Melissa wrote, “I wish I were local to you! Or could find outdoor people here. I took my kids rock scrambling yesterday and the only comment I got on the photos was ‘well your kids sure are daring’. Sigh. Nobody wants to come with us anymore because they’re afraid their Littles will get hurt.”
Fiona replied, “Ugghh. I get the same thing all the time. I wish I knew more outdoor families too.”
I can totally relate to Melissa & Fiona.
Where do you go to meet outdoor friends? How do you find people to hike and camp and backpack and explore with? How do you find other mothers who dare risk their children’s lives by taking them hiking?
A few years ago I moved to a new town and felt just like Melissa & Fiona. My husband and I both worked from home at the time so we had a very limited social circle. Plus, we live in a really transient college town where people come and go all the time. It’s hard to make good friends with someone who is just going to move away after grad school.
But then something happened, my infant got sick. Really sick. We had to be quarantined in the hospital for several days. It was hard on my husband and our toddler. It was hard on me in the hospital with the baby. I realized that I could count everyone we could call for help in town on one hand. I also realized that I was lonely. I’ve never been much to have a huge group of friends, but I needed a few more women in my life who were at the same season in life.
I thought about the type of woman who I’d want to be friends with. I concluded that what I really wanted was a group of women who I could hike with because I feel that deep connections are made on the trails. I wanted bold, outdoorsy friends.
There was only one thing to do really. I started a hiking group with the few friends that I had, told every Mom that I met at the park, or at story time or on the trails about the group and eventually outdoor families started popping up everywhere! It took some time, not everyone has wanted to hike with us, some have hiked once and never come back. But that’s okay. I have a good solid group of friends who would help me out if I needed and those friendships were formed as we watched our children toddle down the trails.
I think that each one of us can change our communities by saying, “I hike every Tuesday morning, we’ll be at such-and-such trail this week. Would you like to join me?”
Sometimes we all just need a few good friends to hike with and here’s how to find them.
- Volunteer at outdoor events. Bike races, ski races, running races, adventure races always need help. Volunteer a Saturday morning to help at an aid station. I bet you’ll make a new friend as you slice up bananas and you’ll probably get a free t-shirt out of the deal too.
- Volunteer with an outdoor group. Maybe you help out with your local Search & Rescue or ski team. Maybe there’s a trail running or hiking group that is looking for some help with a newsletter or something. See what’s in your community and where you can help.
- Take a class. Maybe it’s an outdoor photography class at the local community college, a wildflower walk at a nearby State Park, or a bicycle maintenance class at REI. Maybe you splurge for an intense NOLS Wilderness First Responder Class. Taking a class on anything related to the outdoors is a good way to meet people.
- Hang out at an outdoor shop, talk to employees, get a feel of the outdoor pulse in the community. Whenever we move (and we moved a lot when we were both in the Army) one of the first things we always did was hit up the local outdoor gear shops. I’m not talking the big brand shops here––I’m talking about the corner shops downtown. The kind of shops where the owner gets down and dirty waxing skis and tuning bikes next to their employees. These are the kind of shops where you can really get to know the outdoor flavor of a town. More often than not people who work at gear shops are “in the know” when it comes to local trails, hiking, skiing or snowshoeing groups, climbing routes and mountain bike rides. Hit up a local shop (when it’s not busy) and you’re one step closer to making true outdoor friends.
- Befriend local outdoor bloggers/writers. Yep, outdoor bloggers and writers want to hike with you. It’s fun to meet people who actually read what we write! It’s even more fun to share an adventure together. Sometimes those bloggers turn into great friends.
- Find a hiking group. Ask around town, snoop around social media. Talk to your local gear shop, or swing by a State Park or Forest Service Visitor’s Center to see if they know anything going on. If there’s a hiking group in your town you’ll probably be able to find it.
- …or start your own! But if there isn’t one that meets your needs in your town then start your own!
Have you ever moved into a new community and not known anyone at all? How do YOU make outdoor friends?