Once upon a time, I didn’t hike because I didn’t have friends who hiked.
Now that I’m addicted, I find it odd that I didn’t give more than a fleeting thought to solo exploration. But like so many other things in our lives, absence doesn’t always spur desire; instead it can bury fond memories especially as we get caught up in our adult lives.
By 2008 I was craving time in my beloved wilderness and finding hiking partners became my focus. I joined the one hiking club in my community and while underwhelmed by their calendar of opportunities, my first steps on trail quickly wet my appetite for more, more trails, more friends, more adventure.
The internet was beginning to offer solutions to the age-old challenge of finding friends with similar interests. The day I asked google about “hiking in Redding” was one of both surprise and disappointment. First the surprise, this site called “Meetup” appeared indicating there were many others in Redding who also had an interest in hiking. After completing my profile and joining Meetup, the disappointment came. While indeed there were many others just like me who wanted to hike, a Meetup group had yet to be formed in my community. I was offered the opportunity to start a group, but as a burned out manager, I was looking for a healthy distraction not additional responsibility.
Thankfully my disappointment was short-lived, as within a couple of weeks, I received an email from Meetup inviting me to join a newly formed group, Northern California Outdoor Adventurers (NCOA). Jumping up and down with joy, I quickly joined this group hoping upon hope it would make all my dreams come true.
Far exceeding my expectations, NCOA became what I fondly call my “Field of Dreams.” The founder, Annie, was a spitfire of energy, posting many events per week of all imaginable flavors, and being the perfect mentor and cheerleader to others with ideas and suggestions she quickly recruited them to also “post and host” events on the calendar. She created an environment of inclusiveness, encouraging kindness, warm welcomes, lots of laughter and smiles. We watched in awe as the membership grew to 25, then 50, then 100. Before we knew it we were at 250, 500, 1000+ members, so many in the community looking for a few friends with whom to play.
As we hiked and played together, we found compatible partners for short hikes, hard hikes, snowshoe hikes, backpack trips, and whatever other adventure the heart might desire. Many of those I met that first year are still part of my core group.
If you find yourself looking for a few friends with similar interests, I encourage you to search the internet for options in your community such as those available through Meetup or Facebook; newspaper and mailing list groups are from a bygone era. There really is no need to feel isolated. Change your life and build your own Field of Dreams!
This post was contributed by Trail Ambassador Jan “The Beekeeper” McEwen.