Hike Leader Extraordinaire
“I was hiking Mount Monadnock with my nieces and nephews and looking for other places to hike when I saw [an announcement for] a hike posted by the Harris Center. That’s when it all began!”
That was in the mid-1990s, and Denny Wheeler has been hiking with the Harris Center ever since. Early on, she became part of an informal hiking group which jokingly dubbed themselves the “Irregulars”: Jane and Ollie Mutch, Brian Bishoff, Bob Boynton, Ben Allison, Bob Bardeen, and Denny. The group usually went on whatever Harris Center weekend hike was scheduled, and if two hikes were scheduled, all the better!
Before long, Denny was asked if she would consider becoming a hike leader for the Harris Center. She took up the challenge, and has been leading outings ever since.
“The first time was nerve wracking. I took a group of people to Seven Falls on the Richmond, Troy, and Swanzey line. I wondered if people would show up. Would they keep up? Complain? Get hurt? Well, it all went fine. And I volunteered for more!”
“If There’s Someplace You Want to Go, GO…”
Denny works at Timken in Keene, hiking every day after work at Beech Hill or Beaver Brook Falls. Now the primary caretaker for her elderly mother, Denny’s weekend hiking time is a bit curtailed, but her love for it remains strong.
“I just like being outside. It’s quiet, and I like the exercise. There’s always something new, something you’ve never seen before. There’s something about the smell of the air, the sun, and the sounds. Everything’s just perfect!”
Denny keeps a journal of of all the places she’s explored over the past 20-odd years. She’s also got an archive of photos from every hike, carefully marked with the names of the hikers in each photo, the date of the hike, and the trail or destination. Through all her years of hiking, Denny has learned to be more confident outdoors.
“If there’s someplace you want to go, GO — whether you have someone to do it with our not. Just do it! You don’t want to miss out on anything.”
Lifelong Friendships, On and Off the Trail
Denny has made many lifelong friendships as a result of hiking. She hiked part of the Appalachian Trail with Jane Mutch, and went on several overseas trips with her hiking buddies, including a bicycling trip in Ireland and hiking trips in the Czech Republic and Wales.
This native New Hampshire woman has seen all kinds of sights in fog, rain, sunshine, and snow on her many hikes through the years. But she feels there’s always something more to see.
“There’s always some place I’ve never been — like the Dark Pond hike I recently did with Harris Center.”
The Harris Center is richer for its relationship with Denny, and for all her thoughtfully planned outings as a Harris Center hike leader. Look for her on the trails!
“I think it’s important to show others how to get to places…. People might forget it’s there if someone doesn’t show them how to get there. There are wonderful paces out there!”
Denny, on a hike to Purgatory Falls in Milford on March 12, 1995. (photo © Denny Wheeler)
Denny shares a smile with a group of hikers on Little Monadnock Mountain. (photo © Denny Wheeler)
Denny on a New Year's Hike in 2001. (photo © Denny Wheeler)
Denny, on one of her regular "Hike Off the Turkey" post-Thanksgiving outings to Mount Caeasar in Swanzey. (photo © Denny Wheeler)
Denny pauses at a quarry near Babbidge Reservor on October 12, 2004. (photo © Denny Wheeler)
Iva Wood and Denny at the caves near Hewes Hill on March 21, 1999. (photo © Denny Wheeler)
For more information on the Harris Center’s 50th anniversary celebrations, please contact Lisa Murray at (603) 525-3394 or by email.