Welcome to the
Forest Trails Hiking Club
The Chicago Area's Premier Hiking Club
- Since 1942 -

© 2015 - Forest Trails Hiking Club
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Our History
In November 1942, when he founded what was then known as the "Outdoor Physical Fitness Club," Dr. Andrew A. Gour could not have foreseen that it would still be in existence over 70 years later.  Dr. Gour was sickly and handicapped in infancy and childhood and at the age of 12 secretly started doing exercises in a quest for perfect health.  The results were so gratifying that he made the art of healing his life's work.  An osteopathic physician, Dr. Gour was a pioneer in gymnastic, dietary, and nutritional fields, as well as a lover of the outdoors.  He was an editorial writer on the Chicago Daily News for 5 years and contributed articles on physical training to various publications.  He also engaged in cancer research from the standpoint of nutrition.  In a book entitled "Naturally Stay Young," Dr. Gour stated that "Youthful old age depends upon what one has done with his years of youth." 

On Sunday, Nov. 15, 1942, a group of men and women met at the Physical Fitness Outing Congress, held at the Museum of Science and Industry.  There was much concern about the physical condition of young Americans.  Half of the first 2 million men called by World War 2 draft boards were rejected as unfit.  Many of those who were accepted were just able to respond to the process of becoming physically fit.  They were considered "softies and weaklings, the result of luxurious living and bodily neglect."  The Physical Fitness Division of the National Recreation Department sought to promoting similar groups throughout the country.  They pledged to join or support a movement to combine upper body training with regular hiking.  Out of this movement, the Outdoor Physical Fitness Club was born.
The club members followed a schedule that included hiking to the site of lunch and 20-30 minutes of upper-body exercise (calisthenics and games) to supplement the legwork of walking.  Lunch in cold weather was around a bonfire.  There was a discussion of a current topic of interest, group singing, and games.  Then the group resumed hiking.  Members were asked to bring out their "Treasure Chest Community Songster" on every outing and were encouraged to wear the official club emblem, in the shape  of a maple leaf with white lettering.  The hike leader and a "guide" (who stayed at the rear of the group) carried whistles to signal each other.

After the war members became less concerned with the original goals, and were reluctant to perform calisthenics at lunchtime. The name was changed to "Forest Trails Hiking Club" in January, 1950.

In its early years, the club had elected officers.  Club bulletins were full of news, useful information, editorial comments, and seasonal drawings.  Originally the members could reach the hikes by means of public transportation.  With greater distances and more diverse locations, it became necessary to drive to most hikes.

Over the years, club activities have expanded to include longer hikes, farther from the city, and weekend trips in Illinois and neighboring states.  There are seasonal picnics and celebrations of various holidays.  More adventurous members have pursued mountain climbing and hiking here and in Europe, as well as more exotic locations.

Members have come and gone, but the club has continued to be a source of fellowship and healthful exercise for those who make the effort to participate. We look forward to continuing our tradition well into the future.