GLENWOOD SPRINGS (AP) – Back at the trailhead after a 100 Club hike near Crested Butte in July, club members popped six bottles of champagne.
A little party to celebrate the day’s physical achievement is one of the fringe benefits of belonging to the 22-year-old seniors hiking and skiing club.
But this celebration was extra special, as those six bottles of bubbly would suggest.
Hal Sundin, at age 86 and one of the 100 Club’s original members, had just surpassed 6,000 miles of hiking as part of the club’s twice-weekly summertime outings.
“We always end the hikes with a tailgate party in the parking lot,” Sundin said. “People bring snacks and beverages to share, and it’s just a great way for everyone to mingle and socialize after a nice hike.”
It’s that tight-knit camaraderie with a like-aged group of people that has kept the 100 Club active and growing for more than two decades since its founding as a seniors ski club in Glenwood Springs in 1990.
“There is so much support and encouragement from the other people who are hiking with you,” said Tillie Fischer of Glenwood Springs, who after 15 years in the club has hiked more than 1,000 miles.
“I’m not the bravest person out there in the wild, so it’s always good to know there are people up ahead and behind on the trail who are there looking out for me,” Fischer said. “It’s just such a wonderful group of people who you’d like to be friends with all your life.”
The 100 Club has two hikes each week during the summer. Monday hikes usually are a little closer to the club’s home base in Glenwood Springs, covering anywhere from five to 10 miles round-trip. Wednesday hikes involve a more-challenging destination, sometimes including a high mountain peak or even one of Colorado’s 14,000-foot peaks.
Sundin, a longtime political columnist for the Glenwood Springs Post Independent, also is among an elite group of mountaineers who have climbed all 54 of Colorado’s Fourteeners.
That feat was accomplished over the span of several years, he said, going back to when he was still working as an engineer in Chicago and started hiking the high peaks with his late daughter, Norma, during his summer visits to the Rocky Mountains.
“It took a few years before we had enough hikes on the schedule for people to get 200 miles in a summer,” said Sundin, who was among the first to achieve that mark.
Eventually, it became a kind of friendly, internal competition among club members to see who could log the most miles. So they began keeping official track of mileage.
A hike leader is designated before each outing and is responsible for logging the miles of that day’s participants.
“Mile markers are put down on the trail, and when we come back we tell the leader how many miles we went,” Fischer said. “There’s always a little squabbling. ... It’s never come to fisticuffs, but it’s come close.”
Special awards are given every time a club member reaches 1,000, 2,000, 3,000 miles and up.
“We have three or four people who’ve done 3,000,” Sundin said. “And there are some very active hikers who I’m sure will cover 6,000 before they’re done. It just all depends on one’s will and ability.”
The advent of satellite Global Positioning Systems in the last decade or so has also made the logging of miles for club members more accurate.
Sundin told the story of a regular 100 Club member who was shy of the 4,000-mile mark by about 58 miles when he developed a physical disability that kept him from continuing.
“Before GPS, there was a high potential for inaccurate mileage,? Sundin said. “So, we decided to run a GPS on some of the earlier hikes he had done, and we were able to come up with another 60 miles.”
As a result, he got his 4,000-mile plaque at the club’s annual fall dinner party.