“I just moved here and want to explore the area,” and “I’m interested in getting more into hiking and want to go with a group.” These are the kinds of things I hear on a regular basis, being both an employee and active volunteer for the Adirondack Mountain Club (ADK).

Several years ago, I graduated from college and found myself in a small town in the Adirondacks. I tried dragging some non-hiker friends up a few peaks, so I wouldn’t have to go alone, until a coworker suggested joining ADK. He said that chapters offer year-round volunteer-led outings all over New York State, and even sometimes into surrounding states. Activities like hiking, backpacking, paddling, cycling, cross-country skiing, and snowshoeing were common on the calendar, so I decided to join and try it.

I was nervous signing up for that first outing. I didn’t know anyone, and we were going somewhere I’d never been… in winter. What would the pace be like? Am I in shape enough for this? Do I have the right gear? Will I look silly and unprepared? What if I don’t like the other participants, or what if they don’t like me? Only one way to find out!

Looking back at photos, perhaps I did look silly and unprepared. I didn’t even own any waterproof attire at that time. Despite my anxiety, no one put me down, and I never felt judged or excluded. Instead, I was welcomed by a group of people who expressed genuine interest in getting to know me and helping me grow. I met men and women of all ages and experience levels, each with their own interesting backgrounds and skill sets, eager to share their knowledge with others. ADK leaders and members provided endless encouragement and opportunities to learn and ask questions, until eventually I felt comfortable leading trips of my own. Every outing is an adventure, and I’ve met all my best friends through the club.

 

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