My Field of Dreams: Hiking, Backpacking, and Making Friends on Meetup.com

Family memories that shouldn’t be forgotten

Family memories that shouldn’t be forgotten

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.

My first summit, Mount Eddy at 9,037 feet, looking down at Deadfall Lakes

My first summit, Mount Eddy at 9,037 feet, looking down at Deadfall Lakes

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.

The first annual NCOA New Year’s Day snowshoe trek to Chaos Crags on Mt Lassen

The first annual NCOA New Year’s Day snowshoe trek to Chaos Crags on Mt Lassen

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.

The NCOA gang at Castle Crags

The NCOA gang at Castle Crags

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.

In the Trinity Alps with backpacking buddies I met through NCOA

In the Trinity Alps with backpacking buddies I met through NCOA

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. You can follow all of her adventures on her blog at Jan’s Jaunts and Jabberings or hike with her by joining the Northern California Outdoor Adventurers Meetup Group and over 1,000 other Adventurists!

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5 Responses to My Field of Dreams: Hiking, Backpacking, and Making Friends on Meetup.com

  1. Marc March 3, 2014 at 10:32 am #

    I was looking for a hiking group also and joined the Monterey Bay Area Hiking Group in August 2011. I didn’t start hiking with this group until March of 2012. I met the organizers finally was able to go on backpacking trips with them. It was a process but well worth it. This has been the best adventure, going on day hikes and backpacking trips. I have also joined other hiking meetups from a little farther afield and have opportunities for a great many hikes all over the state. As an aside, I was at Feather Falls on a camping trip and met the COOA meetup and they kindly let me hike with them and I ended up joining that group. I am signed up for the Ishi Wilderness trip with them also.

    • BeeKeeper March 6, 2014 at 10:33 am #

      That is great Marc, I’m good friends with the founder of COOA, Beth. She was one of the original members of NCOA and when she moved to Oroville, she created what we call our sister organization, COOA. I’ve hiked Feather Falls and backpacked with COOA on an Ishi trip.

      Gotta love this era of the internet when we can find new communities that fit our lifestyles.

  2. Theresa Irby March 7, 2014 at 9:35 pm #

    Very lovely story :)

  3. Lance Deegan March 9, 2014 at 1:54 am #

    That’s whet not wet (your appetite).

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