led their first hikes this past year. And Chris Dohmen, Eddy Brooks, Jane Smith, and Larry Jones led their first hikes for us in the latter part of 2002. Thank you very much to our newest leaders for making the effort to lead your hikes! Next, I would like to acknowledge Jerry Wright, Spears McAllester, Brian Grow and Richard Park. This group has been leading hikes for us for a few years now. Jerry has led 6 hikes, Richard has led 7, Brian 8, and Spears has led 9 outings! We all know that we would not even have a hiking club without leaders to take us to wonderful places, so lately I decided we need to do something special to honor them for their time and commitment to the club. So tonight, we are hopefully going to establish a new tradition of giving out some special patches to commemorate milestones. I hope each of you will sew these on your packs, and thereby, frequently be reminded of how much you are appreciated. To come up with these numbers, I went back through my records and Mary Young's before me, to come up with what I hope is an accurate tally of outings led. There are a couple of members still active that led hikes before Mary took over the outings, so I asked them to think back and give me an estimate of how many they led before 1997. In figuring these it didn't matter if a hike was cancelled due to weather, as the leader had already committed and planned. Also, leaders receive 2 points for each backpack, carcamp, or overnight trip, as they take even more preparation and time. I will recognize these people in increments of 10 hikes. If I have left anyone out or miscalculated the numbers, please let me know! Each of the following members were presented with a patch at our recent Christmas party. The first four people that received patches have led between 10 and 20 hikes for the club. Boodie Fox has taken us on 15 hikes, Wendy Gunn is at 13, Wayne Chambers has led 12 and Harold Wilkey stands at 10. Having led 21 hikes was Doug Cooper with Jennifer Smith taking the time to have led 23. They both received a 20 hike patch. Next, we have Ralph Van Pelt with 36. 41 hikes was the number that Faye Farnham Nunez has led and Betty Petty stands at 45! So they both received hike leader patches with the number 40. Bob Butters, one of our founding members has totaled 51 points, as has our President Donald Box! Susan Faidley has had a great time over the last 8 years with 52. Then, there is Darlene Sammons, who has certainly led more weekend hikes than anyone in such a short length of time. In just over 4 years, she has taken us on 58 outings! Also, at our party there were two other hike leaders recognized for leading over 100 hikes! Che Carico has probably taken members on more than 400 hikes, as she has been leading the mid-week outings since 1993. She was presented a certificate at the Christmas party recognizing and appreciating her for the time and energy she has given the club through the years. Thank you, Che! Our next special presentation at the party was to Mary Young. Tonight, Mary was presented a 100+ patch, along with a plaque that was gratefully presented to Mary for her continuous contributions to the club during the last 15 years. Mary was a founding member of our club and has also served in the capacity of both Outings Chair and Membership. She handles our database now and at one time was also the Mid-Week leader. We aren�t really sure how many hikes she has led since 1989, but there have been 70 just since 1997! We consider her to be our #1 hike leader. She has been a dominant force in the club carrying the torch through times when the club was young and inspiring so many of us today. The Chattanooga Hiking Club is 15 years old in May of 2004! Thank you Mary for all of the time, energy and devotion you have given to this organization throughout the years. We all appreciate you! Everyone had a good time at the Christmas party! We just wish more of you could have attended. Next year, we will have it a week or so earlier in hopes of more being able to join us for an evening of Christmas cheer and camaraderie. And thanks once again to Jennifer Smith who organized our party and had several supportive helpers to make this event happen. Jennifer was presented with an award tonight, as well. It was for recognition of all she does for us within the club, as well as representing us in the community, whenever we are called upon. Her certificate recognized her spirit of volunteerism. Thanks, Jennifer for all you do! Happy New Year Everyone, and I hope to see each of you on the trail in 2004! - Susan Faidley, Outings Chair.