In a comment on the Strawberry Peak write-up, reader Laurel asked a question that I’ve often wondered myself:

just wanted to say hello because I feel like there is no outdoor culture in the LA basin (I live near Pasadena) and I got the warm fuzzies reading about someone else’s adventures in our backyard mountains. Have you had better luck than me finding other hiking kin? I have gone on Sierra Club stints occasionally but that’s a bit crowded for my taste. Anyway, hike on and thanks for taking the time to post your adventures!

It seems like everyone I know who’s involved in some sort of athletic ability has little to no trouble finding a partner – or at least an interested buddy – to tag along and keep them moving. Why do hikers seem to have a tougher time?

I had a great hiking partner for a while, before he went off and moved across the country to hike the Appalachian Trail, but I only met him because we worked together and I overheard him talking about hikes one day. In my experience, when hiking comes up in a conversation, the reaction the hiker gets is either one of wonder (“Really? You walk outside for fun? Charming!”) or of momentary acknowledgment, only to later discover your conversation-buddy’s definition of hiking is very, very different from your own.

Also, I feel like – for better or worse – most hikers are generally solitary creatures. At least for me, part of the appeal is getting away from everyone. We also like to go at our own pace and not have to slow down or rush to catch up to others. But Rule Number One of Hiking Safety is Don’t Hike Alone … so what’s a lonely hiker to do?

Well, if you’ve exhausted the friends and friends-of-friends in your life, the internet does offer a few options:

1. Meet Up: The common-interest meeting site has something for everyone, and wouldn’t you know it — they also have a group for LA-area hikers. The group is very active, and one of their founders assures me they have hikes for ALL difficulty levels, and they also tend to end their treks with a group lunch or BBQ somewhere.

2. The Sierra Club: You’d be hard pressed to find a group more active than the SC, and our local Angeles Chapter is no different. No matter what day of the week you want to hike or which area you want to hike in, chances are, someone will be leading a trip there. There are also different sub-chapters that can help you fine-tune your hiking experience, like the Gay and Lesbian Sierrans, the 20s and 30s Singles, Lower Peaks (focusing on Santa Monica Mountains, mostly), Hundred Peaks (peakbagging all over CA), and Backpacking Committee.

I’ve met some great people on Sierra Club hikes, but they can get pretty crowded. And the great disadvantage of hiking in an “Official Group” like this is you’re not allowed to go at your own pace – you’re always waiting at designated stop points for the slowpokes, and off-trail exploration is strictly verboten (depending on your leader). Still, this may be your best bet if you’re just getting started.

3. Outdoorzy: The outdoor social networking site is like Facebook, if Facebook only allowed people with hiking boots to join.

and then, while we’re at it, how about just —

4. Facebook / MySpace / Social Networking Site Du Jour: Facebook itself has 6 separate groups devoted to L.A. and Santa Monica area hiking, and one very large general-interest hiking group to join and meet people. Sometimes they’re just fronts for MeetUp pages, but it’s still worth checking out.

Does anyone else have a personal favorite online group or way to meet hikers? Is there a backpacking bar that I don’t know about? (please, please, please let there be a backpacking bar somewhere …)

R0012517

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