Boots ‘n Beer: Rescuing overworked men one hike at a time 

Posted on Sep 25 2014 | By John Hagarty

Twice a month the hard-charging owner of a Warrenton land-use consulting firm takes to the mountains with a bunch of guys in tow.

“A few hours of walking in the woods are the greatest form of stress relief I know of. It’s therapeutic and the quickest way to get out of your own head and relax,” said Jim Carson, owner of Carson/Ashley. The firm specializes in land planning, civil engineering and land surveying.

Given the moribund economy of the last several years, stress relief is in high demand among working men in Fauquier County. The proof? The five-year-old club has over 100 members. A typical hike will see 10 to 20 men navigating the trails of the Shenandoah National Park and other mountain venues.

But is it all heart pounding, sweat inducing physical labor that eases a worried mind? Not at all. Each hike is followed by a rehydration stop at a local tavern for a burger and beer. The club frequently descends on Griffin Tavern in Flint Hill to enjoy its varied selection of microbrews and tasty menu offerings.

The club’s motto states its charter succinctly: “A drinking club with a hiking problem”. Its whimsical logo depicts a pair of hiking boots, one with a mug handle and foaming beer head, and the other lying on its side in dreamy beer-induced repose.

Nobody’s taking anything serious here; except physical and mental health.

In the beginning
So how did it all start? “Over 15 years ago, my wife Kim and I would go out on mountain hikes. We laughed about how out of shape I was. I don’t think I would have gotten out on my own and started this journey if she wasn’t the type of person who loves being out in the woods,” said Carson.

Carson, 52, further explains that for years he was just, “grinding it out, building my business, paying the bills and tending to all the responsibilities and obligations of life”. He realized he wasn’t taking time out for himself. He thought lots of other men might be in the same trap.

And he was right.

After a few years of the idea incubating in his head, Carson gathered his first 10 club members and headed out to climb Mary’s Rock in the Shenandoah National Park in December 2009. Word soon spread that anyone could join the club. The only criteria? You had to be male.

In the politically correct world of today, a male-only anything tends to bring cries of outrage. But Carson stands firm. “The club allows men the freedom to be men. Guys being guys are not always what the ladies enjoy. But a non-judgmental environment builds esprit de corps and is unifying.” It’s also lots of fun.

“Truth be told, the wives are the best endorser of our club. They see their husbands more relaxed and healthy and they appreciate it,” he explains.

The ladies are welcomed participants at the club’s annual dinner held at a local restaurant or club.

Any “well-oiled” organization needs a set of by-laws to operate by. In keeping with the simple Boots ‘n Beer philosophy, there are only two:

No business can be conducted on an outing. Men can share what they do but no actual work is permitted.

All hikes must end with a post-hydration stop.

That’s it. In fact, no club-wide meetings have been conducted since its creation. Simple is as simple does.

The club conducts two hikes a month; always on a weekday to assure members book time off from work. One hike is dubbed “Pilsner” and is an easy five to seven mile jaunt. The second is called “Stout” and involves higher climbs and longer distances of eight to 12 miles.

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Another key person who has contributed to club’s success is Andreas Keller, a reverse mortgage specialist based in Warrenton. Keller is the group’s official photographer and publishes a glossy, picture-filled yearbook replete with landscape views, trails scenes, and smiling men carrying day packs and hiking poles.

Another key person who has contributed to club’s success is Andreas Keller, a reverse mortgage specialist based in Warrenton. Keller is the group’s official photographer and publishes a glossy, picture-filled yearbook replete with landscape views, trails scenes, and smiling men carrying day packs and hiking poles.

Keller also worked with Bob Moe, owner of Moetec, a Warrenton website design firm and a fellow club member, to fund and build the club’s website and create its Meetup page.

The enthusiastic Keller is a charter member of the club and has been on 55 of the club’s 60 hikes. “We have at our doorstep beautiful mountains, forests, streams and prepared trails. We can connect with nature while working up a good sweat. In the process you can resolve problems and come home tired and happy,” said a smiling Keller.

So it’s decision time guys. Interested in free emotional and physical therapy while having a great time? Oh, and tasting craft beers? Then visit boots ‘n beer.com and sign up today.

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Published in the Fall 2014 edition of in Fauquier magazine.