Find Your Trail Buddies

Several times a year, I give local presentations and June was especially busy this year, with three presos for the Pikes Peak Library District. The people who attended were interested in Colorado’s hot springs, waterfalls, and mountains and I was happy to tell them everything I knew on these topics. I also discovered a gap in my knowledge!

I’m good at telling people where to go, how to get there, and what to do when they arrive at Colorado’s mountains, hot springs, and waterfalls, but one question stumps me: How do I find other people in Colorado Springs to hike with?

I typically don’t think about enjoying outdoor recreation with other people because I do it for research, which means going solo. For some odd reason, people don’t want to be perfectly quiet when they hike with me so I can take notes, log waypoints, and take photographs. They don’t want to hurry home from our outings to watch me upload the data off my GPS, create maps, and write chapters. For most people, outdoor recreation isn’t just an opportunity to explore new places and get some fresh air and exercise – or in my case, document just about everything I see – it’s a social event. They want to talk and enjoy each other’s company. Maybe stop for a bite on the way home. This is perfectly understandable and if I ever quit working on guidebooks, I hope to one day partake in some outdoor activities with others, and maybe even socialize. But for now, it’s work, so when people ask me where to find hiking buddies, I have to think about it. And do what I do best – research the subject.

Fortunately, I didn’t have to look far to answer this question. In our area, there are lots of people eager to take on new hiking buddies. The  Pikes Peak Group of the Colorado Mountain Club offers hikes and other adventures for all levels, plus beginners’ and advanced classes year-round. I took CMC courses years ago: land navigation, rock climbing, ice climbing, high-altitude mountaineering, and more. I did a lot of hikes with them too. An annual membership, according to their website, is $75 and if you’re under 30, it’s just $30 for the year. A family membership is $115. They have out-of-state adventures, too, and international travel to places like Italy, Africa, Nepal, and Japan. This is a good place to start for people who need guidance on the trails, because every trip has an experienced leader and the outings are rated by difficulty so you know what you’re getting yourself into.

The Sierra Club Pikes Peak Group offers hikes, social events, environmental walks to pick up trash, and overnight adventures combining hikes, food, and education. More than a hiking group, the Sierra Club is active in climate change solutions and the protection of our lands, water, air, and wildlife, so if these are things you care about too, this may be the club for you. The club also offers statewide, out-of-state, and international adventures, and some of their outings are service trips where you work to help better the natural environment. Membership is $39, but when I logged in to check the price, they were running a $15 special. I couldn’t help myself so I guess now I’m a member of the Sierra Club (again, after letting my membership lapse the past couple of years).

If you’re not ready to join a club, check out all the Colorado Springs Outdoor Adventure Meetup Groups in the area. I’ve tried several of these groups and have never had a bad experience. The cool thing about Meetups are that most of them are free. However, you’re not guaranteed any particular level of expertise when it comes to hike leaders. Some people post their credentials and you should check them out if you’re looking for real guidance. If you just want some folks to hike with, then the leader’s experience is much less important. These groups vary by age groups, interests, and lifestyles, so whether you’re looking for a group specifically for people with kids, or for women who are between the ages of 21 and 35, or for people who want to go on a hike and ask a local doctor questions (I’m not kidding: “Hike with a Doc” – look it up!) there’s a group for you.

If you still can’t find your “people,” check out Facebook. Typing “Hike Colorado Springs” into the search box turned up several pages including Colorado Springs Hiking Group, Hiking with Dogs Colorado Springs, and more. I can’t vouch for these groups because I’ve never tried them, but they sure have a lot of members.

Finally, if you want to set up your own hikes and are looking for people to join you, set up something on Nextdoor. Make it an easy hike that you’re familiar with and cast a wide net, inviting your neighborhood and the surrounding ones. It’s tough to get a new group going, so you may have to try a few times before you get any takers. This is a good way to discover people in your area who like to hike regularly but don’t want to go through the bother of scheduling hikes with an organized group on a regular basis. They may be more open to ad hoc hikes, too, when any of you are available and wanting to get out for a bit.

With so many choices, there is someone out there somewhere who wants to hike with you. Maybe there’s someone out there who wants to hike with me, too. But for now, I’m going to set up my own group: “People Who Hike Alone.” Caution: Members prone to stop for waypoints, notes, and photos at every trailhead, trail junction, hot spring, waterfall, lake, and stream. Membership limited to one hiker. No talking, no socializing, and no annual fee!

This blog first appeared as a column in the July 24, 2019 Gazette Woodmen Edition.

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