Hiking with strangers

11:35 p.m. on November 14, 2010 (EST)
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So, just kind of wanted to get other people's thoughts on something.

A few months ago, I joined up with a local outdoor meetup group. Over the next few months, I tried organizing a couple of backpacking trips, but it seemed that every time it came down to the crunch, most people backed out to go on short little adventures instead of backpacking. Things like hang gliding, balloon rides, that sort of thing.

Anyway, the more I think about it, the more I'm kind of apt to just back out of it anyway. It doesn't seem like there's a lot of interest in backpacking in the group. They usually want to car camp and do short hikes. But I'm kind of thinking that I don't know if I like the idea of camping out during the night with a bunch of strangers anyway. I don't know, maybe the best route is to go on a short hike with them to get to know them, but I'm kind of a spontaneous guy. I like just getting in the car and heading out where I want to head over the weekend for day hikes.

I don't know. Heck, don't even know why I'm posting. I already have my mind made up. If I can't get any of my friends to go, I'll head out by myself.

2:10 a.m. on November 15, 2010 (EST)
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I only hike with strangers when I go solo - otherwise I usually know who I hike with:)

Trying to arrange a group hike of unaffiliated people, or those with minimal affiliation very often turns out the way you describe.  Even getting a group of friends you know to commit and follow through is tougher than it should be.  I have been on, and know of, many Sierra Club events that fell through completely, were modified significantly at the last moment, and even modified while underway, due to people waffling on thier desires.  I am not singling out the Sierra Club, however; this is just a fact of life everyone doing a group outdoors thing with strangers must confront.

Ed

5:05 a.m. on November 15, 2010 (EST)
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I have no issues hiking with strangers. I will often invite complete strangers to come along for a day hike. Through the course of the day I kinda get a feel for them to see if a: they are properly prepared for a backpacking trip and b: I would get along well with them.

One guy I met a few months back has come with me on several 1-2 night backpacking trips. The first time he came he and his wife hiked out and met up with my wife and I at a campsite a few miles from the trailhead. I had to end up giving them the rest of water and go filter more for all of us because they only brought 1L of water a piece and no filter/treatment method. They brought a WHOLE chicken....

Since then I have helped educate him a little and I think he and his wife appreciate backpacking alot more now with a few tips and some upgraded gear pieces.

So yes, it can be fun to have company, though I also do enjoy going alone. Be mindful of who you bring along so that you arn't put in a potentially bad situation and have to continually pick up their slack because you are the only one prepared. Day hikes first, and through conversation etc find out what kind of gear the have , what places have they been too etc.

Goodluck!

7:51 a.m. on November 15, 2010 (EST)
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I will often invite complete strangers to come along for a day hike. Through the course of the day I kinda get a feel for them to see if a: they are properly prepared for a backpacking trip and b: I would get along well with them.

 

Yeah, see I think that's the key. Go on a day hike to get a feel before inviting them out for anything more. I didn't think of this until this weekend, but the fact is a backpacking trip is far different than just a day hike. A day hike, sure you can get away with a few hours and then turn back. Backpacking, you are on the trail with them. No matter what.

One reason I thought about all this was because I was supposed to go on a backpacking trip this weekend. I had scheduled it with this outdoor club, had a bunch of people sign up and then by Thursday everyone had dropped out except one woman. I emailed this woman and told her I was canceling because I was married and didn't think it was appropriate for me to go out in the woods with a woman my wife doesn't know. Then on Friday, my wife got laid off and I sent her another email saying my wife got laid off and it wouldn't have been a good time anyway.

Anyway, this chick calls and leaves a voice message and texts me Saturday morning saying she's at the trailhead waiting for me and where am I? I sent her a text message back saying I sent her some emails. She proceeds to text me the rest of the day basically bad mouthing me and saying her email is fine and I'm just an asshole. I'm like okay. Then she emails me the next day and says yes she did get the emails, but never apologizes, starts saying she hoped I had a good weekend because I ruined hers.

So, that whole dang incident got me thinking. I'm like "This girl is crazy. I could have been on the trail with her for two days."

That's why I'm thinking I need to be more cautious on who I take.

