|Hiking up Stone Mountain near Atlanta, GA.|
In town Meet and Greets provide practical information to get everyone--even complete outdoors novices---ready for their first hike. A panel of trip leaders covered how to choose a trip and use Meetup, what to wear and bring, and what to expect while hiking with a group. One of the biggest challenges is getting over the hurdle of going out with a group of new people. So Meet and Greets also provide a chance to meet the the group and see how fun we are.
|Talking about what to bring on a hike.|
|Meetin' and Greetin'|
In winter, dayhikes close to town provide more moderate temperatures compared to the mountains. I ended up leading trips nearly every free weekend I had while I was in Georgia. I won't be able to do this easily after I leave GA---I won't know the trails and won't have a group of other co-leaders ready to help out. These things take time to build.
|Beaver Dam at Lake Russell.|
|Lake Russell Wildlife Management Area in Georgia.|
|Botanical Gardens in Athens, GA. Photo by CT.|
Beginner backpacking clinic
Demonstrations and activities at a local park provided ample chance to introduce backpacking skills and gear options. The goal was to send the message that “you can do it” and to help people avoid feeling overwhelmed or fearful, and prevent them from wasting money on gear that is never used. We also covered how to sort through all the conflicting advice and figure out your own style.
To address common fears in backpacking, we came up with the game of “Fear Charades.” We made up a list of fears on index cards and handed these out to everyone randomly. Each person had to act out their assigned fear and say what they’d pack if they had that fear. Like a zero degree sleeping bag in 50-degree weather (if they are scared of being cold). After everyone guessed what the fear was, as a group, we brainstormed how to deal with the fear and mitigate risk of any real danger. People’s creative sides showed through and there were good discussions.
Many people ask whether to get a hammock or tent. We illustrated tradeoffs in shelters by setting up a hammock and a tent side by side, and discussing pros and cons.
|Trying out a hammock for the first time.|
|Wearing it proudly.|