Perspectives on Outings: Outings Leadership
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by Dan Soeder, Chapter Outings Chair |
What? Me lead an Outing?
Sierra Club outings leaders often have people come up to them and suggest certain outdoor activities that they would like to see on the calendar. It might be a special hike, a nature walk, a water trip, or a bicycle ride they think should be run by the chapter or group outings program. I usually respond by telling the person that I’ll do my best to see that the particular activity gets added to the calendar. But then I tell him or her my little “outings secret.” The absolute best, most sure-fire, guaranteed way to make that outing happen is tooffer to lead it yourself.
The most common reaction I get back is, “What, me lead an outing?” Why not? Despite popular perceptions, very few Sierra Club outings leaders are those extreme athlete guys who free-climb at Yosemite, or the outdoorsy women who through-hike the Appalachian Trail with nothing but a box of granola bars. The chapter outings program needs activities for “normal” people, like nature walks, birding, conservation trips, service trips to fix trails, flat-water canoe paddles, family camping trips, dog-friendly hikes, and bicycle rides. Outings are for everyone, not just people who are prepared to survive a week in the wilderness with little more than a pocket knife. I always tell people to lead an outing for an activity they would be doing anyway. If you go on walks or you like to ride your bicycle or paddle a canoe, why not do it as a Sierra Club outing, and invite some folks to come along?
To be an outings leader, you need to be a member, over 18, certified in first aid equal to or better than Red Cross Basic, and take the Sierra Club outings leader training, which I teach a few times a year, or you can take it on-line. Lead one supervised hike and you’re in. Contact me if you are interested, and I’ll let you know what is needed to become a Sierra Club outings leader.
Love and respect for the outdoors is why most of us joined Sierra Club in the first place. John Muir started the outings program in Yosemite over 100 years ago to show others the magnificent landscape he was trying to protect. I think the conservation or “environmental” aspect of Sierra Club outings provides us with a niche that a lot of other outdoor activity programs don’t have. Sierra Club outings are not just outdoor recreation. People expect our leaders to be knowledgeable about the environmental issues in a particular place, and to discuss them during the outing. This is one of our strengths as an organization, and we should use it.
Outings with a conservation theme help the chapter spend foundation money, which can only be used for education. A number of outings in this edition of the newsletter have conservation issues mentioned, and there will be more of them in the future. Don’t let that scare you off, however. There’s no reason why viewing the magnificent landscapes we are trying to protect can’t still be fun. There is an old German saying that the most difficult part of a journey is often just crossing the threshold of your own front door.
So cross that threshold, and I’ll see you outside.