Active Outdoors: Outdoor adventures galore; join a club for more fun
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, 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, and its 12 affiliate chapters. For a complete listing go to http://activities.outdoors.org/search/index.cfm/action/main. cfm/action/main. Taken in aggregate, 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 it has 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.
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, I'm spending two days on whitewater with the New Hampshire 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 (a total hoot) and am looking forward to a full weekend of on-river sessions.
I don't intend to become one of those white-water 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. 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, Adirondack Mountain Club, Randolph Mountain Club, Maine Island Trail Association, Northern Forest Canoe Trail, New England Mountain Bike Association, 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. There are also a legion of local cycling and paddling clubs (find them through local bike shops, paddling shops or meetup groups).
Joining a group like the Maine Island Trail Association (MITA) is the only way to get access to its listing of island campsites on the Maine coast. 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!
Joining a club can also save you piles of money on things you were going to do anyway.
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 for AMC members, it's only $125.
A membership to AMC, ADK, RMC and 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.
TALK TO US
If you'd like to leave a comment (or a tip or a question) about this story with the editors, please email us. We also welcome letters to the editor for publication; you can do that by filling out our letters form and submitting it to the newsroom.