Michele, Damien, Jeremy, James, Jen, Tim, Merle, Cristina, Debbie and Susanne stand tall, Brian and Kurt frame the task at hand and Randy handles the camera as the Circle prepares to tackle Yosemite's butt-kicking Four-Mile Trail on May 18.
In December 2011, I was sitting in a three-day, 13-hours-a-day Landmark Education self-improvement seminar in San Francisco, and all I could think about was escaping through one of the hermetically sealed windows and making a dash for Nob Hill, the only thing resembling a steep incline in the area.
It was during the dinner break during the final day of the seminar that I conspired with two of the people with whom I'd made a connection during our three days of captivity to invent a means by which to keep in touch (the three of us having rejected Landmark's invention for keeping in touch, which was to sign up for more Landmark course).
Thus was born The Circle of Trust & Beer Hiking Club.
Our first hike was in Feb. 2012. We became a Meetup group in Sept. 2012. The Circle quickly shed its Landmark roots and evolved into what we think is anextraordinary confluence of hills, hops and humans (like you) who find their bliss above sea level -- and then gladly sacrifice those burned calories to the beer gods.
In February 2013, we expanded our circumference to include the newest wedge in our hiking family:The Semi-Circle of Trust & Beer-- for those who like their hikes higher, longer and harder. The Semi-Circle has but one prerequisite: No Rookies. In other words, your first hike with our group can't be a Semi-Circle hike. You have to be IN The Circle before you can penetrate the velvet rope of the Semi-Circle.
Some more worthless stuff you might like to know about The Circle of Trust & Beer Hiking Club:
Starting Time As a rule, hikes start at Noon -- but may be 30 or 60 minutes earlier during the darkest months of Daylight Standard Time. Age You must be 21 (the beer thing). But even if you're not imbibing, it's adults only. And no drinking like a minor -- shitty beers from Milwaukee, St. Louis and Detroit are verboten.
Your Status On your profile, the line directly underneath your name indicates the number of Circle of Trust & Beer (and Semi-Circle) hikes you've conquered. If none, you're still a "Rookie." You should really do something about that. When you've completed 10 hikes, you're considered a "Veteran" ... and will be accorded special privileges within The Circle. (Criterion for "Veteran" status was upgraded from 5 to 10 hikes on June 1, 2014). .
33: Our Number There are plenty of hiking Meetup groups that will pile as many people as possible onto a trail (and charge them for the pleasure). But we have no desire to become the Disneyland of hiking clubs -- we'd rather get to know you than herd you. So our RSVP limit for hikes is 33. That number also helps us live up to the "& Beer" part of our name; we've found that 33 is an ideal upper limit for making arrangements with pubs and restaurants for our post-hike, elbow-bending gatherings.
If you're interested in a hike that has already hit its limit of 33, don't hesitate to RSVP for the Waiting List. Trustees are pretty conscientious about changing their RSVP when they change their minds, so those on the Waiting List tend to move up quickly, especially in the final days before the hike. Here's some more stuff about our Waiting List.
About Our Hikes We hike in Marin, San Mateo, Alameda, Contra Costa and Santa Clara counties -- and we do an annual out-of-town outing in the Spring (see pics from our Yosemite excursion in May 2013).Our hikes are moderate -- usually in the 6-9 mile range, with anywhere from 1,100 to 1,800 feet of vertical gain. Our hikes range from 3 to 5 hours. We pick hikes with big visual payoffs and great post-trail beer-bonding experiences.
If you like your hikes with a bit more zest, we've created ...
The Semi-Circle of Trust & Beer Hikes Added in February 2013 in response to a faction of Trustees whose appetites called for something higher, longer and harder, the Semi-Circle is for experienced, hearty hikers who like to sweat the steeper inclines, loftier hills and longer trails. The 2,000-foot elevation mark will be common, as will 9-10 mile hikes. As mentioned earlier, there is but one sacred rule in the Semi-Circle: ABSOLUTELY NO ROOKIES!!!! YOUR FIRST HIKE WITH OUR GROUP CANNOT BE A SEMI-CIRCLE HIKE!. Here's why.
Dog-Gone Hikes For the record, we dig dogs. Just not on our hikes, where they can hazardously swoop underfoot of hikers on steep terrain and return from off-trail excursions covered with easily transferable poison oak. If you prefer to trek with your go, there are no shortage of Meetups geared toward hikers and hounds.
We Don't Do +1s Our hikes generally fill up with an hour or two of announcing them -- and our Waiting List swells to 20+ hikers within a couple days, in most cases. So we can't justify anonymous +1s (guests of members) taking up space among the confirmed list of 33 hikers while registered Trustees linger in line. EVERYONE attending the hike must be registered as a Trustee and been confirmed through the RSVP process.
Fitness Level There's no judgment in The Circle. But you should be fit enough to climb the challenging hills we regularly encounter. Because Circle hikes are populated by hikers with an array of paces, we use checkpoints to make sure everybody is rounded up.
What to Bring Show up with plenty of water, a backpack lunch, trail munchies and additional layers -- gusting winds and fog are common in Bay Area hills. As for shoes, some hikers feel comfortable in sneakers ... but they suck for steep or rocky descends.
Celebrating the Hike The "& Beer" part of our title stems from our tradition of stopping at a watering hole or restaurant near the hike and bending an elbow or two. On average, we probably spend 90 minutes toasting, munching and connecting ... and hazing Rookie Trustees into singing their high school fight songs. Just kidding. Sort of.
Carpooling Yeah, we're for it. Go ecology!
Brian Higgins (Alameda, CA) Founder, Circle of Trust & Beer Hiking Club