When Bits Siller moved to Payson six years ago, she was accustomed to an active lifestyle.
She owned 20 acres of land with her husband in Montana. She had chickens, livestock and an old stove that kept her busy chopping wood for fuel.
Seeking a new adventure in her life, she chose the Rim Country, even though she'd never been here before. After spending the first few years in Payson living a "sedentary" lifestyle and still not knowing many people, she opted for a change.
"I've always been very physical and I decided, I can't do this," she said. "I need to get out and meet people."
So, Siller created a singles hiking group in April of last year, hoping that she could make some new friends, as well as getting some exercise. A year and more than 45 hikes later, she can't imagine her life without the Trail Trekkers group she founded.
"I wanted to meet people and I wanted to go hiking," she said. "I decided to start a group myself and make it for singles and I've had a very good response.
"And I never realized how beautiful Arizona was."
Siller decided hikes would occur every Sunday, weather permitting, and explore different areas of the Rim Country. Most of the excursions take place within 30 minutes of Payson, she said.
The inaugural hike took place on April 23, 2006 with only a few members. The group has grown to more than 15, averaging about eight per hike, she said.
"I didn't think it would last this long," Siller said. "It wouldn't have happened if I wouldn't have found these wonderful people. We're all very positive."
The group meets every Sunday around 7:30 a.m. in front of the Movie Gallery video store on Highway 260 in Payson and leaves for the next adventure shortly thereafter. They are generally home by early afternoon.
Siller said the moderately difficult hikes generally consist of about two hours in and two hours out, and that the group usually goes out to lunch afterward.
The trekkers have conquered such locations as Woods Canyon Lake, Fossil Springs and Horton Springs, but has no set hiking schedule and is open to new locations each meeting.
"This group is so positive and so open-minded that pretty much anything I suggest they go along with," she said. "It's a quality that you don't find very often. I'm very comfortable with them.
"I'm more myself now than I have been in so many years."
Siller said her goal is that everyone has fun on Sunday, but some members of the group have different reasons for joining.
One man in his 70s, who was an experienced hiker, came to the group to meet a woman, Siller said.
"When he did, he hasn't come back since," she said with a laugh. "I don't want to lose people. I want to keep everyone."
Although the Trail Trekkers began as a singles' hiking group, it has evolved to more of a social group that hikes, Siller said.
The group has become such good friends that they spend a lot more time together than just Sunday mornings.
They often dance at the Rye Bar and Restaurant, have potluck dinners and go to movies together.
"We are wonderful friends," she said. "We have lots of fun and joking. We've really bonded. It's gone way beyond just hiking.
"Some relationships have come about as well," she added.
Siller said that she hopes to expand the group in the future.
"I would like to incorporate more extracurricular activities, more socializing in the future," she said. "Maybe geocaching or some camping in the summer months and a few more day trips.
"I'd like the group to get large enough to have the group split and host hikes on both Saturdays and Sundays."
The Trekkers are planning an anniversary event, hoping to attract more people to the laid-back, positive group.
Saturday at Rumsey Park from 2 to 5 p.m. the group is hosting a free barbecue at Ramada 1, which will be decorated with balloons for distinction.
On Sunday, they will honor their anniversary with a day-long expedition to Sedona. The group plans to leave at 7:30 a.m. and will hike near Oak Creek Canyon. Siller said singles are welcome for both events.
"I want to invite single adults who are interested in outdoor activities," she said. "I want people to just show up and enjoy themselves. The more, the merrier."
For more information about the Trail Trekkers or the events planned for this weekend, contact Siller at (928) 468-2133 or (928) 970-1221.