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How Hiking Helped Club's Founder Tackle Depression

 Urban Nerd Herd is planning its first Chicago-based hike
Urban Nerd Herd
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CHICAGO — Amanda McCarthy has tackled her depression one hike at a time.

After her son, Danny, was diagnosed with autism in the fall, McCarthy was so depressed she could hardly get off the couch.

"And the only thing I could muster was to get up and take a walk," McCarthy said. "If I could walk, I'd still have expression in the world, and my life would start improving. ... I knew if I could walk a mile, then I would have to walk a mile back."

That mile quickly became five, then 10 and currently hikes of 20 miles plus. McCarthy also in January founded the hiking group Urban Nerd Herd that has several dozen members, including a few from Chicago.

Its next hike is Tuesday at Cowles Bog Trail at the Indiana Dunes, and McCarthy's first venture into Chicago is May 27, when she plans to walk 30 miles back and forth along the Lakefront Trail. She's also coordinating a two-week group hike along the Appalachian Trail in June.

"I have found a lot of peace and quiet around the trees, and I want this to be a spiritual journey for people who are looking for the same thing," said McCarthy, of suburban Oak Lawn. "These hikes are places for people to have open, honest conversations."

McCarthy is a stay-at-home mom to Danny, 5, and her daughter, Megan, 7. With the help of her husband, Matthew, and her hikes, she feels like she's putting the right foot forward every day.

"I knew I needed to move my body," McCarthy said Tuesday, while she was on a 20-mile hike of the Cal-Sag Trail. "Hiking has been a way for me to improve on my goals and do it in a very peaceful way."

For more information on Urban Nerd Herd, click here.