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Re: [OCBackpackers] Why no trips?

From: Heather
Sent on: Friday, June 30, 2017 8:21 PM
Hello Folks
It's been great reading all these posts - I'm excited that there are other people both with the same interests and facing some of the same issues as me. I'm a newcomer to the area, and just recently signed up for this meetup.

I'm writing to put in my vote for more social/get-to-know-you type events with the explicit purpose of them resulting in forming groups to head into the woods. I would love to see more trips planned too, but honestly for me it is an absolute MUST to meet the people I would backpack with BEFORE committing to a multi-day trip, especially when I'm coming along as a singleton. Maybe events like a shorter day hike close by more populous areas - giving an opportunity to meet people, figure out who lives close enough to carpool, share info you might not want to post online, gauge who walks at similar paces, etc. I'm open to organizing this myself - but since I'm new to the area I'll be winging it for what hikes to pick, and leaning on others for the local flora+fauna+weather knowledge.

What I was expecting when I signed up for this meetup was less about having someone organize a trip that I could sign up for, and more about meeting people who would want to plan backpacking trips together. From everything on this thread, it sounds like both things are possible with this meetup, which is great! And hopefully it also allows the folks who want a more relaxed 'car-camping' trip to find each other too.

As an example of why I'm particular about meeting people ahead of time:
I had an experience where someone who had signed up for a 7 day backpacking trip as their first backpacking trip ended up being the reason that we cut the trip down to 3 days and a hitch-hike back to our car. I don't particularly blame them since they didn't have the experience to know what it would be like, but spending 3 days with someone who is clearly not at all having a good time/getting a perfectly nice person into a situation they weren't ready for, and not being able to achieve goals I had wanted to reach, is something I'd like to avoid in the future. I always look back on that and think: if only we had talked more ahead of time, that trip would have been a lot more fun for everyone.

Happy Hiking!
-Heather



On Fri, Jun 30, 2017 at 12:14 PM, Phil <[address removed]> wrote:

Dave – wow! Thanks for the very thoughtful insights! 

 

You’ve nailed a lot of the same observations I have made.

 

Those who have been members for a while probably haven’t notice that I changed up the joining questions, which are an attempt to get to know the experience levels of members, precisely for trip organizers to get a feel for those attending. 

 

Speaking for myself, although this is a ‘meet up’ not a guide service, I as a trip organizer do feel somewhat responsible for others having a good trip and enjoying themselves.  I would hope that the trip description (hard, fast, long miles vs short miles, slow and ‘campy’) would kind of filter participation.  So I can empathize with the desire to have ‘compatible’ hikers on any given trip.

 

One of the stated goals of meetup is to have a vehicle to meet folks with similar interests and hopefully make new friends.

 

Somebody’s comment about those friends then joining up together for ‘private trips’ is very true and I guess to be expected, and somewhat applauded.  However, as ‘organizer’ I have mixed emotions…glad people are making backpacking friends and sad in a way that those folks aren’t posting trips, which keeps them from meeting new friends and keeps potentially new hikers on the sidelines.

 

Backpacking is indeed hard enough and is the polar opposite of a ‘one and done weekend activity’.  It’s expensive to gear up, it requires a full weekend, and it requires massive bravery to basically commit yourself to a complete group of strangers, alone in the woods (yikes!).  And it’s hard carrying a not yet refined pack load, tiring, sweaty, buggy, raining, cold, hot, uphill, downhill…you have to be nuts to be a backpacker.

 

So it’s hard enough to get people to sign up and not drop out.  Then it’s hard to find those that do actually attend, that will return a second time.  And then we finally get to those mentally ill enough to actually love the whole experience.

 

But from my point of view, it all has to start with the opportunity to get out, and that starts with trips….which we need posted….so we can find others like us. (shameless plug – check out my article on THETREK.COM https://thetrek.co/dont-become-thru-hiker-become-backpacker/)

 

That said, for those going backpacking….PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE post the trip!  Be Bold!

 

And by the way, we all know that the best campfire stories are those where something out of the ordinary happened, like some crazy fool signing up for trip they have no business on, and watching what happens.

 

 

From: [address removed] [mailto:OCBackpackers-list@meetup.com]
Sent: Thursday, June 29,[masked]:42 AM
To: [address removed]
Subject: Re: [OCBackpackers] Why no trips?

 

I've found the open conversation very interesting to follow. Most organizations go stale after a while, not just meetups, unless there's a continual infusion of fresh blood. Gary noted  DCUL and Washington Backpackers, both out of the Northern VA area.  They have a bit of an advantage of a larger population to draw on but ultimately the infusion of new faces is what keeps those going. There are a dozen or so organizers that are very active but those dozen change over time. There's an informal mentoring system going on.

