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The Crooked Canes
~  Our History  ~
In 1979 Gloria MacMaster of Wilton NY talked to a number of older people and tried to interest them in a walking program. She suggested walking three times a week in a state park. A total of eight people came to the first meeting and three of them attended regularly afterwards.

In the fall of 1979 she was asked to go with a group making the rounds of all centers for the aging in the country. At each meeting she explained her walking program and invited interested people to participate. Of the eight centers, one group was interested. Bernice Burnes was their leader. She was organized, interested and ready to help.

Soon after meeting with Mrs. Burnes, a walking program started. They walked once a week on Mondays in the Saratoga Springs State Park, rain or shine, year round. the walks were from three to five miles long. The number of men and women were almost equal which was unusual for people in this age group.

In the winter of 1982 the group tried skiing. No one had skied, at least not in a good many years. They had a wonderful time, participated in the program with enthusiasm, and gained confidence rapidly.

In March of 1984 the "Monday Walkers" felt they need new places to walk. Four hiking clubs in the area were invited to send a representative to a meeting of the Monday Walkers at the Shendendehowa Senior Citizens Center. The purpose of the meeting was to explore the possibilities of expanding the walking program of the Monday Walkers. Representatives of several hiking clubs were present including Paul Van Dyke who represented The Adirondack Mountain Club. Paul was a retired school teacher who had led hikes for The Adirondack Mountain Club for thirty five years. Paul offered to lead the group on new hikes but the hikes would be some distance away. Some of the Monday Walkers were not interested in driving long distances. So Thursday was selected as a day to hike and walk as a separate group.

Paul led the group on many interesting hikes. They walked around reservoirs, hiked to old iron and graphite mines and over forest trails to lakes and ponds, and even took a two day trip to the Adirondack Loj for skiing and snow shoeing. They went to many places "OFF THE BEATEN PATH" as Paul referred to them. Paul had the ability and the background to make the hikes interesting. His information was studied and accurate. The group looked forward to the hikes and the information Paul would have about the places they visited.

On Tuesday April 16, 1985, Paul Van Dyke died. With great sadness the hikers attended his funeral the following Thursday. Paul has left us but he is always in the thoughts and hearts of the original members of the group. His spirit is still leading us "Off the Beaten Path" and over the hiking trails of the northeast.

At Paul's funeral the group had a short meeting and decided that they would continue hiking every Thursday and asked one of their members, Chuck Bennett, if he would become their new leader. Chuck agreed to make up and write the new schedules but there would be a different leader for each hike, the leader to be a volunteer from the members.

One of Paul's hobbies was making walking sticks from saplings that he gathered in the woods. Since each member had one of Paul's walking sticks or crooked canes, Chuck decided to name the group THE CROOKED CANES, and headed each new schedule with that name. The group has been known as "The Crooked Canes" ever since. After Paul's death, Bill Wetzel of Clifton Park, NY make the "crooked canes" and new members continued to receive canes.

The Crooked Canes have developed great camaraderie over the years. They have become a close knit group and are concerned with each others welfare. They have people interested in flowers, trees, rocks, caves, museums, photography, mines and many other subjects. They hike every Thursday year round, rain or shine. they are always looking for new interests to improve their hikes. They enjoy each others companionship and feel at ease and happy together on the trail.

Chuck Bennett, Hudson Falls, NY

Link to an article from North Country Public Radio