There are loads of hiking groups in New Hampshire—groups for women, families with young kids, birders…a quick search on Facebook will turn up one or more that fits your style. The Over the Hill Hikers club has been climbing New Hampshire’s mountains since 1979. Back then, the group’s schedule was mailed out by hand.
Word of Mouth’s Virginia Prescott recently took a hike with the club, and came back with plenty of stories to tell.
Tracy Ripkey is one of the the group’s unofficial leaders. We met up early on a Thursday morning at the town library in Sandwich, where we and three other carloads carpooled to the Guinea Pond Trailhead, just off Sandwich Notch Road.
I asked her if there was a fitness requirement to be in the group.
“Just be able to hike your own hike, and return on feet. That’s the best advice,” she said.
Tracy had us walk two and a half miles to Black Mountain Pond, and another two and a half back.
Eighteen Over the Hillers (and three dogs) showed up for the hike. Among them was 81-year old Milan McNall.
“I am not a conqueror of mountains,” she told me. “ I like the process.”
Henry Metzger used to be a marathoner, and has hiked all of NH’s 4,000 footers. But now, at a spry 85-years-old, he picks hikes for pleasure, not endurance.
“There are some 4,000 footers where you don’t have a view at all,” he said. “And I had no interest in doing it over and over again, but there are some people who just like the challenge. They have the feeling it keeps them younger.”
From Peak-Baggers to View-Baggers
Like the pun of its title, this hiking club doesn’t take itself too seriously. There are no dues, cabinet positions or even leaders among the 100-odd people on its email list. The Over the Hill Hikers is actually split up into three separate groups, based on pace and level…