Support And Respect – Detroit Hikers
Detroit Hikers explore national parks and share a special bond on the trail.
Since 2001, Dr. “Ricky” Stoler of Bloomfield Hills has organized and overseen the planning of an outdoor adventure for a group of Metro Detroit men.
With additional assistance from a couple of regulars, the growing group known as Detroit Hikers, looks forward to traveling and hiking in one of America’s national parks each year.
Every detail — from where to meet, when to fly, which hotel to reserve and even which level group to hike with — has been carefully planned.
Each of us, whether traveling solo, with a family member or friend, eagerly awaited details regarding the upcoming trip, confident that even the most challenging hikes would be led by a team of seasoned professional hiking guides.
Previous trips took us to Mount Rainer, the Adirondacks, Mount Saint Helens, Arches and Canyonlands in Utah, and to the towering trees in Sequoia National Park. We have hiked in the rain, sleet, snow and sunshine.
It all began 16 years ago with just a few hikers. The last trip, in November 2017, brought 43 men to the Guadalupe Mountain range and Carlsbad Caverns.
Each of us, with varying degrees of ability, went knowing that this challenge will be an opportunity to step out of our daily comfort zones, while experiencing nature’s magnificence. Whether hiking in silence or telling a joke to relieve some anxiety during a particularly difficult climb, getting to know each other is a very special part of sharing this inspiring adventure.
What makes these journeys most meaningful isn’t always a tale from the trail. Sometimes it is what occurs at the hotel the first night the group comes together. As the sun began to set, we very hungry men were looking forward to dinner. A request was made to make a minyan to say Kaddish to honor the memories of Richard Lezell’s father and of Dr. Marc Dowoskin, a Detroit Hiker, both of whom had passed in the last year.
At that moment, as I looked around the room, I realized we were already connected, joined by our shared values and respect for one another.
On our last hike, as we were “bouldering” through a particularly rough stretch, one of our guides, walking alongside me, remarked how often he saw the Detroit hikers trying to assist, encourage and support each other.
He said, “I was in the U.S. Navy for over 38 years and have led many different types of groups on much less difficult hikes and still heard a lot more complaining.
“But, to this day I have not met a group of men that showed as much respect and caring for each other.”
I thought about what he said and what I had experienced in trips past, and I replied, “We don’t just carry our backpacks, we carry the values and respect we have learned from our community and our faith.”
These bonds of friendships that have formed, whether someone is new to the group or is one of the originals, brings out the true character in each of the 43 Detroit Hikers.
Steven Tapper of Orchard Lake has been on seven trips with the Detroit Hikers.