In August 1995, Debbie Marcus and her husband Chet Marcus, both Massachusetts natives, were taking their two children to camp in Rutland, Vermont when they passed through Quechee.
“Wow, isn’t this beautiful?” the Marcus’s had said to each other as they took in the mountainous scenery and the stretches of golf courses—Chet is an avid golfer.
By November 1995, the Marcus’s decided to purchase a condo in Quechee. Since the two still own and run their business, Marcus Financial Advisors, in Gloucester, Massachusetts, they have been splitting their time between Quechee and Gloucester for 19 years. The Marcus’ son, Jonathan, will be taking over the family business so that the pair can retire to Vermont full time in a couple of years.
When I meet with Marcus at her beautiful home in Quechee—she and her husband still own their condo but now rent it out—she seems completely in her element. Her house is nestled in the valley with a magnificent view of the mountains, and she sits peacefully in her chair outside taking it all in. Marcus, a big Grateful Dead fan as she later tells me, is an experienced hiker and adventurer who has been on hundreds of hikes, so my first question for her is easy: How did she become so interested in hiking when she grew up by the ocean in Massachusetts?
“Well, for the Quechee community, there’s golf and tennis, and the social life is well established around those things, but I don’t play golf and I don’t play tennis. And my kids are grown, so I really needed to find something to do that I could be as passionate about. And I have,” she says. “I think in another life I had to have grown up in the mountains.”
Ever since she was a child when her parents took her fishing, boating and clamming, she’s always loved being outdoors, so hiking was naturally alluring to her. Still new to the area, she decided to slowly ease into hiking by parking her car and going for hikes alone along the Appalachian Trail. In 2002 and 2003, she joined the Green Mountain Club (GMC) and the Appalachian Mountain Club (AMC) and really started to find her place and meet other hikers.
“I met people in the GMC and found that there is a real social network … of people who are a variety of ages. That kind of opened things up for me; to hike with other people and enjoy the experience with them. I wasn’t in the woods by myself anymore,” she says.
Since then, Marcus has set numerous goals and met them all. One of her greatest accomplishments was hiking all of New Hampshire’s 48 peaks—mountains that are at least 4,000 feet above sea level—which she completed in five years. Her next goal is to finish hiking all of New England’s 67 mountains with peaks of at least 4,000 feet.
“There are five in the state of Vermont, and I’ll have completed those by the end of the summer,” she says. “The rest are in Maine. That’s next summer’s quest.”
Another goal that she set was to become credentialed as a trip leader. After hiking Mt. Adams in New Hampshire alone years ago and experiencing some unplanned, dangerous weather conditions, she decided to seek out more training to be better prepared. In 2010, she went through the proper steps to become credentialed as a trip leader for AMC NH and is now qualified to lead hiking groups on trips in three seasons: spring, summer and fall. She is also certified in solo and advanced wilderness first aid.
“We guide trip participants on some of the most rigorous terrain with some of the most amazing weather conditions you can have on the East Coast. It’s a lot of fun now that I’ve been doing it for a couple of years,” she says.
In addition to leading hiking groups and going on her own organized backpacking trips—when I met with her, she was preparing to hike the Long Trail—Marcus also finds time to volunteer as a trip leader. She leads hiking trips for kids ranging from ages 3 to 15 and their families, and also leads a beginner’s hike for women.
“It’s just such a pleasure … just to see them soaking everything up about the experience,” she says.
Of the hundreds of hikes Marcus has gone on, she has a hard time choosing a favorite. But she has always enjoyed ridge-walking along the Franconia Ridge in New Hampshire or the gap between Mt. Ellen and Mt. Abraham in Vermont. And Camel’s Hump in Vermont is one of the best hikes you can go on in New England, she says.
For Marcus, the physical activity is satisfying, but it’s the rush she feels when she reaches a mountain’s summit that is really gratifying for her.
“I do love a view,” she says. “There’s this great feeling of accomplishment when you’ve struggled to climb and finally get to the top, and to just look out there, you think ‘This is worth it. This is worth the struggle and the temporary pain.’ It feels great to be up there.”
But one of the greatest joys Marcus has experienced through her hiking adventures has been able to share the exhilaration of a hike with others and be able to connect with friends and other people. She has developed several close friendships locally as a result of her trips. She’s even a part of a hiking partner’s upcoming wedding.
“You find your group of people. That’s how I found out where I fit in here,” she says. “It’s not uncommon for us to turn to each other [on a hike] and say ‘We’re just so lucky to be here.’ That’s the prevailing feeling,” she says.