With the prevalence of Google Maps and GPS, there is very little chance for people to run off course in today’s world, but according to one Valley couple, all who wander are not lost.
Steve and Jan Hertzfeld are wanderers. Actually, they are wanderers, hikers, strollers, adventurers and explorers. Embodying the phrase “active members of society,” the husband-and-wife team enjoys nothing more than discovering nature and staying physically fit while exploring the myriad of great hiking destinations throughout Arizona. Rain or shine, these Phoenix residents hit the trails to hike Havasupai Falls, scale the Superstitions and meander through the McDowell Sonoran Preserve.
The Hertzfelds are beshert, a match made in REI heaven. With their mutual love of physical activity, exploration and nature, it’s no wonder that for their honeymoon in 1991, Steve and Jan hiked the Grand Canyon rim to rim – in one day.
Each Hertzfeld has been active since a young age. Jan, 59, who currently serves as the fitness coordinator for all of Maricopa County’s employees, reveals she was “born active and wanted to be a gym teacher since the age of four.” Steve, an IT specialist at the Phoenix Veterans Administration and a volunteer registered nurse at a South Phoenix clinic, shares similar feelings on exercise. “I have always been active,” Steve, 65, explains. “I have never been a big gym rat though, choosing to enjoy the outdoors, the adventure, the curiosity and the challenge.”
Jews throughout history have been labeled “wanderers” because, for thousands of years, their history as a people has been defined by expulsion, exile, migration and a search for a homeland. While Steve and Jan have found a home in Phoenix, their wanderings figure prominently in their Jewish identities too, but in a much more positive way.
“Not to be too hokey, but so many of the places we hike really get me emotional,” says Steve. “I really am in awe of how amazing they are and that G-d had to have some say in their creation. And using the literal meaning of tenant, I guess I am a wanderer. I never get enough of seeing new places and especially the people.” Some of the amazing places the couple has explored include Pike’s Peak, Mt. Whitney and the Appalachian Trail in the United States, as well as Tanzania’s Mt. Kilimanjaro, Mexico’s Copper Canyon and Chile’s Torres del Paine.
Steve and Jan are longtime members of Beth Ami Temple in Paradise Valley, having joined the boutique congregation in part because of its mission to serve the spiritual and social needs of active and involved adults.
To that end, the Hertzfelds formed and currently lead the Beth Ami Temple Strollers, the congregation’s social club devoted to actively exploring the outside. Some of the monthly excursions, which are split into groups based on varying levels of activity, have included the White Tank Mountains and Boyce Thompson Arboretum. The off-road excursions can take a more cosmopolitan turn at times, with the group regularly sauntering along the Phoenix First Friday Art Walk or Scottsdale Thursday Art Walk.
While the Strollers welcome people of all ages, the hikes mostly appeal to adults over 50. The word hike might be off-putting to some people, so “strollers” is used in its place. For older adults looking to enjoy the outdoors and important physical activity, which Jan advocates as integral to both physical and mental health, group hiking is one of the most popular local pursuits. Besides the chance to enjoy fresh air and new sights, group hikes also provide good company and a chance to connect with the outdoors and one’s fellow congregation members.
On their own, the exploration enthusiasts annually lead hundreds of hikes ranging from charity walks to extremely vigorous climbs for the Strollers, the Phoenix Jewish Singles Meetup Group, as part of the McDowell Sonoran Preserve, and many more with friends and family. When the day is done and the hiking boots are removed, the Hertzfelds prop up tired feet in well-deserved rest and reflect on their most “wanderful” life.
For more information about the Beth Ami Temple Strollers, visit bethamitemple.org.