July 16, 2010 11:56 AM   Subscribe

I just moved to northern California 6 months ago and I’m *still* finding it somewhat difficult to make friends with people who want to do outdoor activities together (hiking, camping, rafting, road trips). What can I do to improve this?

The backstory:

I'm 32, male, single. I just moved all the way across the country (from the East Coast) to take a dream job doing natural resource conservation in Stockton, CA. I feel like this location in particular makes it very difficult to make friends, especially with active people who like to go camping, hiking, biking, rafting, on road trips, etc. It's not like Sacramento, or San Francisco, where there is a lot more stuff going on that I could volunteer for as a way to meet people. I have tried everything I can think of to link up with interesting people here in town (including joining OK Cupid... but nobody here matches me very much, even though I get tons of hits in the Bay Area).

This is not the first time I've moved around far from home (I've even lived in other countries), but this time I don't have a network of friends to tap into and I'm not in school anymore so I can't meet people there, either. And my coworkers aren't the type of people I normally hang out with (they are homebodies and married with kids). Basically, I'm starting from zero here.

There are some neat hiking groups based out of Sacramento, but on the times I have gone on hikes and such it seems to be mainly older people who have families and all that stuff.

I am looking to meet interesting, vibrant people near my age (say, 22-40) who are available to go out and have fun! I never, ever stay home on the weekends and I want some people to hang out with! Looking for genuine people who want to DO STUFF and GO PLACES. Where the hell do I find them?

While I appreciate general suggestions, those specific to Stockton, the Central Valley, or the Bay Area would be most helpful (e.g. "You should join XYZ group on," or "You should go to ABC event next week in Sacramento")
posted by buckaroo_benzai to Human Relations (15 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
The SF Bay chapter of the Sierra Club is a great resource -- check out the events calendar and the various activities sections.

The Ecology Center in Berkeley has a terrific Eco-Calendar that's worth checking out, too, if just for the variety of organizations holding events that might interest you.

Both are, of course, geographically focused about 75 miles west of where you are, but the coverage gets out your way, too.
posted by gum at 12:27 PM on July 16, 2010 [1 favorite]

Best answer: You could START a meet-up for "outdoorsy singles" in your area.

Also, don't rule out your married-with-kids friends. First, families often spend a lot of times outdoors. It might be parks more than long hikes, but we hike with our toddler as often as possible. We LOVE to have a spare pair of hands along with us ... it gives US another adult to talk to, and someone extra to pick up the hat the 47th time the toddler pitches it on the ground. (Hard to stoop with a toddler in a backpack.) Older kids LOVE adults who know interesting stuff about the outdoors and it sounds like you DEFINITELY do. Second, happily married people like to see other people happily paired up, so if you give them an indication you're looking to meet someone, they will DELIGHTEDLY introduce you to single women they know who are already vetted as "not crazy" and, assuming your married friends are awesome, are also awesome.

More on the married-single dynamic -- they will typically feed you, since it's much easier for a family to add in one more than for a single person to cook for a family. (My parents' COOLEST single friend when I was growing up would bring my parents a bottle of wine, but -- key point -- stop by Baskin Robbins and get clown cones for each of the kids. BEST. LADY. EVER.) Most won't expect you to pitch in with the kids (other than getting a door or helping unfold a recalcitrant stroller), but if you DO help out, even just building block towers to be knocked down for 20 minutes, you will be the most popular couple-date in town. (One reason parents often hang out with other parents is that other parents don't feel awkward trading kid duties and they don't want to impose on single friends by constantly have to stop to talk about T-ball with a 6-year-old who's working on learning to not interrupt. Other parents know how that goes. If you show that you're cool with that kind of thing, by saying, "Stegosaurus is my favorite, because I like his spikes," or whatever, you are in like Flynn.)
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 12:47 PM on July 16, 2010

I came here to mention the Sierra Club for their activities.

Also, if you're into winter sports, Snowpals is also a great resource.

Finally, have you heard of Tourist Club in Mt. Tam? May be worth checking out.
posted by samthemander at 12:47 PM on July 16, 2010

Best answer: Oh, I have another (non-area-specific) idea for you. When I was new in town and didn't know anyone and didn't have a network to tap into, I threw a couple of "interesting people parties." I'd invite people I'd met, tell them, "I'm having an interesting people party. You are very interesting. Please come!" and ask them to invite the most interesting person that they knew (that they were not married to or dating). Spouses and dates always invited.

