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Finally joined a club...
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Neil McGee

Locale: Northeast, East Asia
Finally joined a club... on 01/21/2012 15:53:56 MST Print View

After dismissing the idea only to have it creep back into my head repeatedly, I decided to join the NY/NJ chapter of the Appalachian Mountain Club today. I'm not much of a joiner, so this is a step for me. I'm hoping to use my membership to take part of group hikes and backpacking trips and gain some backcountry experience, maybe offer up my labor for trail conservancy. I've only recently caught the backpacking bug after traveling through China by myself for a year. If any of you have experience with backpacking clubs (the great, the good, the bad, or the awful), I'm curious. How'd that work out for you?

David Thomas
(DavidinKenai) - MLife

Locale: North Woods. Far North.
Re: Finally joined a club... on 01/21/2012 18:00:59 MST Print View

>"How'd that work out for you?"

I met my wife in one 18 years ago. We're still married.

I made a lot of friends I still see. I still do trips with some who live 2000 miles away. Canoeing in Alaska, a wedding on Half Dome, private trip on the Colorado, for instance.

I found I got out A LOT more often when there was a weekly meeting and 2-3 events to choose from each week. One person would have a idea, someone else a car, some of us could loan gear, etc. Many of my co-workers, also 30 years old, considered themselves hikers and BPers, but I was going on many more trips than they did, mostly for being a group that met frequently and had an active calender of events.

Some people like being a semi-guide to places they've been before and that introduces other people to that place. Others want to do a more ambitious trip than they can do on their own or in their own small circle because they need a little more depth or a bigger party size to feel safe enough.

Our trips tended to get too large until we instituted a six-person maximum except for two, large, "gourmet trips" each year.


Brian Lewis
(brianle) - F

Locale: Pacific NW
depends on expectations, and what you bring to the table on 01/22/2012 05:18:05 MST Print View

The quite large outdoor club in my region is more focused on climbers than hikers/backpackers, and has IMO a fairly high overall cost structure, so I've tended to steer clear in the past, but since they also have a big member base I've become more involved in recent years, but in the context of me leading trips. I'm helping to teach a snowshoe class today, in fact.

So for me, a partial solution to the problem of "not many trips I'm interested in", has been to start to create and lead those sorts of trips.

That said, I do find the overhead of a club to be a little high at times --- rules, having to jump through hoops to demonstrate my skills, differing expectations, pace set to lowest common denominator, some built-in inflexible ideas ("you'll die if you don't wear boots ..."), those sorts of thing. Offsetting this is the opportunity of meeting a lot of great and like-minded people.

Joe Geib
(joegeib) - F

Locale: Delaware & Lehigh Valleys
Re: Finally joined a club... on 01/23/2012 13:24:26 MST Print View

I'm a member of the Del Val chapter. I've been for years. I'm even a Hike Leader. Problem is that with my time constraints, I have a hard time getting out on the trips, and when I do, I balk at the time commitment necessary to do their trips (too drawn out).

I usually look at the activity listings and circle a few at a time for my calendar, and see what my schedule looks like during the week heading into it, and if I'm free, I'll contact the leader (Yes, other family and social plans take precedence over AMC group hikes). This rarely comes together for me. Most of the time, I refer to the trip listings for solo trip ideas for myself at a later time.

When I get free time to go, I usually don't know my availability and destination until a few days before the outing, so joining an AMC trip is usually out (trip filled), and leading a trip is out too because of the listing deadlines for the trips (Tuesdays).

While it would be nice to be a bit social when I hike, I tend to shy away from the over-social aspect of the AMC hikes. The paces tend to be a bit unbearably slow (<2mph), and the meeting times are a bit late (10am?). With my narrow windows for outdoor activities and desired pace, sometimes the AMC trips don't cut it for me. I don't want to allocate 6 hours of my Saturday for an 8-mile hike (with possible group meal afterwards :p ). If I want to get out for 8 miles on my own, I give myself 3.5 hours (plus driving), and get done with it early.

I have yet to find a good group of hikers/BPers with similar abilities, interests, and time constraints. I've made friends with a few members, but it remains that - a few.

Despite all this, there is one recurring trip that I absolutely make time for - the Pinnacle Full Moon hikes (PM me for more info). Located about 40 minutes from me, I thoroughly enjoy getting out with my friend (and trip leader) to see the full moon rise over the PA farmlands.

David Thomas
(DavidinKenai) - MLife

Locale: North Woods. Far North.
Re: Finally joined a club... on 01/23/2012 13:39:25 MST Print View

I should maybe clarify that my remarks above were about a college outing club. As such, the pace could be faster and the costs vastly lower ($5/year, passengers split gas and tolls, driver doesn't). And more inpromptu - weekend plans were hatched AND finalized over pizza Wednesday night*. Week-long trips were schemed about 1-2 months in advance.

At least at UC Berkeley, we had undergrads, gradual students, older club members and some folks who just knew college outings were an option despite never attending. Mostly it was 18-25 year olds, with some 25-30. College students like people with cars and gear as long as they're younger than their parents.

Sierra Club (and I suspect AMC) is an older, more well-heeled crowd.

Still, it could be a place to start and then either connect with like-minded folks for non-club trips or start leading trips the way you want them to be. Disclose the distances, speeds, starting times and you'll get people who want to go on that kind of trip.

*Except for the Annual Dart-Board Trip. Meet Friday afternoon, all packed. For anything. Blindfolded, throw a dart at a map of California. Go there. After a trip to Turlock (which then went on to Yosemite), it was decided the first dart to land at over 1000 feet of elevation counted.