Tell us a little bit about yourselves.
Michele: I am 47 years old, married with two boys ages 11 and 15. I have worked for the federal government for 24 years, with 11 years at the Department of Justice and more recently 13 years with the Natural Resources Conservation Service as their Administrative Officer. We live in beautiful Upstate New York where our average snowfall is 120 inches.
Ginger: I am wife to my Eddie, mother of two amazing daughters – Michele and Stephanie, and Mima to four awesome grandchildren. I am also a very thankful 20 year survivor of Ovarian Cancer Stage 3C. Born in Syracuse, New York, I’ve lived in its suburbs for 60 of my 69 years. The other 9 years, Eddie and I lived where Stephanie lives – at the foot of the beautiful Adirondacks.
What are your favorite outdoor sports?
Michele: Hiking and snowshoeing! I also tried kayaking this August and loved it. I hope to do more in the future. I enjoy biking, but hiking legs are not necessarily biking legs. Biking is not my strength. I also spend a lot of time at baseball fields and manage sponsorship for our local Little League.
Ginger: I like walking as it’s fairly safe, healthy for my body, and helps me manage stress. I know, boating isn’t a sport; but, after I retired my husband and I returned to boating on the St. Lawrence River. Every free summer moment was spent there for almost 10 years. Starting my day with a sunrise and walking 3-4 miles around town could only be topped when we took the boat out at dawn.
What’s your favorite outdoor memory?
Michele: There are so many. My youngest son teaching me to kayak in August. Our first trip to the Adirondacks. Hunting for fossilized shark teeth in NJ. Watching my boys snowboard and play sports. Enjoying time on my mom’s boat. Sitting on a beach watching the ocean.
Ginger: I hang on to all the good ones, so I have lots. Hanging on the hook (anchoring) overnight in the 1,000 Islands; seeing the view from the top of Killington for the first time; a 500 mile trip on our boat that included stops in Montreal, Ottawa, and traveling the entire length of the Rideau Canal; family on our boat; an impromptu car trip to Steph’s and Lake Placid on our 31st anniversary to see the Adirondacks foliage at its peak; a women-only cruise with me captaining our boat on a fall day; a ride in a friend’s plane over a 40+ mile stretch of the St. Lawrence River; Steph’s wedding in Jamaica, and watching our grandsons play baseball.
Do you have a “disaster” story?
Michele: I have several “near disaster” stories all involving my youngest son between the ages of 3 and 5. He has always been very coordinated and full of energy. At 3 he could hike several miles and loved the adventure. We were so accustomed to him keeping up with us, that we sometimes overestimated his ability. A few times we realized something wasn’t a good idea, but usually we were already past the point of no return. One winter we snowshoed up Mount Jo in the Lake Placid area. My son had just turned 5. He was so small that the snowshoes kept tripping him, so we took them off. He walked fine on top of the snow, until he stepped a bit too far to the left. One minute he was there, the next he was gone! He literally stepped off the side of the mountain into treetops covered in feet of soft snow; he just sank! He grabbed some tree roots and calmly held on, while my combat veteran husband performed a quick rescue operation. Once he was back on the trail, we continued up the mountain and made it to the top. We still talk about that time Jonah fell off the side of the mountain…
Ginger: The one that comes to mind first happened mid-January of 2019. At my request, Michele took me snowshoeing. We spent two wonderful hours in the sunshine snowshoeing through the woods at Green Lakes. I enjoyed it so much, that I asked her to take Eddie and me out the next day. My husband loved it too! After an hour of snowshoeing, we went home and I ordered new snowshoes and trekking poles for both of us. By the end of the week, I was in agony with muscle spasms and sciatica pain down both legs. Due to a few other life-changing events, it has taken me over a year to build up my distance and pace walking again.
What have you always wanted to try?
Michele: I’ve tried a lot of things and learned they are not for me: waterskiing, skiing, snowboarding, paddle boards, rollerblading. I have a long “nope” list, including jet skis, ATVs, scuba diving, rappelling, and really anything involving heights. In August I kayaked for the first time and fell in love. I hope to kayak more in the future.
Ginger: Generally speaking, I used to be willing to try just about anything at least once. After last year, recognizing and accepting my physical abilities before making an all-in commitment to a new activity is a must! I did join Michele on a couple of her waterfall hikes a few years ago and learned I like destination hiking, and this year she gently re-introduced me to the trails at Green Lakes. I’d love to dust off the new trekking poles in my basement and hike a few easy trails with my husband to determine if it’s something we’d enjoy together.
What are you looking forward to?
Michele: I am looking forward to fall and winter!
Ginger: First and foremost…a safe COVID-19 vaccine that protects the people I love, allows me to be social without masks, and hug anyone I want without fear. Second, while this summer has been great for walking, fall and winter days full of sunshine are pretty awesome!
