Georgia Outings Leader Honored for Leading 100th Hike
Some 80 people gathered recently at Atlanta's Stone Mountain Park to celebrate Arthur Ratliff's 100th hike as a Sierra Club Outings leader. Ratliff, pictured above in brown hat behind sign, has introduced hundreds of people to wild places all over Georgia and parts of North Carolina since he began leading Club outings in 1994.
Following a commemorative ceremony at the trailhead, attended by chapter leaders, first-time hikers, old-timers, and members of the Black Newcomers Network and the New Birth Missionary Baptist Church, Ratliff led 15 hikers on a "centennial" 5-mile trek around the granite monolith of Stone Mountain.
A State Farm Insurance agent by trade, Ratliff intentionally paces many of his hikes gently in an effort to get beginners to choose his outings for their first experience in the wild. "I really enjoy taking people out for the first time," he told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution on the occasion of his 100th outing. "I want them to enjoy hiking, and I try to make it a good experience for them."
Still, you never know what Mother Nature will throw at you—one reason potential leaders must undergo extensive training before being sanctioned as Sierra Club Outings leaders. Ratliff recalls leading a hike in the Raven Cliffs Wilderness Area in north Georgia attended by several Puerto Rican children. "It started snowing and icing up," he remembers. "The children thought it was real cool; they were thrilled because they'd never seen snow and ice before. But we adults knew we had to get out of there fast."
His advice: "Get outdoors in 2008. Georgia is a beautiful state; you'd be amazed what's beyond the freeways.