Although Barb has always enjoyed walking, Steve got exercise by playing basketball at UD. But after college, Steve started gaining weight since he wasn’t playing as much as he used to.
“I went out one day and ran to my neighborhood gas station,” Steve said. “When I got back, I had to sit on the steps of our house and rest. I was exhausted.”
Eventually, Steve was running seven days a week, 365 days a year. He ended up running marathons during his decades of running.
The Tipp City couple have two sons and Barb took a break from full-time teaching from 1979 to 1998 to focus on raising the boys. She returned to Northmont to teach until her retirement in 2011 at the age of 60. Steve ended his career at Lexis Nexis as Director of Customer Engagement and retired after 31 years in January 2021.
“I always hoped we would end up walking together after we retired,” Barb said. “Steve was a good mentor to me because sometimes I felt guilty if I only walked 30 minutes. Steve taught me to treat every day as a gift.
In 2018, before Steve officially retired, the couple decided to tour the 18 parks in the Five Rivers Metropark system, starting with Carriage Hill in Huber Heights.
“We started taking photos and documenting our hikes on social media,” Steve said. “I didn’t start until I finished our 10th park – Deeds Point.”
Dubbing it the “Hess Park Tour”, Steve took photos and shared each visit with his network on LinkedIn.
Then the COVID-19 pandemic hit and walking outside was one of the few things people could do to pass the time during lockdown. And most of the parks stayed open, so people had places to go and exercise outside.
“We always tried to walk at least an hour in each park,” Steve said.
The couple discovered that some trails are better than others throughout the system. And some have interesting stories – like Possum Creek – the 11th park on their trip and the site of a now defunct Dayton amusement park – the Argonne Forest. Remnants of the amusement park, including the dance floor, swimming pool, and trams, can still be seen in the park.
The couple hike in all seasons and just completed their 67th hike, branching out to other parks in Ohio and beyond after completing local Metroparks. This included Hocking Hills State Park, Whitewater River Gorge Park in Richmond, Indiana, and most recently Cleveland Metroparks.
“We wanted to honor my parents, so we did our 50th walk to Glen Haven Memorial Gardens where they are buried,” Steve said. “Although not every place we go to is necessarily a park, they all have a special meaning.”
This includes Daniel’s Peace Park in Germantown, named after a young man who died of a drug overdose.
“Daniel’s parents dedicated this park to him,” Barb said. “It’s really beautiful.”
Now, when the couple leaves Ohio for vacations or other reasons, they usually look for parks near their destinations. Their visit to the popular tourist spot in Brown County, Indiana included a hike during which they nearly got lost after losing sight of trail markers.
Steve said that although they bring their phones so they can take pictures, they mostly keep them in their pockets so they can unplug and enjoy nature.
“We have great conversations while we’re hiking,” Steve said. “We love being together outside.”
And they each realize that now that they’re over 70, treating every day as a gift is even more important. They know there are still many more adventures for them out there.
The couple have registered with the national park system and hope to visit as many as possible.
“Mentally, it keeps you fresh,” Steve said. “We don’t watch much television anymore and we just like to discover things. Our favorites so far are the Dayton Metropark system.