Mel Edmunds would have totally enjoyed the 15-year reunion of the Cedaredge Hikers at Town Park last week.
After all, having the event was his idea to begin with. But sadly, Mel wasn't able to attend because he passed away only a few weeks earlier.
More than 60 of Mel's friends gathered to honor his memory as an outdoors man, an inspiration, and as a mentor of outdoors enjoyment. It was also a gathering for everyone who has participated in the Senior Hikers outings over the years, and the event also honored the memory of the group's founder, Ruth Phillips.
Almost everyone who has every participated on a Cedaredge Senior Hikers outing was present. They shared reminiscences of Mel, like the ones shared by Mel's close friend and outdoors companion Rex Replogle. The two made a compact early on in their career of outdoor adventures together. "Mel said he'd make a mountain man out of me, and I said I'd make a river rat out of him," Replogle said. "Mel did everything," including scaling Colorado's Fourteeners a total of some 85 times.
Mel became an inspiration to many of the people who have participated in the Senior Hikers activities, and many said that he was always available with friendly encouragement and also with assistance when the going got challenging.
Mel was a lover of many things including flowers. His memory and the positive influence he had on many lives will continue to live on in the iris bulbs from his garden that were given as gifts to his many friends at the reunion last week.
The Cedaredge Senior Hikers is an active, energetic, loosely organized but closely knit group of people which enjoys the out-of-doors. Their activities include hikes on trails throughout the Western Slope and Utah. They camp out and take excursions on local rivers. In winter they ski -- cross country and downhill -- and snowshoe together. There are outings almost every week of the year on a come-as-you-please basis. There is no commitment.There is no membership. There are no dues. It's all for fun and fellowship. There are only two rules: no dogs on outings, and you hike five miles or get no ice cream.
Two of the group's highly active participants are Marv and Jude Kieca. They help with some of the minimal organizational duties needed to keep the group informed about what is happening. During a short presentation at last week's event, Jude Kieca gave a short history of the group and a tribute to its founder, Ruth Phillips.
"The group was founded in 2002 by Ruth Phillips, who moved here from Virginia to be close to her daughter, Fran Lazear," Kieca said. "Ruth wanted to hike with a group of seniors, so Fran put an ad in the paper and 25 folks showed up for the first meeting. Ruth was 87 years old at that time. Her last hike was at age 94 and she lived to be 100 years old. A big thanks goes out to Fran and those original hikers who established a grand tradition."
Marv Kieca explains that most of the group's hikes are chosen through a democratic process among the people who show up at Food Town on Wednesday morning to participate. "Most of the hikes are five to eight miles," he said. "We hike the Grand Mesa in summer because it's cooler there." Outings also include the West Slope's canyon country when seasonal temperatures moderate. Normally up to a dozen or so hikers show up to attend the weekly hikes, Marv said.
The Senior Hikers enjoy being active and outdoors. Jude explains that 35,250 miles "is a very conservative estimate of the accumulated miles that our group has hiked over the last 15 years." She adds, "We are always having new hikers join the group and one of the newest is Jerri Fulton who has recently joined. We are alive and always welcoming new folks."
Perhaps typical of the group's new participants are John and Karen Sinclair, newcomers to the area in 2015. They said they began participating because they wanted to meet people and learn about the area's trails for additional outings of their own. They said they have enjoyed the many new friends they have made in the area so quickly. Others agreed that the camaraderie among hikers is a big attraction to participating with the group.
Information on the Senior Hikers is available by contacting Jude Kieca, 856-7331.