Easy Striders make hiking a hit in Delaware

There’s nothing like a Sunday-morning stroll through some of the area’s tranquil parks and nature preserves. That was precisely the mindset Pete Gisler had when he began the Delaware Easy Striders hiking group several years ago. Since its start in the fall of 2007, the group has grown to more than 100 members, and with healthy habits turning the corner with the new decade, it’s a great time for more to join the fun.

Coastal Point • Submitted: The Delaware Easy Striders take a Sunday-morning stroll in one of the area’s parks or preserves each week.Coastal Point • Submitted
The Delaware Easy Striders take a Sunday-morning stroll in one of the area’s parks or preserves each week.

“It all goes back to our motto,” said Gisler. “We want everyone to come out and enjoy the ‘fresh air and friendly people.’ It’s a great way to socialize and stay healthy.”

Affiliated with the Delaware Senior Olympics (DSO) Walk Delaware Program, Delaware Easy Striders began as a hiking group and has picked up summer programs that incorporate cycling and tennis, starting in the month of May, as well as other year-round social activities. The hikes range from 3 to 6 miles at an easy pace, most taking place right in Sussex County’s state parks and forest preserves.

“People can start up anytime,” said Gisler, “and they can even use these walks and hikes to participate in the Delaware Senior Olympics Senior Group Challenges.”

The challenges allow participants to compete in a number of athletic activities, which include golf, horseshoes, racquetball and swimming, among others.

“I find the Sunday hikes to be very interesting,” said Ione Phillips, a member of the Delaware Easy Striders. “A lot of us in Delaware have never been to most of the state parks. A lot of people discover areas they never knew about. For example, we went for a walk out at Trap Pond in late October, when the leaves were turning, and had a really nice time.”

Over past few months, Gisler’s mailing list of participants has topped the century mark. The walks are not mandatory, and each hike typically sees 25 to 30 participants, depending on personal schedules and the weather.

“For some of the hikes,” added Phillips, “It might be cold out, especially in January and February, but all you have to do is dress warm. Once you get going, you feel warm, and when you finish, you’re glad you did it.”

The idea for the Easy Striders came about when Gisler came down from his native New Jersey.

“Before I came down to Delaware,” he said, “I was a member of a couple of ski clubs in Jersey. There was always something happening, but I couldn’t find much going on here. I wanted to get a club going on my own. It’s a great way to meet people, and we’ve got a lot of couples who get involved, too.”

The Easy Striders pull participants from areas ranging from Millsboro and Rehoboth Beach down to Bethany and Selbyville.

For more information about joining the Delaware Easy Striders or competing in the Delaware Senior Olympics, contact Pete Gisler at (302) 945-7302 or via e-mail at petegis@mac.com. Call for available times and locations for Sunday hikes, as well, as times are subject to change. Check out http://www.delawareseniorolympics.org/senior_group_challenge.php for a link to the Easy Striders Web site, as well.