Senior Healthy Hikers offer outdoor adventures for adults 50 and older

by: PHOTOS: RON JANZEN/SENIOR HEALTHY HIKERS - Members of Senior Healthy Hikers brave the winter storm for a Feb. 6 snowshoe trek to Bennett Pass near Mount Hood. From left: Howard Berg, Margie Henrikson, John Helus and Maxine Gordon.

When Judith Berg was running her wholesale nursery business, “the last thing I wanted to do on the weekends was be on my feet,” the Gresham resident, 72, says with a laugh.

But after she retired 10 years ago, Berg couldn't just sit around. About six years ago she and her husband, Howard, joined the Gresham Seniors Hiking Group, an all-volunteer organization based at the Gresham Senior Center. Then last spring they helped form a spinoff of that group called Senior Healthy Hikers.

Also run by volunteers, Senior Healthy Hikers organizes three outings every month for adults 50 and older; some members are in their mid to late 80s. Members lead the outings, which include urban walks, snowshoe treks and hikes in the great outdoors. The group, which has about 50 members, also wants to plan an overnight trip about once a year, says Howard, the club's president.

“I really like it — the main thing is it gets me out and moving,” says Howard, a retired design engineer who turns 75 this month. “A lot of times you're not feeling great, with the aches and pains common with people our age. But these people get the exercise that doctors say you need.”

The Bergs go on a hike at least once a week, in addition to walking about 2-1/2 miles nearly every day.

“We have seen more lovely places since we started hiking,” Judith says.

And the social aspect of group hiking is as important as the exercise, she adds. Ron Janzen, a fellow Senior Healthy Hiker, agrees.

“This group is really nice because everybody is really friendly, intelligent, easy to talk to,” says Janzen, 73, a retired electrical engineer who lives in Cedar Hills.

Janzen started hiking years ago after he lost his wife “and I wasn't quite sure what to do,” he says. He started hiking with Upper Trails, a Christian hiking group based in the Gresham/Sandy area. He still belongs to that group, leading hikes for it as well as for Senior Healthy Hikers.

Hiking led to romance when Janzen met Ruth Cummings, who was outdoor director of Catholic Singles in Lake Oswego. They've been together about 12 years now.

Cummings, 68, lives in Gresham and is also in Senior Healthy Hikers. In addition, she leads walks for a group of retirees from Regence Blue Cross Blue Shield, where she worked in human resources until retiring in 2009.

Cummings also volunteers for the city of Gresham, which is a mission of Senior Healthy Hikers (the club holds its meetings at Gresham City Hall). “We wanted to be more active in the community and do volunteerism,” she says.

The club always welcomes new members, each of whom receives a new member packet containing club rules. “We try to set some healthy guidelines,” Cummings says, noting the group doesn't allow smoking or dogs on the trips.

“We try to promote healthy lifestyles for seniors,” she says, adding that sometimes they do stop for ice cream after a hike.

“We're out to have fun and enjoy nature and each other,” she says.

The details

What: Senior Healthy Hikers.

Who: Adults 50 and older; new members are always welcome.

When: Three outings every month, usually the first Thursday, third Wednesday and last Tuesday.

Where: Meet for carpooling at Gresham City Hall, 1333 N.W. Eastman Parkway.

Cost: Membership is free, but donations are collected from carpool passengers to reimburse drivers for gas.

Contact: Ron Janzen, 503-333-8419 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.; or Howard Berg, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Coming events

* Thursday, March 6, snowshoeing at East Summit.

* Wednesday, March 19, a hike on the new section of the Springwater Trail by Boring.

* Tuesday, March 25, a walk at Clackamette Cove in Clackamas County.

* Thursday, April 3, hike the Renaissance Trail along the Columbia River in Vancouver, Wash.

* Wednesday, April 16, a hike at Coyote Wall on the Washington side of the Columbia Gorge.

* Tuesday, April 29, a walk at Lake Sacajawea in Longview, Wash.

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