By: Ben Shaw
If you would have asked me to describe the outdoors community a few years ago, I would have had no idea how to do that. I probably would have guessed something along the lines of a rugged lumberjack or described a scene you might find on the front of a Mountain House Meal packet. The truth is, it’s a much larger group than what most people think. There are people all over the place, falling into different niches within the greater community. There are backpackers, climbers, mountaineers, kayakers, day hikers, rafters, bikers, beach bums, and everything else you can think of. Then, even within these activities, you have more of a breakdown. For example, with backpackers you have weekend warriors, ultra-light minimalists, long distance through hikers, and probably a few more I’m forgetting about…
What it comes down to is the fact that this is an extremely large but fragmented community. There are people everywhere doing everything: kayakers hanging out on the river, backpackers clogging the trails, and mountaineers racing to the summit. If you never take the time to meet others on the river, trail, or climb, you find yourself staying around the same little bubble in the community. Luckily, if you look hard enough you can find the things and places that bring this community of bubbles together. For example, every time RRT hosts a presentation, or any other event, it brings together all sorts of different niches within the outdoors community and gives one a chance to meet others and possibly learn something about another part of the community or make new friends with similar interests.
Another nice thing about the outdoors community is that we tend to be open and outgoing people, ready to talk and visit with others, I can’t tell you how many times this has proven itself on the trail. People have given me directions, pointed to hidden spots, donated gear and supplies, and so much more (often called “trail magic”). Every time something along those lines happened it always made me feel a better sense of community with the people I’m sharing the outdoors with. It also made me want to do the same things for others I came across out there and spread some of the “magic.”
Outside of RRT, I’m a student at the University of Cincinnati and am an active member in the University of Cincinnati Mountaineering Club. For me, this has been where I’ve learned the bulk of what I know about the outdoor community as a whole, “whole” meaning each separate niche: climbers, hikers, bikers, kayakers, mountaineers, etc. Each block has its own unique characteristics, but they all have a few things in common, they love the outdoors. They’re usually down to make friends and they always want to brag and teach their skills. Even UCMC and RRT are a niche within the outdoors community, they’re vessels for people to meet, acquire gear, and learn new skills to get outside.
This is the unique way our community has developed, an unspoken understanding that if you share a trail, a story, or even just a similar interest, you have mutual respect and a chance for friendship. One of my favorite stories about this kind of experience happened about a year ago. I was hiking down in Red River Gorge with a group of people I didn’t really know. One of the guys who I had just met started telling me about his time on the Ozark Trail and we swapped stories and contacts, then we didn’t see each other for a little while. A few months later I got back in touch and invited him out to the Wind River Range in Wyoming on a backpacking trip having simply bonded with him once on the trail and enjoying his stories and his company. He came along with me and some friends and I couldn’t have been happier with it, we all had an amazing time filled with fun, laughter, and adventure.
As I said above, this community is vast in its size, expansive in its hobbies, and fragmented in its communication but we all share so many common interests. Everyone in this community appreciates the natural world and many of us strive to protect it so that we, and those after us, can continue to enjoy it. For the most part we’re looking for others to adventure and share stories with. Above all, we enjoy what we do and can’t imagine spending our time any other way. So, next time you’re on the trail, attending a presentation, or trading a hiking story with a stranger, think about the community you and the people around you are a part of, strike up a conversation and make a new friend. You never know what adventure you’ll have or what part of this community you’ll end up in. Enjoy every trip, keep my young words of wisdom in mind and hopefully I’ll see you on the trail!
Outdoor Communities in the Greater Cincinnati Area
Caving: The Greater Cincinnati Grotto
Kayaking and Canoeing: Cincypaddlers & Tri-State Kayakers
Cycling and Mountain Biking: Cincinnati Cycle Club
Local Day Hiking: Cincinnati Parks Foundation
Day Hiking and Backpacking: Tri-State Hiking Club