Active Outdoors: Join the club for more fun
Group Hike: Lots of clubs offer group hiking excursions which are a wonderful way to explore new trails and meet new people(Tim Jones/EasternSlopes.com photo)
Maine Island Trail The only way to get access to campsites like this on the Maine Coast is to join the Maine Island Trail Association or join a guided excursion (which is a lot more expensive!). (Tim Jones/EasternSlopes.com photo)
Naturalist Hike: Joining a club lets you learn new things and go places you might not go alone (Tim Jones/EasternSlopes.com photo)
Pool Session: Joining a paddling club or a club with a paddling committee can get you access to pool play and kayak instruction even when itâs too cold to paddle. (Tim Jones/EasternSlopes.com photo)
If I could give you just one piece of advice in hopes that you would get outdoors more often and have more fun this summer (and all year long, for that matter) it would be this: Join a club. Now, I’m not really a social/group person; I don’t think of myself as a “joiner.” But, even so, I can’t begin to number the great times I’ve had outdoors with various clubs.
The granddaddy of them all, here in the Northeast, is the Appalachian Mountain Club (AMC), and its 12 affiliate chapters. For a complete listing, go to activities.outdoors.org/search/index.cfm/action/main. Taken in ggregate, the AMC and affiliates offer literally thousands of opportunities each year to meet up with like-minded folks and have fun outdoors.
One of the things I like most about the AMC is that they have various “committees” within the chapters. These committees focus on different aspects of outdoor fun – hiking, biking, paddling, trail maintenance, etc. If you like to specialize, you can immediately find a group of like-minded folks to join. And if you want to sample a smorgasbord of different outdoor activities, they’re right there for you to try.
Over the years, I have done avalanche training courses, trail maintenance weekends, a Telemark ski clinic, snowshoe adventures, wildflower hikes, an “over 50” hiking weekend, and a number of less-formal hiking and paddling adventures with various AMC groups. Many times, my sweetheart Marilyn has joined me, and she’s always had a wonderful time, too.
Next weekend, for example, I’m spending two days on whitewater with the NH chapter of the AMC in its annual spring paddling school (nhamcpaddlers.org/events_schools/spring_school_2014.php). I’d invite you to join me but the class is full already. I’ve already done the pool session with them (a total hoot) and am really looking forward to a full weekend of on-river sessions. I don’t intend to become one of those whitewater heroes who plunge down waterfalls and run Class V rapids, but I’m hoping this is the class that finally gets me comfortable on whitewater in a kayak. I’d like to get good enough to practice my skills on my own in the Class II sections of the river that flows near my home (love riding the wave trains!) and, I hope, eventually progress to lessons in Class III water.
I don’t want to give the impression that the AMC is the only club in town worth joining. It’s just the biggest and most diverse. But there are many others, some focused on specific places or pastimes, others more diverse. I’ve had dealings in the past with the Green Mountain Club (GMC), the Adirondack Mountain Club (ADK), the Randolph Mountain Club (RMC), Maine Island Trail Association (MITA), Northern Forest Canoe Trail (NFCT), New England Mountain Bike Association (NEMBA), Maine Huts and Trails, and probably others I’ve forgotten. This summer, Marilyn and I are trying a group ride with the Eastern Tandem Rally, a group of tandem bicyclists (how’s that for specialized?). There are also a legion of local cycling and paddling clubs (find them through local bike shops, paddling shops or meetup groups).
I’m also headed to the NEMBAfest (mtbadventureseries.org/mtbadventure/NEMBAfest2014.htm) in June, a collaborative effort of two great groups, NEMBA and the Kingdom Trails Association (kingdomtrails.com), both ripe for the joining.
Joining a group like the Maine Island Trail Association is the only way to get access to its listing of island campsites on the coast of Maine. There’s no other resource like it.
So, what are you waiting for. Pick a club, join it, and start having fun.
Life isn’t a spectator sport. Get out and enjoy!
In addition to more opportunities to get out and do things, joining a club can also save you piles of money on things that you were going to do anyway.
Just a few examples: Suppose you like camping along the Maine coast. You can pay big bucks to stay in coastal private campgrounds, or, for about the price of one night you can join MITA and get access to dozens of free campsites.
That whitewater clinic I’m doing is another example. At $160 for non-members for one evening of pool instruction and two days on the rivers with volunteer instructors, this is a bargain. But if you are an AMC member, it’s only $125.
A membership to AMC, ADK, RMC, GMC and Maine Huts gets you discounts every time you stay at one of the huts, lodges or campsites they run. A membership can pay for itself with just a couple of overnights.
Note, this is just a sampling … a complete list would take several of these weekly columns.
∎ Appalachian Mountain Club (outdoors.org)
∎ AMC’s 12 affiliate chapters (outdoors.org/chapters/index.cfm)
∎ Adirondack Mountain Club (adk.org)
∎ Maine Huts and Trails (mainehuts.org)
∎ Randolph Mountain Club (randolphmountainclub.org)
∎ Green Mountain Club (greenmountainclub.org)
∎ Maine Island Trail Association (mita.org)
∎ Northern Forest Canoe Trail (northernforestcanoetrail.org)
∎ New England Mountain Bike Association (nemba.org)
(Tim Jones can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.)