Keeping a 100-Year-Old 100 Years Young
Not many people live to be 100-years-old, never mind live to be 100 and lead a group of women through the woods every week.
For Jean Dolan, this is normal. She has been a hiking leader for 30 years, a Girl Scout for 90 years, and a woman living life to the fullest for 100 years.
Every Friday at 9:30 a.m. sharp, a group of women meet in Pruett's parking lot on Signal Mountain with hiking boots, long socks, and jeans. It's a group that started because of one common challenge: dealing with teenage daughters.
"So there we were a group of housewives with teenage daughters, I'll listen to you talk about your daughter, she is impossible. Then the years we kept on walking together, new people joined in and other people dropped out. Finally I was the oldest one in the group just accidentally," said Jean Dolan.
At 100-years-old, Jean Dolan may be the oldest, but she is the fearless leader. For the past 30 years, she has been trekking through the backwoods rain or shine, except for in the sweltering Summer heat.
"We trespass very gently and if someone catches us ... we try to apologize as lady-like as we can," said Dolan.
The group even cleans up the trails they hike as they go. The tradition started when the women had all morning and afternoon free until the kids came home from school, meaning lunch happens in the middle of their adventures at 11:30 a.m. sharp.
"Here's here's my sandwich. It's not peanut butter and jelly, it's cheese today," said Dolan.
Dolan keeps a journal about every Friday hike. Karen Stone, another long-time hiker, pulled out one to show us in the middle of the hike.
"Here's 1983 to 1996," said Karen Stone.
"February 4th she had jury duty so she didn't go with us," said Stone.
It's one of the few times life has gotten in the way, "...those kinds of things interfere" said Dolan.
Another long-standing tradition is bringing a bottle of wine on hikers' birthdays. The group does not break tradition this trip, popping a cork for two Jeans: one turning 100-years-old and another turning 90-years-old. While Dolan knows she will not be hiking long distances forever, it's a weekly tradition that's kept a 100-year-old, 100-years young.