9:58 a.m. on November 15, 2010 (EST)
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Hey Rocklion,

I understand where you're coming from. Most of the times that I have hiked or backpacked with people I didn't previously know it has been a good experience, but there have been a few bad ones.

Fortunately, I have a number of friends who are avid and enthusiastic backpackers, so I am often able to get a reliable group of people together for at least a weekend trip. On the other hand, there have been many times that things fall apart at the last minute even when everyone signed up are eager to go: sometimes life just gets in the way, ya' know?

A couple "bad" experienes have been with people I know who should have known better, and yet still came unprepared. I had a cousin who kept saying how much he loved backpacking. But when we got out on the trail and it began snowing he bailed out and made us leave. The next trip we went on he ended up progressively acting more strange, and then downright crazy.  I found out after the trip that he had stopped taking his medications. I didn't know he was supposed to be Medicated like that.  I knew he was a little off beforehand, but I rationalized going he was my cousin; I mean, I knew him, right? So, I won't again be going on trips with anyone who seems a little "off."

Another time I went on a caving trip with some friends, one of whom had set up the trip and brought along another person I didn't know. from the outset I didn't feel comfortable with the guy going, but only because it didn't seem like he was physically prepared for a strenuous caving trip. Because I didn't want to be rude, I said nothing.   Unsurprisingly, after descending several miles underground, we find out I was unfortunately correct in my assessment. We went to begin our 4 mile ascent (at this point just rock scrambling) and he can't do it. We have 4 miles of difficult cave between us and daylight, with three rope-walks to climb, and he craps out on the first set of boulders. I about shat myself. I had supplied most of the vertical rope gear, so I knew what we had with us, but I hadn't anticipated  having to haul someone's dead weight out of the cave. It took us about twelve hours to get him out.

I think going in a group with some people you know, some you don't, can be fine as long as there are multiple capable and experienced individuals in the bunch. One of my closest friends and I will often take groups out hiking to introduce them to the outdoors. This comes with risk, as many are often not properly prepared, but we know that will likely be the case before hand, so we usually over-prepare to compensate. It is wonderful to open up a whole new world for people, so is worth it in the end. But those trips we know what we are getting into, so to speak.

Going out with complete strangers can be a different story though. I would think short hikes would be a good way to start before going by yourself with someone you don't know from Adam.

9:59 a.m. on November 15, 2010 (EST)
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Being that you live in Chattanooga, it is likely that we have mutual friends in common. You would be welcome to join up with one of our outings sometime if you feel like it.

11:48 a.m. on November 15, 2010 (EST)
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gonzan:

Appreciate that. I might go on nice little "day hike" with ya first. ;-)

Yeah, I moved to Chattanooga five years ago, and am still trying to find some people to go backpacking with. One reason I joined that group. I've got a few people from work I've gone out with, but they don't hike near as much as I do, and they are also doing a lot of their own things a lot of times.

Seems like there's a few people on here from Chattanooga. We should all meet up sometime and hit a trail around here.

2:16 p.m. on November 15, 2010 (EST)
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I've camped with strangers when I was in the Boy Scouts, but that's a bit different from what you are talking about. I've also gone hiking with people I didn't know very well or met while hiking alone while traveling.

Clubs like the Sierra Club often sponsor trips and may have groups within the club for backpacking. Bill can talk about that with much more authority than I can.

There is a rather infamous Meetup trip in the PNW that ended up in an epic winter rescue a couple of years ago. Some details are here-

Ad for the hike

Winter rescue story

The moral of this story, if there is one, is that if you are doing more than just a casual weekend in good weather, be sure the people you are with are prepared and that the trip leader knows what they are doing-the one on that trip did not.

BTW, don't believe Chris (the poster) when he says they had adequate gear. Obviously they didn't-he wound up with frozen feet and they had soaked down bags that as he says, were useless, so how he could say this shows he didn't understand how close they came to freezing to death. He says a bunch of other really stupid things as well, but at least you can get an idea of what can go wrong.

Big climbing expeditions often are put together with people who haven't climbed together before and of course, guided climbs are usually done with random people who signed up for the climb.

I took a climbing class years ago and knew no one, but it worked out just fine.

2:26 p.m. on November 15, 2010 (EST)
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I live in Cleveland and would be down for a day-hike.

