Local scoutmaster Dan Gorski had his flash of insight about technology and kids when helping 10-year-olds work toward their Cub Scout physical activity patch. Gorski was gobsmacked that the scouts, who spent too much time playing video games, were struggling with pushups and sit-ups.
“We need to get you out,” Gorski determined at the time, in what seemed like the obvious remedy for sedentary, homebound youngsters.
That was back in 2009, the year that Gorski organized his first short hike in Wake County to encourage local scouts to rediscover things like trees and dirt and the moral uplift occasioned by a little soreness.
On Sunday, Gorski walked an easy 3-plus miles in Durant Nature Park, the 100th consecutive monthly hike in what has become a public outing. The hike now attracts scouts and families beyond northern Wake County’s Troop 500, where Gorski is scoutmaster.
A Wake Forest resident and regional sales manager in the auto warranty industry, Gorski was joined Sunday by 78 parents, scouts and others. One family makes an hour trek from Fayetteville to participate regularly.
“To me that’s what it’s all about,” Gorski said bringing up the rear of the group. “If you look at scouting, in the middle is ‘out.’ ”
The events can draw large turnouts keen to explore local nature trails and paved greenways throughout the Triangle, rotating locations each month for variety. Gorski plans the hikes a year in advance and the hikes are always set for the first Sunday of the month at 2 p.m. July’s hike will encircle Lake Lynn on a paved greenway.
Gorski, 54, the event’s grand impresario, estimates he has hiked about 500 miles of the 534 the 100 hikes have covered, his near-perfect attendance record marred only a half-a-dozen times by business trips and back problems. In more than eight years, 32 scouts have passed the 50-mile mark, 10 have hiked more than 100 miles and one has logged 180 miles.
Sunday’s hike crossed another milestone by including the youngest participant to date, 3-year old Michael Stitt of Louisburg. The entire Stitt family turned out, including five kids aged 3 to 11, in their first hike with the monthly group.
Brian Travers, a 17-year old Eagle Scout from Knightdale, was present at the first hike in May 2009 and has since walked about 85 miles, counting Sunday.
Encouraging families to walk together al fresco has produced just one injury, a sprained ankle. Hikers can expect to encounter blue heron, a deer, a thirsty mosquito and the occasional copperhead. One of the hikes, in a January, drew 146 participants, and on another January day just four hikers turned out to trudge on snow-covered trails.
Kris Zeek and his family traveled from Fayetteville on Sunday and are regular participants. Zeek, a 41-year old electronics technician in the U.S. Army, estimates he’s been on 10 of these hikes.
His deployments to Germany and Iraq had given him a different perspective on the benefits of families hiking together.
“There are so few things that people do together as a family,” Zeek said. “They might be at the house, but everyone’s doing their own disparate thing.”