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'We Did Say Take A Hike Last Night': Hikers Bid Adieu To Last Year03:01
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Married couple Melissa McGrew (left) and Andrew Untch (right) haven't missed the tradition of hiking on New Year's Day since they've been together. (Quincy Walters/WBUR)
Married couple Melissa McGrew (left) and Andrew Untch (right) haven't missed the tradition of hiking on New Year's Day since they've been together. (Quincy Walters/WBUR)

Some people ventured into the new year by venturing into the wilderness Friday. Each year, the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation encourages people to go for a hike on Jan. 1. Married couple Melissa McGrew and Andrew Untch haven't missed the tradition since they've been together. And a pandemic wasn't going to stop them.

The last day of 2020 marked 17 years since they first met by happenstance at a baggage claim at Logan airport.

"Baggage did take extra long that night," McGrew remembered, standing at an entrance of the Blue Hills Reservation in Milton. "We ended up taking the subway."

"We exchanged business cards," Untch chimed in.

"And made our first date. And it's been 17 wonderful years since then," McGrew said. "We still feel like life gave us some wonderful unexpected opportunities around New Year's and we're hoping for more."

For her, she's hoping to get a new job that'll help combat COVID-19. She worked with microscopes in the field of building conservation and she wants to recalibrate her skills this year.

"Hopefully help with — if not this pandemic, the next — in terms of on the cellular level. Helping with tissue diagnoses," McGrew said. "Just trying to pivot."

But before the pivot, a pause with her and husband Untch's ritualistic hike. They said their bond has grown last year during the pandemic and they won't need to be going into any airports this year to find anyone else.

There were quite a few cars and a few families near various entrances, all wearing masks. But I soon found myself alone on a vague trail in a people-less expanse of winter trees.

Denise Monroe (Left), Lisa Van Dore (Center) and Mike Abbott (Right) went hiking in Blue Hills Reservation on to start off 2021. (Quincy Walters/WBUR)
Denise Monroe (Left), Lisa Van Dore (Center) and Mike Abbott (Right) went hiking in Blue Hills Reservation on to start off 2021. (Quincy Walters/WBUR)

Soon, I crossed paths with three avid hikers who told me we were on a backtrail. They said they were skiing Killington Peak in Vermont when the world shut down.

Denise Monroe, of the trio, said usually she's out of town on New Year's day. So the first day of 2020 was a bit of an opportunity to enjoy her own backyard.

"Just enjoy it. We're big hikers here anyway. We come here all the time," she said. "It's the day to start off the year right. This year, we're all here, so we said let's do our first day hike."

Monroe said usually their hiking group has over 10 people. She regularly led hikes through the Blue Hills, but that hasn't happened since March. Close friend Lisa Van Dore said she's glad she made it out of the proverbial woods that were 2020.

"Well, we did say take a hike [to 2020 on New Year's Eve]," Van Dore said. " We wrote 2020 on pieces of paper and threw them into the fireplace. Although we had a little trouble getting it to catch fire. Burn!"

2020, you heard the people. Take a hike.

This segment aired on January 1, 2021.

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Quincy Walters Twitter Reporter
Quincy Walters is a general assignment reporter for WBUR.

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