Leading the way through the woods
Written by Vera Stek
Thursday, 24 March 2011 15:15
Story about Toni Stransky ran in today's Current, otherwise seen at shorenewstoday.com, page 7.
GALLOWAY TOWNSHIP – While most people are looking forward to summer after the long, hard winter here in South Jersey, to Toni Stransky of Galloway Township, winter was just a walk in the woods.
“I didn’t mind the winter much at all,” said Stransky, who found that it only interfered a few times with her favorite outdoor activity, hiking. “You can always put on layers and feel comfortable when you’re hiking in the winter,” she said. “It’s the summer I can’t stand because you can’t stay cool.”
Not to mention the chiggers and ticks and pine flies that plague the summer hiker, Stransky said.
That’s why she and other members of the Outdoor Club of South Jersey have been busy getting in as many hikes as they can, as they’ve been doing since September, braving temperatures in the teens and inches deep snow and ice to enjoy the beauty of winter on the trails.
Comprised of all ages and hailing from Monmouth County to Philadelphia and all South Jersey counties, the Outdoor Club hosts hiking, biking, skiing, backpacking and kayaking trips led by experienced leaders on virtually every day of the week throughout the year.
“These aren’t super athletes,” Stransky said. “Just people who love the out of doors and keep active to stay fit. I did lots of backpacking and camping in my 30s when I lived in Arizona, but when I moved home to New Jersey, I didn’t know the area down south.”
Stransky said she heard about the Outdoor Club and joined.
“I felt right at home on the first hiking trip and got a very warm reception and guidance when I took my first kayak trip with the club. This is a great way to learn the trails and the rivers around here.”
Because of her devotion to outdoor activities, Stransky took a part-time job in the health care industry that allowed her to have Wednesdays off so she could participate in and lead weekday hikes.
She’s taken hikers on walks as diverse as the Atlantic City Boardwalk, the trails and roads around Bass River State Park and the horseshoe-shaped trail of the Forsythe Wildlife Refuge.
The refuge, in particular, is a favorite place for her frequent walks.
“Much as I love socializing with other members of the club on hikes, sometimes you just want to walk alone. I love coming home from work and walking out there and watching the sunset,” Stransky said. “It’s just spectacular.”
An animal lover who has several pets, she helps care for a neighbor’s horse and has become a vegetarian because of her concern for animals. The 55-year-old said she’s learned a lot while hiking and kayaking in South Jersey with the Outdoor Club.
“We have members who are experts in botany and history and birds, among other subjects,” she said. “I’ve learned a lot without even trying just by going out on hikes with these people.”
Through the club, she’s also had great adventures, rafting in Colorado and hiking the Grand Canyon rim to rim. She plans to hike the Annapurna Circuit in Nepal this fall with at least one other club member.
“Since my husband is not such an outdoor person, the club is great,” she said. “I can get in all the activity I want, and not have to go alone.
Stransky noted that she also doesn’t have to feel guilty about sitting down in the front of the TV in the evening, because she’s gotten her exercise in during the day.
“And it doesn’t feel like ‘exercise.’ It feels like fun,” she said.
While some people might be intimidated by the word hiking, Stransky said it’s really no different from a walk around the block.
“You really don’t need any special equipment,” she said. “Some of us carry a backpack for our water and snack or sandwich, but others just put a bottle of water in their pocket and go. The beauty of it is that you are off the roads, away from traffic and enjoying nature.”
She said many members are in their 60s, 70s and 80s. And hikes vary in distance to suit all abilities and needs, from 5-mile hikes to the club’s annual members’ only 26.5-mile hike.
Stransky will lead a hike on Saturday, April 9, in Parvin State Park, which will culminate in a picnic at Thundergust Picnic Pavilion. New and potential members may attend for the hike and free food afterward.
For information, see the club’s website at www.ocsj.org contact club President Ton Neigel at (609) 206-3389 or firstname.lastname@example.org
------------------Vera Stek is a member of the Outdoor Club of South Jersey.
She met Stransky while taking a hike that she led.