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Pounding the pavement


Dedicated walking group members exercise their minds, bodies

by: VERN UYETAKE - From left, Al Lewis, Stan Schwabauer, Greg Mitchell, Jim Adams, Gene Davis, Gary Eppelsheimer, Mike Watters and John Borden return to the library from  a walk. They aren’t exactly what you’d call a motley crew. The group jokes, however, otherwise. Every mor ning at 8 a.m., regardless of the weather, a group of about 11 West Linn men walk together.

The group of retired teachers — five retirees from West Linn High School — and practicing consultants in various fields assemble dressed in sneakers, hiking boots, jeans, raincoats and knit hats to pound the pavement.

“The police have probably gotten a few calls about old men walking down the road,” joked John Borden, which causes the group to laugh.

Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays the group walks past frozen car windows, mailboxes, a baseball diamond and the quiet roar that is Bolton Primary School coming to life at the start of the school day.

“We get to be part of the morning routine,” Mike Watters said. “Neighbors wave and ask us how many we have in the ranks.”

Tuesdays and Thursdays the group walks in the serenity of wooded trails and wagging dog tails along the trails of Mary S. Young State Park. The group’s longer routes include the Clackamas River Loop, the Stone Ridge Golf Course loop trail, strolls around the Blue Heron ponds and more.

Stan Schwabauer said the group loosely formed in 2004 when the late Gary Olson was recovering from surgery.

“We didn’t go very far at first,” Schwabauer said. “We only went about one block.”

Eventually, through word of mouth, the size of the group and the distance of the walks grew.

“We’ve had as many as four women and two dogs join the group,” Schwabauer said.

Today, the group of women are talking about forming their own walking group.

“Most (of the) men were born and raised here in West Linn,” said Alan Lewis, the group’s most faithful walker. “They tell us what this place was like when they were kids.”

The two outsiders, so to speak, hail from Ohio and California.

Lewis is the group’s oldest member at age 81 and Gary Eppelsheimer is the group’s youngest member at age 58.

Eppelsheimer jokes that the group “ganged up” on him to join. When asked why so many retired teachers from West Linn High School participate, Eppelsheimer said, “It’s part of the retirement plan.”

About half the walkers are current or former members of the West Linn Lions Club. Members check their newspaper collection site during walks around the Bolton neighborhood.

The group estimates they walk at about a 2-to-2 1/2-mile-per-hour pace.

“We always play to the least able,” Borden said. “Which means we don’t break any records.”

The group chuckles again.

While walking, the group discusses items like the changing of the seasons, the trick to taking a good photograph and the latest news.

The men unconsciously tend to walk in pairs but when discussion heats up the group forms into a tighter, amorphous blob.

“When the subject is more controversial the group slows down a little bit,” Borden said. “We have all different levels of opinion. ... We primarily discuss current events. Some debating goes on, even the exchange of knowledge.”

Occasionally, these discussions spark educational field trips. So far the group has taken tours of the water treatment plant, walked the pipelines and walked the Bolton Reservoir.

Discussion of current issues and politics aside, the members said they walk each morning — in sunshine, pouring rain and even snow — to stay active and healthy.

“Walking gets you moving and it’s absolutely good exercise,” Gene Davis said. “Everybody of a certain age should move.”

Near the end of their second loop around Bolton Primary School a group of three young women in spandex jog past the group.

“We do that on occasion,” Borden said, chuckling. “Wear the spandex, not the jogging.”

The groups laughs and walks on.by: VERN UYETAKE - Regular morning walkers include, front left, Gary Eppelsheimer, John Borden, Stan Schwabauer and Mike Watters. Back, from left, Jim Adams, Al Lewis, Greg Mitchell and Gene Davis.