Prime Time Hikers of Northeast Georgia: Bridging Generations One Adventure at a Time
Jul 18, 2016 11:21PM
● By Melanie Heisinger
Taking a break at Panther Creek Falls.
Adventures of the Prime Time Hikers [13 Images] Click Any Image To Expand
Prime Time Hikers is a Meetup group made up of over 500 hikers. They have been on 247 past Meetups since its 2013 creation, and the number continues to climb.
We were lucky enough to get in touch with co-founders Ellen Miles, an educator by trade as well as a multi-media artist, and Sharon Wynns, an artist and writer. Both have a deep love for anything outdoors, an admiral and infectious trait. Read on to hear their story.
Tell us a little about the group. When and how it was started?
Ellen Miles: After being friends for many years, Sharon and I reconnected when I moved back from North Carolina. She suggested a hike and I immediately accepted. We drove down a narrow, winding forest road that seemed to go on forever, up over a ridge then plunging back into the valley, then immediately back up over a hairpin curve. Pot holes jarred our bones. Finally we reached a narrow gap in the vegetation and parked the truck. Our adventure was to begin. The trail along Dicks Creek in the Richard Russell Wildlife Management Preserve is gorgeous. It is deeply shaded and follows the creek which rolls and tumbles over rock shoals and small waterfalls.
When you put two creative minds together in such a magical location it is hard to determine what the final outcome might produce. We spoke of many things that day; Our past experiences, Our dreams, our goals, and what we felt we needed to complete our life. Out of this, Prime Time Hikers of Northeast Georgia was birthed. We both wanted to be able to spend time in nature, get physical exercise, explore our spiritual sides and connect with like-minded individuals. I had recently heard of Meetup.com so we immediately created and started our group in January of 2013. Our first Meetup hike was attended by 9 hikers. We have had as many as 29 hikers attend a single hike.
Initially we felt that our membership would be primarily "superlifers" like ourselves…The Boomer generation, but that was not to be. Apparently, Prime Time was an experience needed and desired by hikers of all generations, thank goodness. Our little band of hikers closed generation gaps and solved world problems and had a fabulous time discussing music, theater, movies, travel, and irrelevant silliness. The group now boasts over 500 members, many of which we have not set eyes upon. Some members like to lurk and live vicariously through our experiences or so we are told. We have seen people come and go, but have a pretty strong core group that have been together since the beginning.
Sharon Wynns: I've been a hiker for several decades, spending a great deal of time alone on the trails, especially the AT. Solo hiking fulfilled several needs at once.. Movement – mental and emotional, as well as physical – adventure and exercise. I could get away from the demands of the man-made world and open to the beauty and effortless support of the natural world. I would set myself on cruise mode and just be, often returning home high from the whole of it. Joy! Loved it!
Although I am a recluse by nature, several years ago, I felt drawn to the idea of expanding my rather solitary life. Into that opening stepped Ellen and the rest is Prime Time history. Hiking in a group took some getting used to. I could no longer hear the birds, the wind, the quiet. It was now filled with chattering humans. But much to my delight, they were fun, interesting, and wonderfully diverse. This is my favorite thing about hiking in a group, companionship, as well as the adventure of winding in and out of a variety of conversations from the mundane to the awesome.
What are your goals for the group and where do you see it heading?EM: We have no future plans other than to continue to stay physically active, provide hiking experiences, meet and connect with interesting people and have fun. I always feel so energized by our hikes even after especially hot days or those rainy days when we do umbrella hikes. There is some talk about doing an occasional weekend camp out and hiking adventure in locations a little further out than our 2 hour radius.
What other activities does Prime Time Hikers participate in?
SW: Ellen and I both love music and often schedule shows that appear at different venues in Athens and the surrounding cities. Recently we posted the free concert at the Buford Community Center Amphitheater and danced to the music of The Seven Bridges Band: The Ultimate Eagles Experience. Great fun!
We also do the Rabbit Box – a storytelling group featuring local folks telling true stories that relate in a wide variety if interpretations to various themes – every second Wednesday at The Foundry in Athens.
This past Sunday, 7/17/16, we took a short hike at the Botanical Gardens south of Atlanta. Then we wandered through the beautiful glass sculptures displayed there till September.
What's a memorable experience that stands out to you most?
SW: About half way up Table Rock Mountain in the state park in SC by the same name, we stopped to rest. While we were remarking on how hot it was, a man and his older dog joined us for a few minutes. He went on up and we were left behind to speculate how far the poor dog, who was obviously struggling, could go. We made it to the top, the man and his dog did not. About 3/4 of the way back down we caught up with them. The dog was unable to go any further.
Once we reached the bottom, one of our hikers got pretty upset about it. We put our heads together and came up with a plan. Using a blanket one of us had in their trunk and finding some long branches for the shafts, a litter was created with which to carry the dog down the mountain. Those of us who remained below had some water ready for the dog when the rescue group returned, the dog's owner following behind. We were shocked to discover the man was a veterinarian!
When I do feel the need for being alone with my friends the birds, trees, wind, and tumbling water, I drop back a bit from or forge ahead of the group. This gives me some moments to renew my inner being in the old way. Then, I simply slow down or speed up and I'm back, having enjoyed the best of both worlds – the quiet and the companionship.
What's the best hiking adventure your group has ever been on?
SW: As far as certain hikes standing out from others, they all seem to blend into one big happy time with good conversation, beautiful scenery, compatible company, although a few may be more exceptional than others. We rarely see wildlife as the bunch of us make enough noise that any critters around disappear before us. We did encounter a rattlesnake in the middle of a trail on a steep, forested and rocky mountainside who refused to budge. Deciding the safest choice was to slip, slide and crawl thru the thick underbrush up, over and around it. All was well.
EM: I don’t know if the term umbrella hikes was coined by any other group but it is one that we have adopted. Generally these occur during warmer weather, when the rains are warm but refreshing. No ever seems to come out of the hike completely dry…undergrowth and trails get wet and muddy. Hikers slip and fall (no one has been seriously injured) and we all become giddy as young children playing in the rain.
What's the funniest, strangest, most unusual thing people have asked you?
SW: We try to give people as much info about the hike as possible. It does tickle us that often someone asks questions about the hike that makes us wonder if anyone every reads what we present.
We are no longer beginners and set a good pace so we do encourage new members that if you haven't hiked much before – or at all – to take some time to build yourself up by walking around your neighborhood, etc. We've had people with breathing problems or have not been very active who can't keep up. We even had one of our members walk a new hiker the mile or so back to the beginning of the trail because our pace was too much for them and they were afraid they would get lost going back by themselves. We certainly don't race, but we do move along.
What should someone expect while on a hike with Prime Time Hikers?
SW: Our average length of hike is from 6-8 miles. Then we often go somewhere to eat together or bring a picnic lunch. We especially love doing hikes around Helen because we discovered a wonderful Tia restaurant there that we always look forward to dining at -- Spice 55. Yum!
During the summer we also do kayaking at Broad River Outpost near Danielsville. In Athens, we hike and after a picnic lunch we will rent kayaks and paddle about on the lake at Sandy Creek Park. In Helen, we hike the short Dukes Creek Falls Trail, then tube down the river (stopping afterward at Spice 55, of course). I especially like to look back up river and see those bumper-to-bumper, multicolored tubes filled with smiling faces and shining eyes of family and friends having hot summertime fun.
For more information about Prime Time Hikers of Northeast Georgia, you can visit their Meetup page.