Really hard to believe that it will be 15 years of Hiking around Southeastern Michigan with HIKING MICHIGAN, and the now over 6,000 members. That first hike had 4 Hikers taking part in what was a stroll around the Stony Creek Nature Trails. One of those 4 Hikers, many of you may know. Chris Harbowy, who has a membership number of 0001, was one of the very first people to email in, and join the Hiking group. We are so happy that all these years later, Chris is still here and now writes for the NewsLetter and Leads Hikes on occasions.
If you would have asked me those 15 years ago, if Hiking Michigan would be this large, still Hiking and still producing a NewsLetter, Blog, Web site, Facebook pages and You-Tube Videos, I would have laughed at you. 🙂 But here we are with a NewsLetter readership quarterly of just over 20,000. Our Blog gets a consistent 250 HITS each and every day of the week, and our Facebook pages are well over 15,000 weekly views. I am laughing right now. 🙂
I know you longtime members have heard this from me many times before, but…..it is truly because of YOU, the members, that HIKING MICHIGAN has grown and is now the largest Hiking Organization in Michigan, and the second largest Outdoor Group in Michigan. We are second only to the united groups and memberships that make up MUCC (Michigan United Conservation Clubs)
Numbers are one things, but what has produced these huge numbers and more importantly, what has made every Hike here at HIKING MICHIGAN a unique and special experience in it’s own right, are the people that come out and join in on these hikes. People who love Nature. People who are willing to share their knowledge of the Outdoors with everyone for no other reason then the excitement of telling fellow hikers of their wonderful experiences. For 15 years now…..this has been the case at every hike we have scheduled…..every event we have planned……and every festival and special Program we have sponsored and organized. You HM people truly have shown all of your fellow Michiganders just how special Nature lovers of all sorts can be.
Whether you Hug Trees, Hunt, Love them Birdies, Geocache, Love a good Campfire, Night Hike, Canoe/Kayak, Snow Shoe, or just enjoy immersing yourself in a unique Michigan habitat like a FEN. You have been welcome here, and you have then welcomed all others who have joined us afterwards. In that, IS our secret here. But that has just continued to be so, year after year without hesitation. That is the even more amazing part.
When HIKING MICHIGAN was doing our very first HIKE some 15 years ago, there where almost no other Outdoor Groups, yet alone specialty Hiking style groups. The Audubon Society did the occasional organized Hike, and the SIERRA club did the occasional Trail run. 🙂 They used to move pretty quick on their Hikes. Now…..15 years later and there are almost 100 different and specialty Hiking, Canoeing, Geocaching Groups and the new “MEET-UPS” through the 8 counties that comprise Southeastern Michigan. Groups everywhere these days.
But who started the Night HIKE? HM did. Who started the HIKE/CAMPFIRE Vittles gathering? HM did. Who started in at least Southeastern Michigan, the Winter Candle Lit Night Trail Hikes? HM did this for a number of local FRIENDS groups. Who cared enough about our local Foot traveled Trails to maintain them when our DNR did not have the money or manpower to do their own jobs? HM did. Who did some of the very first Invasive Species control and removal projects, that actually sparked our own DNR to start an internal STEWARDSHIP Program themselves? HM did that too. Who did specialty HIES, where the hikers learned something specific while also out enjoying the weather and Natural Resources. HM did that. And how started the actual learning Class programs for outdoor activities while out in a Park or the Field? HM did this too. Something REI does a great job with now by teaching the basics in their stores fro FREE and then in many cases, working with local outdoor groups to get the experiences passed along to new outdoor Hikers.
I could just continue to go on and on with all the first you HIKING MICHIGAN people have had success with. these things have started a flood of those 100 Groups I mentioned earlier. You have also shown so many people just how important our health Parks and State natural Resources are, no matter what you enjoy doing in YOUR Parks. And they are….YOUR PARKS and WATERWAYS. YOUR Hiking Group has been an inspiration to many of thousands of people in the S.E.Michigan region to GO GET OUTDOORS, if only for the health of it and your peace of mind.
I can so easily brag about all of these things because after a short time that the group really started moving along, it became very clear that it would be YOU members that would make or break this group. I have become an almost observer here. :-0 And it has been so much Fun and given me so much joy to see what all of you have done not just for yourselves here at HIKING MICHIGAN, but for all those other Outdoor groups that now exist and have taken your examples and leads and now take them as the normal for an outdoor Group. Quite an accomplishment! never to be matched again, I believe. UNLESS…..it is repeated with the new expanded North/Central group we started this last Summer.
With only a couple of Hikes under our belts with this expanded lower Peninsula Group, HIKING MICHIGAN is expected to cross the 10,000 membership line before the close of 2013. That’s right…..10,000 members State wide. That will be 10,000 people traveling the various Foot Trails through out Michigan, looking for all types of outdoor/Nature experiences. This is just one of the reasons our state has the true reputation as the “GREAT LAKES STATE”, and the state with so many Nature style Trails. These are the kinds of Trails that Hiking Michigan has enjoyed and grown on for 15 years, and the types of Trails that teach a deep respect for Mother Earth. They are OUR HERITAGE here in Michigan.
So where are we going now, after 15 years. besides the new North/Central Group, expanded Outdoor learning programs and growing library of Park detailed Maps of special places that exist no where else, and our ever growing library of INFO sheets and Outdoor guides, we will just continue to do what you all have perfected here after 15 years. Hiking with anyone, excepting them for what they are and not some Social connection deficit or need. And wandering special habitats exchanging knowledge with one another in the most beautiful state in the nation. MICHIGAN! HIKING MICHIGAN!
Thanks gang, for the most wonderful 15 years of my life. I never expected this to happen this way, or at all. YOU made this happen, and it has been a doorway for me personally, that I would never have found if not for all of YOU. You all have my trust and faith in where ever you will take this Group in the future. You have done such a great job so far (15 years worth) I think you can be depended upon to do, another 15 years of even higher standards and greatness. 🙂