Locals find community and adventure with St. Paul Hiking Club.
Hiking isn’t just a hobby, it’s a lifestyle. Or so it is for the St. Paul Hiking Club, a group of Metro area residents that is building community and staying active with twice-weekly hikes.
Among the club’s ranks are Mahtomedi residents Brock and Sandy Herlick. Longtime lovers of the outdoors, the pair joined the St. Paul Hiking Club five years ago after hearing about it from friends and quickly became proactive members. “It’s been the best thing that ever happened to me,” Sandy says.
Rain or shine, club members gather at locations around the Metro every Tuesday and Sunday for 3- to 5-mile hikes. They hike on little-known neighborhood trails and beloved lake loops. Members take turns leading hikes. Often, the Herlicks plan hikes in the White Bear Lake area for the club to enjoy. They’ve led hikes at Sunfish Lake in Lake Elmo, the St. Croix River Crossing Loop Trail and even one starting at Cup and Cone.
“I would have never known half of these trails in the Metro,” Sandy says. “There are trails in the woods that you would never see driving a car, and you’d never know about. It’s really amazing.”
The club was founded in 1921 by Grace Cummings, a secretary in the St. Paul Parks Department who led a group of 20-somethings on a 3-mile hike near St. Paul. Fast forward more than 100 years, and the club is composed of mostly retired area residents. But don’t be fooled by the sweet smiles of these folks. The St. Paul Hiking Club has endured subzero temperatures and hiked through rain, snow and grueling heat indexes. Year-round, whatever the weather, they’ll be hiking.
As a reward after a strenuous hike, members often stop for ice cream or grab dinner with fellow hikers. “I look forward to Sundays because I know that after I hike 5 miles, I’ll go out to dinner with these people,” Sandy says.
“Staying Fit Sociably” is a club motto. Members will often host seasonal gatherings, home-cooked dinners and more following a hike; as they walk the trails, friendships are made, laughs shared and memories created. The joy alone is worth the $7 annual membership fee.
After a recent hike, the Herlicks pulled out their computer, looking at club archives recounting adventures over its history. As the couple scrolled through decades of recorded history and memories, Brock paused, putting on his glasses to read a blurb dated 1931.
“One hike was started in Mahtomedi,” Brock says. “May 17, 1931. Six hikers took the streetcar from St. Paul to Wildwood Amusement Park, and they hiked 20 miles to Stillwater and back.”
While hikes these days are kept shorter to cater to varying ages and abilities, the legacy of community and love for the outdoors remain wholly intact. “That’s what this club was all about. It was a socializing club, but to do hiking too. Our club has continued that,” Brock says.
The St. Paul Hiking Club is open to new members. If interested, visit the club website and join in on a hike. You never know who you might meet or places you might discover. Visit whitebearlakemag.com for a list of the Herlicks’ area hikes.