Still hiking after all these years

At Mishawaka Inn, Poudre Canyon, 2018

Libby James
North Forty News

Photos courtesy of CIALRS

Forty-six years ago, three women in their thirties began a tradition that flourishes to this day. They chose to backpack for one night in the Snowmass area for a brief escape from husbands and kids. The women had such a good time that the following year they did it again, this time inviting friends to go along.

In the years to come, they expanded to 14 and named themselves CIALRS (Crazy Infirmed Ageless Ladies Reconnaissance Sortee). Their one-night getaway became three nights, always during the last weekend in July. Over time they have hiked the Colorado mountains into rugged areas that challenged their endurance, canoed the Boundary Waters in Minnesota, rafted the Black Canyon of the Gunnison, climbed fourteener Mt. Elbert, and travelled with member Marion Coffee when she competed in the Senior Olympics in England.

On top of Mt. Elbert, 1987

The group is anything but exclusive, welcoming new members, taking them into the fold, and initiating them into the level of camaraderie that makes it imperative that they return each year. They seldom stay in touch during the year, but all of them reserve the last weekend in July for their gathering.

In 2018, they gathered in the home of Fort Collins member Evie Hoeven Arterburn, overlooking Terry Lake and spacious enough to accommodate the whole group. While their backpacking days are over, the group’s commitment to each other remains as strong as ever. This year they came from Texas, Montana, Minnesota, Virginia and Florida to join with the core of women from the Snowmass-Carbondale area in Colorado who originated the event. They did local hikes and ended up with a celebratory lunch at Mishawaka in Poudre Canyon.

“This group changed my life,” Sherryl Jackson McIntosh of New Orleans said. “When I told my boss I was taking a two-week vacation in Colorado, he told me that no one in his office takes two weeks off. I told him I had to. I came back so fresh and relaxed that he said I could take two weeks off every year.” McIntosh, who insists people in New Orleans “don’t sweat,” ended up embracing the outdoors and physical activity and eventually buying a vacation home in the Colorado mountains.

Rafting the Black Canyon of the Gunnison, 2001

The women laugh as they recall one of them who brought curlers and canned goods on her first trip, the time one of their tents collapsed in a snowstorm, the frozen margaritas, chicken chalupas and 10 pounds of potatoes they hauled up a mountain groaning under the weight, the canoe that flipped in a thunderstorm in the Boundary Waters, and the surprising difficulty of learning to portage a canoe.

“I can’t explain this group. There’s nobody like us,” Cheri Haynes of Basalt, who joined the group in 1985, said. “We just want to be together.”

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