George and Jeanne Rasmussen have been avid hikers since they got married. So, when they decided to move to Wind Crest, an Erickson Senior Living community in Highlands Ranch, Colo., they were especially interested in the abundance of hiking opportunities. As soon as they moved in, they started walking - both on and off campus.
Although they enjoy spending time together in their spacious two-bedroom, two-bath apartment home with a patio, George says they also like being in the great outdoors.
Out and about
As he got to know others who lived at Wind Crest, George realized that many community members had moved from out of state. As a result, his neighbors weren’t aware of all the places and trails they could hike outside of Wind Crest.
“We’ve been part of hiking groups in the past, so I thought, ‘Let’s just see if there’s any interest here in doing trail hiking, as opposed to walking on sidewalks or flat paths,’” says George.
In March of last year, George held a meeting to see if any of his neighbors were interested in joining a hiking club, and more than 50 people showed up. Now, the Trail Hiking Club has grown to around 130 members.
Alfonso Torres and his wife Linda Story are two members of the rapidly-growing club.
“We came from New York, so we wanted to get acquainted with other community members and the Highlands Ranch area,” says Alfonso. “Wind Crest is a very social place. Joining the Trail Hikers Club was another opportunity for us to socialize.”
As a new hiker to the mountainous region, Alfonso says, “I like to hike, but I didn’t know about some of the trails that George has taken us to.”
Something for everyone
To make sure people of all experience levels can enjoy the outings, George classifies every scheduled hike: easy, moderate, or strenuous. Before they sign up, club members can check the trail’s rating to ensure they feel comfortable completing the hike.
“We try to have a mix of hiking options,” says George, including hybrid hikes - “that’s where we go to one location and are able to hold a strenuous and an easy hike concurrently by hiking different trails.”
“Then we can be together at the beginning and at the end, but people can hike according to their capabilities,” he explains. “It works really well. Hybrid hikes have been a big favorite.”
For each hike he schedules, George posts a registration form and all relevant information on a website run by Wind Crest community members, which his fellow hikers appreciate.
“All the research put into the hikes, the maps, the description of the places - everything is put together on the website. It’s very useful,” says Alfonso.
Sweeping for safety
Trail Hikers Club member Ray Wallace often acts as the “sweep” during hikes, hanging at the back of the pack.
“If anyone slows or begins to drop out during the hike, then the sweep is there to stay with them and make sure they get back,” Ray says.
Before moving to Wind Crest, Ray was involved with the Santa Fe Search and Rescue Group, a ground search organization. He notes that’s where he learned to never leave anyone behind.
“You never let anyone crash and say, ‘Well, I’ll go back to the parking lot on my own.’ That’s how a lot of people get lost in the woods,” Ray adds.
To keep everyone safe, the leaders and sweeps carry walkie-talkies. That way, if they lose cell service at any point, the group still has a way to stay in contact.
Admiring Mother Nature
Besides the socialization and exercise, there’s another reason why people love hiking with the Trail Hikers Club: the beauty of Wind Crest’s natural surroundings.
“I just love to get out in the mountains and hike. It’s therapeutic for me, to go out on a nice day and hike in nature,” says George.
George explains that because club members have a wide variety of capabilities, it’s rewarding to see neighbors rise to the challenge and achieve more than they thought they could.
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