When we asked people where their Tread Labs insoles had taken them, Ed Stamas reached out to us from the thriving metropolis of Colrain, MA. Here is a picture of Colrain Center.
Ed’s passion is hiking. He retired at 55 and hikes three days week year-round in all weather conditions. Every winter, he and his wife Emma, select a remote location to explore on foot. They spend a month logging miles in places that belong on all our bucket lists: Peru, New Zealand, Galapagos Islands, Patagonia, Greece, Costa Rica, Hawaii, Iceland and the good old Southwest USA.
And, for the last 15 years, Ed has been a member of the Champagne Hikers, a hiking club with 80 active members from Western Massachusetts and southern VT.
The club was started in the late 1980’s by a group of avid skiers who needed an outlet for their energy during warm New England summers. It has endured without a website or social media and is fueled by outdoorphins (chemicals produced by the body during strenuous activity in beautiful locations) and no small amount of Champagne.
On the first club hike, a bottle of champagne was hauled to the summit to celebrate the climb. A tradition was born, and the name of the group was clear – The Champagne Hikers. Hikes have been led by the club every Wednesday for almost 30 years. Rain coats when its wet, wide brimmed hats when it’s sunny. Hiking shoes in summer, snowshoes or crampons in the winter. Whatever the attire or season, champagne is served.
The club is diverse. There are members in their late 80s, still getting out to hike once a week. A younger contingent has added a weekly Monday hike (sans champagne) for those looking for a faster paced, more adventurous experience. Each member of the club is required to plan and lead at least one hike per year. Also, the first “family” hike day was introduced recently to wide acclaim. Kids and grandkids are welcome on these special hikes and they plan to have more in the future.
All hikes are documented with a trip report, map of the hike and a beautiful photo collage, which are all distributed to everyone in the club. These reports bring people together and allow those who are no longer avid in the mountains to feel involved with the club.
New members join as older members retire. Monthly pot-lucks bring the tight-knit group together and members often share other activities together – kayaking, cross country skiing, dancing. For Ed and his wife, the group fills a dual purpose - a great way to stay active and an engaging social connection as well.
A couple of years ago Ed’s podiatrist recommended custom orthotics to slow the formation of a bunion on Ed’s left foot. The propensity for bunions is often passed from one generation to the next. Ed’s brother and Ed’s dad both have bunions. As much as Ed wanted healthy feet, he was not interested in spending $400, especially since he owns a dozen pairs of hiking boots. Just outfitting his favorites would be costly.
Instead, he bought over-the-counter insoles, hoping to achieve the support he needed. He tried microwavable inserts that promised to mold to the bottom of his feet and all manner of of-the-shelf insoles and inserts. None offered the support he needed for the hard miles he was putting on each week.
Ed went back to the podiatrist only to hear that his bunion was getting worse. The over-the-counter insoles he had been using were not slowing his bunion and were not providing the support he needed for his active lifestyle. Getting ready for a month of hiking in Patagonia, he needed something that would fundamentally improve his stride. A friend suggested Tread Labs and at the last minute, he threw a new pair in his bag and flew to South America.
An experienced hiker, Ed knew that starting a long hike with untested footwear was risky, but he also knew that he needed something substantial to reduce the beating his feet were taking. He put the insoles his boots and headed down the trail toward Lago de los Tres, a gorgeous lake in some of the most beautiful terrain on the planet. Sixteen miles later, his feet felt great and he was hooked. He had finally found support robust enough for the wear and tear that he put his feet through.
Ed’s list of favorite hikes is long and always changing but here are 6 of his favorites:
- Na Pali Coast Trail, Kauai, Hawaii – A little scary as it traverses along the top of tall cliffs, but incredibly spectacular.
- Franconia Ridge, New Hampshire – A gem of New England, traversing Mt. Haystack, Mt. Lincoln and Lafayette Peak.
- Kepler Trek, New Zealand - A three-day trek in an alpine section of the south island.
- Routeburn Trek, New Zealand - Another great 3 – 4-day trek in amazing remote alpine mountains of New Zealand’s south island.
- Uncompahgre Peak, Colorado - A little hard to get to the trailhead, but an amazing 360-degree view from this 14,000 footer in the middle of a huge wilderness area.
- Lago De Los Tres, Patagonia - This is a long day hike from El Chalten that goes through some of the most spectacular alpine scenery in the world.
This last year, a member of the Champagne Hiking Club heard a story of a bunker built between 2 boulders on the flank of Mt. Monadnock in Southern NH. It was rumored to have a stout iron door and roof, but few had ever seen it. After much research, the club organized an exploratory hike to find the bunker. The thrill of discovery injected even more energy into the group. If you’re interested to find the bunker, track down a member of the club. For a bottle of the bubbly, they many tell you where it is.
Ed isn’t slowing down anytime soon. Neither are the Champagne Hikers. If you find yourself in Western Massachusetts looking for hiking companions, get yourself a bottle of bubbly and ask around to find the hikers.