Rhode Island Hiking Club explores state’s natural beauty

Hiking has grown in popularity in recent years. The number of participants in the U.S. hiking has risen from 29.9 million in 2006 to 34.6 million in 2012. Members of the baby boom generation, who are now in their 50s and 60s, are particularly drawn to the sport.

Hikes can range from backcountry hikes, where people spend days camping in the wild, to luxury hikes, where gear is transported by car to the next overnight destination — often a hotel or hostel — while the hiker carries a daypack to day hikes, which are ranked according to difficulty, from one to four.

The Rhode Island Hiking Club focuses on day hikes, with each usually lasting several hours. The club’s website provides a list of each, along with the trail leader and members who have signed up for the trek. Many are featured in Ken Weber’s book, “Weekend Walks in Rhode Island: 40 Trails for Hiking, Birding & Nature Viewing,” which is based on his previous books of Rhode Island hikes going back to the late 1970s. Indeed, completing “the Weber 40” is a goal of many Rhode Island hikers.

Club president Tony Chernasky attributes the club’s growth to the desire by many for something different. “Some people are going through a change in lifestyle and want to get out there again,” he said, while others are looking for a fun way to get exercise. He said members tended to be middle-aged, with a lot of 40- and 50-year-olds on weekend hikes and retired folks active during the week.

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