Gay hiking

Get out of town with New York’s best hiking clubs

When a hiking group called the Sundance Outdoor Adventure Society was founded in 1980, the world was a much less tolerant place for members of the LGBT community.

If you wanted to meet other homosexuals, you sometimes had to go to bars. But it got old after a while, not to mention unhealthy. And the air in these bars could get stuffy.

“Gays and lesbians wanted an outlet to meet other people who love the outdoors,” Sundance President Robert Roselund said.

Pay attention to signage.Stefano Giovannini

The group initially sought members by placing ads in the Village Voice and other gay-friendly publications, advertising themselves, Roselund says, “as an alternative to bars”.

The outdoor group now organizes more than 100 trips a year, many just for the cost of transportation, from hiking in the Catskills to camping at an LGBT campground.

“Even though times have changed, there is a special community at Sundance, Roselund says.

Sundance is just one of many specialty touring groups in the tri-state area. People of all identities and interests can find like-minded people to hike the trails with – from women-only groups to nudists (bring lots of bug spray). Finding a group like this, members say, helps them feel less lost in the woods, in more ways than one.

Katina Grays, who moved to Harlem from Tennessee a few years ago to be closer to her family, often felt out of place while hitting the trails. An avid hiker for years, she wanted to continue trekking in New York. But the 44-year-old is still getting weird looks from other hikers.

“I’ve had white people say, ‘Are you lost?’ she says. She’ll say, “No, I know exactly where I am. I can read beacons.”

If she is with a group of other black friends, other hikers on the trail will assume it is a religious group.

When it comes to diversifying outdoor activities, she says, “I think there’s still work to be done. »

Outdoor Afro is “where black people and nature meet”.outdoor afro

These kinds of encounters are the reason why Grays joined Outdoor Afro. The group of 9-year-olds promote themselves as a place “where black people and nature meet,” organizing hikes in the New York area and more than 30 other states. That’s why the group is focusing not just on hikes, like an upcoming bear-watching trip to Harriman State Park, but also on walking tours of Harlem and Central Park. The group, whose rides are mostly free, hopes to show people how to enjoy the outdoors, without going all the way to Patagonia’s full catalog.

“I’m the quintessential hiker,” says Grays. “I go out, I walk, I come home, I take a shower and I sleep in a bed.”

You might not think an all-women hiking group would be so different from a mixed group, but once an Adventures for Women group hits the trail, you notice small changes, says Carol Board member Edelstein, referring to the fact that women are more open. and talkative, being themselves.

Adventures for Women takes to the high seas (of the Hudson River).Christine Boue

“It’s a safer place to try something new,” she says. “There is not that intensity. [Hikers] can be more themselves.

The group, which offers an annual membership for $50 ($25 for students and seniors), caters to all ages and abilities, with transit-accessible hikes in Harriman State Park, Ramapo Mountain State Forest and elsewhere.

Many parents would like to see their children trade in their small screens for the big sky – and sometimes the kids themselves want to try something different. This is where the Appalachian Mountain Club comes in. The club, founded in 1876, teaches teenagers how to hike in the woods and how to take care of those woods. Hikers ages 12-18 go on multi-day wilderness outings or weekend camping expeditions at Floyd Bennett Field in Brooklyn (prices vary). Part of the goal is to teach city children to appreciate the fragility of the environment.

“To be successful in conservation, people need to actually see and use these spaces,” says program manager Justin Bailey.

One of the most offbeat hiking clubs caters to true naturalists. Those not afraid of additional exposure to the elements can head to the Rock Lodge Club (119 Rock Lodge Road, Stockholm, NJ; $25-$55), where you can hit the trails. Natural. The site has been a nudist retreat since the 1930s, making it one of the oldest of its kind in the country. It has a moderate, well-maintained trail that takes about an hour to hike. Yes, you have to be very careful of ticks, says Alec, a club administrator who prefers not to give his last name because most people still don’t care about nudists.

But don’t worry: hiking shoes are welcome.

“We’re nudists, but we’re not crazy,” he says. “We wear shoes.”


Go doggy style in the open air.Day trips for dogs

Just because you’re stuck at the desk all day doesn’t mean your pooch has to suffer. John Bingaman turned a lifelong love for dogs and the outdoors into a business called Doggie Day Trips. He personally picks up about eight dogs at a time in his van in the morning and takes them upstate for about an hour to run off-leash. They’re back in town for dinner.

“They come home and their owners send me a picture of them passed out in bed after having dinner,” he says. “A tired dog is a happy dog.”

Prices start at $85 per day