About this book

The idea for this book came from a sleepless night. I got up in the morning with an idea. I phoned Lib Bates in Sandwich, NH, and said: "I think we should write a book about the Over the Hill Hikers." She said something like "good idea"—I don't remember exactly what she said. But I knew, from living in Sandwich nearly 25 years, she had kept all kinds of records, photos and notes about the hiking group. And I knew about her role in getting the hikers started and keeping them going.

--Shirley Elder Lyons

Lib Bates
"Mountain trails feel like home to me," -- Lib Bates
Over The Hill Hikers
Lib Bates

About the Over the Hill Hikers

In the early 1980s, the economy hit one of its periodic dips. Interest rates rose, computers crept in where adding machines had chattered happily, banks struggled, unemployment went up. A first-class postage stamp cost 15 cents, and Iran was giving the U.S. fits. And, as luck would have it, a bunch of people in their 50s and 60s quit working wherever they were--in Washington, Boston, even New York and London--and moved north to a little village named Center Sandwich, population about 1,000 in the middle of New Hampshire.

Sandwich is an unusual town, bypassed by such marvels of modern society as public transportation and major highways, so it should not be surprising that the town would attract and nurture an unusual group. Some came in the late 1970s; some in the early 1980s. But the year that's central to this story is 1981 because that's when the Crookers settled in full time. Most of the newcomers could make some claim to a deep attachment to the town. Some had spent summers in the region, or bought a house when prices were dirt cheap. Many were teachers or professors who could take off most of the summer. Some like Charlie Crooker were preachers who lived in parsonages near their churches, and invested years ago in a vacation home. Many were on Squam Lake, which borders the town. But few knew one another until drawn together by a shared love of the mountains and a newly discovered love of hiking.

There were as many as a dozen couples in this category, maybe more. No one kept count beyond recording who showed up for hikes. And it was these hikes every Tuesday that brought the group together thanks largely to one woman, Elizabeth MacGregor Crooker, and her allies. The group developed a unique bond unmatched before or since. They became the Over the Hill Hikers. They hiked and hiked.

They bagged 4,000-footers (New Hampshire has 48), then added "52 with a view." They celebrated. They planned. They created a feeling of community. They designed a logo and applied it to t-shirts and sweat shirts. They acquired Appalachian Mountain Club patches and designed their own patches for the 100 highest (48 plus 52). They gathered up non-hikers in a Friday walking group. They entered the Sandwich Fair parade singing "Crazy Hikers. Crazy Hikers . . ." and won a prize every year as the only walking group of old folks.

Lib Crooker married widower Frank Bates, a hiker and retired orthopedic surgeon, after Charlie Crooker, her husband of 50 years, died in 1994. A few years later she retired (again), but she kept a watch over the hikers as she entered her 90s and slowed down a bit. And the Over the Hill Hikers march on.

Every Tuesday.

                Over the Hill Hikers