Summer of Love

January 29, 2010
Jerry and Marcy MonkmanA couple watches the sunset on the summit of Mount Monadnock in Monadnock State Park in Jaffrey, New Hampshire.

Some pretty outrageous ads have appeared in the Trader section of AMC Outdoors. One reads, “Seeking an educated Romeo, 67+, who can still drive, walk, talk”; in another is the even less romantic “If you think this is a dumb way to meet, we’ve got something in common.” And one pitch begins with the enticing self-description “weird, depressed, boring.” Such personal ads have appeared in AMC’s magazine over the years, helping outdoorsy singles meet and, sometimes, form lasting relationships; now and then AMC librarian Becky Fullerton fields requests from couples looking for the ads that brought them together, to use in anniversary cards or just to have as keepsakes.

Classified ads are just one of the many ways AMC has brought people together, however. The stories of several couples with AMC roots were published in “Love on the Rocks,” a feature story in the June 2003 issue of AMC Outdoors. Because there’s no shortage of such stories, here is a sequel describing six more AMC romances.

Wyatt and Stacia Biel
Boston Chapter, married 1 year

Wyatt, 32, is a nurse practitioner for Harvard University. Stacia, 40, develops study abroad programs for universities. Their first child, Noah, was born in September 2009, and he’s already prepped for future adventures with his own AMC onesie.

Most people dream of one day being able to “settle down”: to buy a house, get married, raise a family, and grow old together. While Wyatt and Stacia Biel have done several of those things, neither plans on “settling down” any time soon.

An avid trip leader and chair of the Major Excursions Committee, Stacia met her husband at a leadership training workshop in 2001 in Littleton, MA. Then chair of the Young Members Committee, she mentored Wyatt, who had recently moved east from Wisconsin.

“He was assigned to me,” says Stacia, “And I took my job very seriously.”

Following that training weekend, the two co-led a trip through New Hampshire’s Welch-Dickey Loop but then parted ways. It wasn’t until later, on an AMC trip to Applebrook, that Wyatt and Stacia reconnected.

“I was charmed by the fact that she was the chair of [a committee] and was outgoing,” Wyatt remembers. According to Stacia, her former mentee flirted a lot over the weekend trip. The two exchanged e-mails and, shortly after a Wilderness First Aid course, became not only travel companions but also a couple. Since then, the Biels have co-led four Major Excursions: to Yosemite, Turkey, and twice to the Canadian Rockies.

The pair married in November 2008 during a three-day event at AMC’s Highland Center. Prior to the ceremony, Wyatt and Stacia led family and friends on a rainy hike up Mount Avalon. Then they took their vows in Thayer Hall, surrounded by the mountaineering photos of Bradford Washburn and a host of attendees—many of them friends they’d met through AMC.

“It was kind of bringing things full circle,” says Stacia, “because we had met through the AMC, and having our wedding at an AMC lodge in the mountains was a perfect way to close the circle.”

George & Lynell Stromberg
Boston Chapter, married 6 years

George, 68, and his wife Lynell, 63, live in Acton, MA. They are both retired.

When George and Lynell Stromberg talk about finding a spouse, one word that often comes up is “compatible.”

“It just worked out nicely,” says George. “We’re very compatible.”

The pair became fast friends after meeting on their weekly group bike rides through Boston’s western suburbs, often led by one of the two. They attended many of the same group hikes and other AMC trips, including a Major Excursion to Wyoming’s Wind River Range in 1999. But much to George’s chagrin, their relationship was never anything more than friendly.

“I was dating somebody else, so I wasn’t looking,” Lynell remembers. “[George] was just a great playmate. And then I started to think that this other guy was maybe not a very good playmate.”

Lynell’s significant other at the time didn’t share her love of the outdoors. But over the next few years, George and Lynell continued to enjoy weekend ski and bike trips in Vermont and other AMC excursions, and also planned a handful of trips among friends, always strictly as acquaintances.

Finally, Lynell left a brochure on George’s table one weekend: she had always wanted to go to Africa but never had anyone to go with.

“I think a good piece of it, subconsciously for me was checking out whether he was interested in participating in adventures like that,” Lynell says.

On Monday, George called and asked if she’d like to climb Kilimanjaro. She said yes.

