Summer weather is (hopefully) just around the corner, but sometimes we have trouble using our free time to fully take advantage of the short Wisconsin warm season. With the increased momentum of newly-released technology and its improving affordability, sometimes people (especially younger folks like myself) find themselves behind a screen for long periods of time instead of going outside and enjoying Mother Nature. Furthermore, the influence of social media on our lives has shown a rise in anxiety and depression, making it even more difficult for some of us to get out, socialize and immerse ourselves in new situations. To combat these issues that I find myself struggling with summer to summer, I’ve decided to challenge myself by becoming involved in three different local groups that prize time outside.
Part of adulthood and maturing is continually being self-aware of the things in life that make us happy as individuals. Over the past few years with the obstacles and hurdles that life has thrown at me, I’ve found myself asking this question of what makes me happy on a regular basis. As the weather gets warmer, I’ve found this new perspective of the outside natural world to be one of the most positive things in life. However, my inner struggles often times cause me to be a hermit and avoid going outside because that would mean interacting with other people. But, it’s a new year and I’m feeling quite refreshed and confident with myself, so I’m going to force myself into new social environments to document the natural landscapes and inviting experiences the Fox Cities has to offer.
The Fox Cities groups I will be joining are the Fox Valley Mountain Bikers, the Fox Cities Backpackers, and the Fox Valley Hiking and Outdoor Adventures group. After deciding to search for new ways to get outside this summer, I found each of these groups from internet searches for local mountain biking, Fox Cities hiking clubs and Fox Cities backpacking clubs.
The Fox Valley Mountain Bikers are a member of the International Mountain Bicycling Association under the Northeastern Wisconsin Trails (NEWT) chapter. Its Facebook page has over 1,300 likes! Along with expanding the mountain biking trails within the area, the group offers weekly rides to mountain bikers.
According to its Facebook page, the Fox Cities Backpackers is dedicated to sharing local backpacking ideas, discussing gear, meeting potential hiking partners and getting new backpackers out on the trail. It sounds like a perfect place for a beginner like me. The group has 378 members on its private Facebook page where members can shop for gear from other backpackers, discuss backpacking with other members and RSVP for upcoming excursions hosted by the group.
The Fox Valley Hiking and Outdoor Adventures group has a page on Meetup with 934 members. Membership fees are pretty pricey at a cost of $5/year. The group welcomes anyone of any age to embark on hiking/walking meets throughout the Fox Valley area. Currently, the group has seven hiking events listed on its page with 4-30 people planning to attend each meet.
I chose these groups because I have an interest in each activity they support. Last summer I bought a mountain bike from a member of the Fox Valley Mountain Bikers with the intent of going on rides with the group. He described it as the Cadillac of mountain bikes, and it is. Unfortunately, my mind wasn’t in the right place a year ago and I avoided the commitment to meet new people. I did, however, take the bike out to High Cliff a few times to try its trail and I must say, from the perspective of a predominantly road biker, mountain biking is tough work. The amount of energy that goes into riding through a bumpy field is much higher than I initially expected. That’s not to say I didn’t have a blast doing it.
I’ve always dreamed about going on a huge backpacking adventure through Europe at some point in my life. With this dream in mind, I decided to join the Fox Cities Backpackers. I’ve never actually gone backpacking before but, you know, I’m pretty sure I get the gist of it. I guess we’ll find out how prepared I am in the upcoming weeks. With the group offering experiences for beginners in my hometown area, I think it’ll be the perfect place to start this new hobby.
I guess you could say I have some hiking experience. Over the course of my life I’ve hiked Mount Monadnock in New Hampshire (the only big and exciting trail on this list), 1000 Islands Environmental Center, Devil’s Lake and a plethora of other state parks. I’m still fairly new to hiking but I’ve been walking the past 23 years so I’ll be okay, right? Right? I hope I’m right, but hey it’s all about the new experiences. I joined the Fox Valley Hiking and Outdoor Adventures group to meet new people and discover new trails and natural beauties within our area.
Over the course of this summer, I will follow up on this post with in-depth documentation of the excursions I embark on through the involvement with these groups. You’ll be able to learn from my experiences about the nature of each group, different areas in the Fox Valley to bike, hike, and backpack, and maybe you’ll decide to join one of these groups or start a new healthy hobby close to home.
Are you part of any outdoor groups? Tell us about your favorite outdoor excursions in the comments!