You might call Michelle Werle a counselor — a counselor at an adult camp. You’ll see her just about everywhere at New Life Hiking Spa, checking in guests, helping in the dining hall, lending a hand wherever she’s needed.
Six years ago, the one-time innkeeper began working at New Life after she sold her business. This happy, easy-going woman knows how to keep things running smoothly for guests. But her main role is to guide hikes.
It all starts in the morning, when you meet with Michelle and the other guides to decide which path you’d like to take. One day, she may lead the group on the various country roads in Vermont, where they take in the scenery of beautiful farms and rivers. Another, she may lead a group up into the mountains. Some people call New Life a camp for grown-ups.
In some ways, Michelle’s unofficial “counselor” title carries a deeper meaning. She’s a guide, a guide who will take you to a better place, inside and out. She helps the people who come to New Life find what they are seeking.
Some guests have finished their cancer treatments and want a healthy beginning. Some want to de-stress. Others want to begin their emotional healing after a divorce or some other loss. Others are there for weight loss.
And many, whatever their vision of a better self is, come alone. Not always, for there are plenty of mother-daughter and girlfriend getaways. But most come alone.
As her hikers trek behind her on the hiking path, these two situations — traveling to Vermont alone and the desire to get healthy — entwine, creating the right energy and the perfect environment for making friends.
“People come in with a positive attitude to get healthy,” Michelle said. “So they encourage each other. It’s a great group of people. They get out onto different paths, whether it’s the mountain air or the beautiful roads with rivers, and it really is very healing. It changes your outlook on things.”
Many come for an 11-day stay, and she sees the transformation from the start to the end. They arrive pale, tired, wound up, a little quiet, a little uncertain. And at the end, she will walk up to them. “You look so different,” she’ll exclaim, smiling. Indeed, they do. They smile back, color in their faces, energy exuding from their beings.
And a typical first-time guest will be back the next year to continue the journey.