One step forward with St. Paul Hiking Club

Lawson Street resident Carolyn Diebel kept seeing the notices in her neighborhood paper. And they intrigued her.

So she finally called the St. Paul Hiking Club a little over a year ago, and she's been hooked on the group's hikes ever since.

She's not the only one.

The St. Paul Hiking Club has more than 80 members, and almost half are active members who make a majority of the group's twice-weekly jaunts through the streets, parks and parkways of the city.

Count among those hardcore hikers current club president Chuck Ramsey, a Lauderdale resident who joined in 1985 and is usually in the group's yearly Top 10 for total miles walked.

Just how many miles are we talking about walking?

Well, Ramsey says that members who go to most every hike will average about 300 miles a year on the 100 or so scheduled hikes. He tends to make about 80 a year, he says.

"It makes me tired to think about it," says Ramsey with a laugh, after being told by a reporter that this means he's been on 1,520 hikes, totaling probably 4,560 miles.

Hiking history

The St. Paul Hiking Club began in 1921 when Grace Cummings moved from Stillwater to St. Paul with her family, and began working as a secretary for the city's Superintendent of Public Recreation. At the superintendent's request, Cummings figured out there was an interest even back then in a hiking club, and convened the first group of hikers Jan. 15, 1921, as its first president.

In a sign of things to come, Cummings even found a husband on these hikes, finding her soulmate in fellow hiker Gerald Villars. The two kept walking even after they had seven children.

Since that time, Ramsey says, club legend states that nine other couples have found a true love on these twice-weekly jaunts, although these couples' names have been lost to history.

Records on Cummings' last hike are also lost, but this much is known: Members thanked Cummings at a surprise 92nd birthday celebration at Governor's Restaurant on Arcade Street on April 7, 1990, during the group's annual awards banquet.

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