“It’s a tough mountain,” says Lynell. “You spend ten days with somebody and you’re freezing cold in the mornings. It was essentially putting us in that kind of stressful situation.” If you can make it through and still appreciate the other person, she thought, “Then you’re pretty compatible.”

George returned from Africa certain that he had Lynell’s heart. But for Lynell, the thought of leaving her old flame for a new one was a risky decision.

“I needed to make sure I was really done with this other person,” she remembers. “My father called me up and said, ‘For God’s sake, marry [George] before he changes his mind!'” A few months after climbing Kilimanjaro, the couple became engaged. They were married in 2003.

Since that excursion, the trailblazing couple has gone all over the world, from hiking in Patagonia to a recent trip through Egypt. They are currently planning a 2010 trip to Peru.

Herb and Ellen Kingsbury
New Hampshire Chapter, married 20 years

Herb, 75, is a retired professor of mechanical engineering and Ellen, 67, is a retired nursing professor. They live in Kittery Point, ME.

For Herb and Ellen Kingsbury, Echo Lake Camp on Maine’s Mount Desert Island is a place with countless associations. Ellen, a divorced mother of two, brought her kids when she wanted to learn how to hike. Herb’s aunt began visiting Echo Lake in the 1930s. They met some of their best friends there. And it’s also where they met each other.

“At Echo Lake you eat family style, with eight people to a table,” Ellen explains. “And it just so happened one day I sat down for lunch, and there across from me was Herb Kingsbury.”

Herb and Ellen chatted during the meal and continued their discussion on the porch. Though Herb can’t remember what they spoke about, Ellen recalls disagreeing over the definition of a word.

“You don’t remember the discussion then?” asks Ellen as they tell their story.

“Well,” Herb sighs, “it was just something I knew more about than you did.”

Though the two enjoyed each other’s company, they parted ways at the end of the week. “I knew I’d never see him again,” says Ellen, “because he lived in Delaware and I lived in Providence, Rhode Island.”

But when Herb found himself in Boston on business the following weekend, the two met up. So began an eight-year long-distance relationship. Herb left Delaware each Thursday and returned every Monday. They married in 1990, and the following year relocated to Portsmouth, N.H.

The couple is still active in the AMC today, leading hikes and weekend inter-chapter trips as well as bike trips along the Maine coast. Ellen occasionally teaches yoga classes for AMC programs, and Herb is a former trip leader for Major Excursions.

Though Echo Lake serves as a holiday or a summertime destination for many, it stays with Herb and Ellen all year. It’s not just the place where they spent time with their family or their friends, it’s the place that changed their lives.

“Echo Lake Camp is kind of our home,” says Herb.

Joshua and Nicole Piche
Boston Chapter, married 3 years

Joshua, 39, is a principal software engineer, and Nicole, 33, is a research scientist at Pfizer. Their first child, Sierra, was born in 2008.

Nicole Piche didn’t sign up for AMC leadership training with the intention of finding a spouse. Neither did her husband, Joshua, a volunteer trainer. But when the weekend came to an end, the two were surprised to discover that the subject on everyone’s mind was not leadership but which AMCers had caught their attention.

“I thought we were here to become leaders,” says Nicole, “not date!”

Shortly after training, Joshua, then chair of the Young Members Committee, sent a friendly e-mail encouraging Nicole to join some of the committee’s activities. The two exchanged messages a few times, always posing AMC-related questions, until Nicole began to wonder if Joshua’s correspondence expressed interest in AMC or interest in her.

Toward the end of October, to test her hypothesis, Nicole added a postscript at the end of her message, asking Joshua what he would be for Halloween. In her e-mail, she mentioned the party she would be attending and waited to gauge his reaction.

“I was thinking, ‘This is a small question. I will answer it,'” says Joshua. “I, of course, managed to get myself invited.”

“He basically invited himself,” Nicole interjects, giggling.

The couple began dating and Nicole became involved with the Young Members Committee. Two years later, in August 2002, they visited Joshua’s home state of California and hiked up Mount Tamalpais. At the summit, Joshua got down on one knee.

“My one word of advice to all men is make sure to brush the ground with your foot before kneeling,” Joshua warns. “There was this sharp gravel and, of course, what does Nicole do? She starts laughing. So I’m there smiling yet cringing inside because the pain is shooting into my kneecap.”

Nicole, laughing again at the memory, adds: “And you said, ‘You have to say something, I’m down on one knee.’ So then I said yes.”

