A log placed across the Nescopeck Creek like a bridge wobbled, so hikers crossed one at a time to avoid jostling each other into the chilly, waist-deep water.
The first few who crossed held out their walking sticks like handrails so the next hikers didn’t slip.
Helping one another has become second nature for the group, which has been exploring nature together since 1932.
They’re called the Susquehanna Trailers Hiking Club.
Most Sundays, they meet on a trail somewhere in Northeastern Pennsylvania or New Jersey for a hike followed by dinner at a nearby restaurant.
“It’s like a second family,” Wendell Jones of Tunkhannock said, although in Jones’ case the club includes family.
He and his wife, Kathy, met while hiking together with the club seven years ago.
On a recent Sunday, the club walked six miles through the Nescopeck State Park.
They started on a trail called Mountain Loop that went up and down the Nescopeck Mountain, although for a time it seemed to just go up.
Bob Boettger of Dunmore said the trail leveled a few times, fooling him into thinking he was at the top before he actually reached the summit.
Even at the summit, bare trees prevented hikers from seeing far into the distance. Enough of the trees had died that hikers wondered whether to blame gypsy moths.
Although the calendar said Jan. 22, the temperature felt more like April. As the sun streamed down, hikers began tying jackets around their waists. Some contrasted the heat with their previous hike. Two weeks earlier along the Hazleton rail-trail, temperatures fell below 20 and snow blew into their faces, but they kept going.
While climbing the Nescopeck Mountain, they kept a steady pace but paused for rests occasionally.
Typically, the group covers 2 miles every hour.
Most of the hikers carried walking sticks, which helped keep their feet from slipping on descents and provided balance at creek crossings.
One woman got her feet wet on a crossing. She was on her first hike with the Trailers and said she should have worn boots instead of sneakers. She decided not to complete the full hike after Joe Healey offered to guide her back to the parking lot through a shortcut.
Healey might have cut short the day’s hike, but he keeps returning to the trail. A member of the Trailers for years, he hiked the entire Appalachian Trail in sections with his wife, Lorraine.
When Healey isn’t hiking a trail, he maintains one. He volunteers as a volunteer regional manager for the Mid State Trail, which crosses Pennsylvania between Maryland and New York and is part of the Great Eastern Trail — a network the allows hikers to walk between Alabama and New York.
“Hiking saved my life,” Healey said, because he had trouble breathing on a hike and saw a doctor, who found a heart problem.
Now more than 20 years after undergoing bypass surgery, Healey just aced a stress test and his doctor told him to keep doing whatever he was doing.
Hiking is a great way to get exercise, said Rita Skechus of Duryea, who should know.
She has run 10 marathons.
When she stopped distance running, Skechus looked for another way to stay in shape and found the Trailers after taking some hikes on her own 10 years ago.
“I met a lot of great people,” she said. “I’ve met lifetime friends.”
John McFadden of Mayfield had been hiking sections of the Appalachian Trail by himself for the previous few weeks but decided to try hiking with the group for the first time at the Nescopeck after he heard about the Trailers.
In a group, the chances of getting lost are smaller, and there’s always someone to offer help if a hiker sustains an injury.
The groups might make enough noise to scare animals and birds, but when one person sees something, he or she shows it to the other hikers.
At the Nescopeck, someone pointed out a pointing stump that beavers left after gnawing through a tree.
The hike also took the Trailers past a mostly frozen pond where stumps pushed through thin ice.
They walked along hemlock-shaded stretches of the creek and through rows pines so tall and straight that they seemed like pillars planted to mark the trail.