3:16 p.m. on November 15, 2010 (EST)
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Cool. Maybe we could plan a hike in the next few weeks. Can't do this weekend because I'm on call and have to stay in town. Don't know if everyone is heading out of town Turkey Day weekend, but I could be down for that. Been wanting to get up to Whigg's Meadow up on the Cherohala for quite some time.

6:32 p.m. on November 15, 2010 (EST)
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I would also be interested in doing a dayhike / overnight trip in the Chattanooga area. Once I tell someone I can go, I show up, barring some sort of emergency.

My basic approach to this sort of thing is that once a time and place are agreed upon, I'm going.  I will be at the trailhead regardless, if the others show up, great. If it turns out to be a solo trip I have the prerogative to modify the plans as I see fit at that point.

Rocklion, have you tried to contact the Chattanooga Hiking Club, or Rock Creek Outfitters? Provided they still do hikes, they used to put a trip list online and usually had good turnout with experienced people.

Lets see if I can find a link...

Chattanooga Hiking Club:

http://hiking.chattanooga.net/

Rock Creek Outfitters:

http://www.rockcreek.com/customer_service/contact.asp

 

 

 

6:35 p.m. on November 15, 2010 (EST)
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I would not be able to go on Turkey Day weekend or Dec. 11 (my wife's graduation), but I am open other weekends in Dec. 

8:13 p.m. on November 15, 2010 (EST)
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I've been meaning to get out with the Chattanooga Hiking Club for years, but never got around to it. I'm thinking pretty hard about that now though. I was looking at their site just the other day and didn't see any trips coming up that I wanted to take part in.

I don't think Rock Creek does hikes. I've never heard of any by them.

And Trout, I understand that completely. If I were coming from Chattanooga to South Carolina, I'd be the same dang way.

Maybe I'll post something up in the Trip Planning section. Don't know if we should be talking about this here.

8:47 p.m. on November 15, 2010 (EST)
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I used to meet up at Rock Creek Outfitters on Saturdays with some other backpackers and do day hikes & overnighters, I don't think that it was actually sponsored by Rock Creek (?) but often times one or more employees went along.

We did Savage Gulf (a must trip!) the Fiery Gizzard Trail, Laurel Snow, the Stevenson Trail, and others. If you're interested it would be worth a call to see if they still do that.

If you haven't already been there, Savage Gulf is the best place I know of in the area to base camp and do day hikes. They have many miles of trails with intersections that make it possible to do any kind of hike you want. They have valley trails & rim trails, & trails that connect the rim to the canyon floor. It is classified as a state natural area.

9:33 p.m. on November 15, 2010 (EST)
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My last semester in college I took an outdoor recreations class with several day hikes and a few overnight trips, one of these trips was at Savage Gulf State Park. We did the rim trail with little elevation gain in late spring, so as long as you had a bag, tent, and some food and water there was no way to have any real difficulty. Due to the simplicity and ease of the trip no major incidents occurred.
I found this class interesting because it put me in the woods with people I didn’t know. I was able to see how they do backpacking, sometimes it was funny, and at other time just disturbing how much people will destroy nature. I can’t say I really enjoyed the outings fully due to the random assortment of people in the class, I mean some people are OK to sit in a class with or have a random conversation, but being stuck with some people for extended periods of time can be painful.

10:15 p.m. on November 15, 2010 (EST)
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I love Savage Gulf. I was going there last weekend to camp out at Hobbs Cabin, but my wife lost her job Friday.

That's on my things to do list.

9:45 a.m. on November 16, 2010 (EST)
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Sorry to hear about your wife losing her job. My wife was out of a job for about 4 months earlier this year, and it put a real kink in things for us. I hope it works out quickly for you guys.

It would be great to work out a trail-meet, it is kinda funny to chat on here with people, but not know them in person when they live in the same town (or used to like Trout)

12:35 p.m. on November 16, 2010 (EST)
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I haven't tried hiking with strangers before, but I have a hard enough time just getting friends to commit to hikes, climbs, and outtings because everyone's schedule is different with work, and a couple of my friends live 2 hours + away.

I have yet to do any major hiking or climbing solo, but I hope after this winter season and after a little more experience under my belt with some serious outtings, I will feel up to it next year.