While the Piches have “abdicated” their AMC responsibilities for the time being in order to focus on family, they continue to enjoy the outdoors whenever possible.

Carl and Jadwiga Rosenthal
New Hampshire Chapter, married 12 years

Carl, 67, is a retired computer systems analyst and his wife Jadwiga, 63, a retired accountant. They live with their two dogs in Conway, NH.

Carl Rosenthal remembers three things about a hike he led through Connecticut’s Westwoods trails 15 years ago. First, he was filling in for a trip leader who had died. Second, the entire group was slowed by one member who was carrying a large cat on her shoulder. And third, he remembers talking to Jadwiga Gocek, the woman who would later become his wife.

They spent the long, slow trek getting to know one another, keeping in step with the lagging hikers. A single mother from Poland, Jadwiga joined AMC at the urging of her teenage son. Carl had signed up in 1984 after a few leisurely hikes with his neighbors, hoping to test his mettle with more strenuous challenges.

“What attracted me to Carl was that he wasn’t bragging about himself,” says Jadwiga. “He was very modest.”

Being shy as she was, Jadwiga mostly listened. But when Carl asked her out for pizza after the hike she said yes, and the conversation began to take a new direction.

“I asked her if she had done any winter hiking,” says Carl. “She said no but she’d like to.”

With Carl’s help, Jadwiga began in December with a traverse of the Presidentials, and the two have shared a love of winter hiking ever since. They now spend most of their winters in the mountains, and have completed lists such as “Northeast 115 4,000 Footers” and “New England’s 100 Highest Peaks.” Jadwiga recently finished all 549 trails in AMC’s White Mountain Guide, 28th edition, and Carl is a Major Excursions trip leader who has led trips to Mexico, the American Southwest, the Sierras, and Alaska.

Though Carl is less interested in conquering his own hiking lists nowadays, he still enjoys helping others complete their challenges. The couple’s wedding day, for example, was meant not only as a ceremony but, at the summit of Cannon Mountain, it also represented Jadwiga’s last 4,000-footer in the White Mountains. Unfortunately, due to a back injury, she was unable to climb to the top and instead took the tram. But there, in the pouring rain, the two were wed before a host of relatives, a fitting location for these lifelong hikers, whose mutual interest has kept them together for 12 years.

“It’s what brought us together,” Carl says, searching for an explanation. “You know, it’s what we do.”

Bill and Lennie Steinmetz
Delaware Valley Chapter, married 21 years

Bill, 63, works as a risk management coordinator for the state hospital system and Lennie, 57, a recipient of AMC’s Distinguished Service Award, is a music teacher in the public school system.

If there’s one thing that baffles Lennie Steinmetz, it’s the old adage that opposites attract.

“I marvel at people who don’t share common interests,” she says. “It would be very easy for us to never see each other.”

And she’s right. With their action-packed schedules, it wouldn’t be unthinkable for Lennie and her husband Bill to miss one another completely if it weren’t for AMC. The Steinmetzes are active members, chairing and vice chairing their local chapter, serving on the board of directors, and assisting in the opening of the Mohican Outdoor Center, among countless other volunteer efforts.

The pair met in 1986 on a Major Excursions trip to the Canadian Rockies, where they found themselves repeatedly thrown together during the two-week adventure. At first it was a simple coincidence but, the Steinmetzes suspect, trip leaders Bill and Jo Russell might have been partially responsible for their connection. As the trip progressed, the two became close.

“In the second week, things started to happen,” laughs Bill.

Lennie adds, “We were starting to spend a little more time together. They had a reunion in the fall and we decided to go.”

Following the reunion, the couple began a two-year long-distance relationship, traveling between Lennie’s home in Buffalo, NY, and Bill’s in Allentown, PA. They arranged to take some of the same AMC trips and planned a few of their own adventures. About 15 months after meeting, the couple became engaged.

“[With] a lot of people in the chapter, it’ll be one spouse who hikes and the other doesn’t,” Lennie explains. “This is the one thing that we do together and it’s a very nice thing to be able to share.”

“I think there are a lot of people in AMC who are hoping to find the right person,” Lennie says. The couple recalls an event where the host pointed out that the Steinmetzes had met through AMC. A woman in front of them leaned over to her guest, unaware that she was sitting directly in front of the aforementioned couple, and whispered in a hushed voice, “See? There’s hope for us!”

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