 

Also, number of members != number of active members. I'm not sure if Meetup has a way to assess that though. There are meetups with 1000's of members that post 1 trip a year (and 3 people attend). Heck, I'm an OCB member but been on an OCB trip yet. It was the first hit for "backpacking" in my area when I was looking to expand beyond solo trips.

 

Personally, organizing a trip is a very high stress situation for me. I'm worried about personalities, capabilities, transportation, safety, etc. Meeting new people is scary and intimidating. I have not organized a trip for OCB yet but I have organized many for DC UL. One thing that makes a big difference for me in both the organizing role and the participant role is the ranking system DC UL uses. As an organizer it drastically lowers my anxiety level to know that if I plan a difficult trip that I can limit the trip folks who have confirmed experience. As a participant, the ranking lets me know the style of trip and what is expected. I've lead very difficult trips limited to veterans and quite a few lower mileage trips that are open to anyone.  As Gary pointed out there is also some specialization going on - or at least an expectation. There is likely to be long, face-paced miles (though many of the low mileage trips aren't particularly or necessarily fast-paced; you'll likely be on the trail as the sun rises or shortly thereafter. A trip is not likely to be cancelled due to rain. (Though a hurricane will shut things down.)

 

I am NOT suggesting that OCB needs a ranking system. I'm just sharing that it made it easier for me to learn how to be an organizer. I could never be an organizer like Phil. I don't have the skill set. There's no way I could plan a big trip like Wind River or Grand Canyon without having been on multiple trips with those folks beforehand.

 

On that note, the other factor that has come up is the different styles and desires folks have. Even from the small number of responses to Phil's question there is a wide range of preferences. That may be a factor to gaining critical mass on trips. You have to have enough folks for a given style that are available on a given weekend. 

 

That's one of the things I quite like with all the Meetup groups. Each group has its own style. Personally, I'm a guy who (generally) really wants to be moving. I dislike sitting around camp. I'm happy to chat by a fire after a long day on the trail, but I most enjoy being on the move and seeing what's around the corner. An overlook is fine for 10 minutes or so but then I want to move again. Other folks are just the opposite. I think it's pretty cool there are meetups that cater to both styles. Following the trips and photos (as I haven't gone on any yet) OCB has a style. I'd describe as relaxed and comfortable. I'm torn between wanting to meet local backpackers vs organizing a trip that is against the OCB grain.

 

To Ginny's point about kids: that's something I've cautiously tried once with DC UL (with success). My 11 yr old daughter likes to backpack with me and we usually go out with just the two of us. However, sometimes there's safety and camaraderie in numbers (plus makes setting up shuttles easier!). In most ways those are even harder to plan though. Matching pace/style with kids is tricky. I've conversed with a number of parents with two kids - a rabbit and a turtle - who struggle to balance just on family outings!  I let my daughter take point so I don't out pace her, though based on our last trip (Priest + Spy Rock) that may not be necessary anymore. I wish I had her power/weight ratio!

 

 - Dave

 

On Wed, Jun 28, 2017 at 4:51 PM, Gary S <[address removed]> wrote:

Jeff makes a good point.  I wondered about that very issue as well; of friends going just with friends.  It appears that there is the opposite effect for growing meetup groups (sometimes), where more members equates to lower numbers of posted trips.  But people still go out, just with friends.  Two exception examples that I can think of; one the DC-UL group and the second Washington Backpackers. They are both still busy.  One is very exclusive, with long, fast, miles and one could be described as more of a party group.  Both have a very competitive, out going Organizers at the top.

 

Just observations!  It seems to me that we are missing an underlying influence of people's basic nature.

 

On Wed, Jun 28, 2017 at 1:06 PM, Jeff <[address removed]> wrote:

I'm one of the original founding members of ocb (originally called l.o.s.t.), anyway, I've moved to Oregon and will only be joining trips if I'm in the area visiting my kids. However I did discover something about the hiking meet up when I was very active in it. Once it hits a certain large size (600 members?) a lot of the regulars break off into their comfortable small groups and the hikes are discussed and planned over a beer and never actually make it to the meet up app. This is what happened with l.o.s.t. and forced Chris, I and a few others to form ocb. 

 

Just my two cents for what it's worth

 

On Jun 26,[masked]:21 AM, "Phil" <OCBackpackers-announce@meetup.com> wrote:

Hey guys,

wondering why we have 600 backpackers and nobody is posting any trips?!

Fourth of July weekend and we've always had a big trip!

Is backpacking dead?

phil





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Heather Kline
PhD, Aeronautics & Astronautics, Stanford University
BS Aerospace Engineering, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
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