Lewiston-Auburn’s new hiking club brings together beginners and enthusiasts

Oct. 16 – WOODSTOCK – It was a brisk October morning when Chip Lurvey of Lewiston set off to the top of the Bald and Speckled mountains in Woodstock.

Less than an hour from Lewiston-Auburn, the popular round-trip hike offers a serene escape into the rolling foothills of western Maine with sweeping views of Maine’s fall foliage and water features at proximity.

Lurvey might have gone it alone without L/A Hiking.

Steve Minott from Windham and Larry Levesque from Norway joined Lurvey that morning, along with his beloved “Mississippi mutt”, Pepper. The three met through Lewiston-based hiking group Lurvey, which started earlier this year.

Through the Facebook group, Lurvey aims to connect local hiking enthusiasts and help newbies get started in the outdoor hobby.

For Lévesque, a 40-year hiking veteran, L/A Hiking and other similar groups provide an opportunity to get out into the woods and meet new people. Minott, a self-proclaimed “beginner,” said he joined the group to learn from experienced hikers.

Walking at their own pace with a cheery Pepper leading, Lévesque, Lurvey and Minott climbed the mountains, stopping to rest and drink water as they pleased.

“Feeling tired already? Or just reinvigorated,” Lurvey shouted happily atop a particularly steep section of Speckled Mountain.

During their four-hour hike, the trio passed a wooded pond popular with fly fishermen, a large toad nestling in the trail, and a paper wasp nest hanging above.

“For me, it’s not about getting to the top, it’s about having fun,” Lurvey said.

FIND A NEW PASSION

For three years, Lurvey’s life centered around his wife’s battle with cancer.

But when she died in February last year, Lurvey realized it was time to start taking care of himself.

He started walking miles a day, mostly along the river in Lewiston. Looking for something more, he bought an old hiking book at Goodwill and headed out into the woods.

That first hike to the top of Caribou Mountain in western Maine near Gilead was a magical experience, he said. He had never hiked alone.

Descending from its 2,800-foot peak, he saw an “unreal” sight: Just off the trail, a black bear stood beside a waterfall.

Lurvey quickly became addicted to hiking. But he had few friends interested in joining him.

Inspired by other Facebook-based hiking groups, he started L/A Hiking in hopes of meeting other locals who like to get outside.

In just six months, the group attracted 500 members. Not all are active hikers, Lurvey said. Some just enjoy seeing the photos shared by members.

When Lurvey or others are looking for companionship while hiking, they post their plans on Facebook. Those who are interested in joining often leave a comment or send a direct message.

While their group that day consisted of all men, Lurvey said L/A Hiking was mostly made up of women.

So far, Lurvey said he’s had mixed success. He made some good friends through the group who became regular hiking companions. But he would like to see other people take a more active role in posting and leading the rides.

Eventually, he hopes to see the group grow to offer several hikes each week and become a resource for beginners.

A STEP

Atop Speckled Mountain, Minott gazed in awe at the bright, rolling western foothills that lay before him.

He took a few pictures of the view, put his camera away, then took it out to take a few more. There weren’t enough photos in the world that could capture the beauty of the moment.

The hike to the top of the 2,100 foot peak was a Minott record. He had never climbed a mountain with such spectacular views, he said.

“I wouldn’t have done it without Chip,” he said. “That’s why I think it’s so cool.”

Now retired and with time off, Minott has joined various Facebook groups in an effort to learn more about hiking. Although he chatted with Lurvey online, it was the first time they had met in person.

“It’s really good to speak with someone who has such experience,” Minott said.

Levesque, Lurvey and Minott settled on top of Speckled Mountain, enjoying the views and enjoying a mid-hike snack.

Lurvey had a granola bar. Minott pulled out a half-liter carton of chardonnay and a container of crackers topped with cream cheese, pepperoni and jalapeno peppers, all purchased from the dollar store.

With “cheers” in celebration of reaching the summit, Lurvey and Minott each enjoyed a small cup of wine.

Lurvey and Levesque don’t always seek company on their hikes.

“There are only a few days when you want to be alone,” Lurvey said.

During his decades of hiking in New England, Levesque said he noticed an increasing number of people on the trails.

“I remember when I had the woods all to myself,” he said. “Now I don’t do that anymore.”

But sometimes hiking with others can be a matter of life and death. He recalls a group hike on the Eyebrow Loop Trail in Grafton Notch several years ago when a person fell more than 100 feet from a ledge.

After another hiker applied a tourniquet, the injured person was airlifted to a nearby hospital for treatment.

“It’s the worst I’ve seen,” he said.

Each member of the group has their own reason for hiking.

Lurvey said the hike helped him get on with his life after his wife died. He hikes so often now that over the course of two weeks of vacation he has hiked in some form on all but two days.

Minott said he was mostly there for the exercise, but enjoyed meeting new people and the adventure.

As for Lévesque, his answer is simple.

“You do it for the mind, the spirit and the body,” he said. “You lose yourself in yourself.”

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