A Match Made in Heaven: Walt and Jane Daniels

Walt and Jane Daniels in CanyonLands NP on their way to an American Hiking Society Board Meeting at Grand Canyon.

In 1968 when Jane took a job as reference librarian at the Thomas J. Watson Research Center, little did she realize that joining the Tuesday Night Hiking Club would change her life. She found she really liked it and, in the process, met her husband.

“I joke that I took out the librarian but not the books,” Walt said with a chuckle.

They’ve been together on the same trail ever since, having celebrated their 51st anniversary in April of this year. Along the way, Walt and Jane have shared their love of hiking with an entire community and several generations of avid hikers, including their two daughters. Again, a smile and chuckle came across both their faces as they added, “When we started hiking, there weren’t a lot of women, and so by having daughters we always say that we increased the percentage of women hikers.” It’s clear, hiking has been a secret to Walt and Jane’s happy marriage. But perhaps what is most notable is the way they have used their passion to make a positive impact on their community.

“We started volunteering in 1979 when I felt we needed to pay back because we loved to hike. Our first efforts were picking up litter as part of the NY-NJ Trail Conference Litter Day. That volunteer role has morphed into a lot of things since then,” Jane said. 

For more than four decades, both Walt and Jane have volunteered from the shovel to the board room. They have built trails, supervised Trail Conference volunteers in the Hudson Valley and in their hometown of Yorktown leading numerous local Eagle Scout projects, and have written three editions of a guide to hiking in Westchester County. 

“Walt and I work as a team building on our individual strengths. He is into land preservation and advocacy. I am more into governance and involving others,” Jane said.

With a passion for youth and a generous spirit, Jane and Walt have also been active with the American Hiking Society. In 2015, Jane joined the AHS Board of Directors, now continuing her work as part of the governance committee. Thanks to their philanthropic gifts, they have supported the NextGen Trail Leaders Program. Flash forward to this past year, as the COVID-19 pandemic swept the nation, with very few positive outcomes — one, though, was a large resurgence in the sport of hiking. In fact, Westchester County in New York was one of the first outbreaks in the United States for COVID-19 outbreaks. Walt and Jane reflected that hiking became popular because of the safety it provided outside one’s home.

“At the height of Covid 19 restrictions, we saw that the hiking trails were well used, what we would call a ‘good problem.’ Even after the restrictions were lifted, people have continued to hike, having discovered that they like it.”

Walt and Jane are enthusiastic about hiking, the benefits it has on society, and the role the American Hiking Society can play in fostering growth in the future. It is evident that this dynamic duo will continue to impress their passion on generations to come, with no real signs of stopping. 

Two people stand on the side of a trail in front of desert hills in the Grand Canyon.
Jane and Walt Daniels in Zion NP traveling to the Grand Canyon.