People were usually flattered that I thought they were interesting, and since they could bring someone with they didn't feel as awkward, and usually came. Plus then I got to meet the interesting person's most interesting friend. I usually did this as a potluck so it was less work for me and so it had a more casual vibe. There's no reason you couldn't do it as a cookout/picnic/allowable food thing at a great nature park, or even as an "interesting people" hike.

I still do these from time to time. It's a good way to get to know new people.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 12:57 PM on July 16, 2010 [12 favorites]

Eyebrows McGee: your "interesting people party" idea sounds interesting. If I were new in town somewhere I would invite you to my interesting people party.
posted by madcaptenor at 1:45 PM on July 16, 2010 [1 favorite]

Get a dog. I'm kind of serious. 1) you have a hiking buddy who is always available 2) you tend to meet other people when you have a dog. This is how I made friends in a new town and I have the best mutt-puppy friend. I now have a circle of friends who love to be outside (with their dogs) and I am never lacking for company on hiking trips!
posted by rachums at 3:13 PM on July 16, 2010

There's an REI in Stockton, and every store I've been to has events, from in-store book signing to hiking trips and trail maintenance. Go to your local REI and chat up the staff!
posted by rtha at 3:31 PM on July 16, 2010

Best answer: Outdoor Adventures at UC Davis! I'm pretty sure it's open to everyone. The groups will probably skew younger, but still within your range.
posted by yarly at 3:37 PM on July 16, 2010

Rachums, with all due respect, dogs are not accessories. Pets entail responsibility for the life of the animal, and dogs survive a long time. Nor are dogs usually good for people who like camping, rafting & road trips.

I'd offer a tangential suggestion that he could volunteer with a shelter or rescue, helping to walk their dogs. If he opts to adopt one of them as his own, then yay, but it's not to be done on a whim.
posted by ChefJoAnna at 4:09 PM on July 16, 2010 [1 favorite]

I don't have a specific even for you to attend since I don't live there, but I have one small suggestion.

Find your local dedicated outdoor store and look to see if they have a bulletin board or organize outings. I have no experience with this but noticed my local store had both.
posted by damionbroadaway at 4:50 PM on July 16, 2010

A friend of mine did guide training and now volunteers with Healing Waters, a rafting nonprofit that takes people with HIV/AIDS out on the American. Check out them or some other outdoor volunteer group. You'll be able to get out to some local spots, and meet other guides and volunteers that you could arrange future outings with outside the group.
posted by juliapangolin at 8:01 PM on July 16, 2010

Eyebrows McGee: "Oh, I have another (non-area-specific) idea for you. When I was new in town and didn't know anyone and didn't have a network to tap into, I threw a couple of "interesting people parties."

Eyebrows, I gotta say, you yourself sound like a very interesting person!

My cousin used to do Adventure Racing. She lives in the South Bay but it's popular all over California. She met a lot of people that way, including her husband!
posted by radioamy at 10:12 AM on July 17, 2010

Join a local group training for something like the AIDS Lifecycle? I have very mixed feelings about the event itself, but it's a good way to meet people and is well supported with training rides.
posted by gingerbeer at 2:27 PM on July 17, 2010

Response by poster: Great suggestions, all. I actually went back on to check, and what do you know... other people have started a few outdoor activity / hiking groups in Stockton just in the last few months (they didn't exist when I originally looked back in March).

The Davis Outdoor Adventures thing looks cool, too!

Oh and yeah... I'm not getting a dog. To me that's like a kid, and I don't want either :)
posted by buckaroo_benzai at 10:32 PM on July 18, 2010

I would invite you all to my next interesting people party if you lived nearby. :)

One more key thing: I always use nametags at the interesting people parties, since people don't really know each other. At first I felt weird about it, but nobody ever complains and most people say "I'm SO glad people had nametags!" Sometimes I have people put something on their tag along with their name (favorite movie of the last two years; one vegetable you refuse to eat; stupidest nickname your family calls you; whatever -- it's a conversation starter). Sometimes not. Depends on how whimsical I feel. I also sometimes have themes for the food -- one invitee suggested everyone's dish had to be at least three-colored and that we award bragging rights to the one with the most colors and the one with at least 3 that tasted the best. That worked pretty well. Or the theme can be "food that starts with the letter B" or "Italian food" or "only red food." People like being creative with that kind of thing, but I never want to make non-cooks feel left out, so I waffle on that one.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 6:37 AM on July 19, 2010

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