Today is the first day of Hen Hike 2012. What on earth is a Hen Hike you might ask? A bunch of chickens taking a walk? A hen party on a hike? Well, kind of. Nine other women, from 6 states join me each year for a 4-day hiking trip. This is no ordinary hike, as you can imagine, considering the name of our group. First, we dont camp. At the end of each day hike, we like a hot shower, clean sheets on a good mattress, a gourmet meal served to us in a lovely dining room in a charming inn, but most of all, a good bottle of wine, with gourmet cheeses and interesting snacks. We do have sack lunches each day though, sitting on a log or a rock, if that seems more like real hiking to you. Today, we had our sandwiches at a picnic table, which kind of felt like cheating, except that the wind was cold, as the picnic table was at the top of a hill. The trail we chose for our first day was an easy 5.5 mile loop through mostly prairie type terrain in a state park in Minnesota. Later in the week, well do some more challenging trails, but this was a good warm-up. It will probably all seem pretty tame, as in previous years, weve hiked only in the New England area. Oh, I think I forgot to mention that half of the gals are blind. We pair up each morning, walk with a sighted gal, and then switch partners after lunch. This way, we get to talk one on one with a different Hen for a couple of miles. Its hard to catch up on each ones news when all 10 of us are yacking at the same time in the same room.
It all started 13 or 14 years ago, (Were not really sure, but then we are all seniors, so who cares?) when I wrote to my friend Julie, whom I had met at Ski for Light, a cross country ski program for people who are visually or mobility impaired. I said, Julie, would you like to do a hiking trip with me? she said, sure, and how about if we invite a couple of other gals? So Julie became our Mother Hen, finding great little B&Bs that would also serve dinner. When Julie turned 80, she decided herself that it was time for her to retire as a guiding Hen, and the job of Mother Hen was handed down to me. However, this year, another friend from Ski for Light, Pat, took on the job, finding the perfect place for our roost, scoping out the best trails, and working out the meal plans. It was great to just have to show up, which I almost didnt do. My sciatic nerve was giving me so much pain that I was within an inch of canceling my flight, thus wasting almost$500. At the last minute, I decided to push through the pain, because I couldnt stan the idea of missing it. The moment I stepped off the plane, I was glad I had made that decision. After walking 5 miles today, Ill probably wonder if that was wise, since my orthopedic specialist advised against it. But spending a week with this wonderful group of women friends, sharing our feelings, enjoying good food and drink together, and reveling in the crisp October air while engaging in one of the healthiest activities ever, is the most healing thing I could do for myself. , Ive been told at other Hen Hikes that my face is drawn and pinched at the beginning of the week, obviously showing signs of stress, but at the end of the week, I look happy and relaxed. I dont care what that orthopedic specialist said. I believe its the best thing the doctor could order.