8:57 a.m. on November 18, 2010 (EST)
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I live in Medina County and volunteer w/ the Medina County Parks (see website for calender) where I lead & co-lead day hikes. The program is called "Hiking For The Healthy of It" We do hikes in Medina and the surrounding counties. CVNP has been a favorite. We hike first & third Saturdays all year.

My aspirations are to start a hiking/backpacking club next Spring. I'm slated to do talks about my R2R backpacking trip at Medina and Strongsville libraries.

You can see our story on my home page www.ashi.biz

 

10:29 a.m. on December 7, 2010 (EST)
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,Sorry, but I put a lot of the blame squarely on your shoulders.  

If you, under any circumstance, have to cancel anything with a human being who is or may be physically waiting for you, you must do it in person or on the phone.  

E-mails, voice mails, smoke signals just don't cut it, you have to hear their voice say ok when you tell them the deal is off.  I wouldn't agree to go anywhere with anyone without their phone number.

 Your only out is if you only know the e-mail of the person involved through poor planning, you may send the e-mail asking for a phone number or a call back giving your phone number.   

My time is just too valuable waiting for someone I cannot contact and who is bringing half the gear.

 

1:06 p.m. on December 7, 2010 (EST)
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I think Rocklion tried to inform the other party. I could see his point of view he has a family and a married person with a female he truly doesn't know by himself. Well that individual could claim anything and not to include how do you explain to your spouse you went by yourself with a female you dont really know? No the other party is at fault as well. The problem is some people just think their to busy to respond to a voice mail or email at times. Here's an example if your going to meet with people at a desired location and you are useing email. Wouldn't you check your email before you left your home? I know I would to see if plans changed. But thats me.

2:18 p.m. on December 7, 2010 (EST)
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I generally know who I am hiking with but that said I did invite total strangers to come on a 7 day wilderness canoe trip with us back in 2003. The strangers were Tim and Christine Conners (yup, the Lipsmackin' Backpackin' folks). I had reviewed their first book and submitted a couple recipes that were included in the second. Christine was expecting her 4th child and couldn't go backpacking and I teased, in an email, that they should come up to Canada and canoe with us. They did. The result - we had a great time. They talked me into writing a cookbook. They talked us into starting a family. And here we are. 


We also, through an outdoor ezine that I own, organize a car-camping gathering of forum members about 3 times a year. Often there are people there that I don't know but it has never been anything I've worried about. Maybe I'm just not cautious enough.


I guess I just figure that we are all like minded individuals and that nothing will happen. I don't know if that is naive... maybe... but we've never had a problem.

7:19 a.m. on December 10, 2010 (EST)
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This topic has been talked to death on another forum, but during those talks I realized some things. 

One, you are correct that it was poor planning. But that's also the nature of meetup Web sites. They don't lend themselves to being able to plan properly. People can either decide to go on a trip or not go with the click of a button. In this case, I had started out with seven people in my group. By the end, it was me and one person. And all the people abandoned me within two days. So it is very hard to try and organize something when you don't know who is coming. 

There's also a lot of other problems with the way Meetups are run, or at least this particular one, for such things as backpacking and trips that do require prior organization. What I've found is that most people don't want to plan on these meetups. They just want to be able to show up and do it. They want it to be very convenient and easy. But that's my own interpretation.

Personally, I've made the choice not to interact with this group again because of these issues. This isn't just a single person issue, its an organizational one. 

But you can go ahead and blame me if it makes you feel better. Amazingly, I woke up this morning and I think I'll be able to again tomorrow.

 

,Sorry, but I put a lot of the blame squarely on your shoulders.  

If you, under any circumstance, have to cancel anything with a human being who is or may be physically waiting for you, you must do it in person or on the phone.  

E-mails, voice mails, smoke signals just don't cut it, you have to hear their voice say ok when you tell them the deal is off.  I wouldn't agree to go anywhere with anyone without their phone number.

 Your only out is if you only know the e-mail of the person involved through poor planning, you may send the e-mail asking for a phone number or a call back giving your phone number.   

My time is just too valuable waiting for someone I cannot contact and who is bringing half the gear.

 

 

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