Take a hike!

By Posted on Sep 25 2014 | By

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

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.

Boots-n-Beer-Logo-Updated-e1388253792240 (1)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.

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 and sign up today.


Jim Carson: Man on the move 

IMG_7168Jim Carson smiles. A lot. And it’s not the thoughtless smile of a man covering up a lack of interest in the person at hand.

It’s a smile—often a heartfelt laugh—that connects directly to the person he is talking to.  The man has charisma but would be first to disclaim such a trait. It’s his ability “to connect” that has enhanced his professional and personal success.

But for all of his sincerity and interest in others, it belies the heartache he has experienced in life. Within the last several years, Carson lost his six-year-old son, Devin, to leukemia; his business development manager, Les Nichols, to pancreatic cancer; and his planning department manager, Bob Counts, to a massive stroke.

And yet he still smiles. And still seeks to serve. Within a few years of his son’s death he joined Team In Training, a national fundraising organization dedicated to finding a cure for blood cancers. The organization sponsors hikes, marathons and century bike rides that task participants to raise money for cancer cures.

In the last few years, Carson has personally raised $50,390 for the organization.

He is now expanding Boots ‘n Beer to embrace charitable causes. A blood drive has already been held and other charity events will follow, perhaps Habit for Humanity, Rappahannock Rough Ride (helps fund the Fauquier and Rappahannock County free clinics) and more.

“We have a resource of over a 100 men in the club. We can use that resource for good. I would like to see a Boots ‘n Beer chapter in every city in the country. My goal is to keep spreading the word and changing lives,” said Carson.

And there’s no doubt Mr. Can Do will work hard to make it happen.


Clymb and Wyne answers Boots ‘n Beer  

So is it only the guys that have fun roaming the Blue Ridge Mountains? Of course not. A group of Fauquier County ladies got wind of what Boots ‘n Beer had created and launched their own hiking club for gals in January 2014.

It’s a diverse group of women focused on healthy living and camaraderie. The group was inspired by the men’s club but established a bit different model. The ladies hike the second Sunday of the month starting in the morning and conclude with a stop at a local winery or restaurant to rehydrate.

Leslie Keller said, “I recently joined Clymb and Wyne and have gone on the last two hikes, which were beautiful ones along rushing spring waters in the Shenandoah National Park.

“We all enjoyed hiking the trail, chatting with new friends and then wrapping up the hike with a glass of wine and a bite to eat. It was fun, happy and healthy!”

A late spring Facebook post read: “Beautiful Morning for a hike in White Oak; the falls were gorgeous! Shelly, Leslie, Gloria and Marianne enjoyed the day and topped it off with brunch at Griffin Tavern!”

Interested ladies need only visit their Facebook page Clymb and Wyne and post a message to join the club.  



Published in the Fall 2014 edition of inFauquier magazine. 

Categories : HAGARTY TALES