Do you find it downright daunting to set out on a trail by yourself? Don’t worry, hiking clubs and groups abound throughout our area. One of the busiest is the Hudson Valley Hikers, an online group started by Highland native Chris Baker in December 2008. At the time he weighed 100 pounds more than he does now and thought he’d offer four beginner hikes a month. Fast-forward three-and-a-half years: There are now 40-plus monthly events, and the group — which adds an average of 150 new members a month — “has had two marriages, one baby, over 1,000 pounds lost (that I know about). People e-mail me almost every day with success stories,” says Baker. In addition to frequent local hikes, the group has also organized activities on four continents, including classic hikes in places like Kilimanjaro and Machu Picchu. Baker pioneered group night hikes in the Valley in 2009 and usually offers one each week. “They’ve been a huge hit. The open ridges of Mount Beacon, Storm King, Bear Mountain, and Anthony’s Nose are amazing for nighttime viewing. You can often see the New York City skyline. All you need is a headlamp and the proper clothing.” All events are free. Check it out on www.meetup.com.
Of course, serious hikers around the region know all about the exclusive Catskill 3500 Club — open only to those who have scaled, by foot, the 35 Catskill peaks that are above 3,500 feet in elevation. In a departure from the rules of similar clubs, you must do four of the peaks a second time — in the winter (www.catskill-3500-club.org).