~ Origins: What's in a Name? ~

"Crooked Canes? Sounds like a bunch of old and feeble walkers." Because we hike on Thursdays, it's natural that most of our members are retired, though others work and have flexible schedules, drawn to our outings because they are interesting.

While we started in 1979 as a walking group, today we are anything but. Our members are active, and many of our outings are challenging.

The following narrative describes our history and where we got out name.

Our history starts in 1979 when Gloria MacMaster of Wilton talked to a number of older people and tried to interest them in a walking program. Eight people came to the first meeting and three of them attended regularly afterwards.

In the fall of 1979 she was asked to go with a group making the rounds of all centers for the aging in Saratoga County. At each meeting she explained her walking program and invited interested people to participate. Of the eight centers, one group was interested. Bernice Burnes -- organized, interested and ready to help -- was the leader, and she joined the walking program. They walked weekly, on Mondays, in Saratoga Spa State Park, rain or shine, year round. The walks were from three to five miles long. The number of men and women were almost equal, which was unusual for people in this age group.

In the winter of 1982 the group of "Monday Walkers" tried skiing. No one had skied, at least not in a good many years. They had a wonderful time, participated in the program with enthusiasm, and gained confidence rapidly.

In March 1984 the group felt they needed new places to walk. Four hiking clubs in the area were invited to send a representative to a meeting of the Monday Walkers at the Shenendehowa Senior Citizens Center. The purpose of the meeting was to explore the possibilities of expanding the walking program of the Monday Walkers. Representatives of hiking clubs included Paul Van Dyke who represented the Adirondack Mountain Club. Paul was a retired school teacher who had led hikes for ADK for 35 years. Paul offered to lead the group on new hikes, but the hikes would be some distance away. Some of the Monday Walkers were not interested in driving long distances. So Thursday was selected as a day to hike and walk as a separate group.

Paul led the group on many interesting hikes. They walked around reservoirs, hiked to old iron and graphite mines and over forest trails to lakes and ponds, and took a two day trip to Adirondack Loj for skiing and snowshoeing. They went to many places "off the beaten path", as Paul referred to them. Paul had the ability and the background to make the hikes interesting. His information was studied and accurate. The group looked forward to the hikes and the information Paul would have about the places they visited.

In April 1985, at the age of 60, Paul died. With great sadness the hikers attended his funeral. The group had a short meeting and decided that they would continue hiking every Thursday and asked one of their members, Chuck Bennett, to become their new leader. Chuck agreed to make up and write new schedules but said there would be a different leader for each hike, a volunteer from among the members.

One of Paul Van Dyke's hobbies had been making walking sticks from saplings that he gathered in the woods. Each member was given and carried one of Paul's crooked canes, so Chuck decided to name the group THE CROOKED CANES and headed each new schedule with that name. The group has been known as The Crooked Canes ever since. After Paul's death, Bill Wetzel of Clifton Park made canes for new members. While most members today use aluminum poles instead of hiking sticks, Paul's spirit is still leading us "off the beaten path" and over the hiking trails of the Northeast.

The Crooked Canes have developed great camaraderie over the years. They have become a close knit group and are concerned with each other's welfare. They include people with diverse interests: in trees, rocks, caves, museums, photography, mines and many other subjects. They enjoy each other's companionship and feel at ease and happy together on the trail.

— Chuck Bennett, Hudson Falls, NY

Crooked Canes hiking group helped at the Crown Point bird-banding station.

Today, with over 250 "members" in the NY Capital Region, the Crooked Canes hike year round, and bike, cross-country ski, and paddle in season.

Our traditions continue to be important: in the active participation of members, in volunteering to lead outings, in welcoming new members, and in the ways our members view the group — more as an extended family than may be found in other groups of outdoorsy folks. The Canes Journal with all its photos uploaded by members themselves reflects this attitude.

A selection of Paul van Dyke's original crooked canes are housed at the Adirondack Experience in Blue Mountain Lake. Read Adirondack Attic: The story of the Crooked Canes Club" — North Country Public Radio