Outdoors with
Margie Hanrahan

story and photo by Tony Coppi

By profession, Margie Hanrahan is a psychotherapist at the St. Vincent Stress Center in Indianapolis. But being outdoors in a canoe or kayak, white water rafting, hiking, or cross-country skiing is “her own therapy.”

She received a Bachelors degree in psychology from Purdue University in 1975 and graduated with highest distinctions. In 1977 she earned a Masters degree in psychology and was awarded a federal grant for completion of the degree.

All these degrees were achieved after her children were born, two daughters and a son.

Her first professional experience began in 1977 in the Municipal Court Alcoholic Treatment Program in Indianapolis as a full time intern and staff member. She designed and instructed classes in alcohol abuse.

She has spent some time at the Julian Center in Indianapolis for program management, human relations training and counseling, and at the Professional Counseling Centers of Indiana where she managed all aspects of employee assistant programs for numerous organizations.

Presently she is at the St. Vincent Stress Center West providing diagnostic assessments, individual, family, and group therapy and has her own private employee assistance programs for Indianapolis organizations.

In 1989, Margie moved to Woodland Lake in Brown County. “When the dogwoods were in bloom. It seemed so much more like where I wanted to live and what kind of life style I wanted,” she said.

She is a member of the Indianapolis Hiking Club, the Sierra Club, and the Central Indiana Wilderness Club. The latter club has various outdoor activities including bicycling, camping, hiking, trail walks, and snowshoeing.

Her love for the outdoors began when she became a member of the Girl Scouts. She was born in Park Ridge, Illinois, a suburb of Chicago, and her parents were not into outdoor activities. “It was so exciting for me to be going to a Girl Scout camp. It was the big wild outdoors,” she remembered.

Following Girl Scouts she traveled extensively to such places as an Indian reservation in Arizona, on safari in Kenya, white water rafting in West Virginia, across several hiking trails in the Smoky mountains, winter trips in northern Minnesota, all across Indiana’s hiking trails, and all the trails in the Brown County State Park and the Hoosier National Forest.

This past summer she visited the Chelly Canyon, a beautiful ancient canyon on a Navaho Indian reservation in northern Arizona. The trip was by reservation only through the Sierra Club.

A woman named Lupita owned the land. It is all matriarchal—passed down from one woman to another. “We spent the whole time learning about their culture and being taken on wonderful hikes along the high cliffs, many of which you can only access by hand and toe holds that were carved hundreds of years ago, because these are the only way in and out of the canyon. We camped on their lands in tents, which we put up and took down in different places every day,” Margie explained.

“There are pictographs on the cliffs—some that are 1200 years old. It was a remarkable place. The tribe members live in Hogans, which are eight sided typical dwellings of the Navaho Indians, built of earth and well supported by timbers,” she added.

She went on her own on a three-week trip to Kenya, Africa. After getting to Nairobi, the capitol city, traveling was made by slow moving buses, on a train called the Lunatic Express, on the back of trucks, and even by walking. Five days were spent on a safari, each night in a different place pitching their tents under fig trees. Every animal of the plains was seen: tons of elephants, rhinos, hippos, cheetahs, lions—but no leopards.

A two-day trip for whitewater rafting provided a lot of excitement on the Gaulley River in West Virginia. The opening of a dam’s floodgates created the rapid waters. With eight on board the rubber raft and an oarsman, “It was hand on, here we go. The water was wild. We ran into a couple of rocks but managed to stay upright. We did help to rescue some people who were dumped into the river,” she added.

Hanrahan keeps in shape for participating in her outdoor activities by working out at the Baxter YMCA on the southside of Indianapolis in between her commutes from Brown County to the stress center on High School Road—especially during the winter months.

One of her backpacking trips didn’t exactly turn out as planned when she was the leader of an all woman trip in the Hoosier National Forest. Twelve ladies were to take the hike. Eight had previous experiences in walking trails. Four of the women had never carried 30-pound backpacks. Less than a mile into the journey the four newcomers began to lag back—eventually being far behind and out of sight.

Being concerned, Margie told the group to stay put and she went back to look for the others—but with no luck. The afternoon turned into a search hunt. Park rangers joined in. Four-wheel drive vans went down the trails and people were stationed at the trail exits.

Finally the four were found at dusk, camping about one half mile from the predetermined campsite near Patton Cave, on another trail. The four didn’t feel lost because the trail they were on would end up at the same spot that was parallel to the original start.

“There are a lot of places I want to go and see but I always want to be in the wild without all the civilization,” she said.

One place she has never visited is still on her list of sites to see. She hopes one day to explore the Grand Canyon.

This spring, in May, she has made plans to take a hiking trip to England. It is called “hiking coast-to-coast.” The group will alternate by hiking for some miles, driving for some miles—from the southwest region of England to the northeast area.

She enjoys camping in remote areas like when she was in northern Minnesota near the Canadian border. Hearing the wolf serenades—wolves howling at the moon on a moonlit night—is nature’s therapy.