NEAT's Hiking Club is for North End girls and boys ages 9-16. Adults and Chapperones are also welcome. Club members have hiked extensively in Connecticut and New England and have hiked a good portion of the Mattabesset Trail, the CT Appalachian Trail and have done most of the mountains in CT, Mass, some in New Hampshire and Vermont.
The hiking club is designed to encourage group dynamics, develop self-confidence, the ability to set and reach goals, and to teach outdoor education and hiking to kids who have not had a lot of exposure to the outdoors. Over the last four years, the group has gone on dozens of hikes, with every participant making it to the summit of the mountain and/or reaching the end of each hike successfully.
Each year in August, the group has taken a three day trip to New Hampshire, where we stay in an AMC lodge and hike nearby mountains. In 2005 and 2006, the group climbed Mount Cardigan at the southern tip of the White Mountains. Each trip was a great success, and the approximately 20 kids who hiked all reached the 3155 foot summit.
In 2007, the group took on the challenge of Mt. Washington, the highest mountain east of the Mississippi and an altitude of 6288 feet. This mountain was an incredible challenge and only the most experienced hikers attempted (and reached!) the summit. The younger and less experienced group still took on the challenging Tuckerman's Ravine Trail and hiked to almost 5000 ft., quite an accomplishment for a young group that has only been on a handful of day hikes! Since then, we've traveled to the Deleware Water Gap, staying at the Mohican Lodge and to Noble View in Russell Mass, hiking Mt. Monadnock.
The hikes were all accomplished with an emphasis on safety, respect for the environment, and on mutual support regardless of ability. Adult volunteers paired with smaller groups of various ability levels to provide to encourage one-on-one child and adult interaction. Each hiker has been able to see their ability increase as they achieve longer and more challenging climbs, and have been able to set and reach attainable goals. Many of the participants had never been hiking before and they have been able to view the natural world in a new and more personal way than ever before. As Tyrell, an 11-year old hiker exclaimed upon reaching the summit of Mt. Cardigan, "this looks like heaven."
The Hiking Club has attracted 15 adult volunteers and approximately 30 children ages 9-16 who participate regularly in the hikes.
The Hiking Club has been funded by the Finish Line Foundation, the Middlesex County Substance Abuse Action Council and the Middletown Substance Abuse Prevention Council along with private donations.