Of the many clubs around town that lead like-minded strangers on outdoor adventures—by foot, bike, or kayak—there’s one that dwarfs them all. The Atlanta Outdoor Club organizes events every day of the week, at as many as a dozen spots each weekend, from local gems like Sope Creek and Kennesaw Mountain to bucket-list destinations like the German Alps.
Since its start in 2000, the club has hosted some 7,000 events for its nearly 3,000 members across the state. Most are hikes. If you’re single and looking to mingle, some stats to consider: A third of members are over fifty, and 58 percent are female.
But plenty are just looking for new friends and exercise. Four years ago, Joyce Taaffe joined after retiring from Wheeler High, where she’d taught in a windowless classroom for the past ten years. As of mid-August, she’d attended 762 AOC events, an all-time record that works out to roughly four events each week.
“It became my nonpaying job,” jokes Taaffe. “I’ve made so many friends, many of whom I spend time with outside the club. It’s like a big family. I’ve seen three or four marriages that started on hikes.” And, well, numerous breakups.
Trips are rated in difficulty from D1 to D7, and each has an AOC leader—a sort of mountain monarch—with his or her own agenda. Some will wait a half hour for stragglers to arrive at a given trailhead, and others won’t delay a minute. Some enjoy bushwhacking. Some prefer paved trails. Dogs aren’t always welcome. In other words, there’s something for everyone. Sign up at atlantaoutdoorclub.com. It’s free.
This article originally appeared in our October 2014 issue.