Retired Men ‘Take a Hike’
Senior LivingHealth & Wellness

Retired Men ‘Take a Hike’

Only thunder, lightning, and below 10-degree weather prevent these dedicated, Jewish senior hikers from hitting the trails to maintain robust health while solving the world’s problems.

After 37 years with the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and now with the AJT, , Jaffe’s focus is lifestyle, art, dining, fashion, and community events with emphasis on Jewish movers and shakers.

(From left) Hikers Al Finfer, Sandy Schwartz, Jerry Blumenthal, George Cohen, Rene Tapia, and Mike Levine.
(From left) Hikers Al Finfer, Sandy Schwartz, Jerry Blumenthal, George Cohen, Rene Tapia, and Mike Levine.

Label them “alta hikers,” not “alta cockers.”

Three decades in the making is a mere blip for this distinguished group of retired professionals who hit the trails, rain or shine, every Monday for a stimulating hike.

According to founding member Shia Elson, it all started when a group of OLLI (Osher Lifelong Learning Institute) participants decided to take a walk after class. This eventually turned into a more formal, planned hike every Monday for the stalwart members of the RMHG, Retired Men’s Hiking Group.

Initially, there were 15-20 participants. As the years advanced and the men aged, some of them separated from the group and became walkers. Currently, in addition to the RMHG, there are several walking groups: The Slow, The Very Slow, and The Very, Very Slow.

Retired pediatrician, Dr. Mike Levine serves as point person for the RMHG, whose group size varies from week to week – as few as four or as many as a dozen participants. The trails are challenging in the moderately difficult class.

Levine explains, “Some hikers have been in the group for as many as 10 years, others have recently joined. We meet every Monday morning and hike in the rain or in weather down to 10 degrees. Only thunder and lightning prevent us from hiking.”

Maintaining a healthy outlook to plow ahead, many group members have had knee or hip replacements, back surgery, or cancer, but keep showing up for treks. One longtime member, George Cohen, is a volunteer with the National Park Service and keeps the members apprised of changes in trails or temporary closures.

Levine stated, “We are fortunate to live in the Atlanta area where there are so many National Recreation Areas nearby. There are five within a 15-minute drive of Sandy Springs, and the group hikes them in a rotation that is easy to remember. GIVES – Gold Branch, Island Ford, Vickery Creek, East Palisades, and Sope Creek. So, if someone misses a week he knows where to meet up with the group by following the acronym.”

The men come together because of a love of the outdoors, their desire for exercise and physical fitness, camaraderie, and an escape from the turmoil in the world. They enjoy the clean air of the woods and the beauty of north Georgia and the Chattahoochee River.

In addition to Cohen and Levine, some outstanding loyal members are Dr. Jerry Blumenthal, Al Finfer, software engineer, Mike Weiser, CPA, and Sandy Schwartz, internist.

The average hike is 3.5 to 4 miles and takes 90 minutes to two hours. Hiking boots, a hiking stick and water are advised. The group welcomes new hikers. Interested? Contact Mike Levine at

The enthusiastic and varied members expressed their motivations:
Mike Levine (89): I love the camaraderie and the beauty of nature. When I wake up in the morning, I am stiff and have aches and pains. These disappear after about a half-mile of hiking and by the end of the hike, I am totally rejuvenated.
George Cohen (83): We benefit from the wisdom of our elders, and we get free medical advice. It’s an opportunity to discuss the world’s problems with experienced people and we just love to walk and talk.
Sandy Schwartz (84): The hike is exhilarating and challenging. The views, being together and the camaraderie of the group, which includes people with physical disabilities, are added joys. The different concerns and conversations make me look forward to every Monday.
Rene Tapia (85): I am in perfect health. I take no medicine. I intend to live another 5 to 10 years. I attribute it all to the exercise. I walk on Wednesday, Friday, and Sunday no matter the weather, and I look forward to every Monday’s hike. There is nothing better to do for my health.
Al Finfer (85): Walking in the woods gives us peace and tranquility. We discuss the world’s problems. I have been discussing the world’s problems for 20 years — obviously we didn’t do a good job since the problems have gotten worse.

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