Editor’s note: This story originally aired on April 10, 2015
On Easter Sunday, six hikers tumble out of cars and gather at the East Trailhead of Turtle Rock, east of Laramie. Chuck Adams, the hike’s organizer, gathers them in a circle.
“This is the fourth High Society hike that’s been in the works,” he explains. “The other three have occurred in Oregon, so this is the first in Wyoming so congratulations. You should feel special.”
They are special. These aren’t ordinary looking hikers. Instead, they are wearing dresses, knickers, vests, suit jackets. They’ve accessorized with rope, vintage binocular cases, bow ties, felt hats, kerchiefs, leather sheathed knives, looking like characters out of a Jules Verne novel or a Tintin comic book.
“In my mind there’s several narratives we can go through like, Jeff the sinister evangelical preacher from the twenties like weans me away from the bottle,” remarks Ryan Oberhelman, one of the hikers.
Well-dressed playfulness in nature – that’s the whole point of the High Society Hiking club. Chuck Adams is the club’s founder and got the idea from a hike he did in Italy. He says after seeing women on the trails there in heels and dresses, it got him thinking.
“Well, maybe it’s a way of respecting nature. We dress up. We’re going into the cathedral of the forest and why are we wearing gym shorts and you know, some Nike shoes?” asks Adams.
Thus, the high society hiking club was born. There are some guidelines: no synthetic materials, no smart phones, not even digital cameras. If you want to take pictures you better have some good old fashioned film on hand.
Their gear resembles modern equipment with some slight modifications. They have water, it’s just in glass bottles with corks. They bring exercise and meditation equipment, like Chinese medicine balls. And of course there are plenty of snacks for a picnic.
“I brought two bars of chocolate, I baked some cookies, macadamia nut cookies, I have coffee spiked with almond liqueur,” says Adams.
After all, this is a classy event and libations are always welcome.
They spend almost 3 hours circumnavigating Turtle Rock, a hike that usually takes one hour. There’s no rush, so they stop several times to climb on rocks, explore beaver dams, and contemplate nature, before squelching back onto the trail’s mud.
The High Society Hiking club may have some rules, but it values one thing above all others.
“The only other thing I ask is just uphold the ideals of nature, however you interpret that,” says Adams.
Especially if that interpretation includes looking fabulous.