Will you share why/ how you decided to join together?
Michele: Ginger is my mom. I invited her to join the 365 Challenge with me because she likes to walk for fitness. I participated in the 2019 challenge and found the Facebook group really motivated me to go out and get my miles. I thought she might enjoy and be motivated by that same community.
Ginger: Last year I heard about the group and saw pictures of Michele’s many hiking adventures. I understood the motivation that 365 Mile Challenge could provide. In 2016, I bought a Fitbit and started measuring my time and steps. Nothing motivated me more than seeing 10,000 plus steps on a daily basis. Fast forward to a challenging 2019: my husband was diagnosed with prostate cancer, my brother was hospitalized, and we totaled our automobile after hitting an embankment at 60+ miles an hour. Eddie had a compound fracture of T12. Me? T12 & L1! By the end of 2019, I had no strength or stamina. Being on my feet for more than a couple hours a day was painful. As life got calmer, getting stronger was foremost on my mind. I knew I needed more motivation than the Apple watch Eddie bought me for Christmas. Tracking miles in the 365 Mile Challenge was perfect!
What are the benefits to having an ally join with you?
Michele: For me, the benefits of having my mom join with me include increased accountability and a little friendly competition. She prefers neighborhood miles and I prefer trail miles, however we do walk/hike together sometimes which is always nice. Right now, she is kicking my butt.
Ginger: When I agreed to join, her encouragement and support was essential. Plus, she had paved the way by having already participated and enthusiastically approved of the Challenge. Seeing pictures from her hikes with the resulting miles continues to be an incentive for me to keep moving. Realization that we were competing came only after she expressed a little bit of envy when I surpassed her miles. Our friendly competition is fun; but, when all is said and done we just want to keep each other moving.
Are there any drawbacks?
Ginger: Definitely not!
Are you enjoying the 365 Mile Challenge?
Michele: Yes! Having a goal helps keep me on target, and I really enjoy the online community. I love seeing everyone’s photos and hearing about their adventures, whether it be fantastic hikes or surviving a bike ride in the neighborhood with little kids. Also, in January my husband started hiking with me on Saturday mornings. I was working on the North Country Trail 100 Mile Challenge, which was taking me to “new-to-me” trails in more remote areas. What started out as a concern for my safety turned into special time for us to be together.
Ginger: Absolutely! The support and encouragement has been uplifting, especially in the beginning when I doubted I’d ever get my strength back. My self-confidence has grown! Everyone in the group understands, accepts, and appreciates each other’s goals, accomplishments, as well as hardships. We aren’t competing with each other; we’re sharing…without fear of judgement.
You both are a big source of inspiration for the group. What inspires you?
Michele: I am inspired by big trees, awesome views, and people who overcome adversity. My mom is a big source of inspiration whether it be her career accomplishments, overcoming cancer, or giving so much of herself to help other women through their cancer journeys.
Ginger: The love of my family, my husband, my daughters, witnessing gratitude and charity by others, people who continue to move forward when it would be easier to stop, mountains, oceans, sunrises, sunsets, and faith.
Is there anything that you want us to know about you?
Michele: After the birth of my first son, I was diagnosed with lupus and fibromyalgia. Consequently, sometimes hiking is really hard. I can be slow, and long, steep inclines are not my friend. I sometimes feel like I am wearing 20 pound ankle weights as I climb. I like rolling hills with lots of forest and water features. On the contrary, my husband loves summiting mountains. Steep inclines and rough terrain in the Adirondack High Peaks region are his favorite. Most of the time, we hike in local areas that both hold his interest and push me to challenge myself. A few times a year, we head to ADK to climb things. He usually underestimates the hike or overestimates my ability. Sometimes both. At some point when I am exhausted and on the verge of tears, I decide I hate him. Just for a second or two. Then he coaxes me on, we eventually summit, and I’m glad I am there with him sharing the experience. I vow to never summit another mountain…until next year.
Ginger: It wasn’t until my cancer diagnosis in 2000 that I realized how much sustained stress was affecting my mental and physical health. My diagnosis and treatment added more. Through acceptance I learned to appreciate the many blessings in my life including women who were in treatment with me. In 2003, I attended a gynecologic cancer survivor meeting organized by my oncologist nurse and another survivor. For the last 17 years I’ve facilitated our monthly support meetings. During that time, with the help of Michele and several other survivors, we created awareness, incorporated, and obtained non-profit status.
Anything that you’d like to add?
Michele: I am so grateful to Val for taking over management of the 365 Mile Challenge this year, and for all the participants who post in the Facebook Group!
Ginger: I agree with Michele! I appreciate Val and her team’s efforts to keep us informed and moving. Without Val’s advice and encouragement, I would have never entered and completed my first marathon! Articles are great, there is something for everyone! Our open, honest, and uncomplicated Facebook forum is much appreciated.