I first heard about the Happy Hikers group from my father, some 25+ years ago. Not long after his retirement, I remember his Thursdays became dedicated to hiking.
A few years later I learned that it was with a group named Happy Hikers based out of the John T O’Conner Senior Center in Knoxville. The group of age 50+ hikers of who for the most part can out hike folks half their age, provided him with years of hiking and social involvement. Eventually, in his early 80’s neuropothy took the feeling way in his feet and balance became an issue so he had to stop.
Over the years, I kept his hiking stories in my mind so I was not completely surprised when yesterday I found myself in the parking lot of Gallaher Bend Greenway in Oak Ridge with 33 Happy Hiker members and 1 other guest (none of whom I knew) getting ready to hike.
Uncomfortable? You bet but I know the only way to work through the discomfort is to jump in and get started, so I did.
Oak Ridge has a little over 85 miles of greenways, which wind through the once “Secret City.” Gallaher Bend is a 4.6 mile (round trip) hike on a rolling gravel road. The road, located on a penisula of Melton Hill Lake, winds mostly through a forested wildlife management area with an occasional glimpse of the lake. The road is on federal property so hikers and walkers are requested to stay on the trail and obey signs.
The weather was cold (19 F) and overcast when the hike began. The group quickly spread out based on individual goals for speed, looking at nature and catching up with friends. I was lucky enough that one of the group members hiked along with me. It was nice to get to know someone on a more personal level.
We turned around at the trail end, deciding not to venture beyond to the roped off spur loop that several member said offered great views of Melton Hill Lake. The sun came out about halfway back and the temp rose to 27F. Hikers seemed to linger a bit, not quite ready for the hike to be over.
I enjoyed my first hike with the friendly group of Happy Hikers and look forward to joining them in future hikes!