A New Book About Group of Zany, Passionate Hikers and Nature Lovers Find Community Along the Mountainous Trails of New Hampshire.

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Building community along the mountainous hiking trails of New Hampshire, this new book chronicles a cohesive group of happy hikers; retirees who exemplify what it means to grow "social capital" in their small town of Sandwich, NH. For well over 16 years, it was Elizabeth MacGregor Bates' example that carried the communal energy and the fun. As Shirley Elder Lyons tells it, this group loves its celebrations and they are still hiking – bagging peaks - each week!

Veteran Political reporter Shirley Elder Lyons, working with Elizabeth MacGregor Bates, has written an engaging new book, Over the Hill Hikers, which tells the tale of a cohesive group that came to love their weekly mountain trail hikes! Lyons, who lives in Portsmouth, is the writer; Bates, who lives in Sandwich, New Hampshire, is the doer. Lib – as she is known far and wide – has climbed around New Hampshire’s White Mountains for 80 years or so. But she didn’t take charge of anyone but members of her own family until she retired to Sandwich. There, she found a group of retirees interested in doing something, maybe hiking.

The illustrated book chronicles the ups and downs (literally) of those retirees, who became a very cohesive bunch of happy hikers under Lib’s instinctive use of casual leadership. Many pictures highlight the mountain trails and celebrations this group enjoyed over the years. Lew Feldstein, former president of the New Hampshire Charitable Foundation, describes the book as a living example of the growth of “social capital” in one small town in the middle of New England.

In Over the Hill Hikers, Journalist Lyons, who covered the U.S. Congress for the Washington Star and New Hampshire politics for the Boston Globe’s NH section, tells the story of how the hiking group grew and grew and grew. Lib was a rare creature who actually enjoyed planning and organizing as much as she enjoyed hiking. She was determined to make hiking fun as well as satisfying for her new recruits.

It worked. The hikers just hiked, every Tuesday, and built a unique community along the way.

“I just started doing these things,” she said at one Over the Hill Hikers get-together, “and just kept on for 16 years since no one threw me out. For the first 12 years we didn’t even have dues or a treasurer.” What she had was a little tin box in her kitchen where she deposited occasional contributions for postage.

Lib was never elected, nor given any official title. One hiker dubbed her the “den mother”, and that seemed to sum up her style of hands-off leadership. One key to her success was in making others think they had thought up some new and popular project.

She loved New Hampshire’s mountains, and had hiked all over the place by the time she went off to Bates College in Lewiston, Maine. Her father, a Boston teacher known as “Red Mac”, led the way as the first hutmaster for the Appalachian Mountain Club. Hiking was in their blood. It was a natural step years later for Lib to retire to Sandwich, take over a disparate bunch of would-be hikers, and lead them into the hills.

Although Lib stepped aside in the late 1990s, the hiking group has continued to function under new leaders and with new members. They have a web site available at: http://www.overthehillhikers.blogspot.com with information about the group. There is a site at http://www.overthehillhikersbook.com for the book.

Acclaimed as “fascinating” and a “great read," Over the Hill Hikers is published by Peter E. Randall Publisher of Portsmouth, New Hampshire, with a web page available at: http://perpublisher.com/per139.html
Contact: Deidre Randall of Peter E. Randall Publisher for images or author interview.
Call: 603-431-5667 / Email: media(at)perpublisher(dot)com

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Deidre Randall
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