Kamysz leads hikers during a Great Hikes Plus One outing
on Sunday, July 5, 2015, at Sanborn County Park near
Saratoga, Calif. Members of the group meet up for a hike
and then go to a restaurant or winery afterwards. On
this day, they will end up at Savannah-Chanelle Vineyard
in the Santa Cruz Mountains.
JOSE, Calif. — On a warm, sunny Sunday morning, a hiking
group gathers in the parking lot of Saratoga, Calif.’s,
Sanborn County Park. Folks are decked out in hats, backpacks
and hiking boots. Some carry poles, others water bottles in
preparation for an 11-mile hike through the redwoods.
whether they’re seasoned hikers or newcomers to the Great
Hikes Plus One club, they’re all here for two reasons: They
want to socialize while doing something active outdoors. Then
afterward, there’s a picnic at a Santa Cruz Mountains winery
Area is a haven for hikers. Google "Bay Area hiking
groups" and more than 1.4 million results turn up. There
are casual groups, independent clubs and Sierra Club
affiliates. And then there are the groups, like Great Hikes
Plus One, that organize via Meetup, the website that helps
like-minded enthusiasts find each other.
accounts for about 140 active Bay Area hiking groups. You can
hike the stairways of San Francisco, join the Sleep Late and
Hike Meetup in Palo Alto, or get fit with the Well Walkers in
Orinda. While most of the gatherings focus on just the hike,
Great Hikes Plus One adds a foodie and social element.
group was started by Patty Kamysz, an avid hiker who had tried
other hiking Meetups, but felt frustrated. "You’d go
and you’d be with these people on a beautiful hike, and then
it’s over and they go to their cars and leave," she
says. "I just felt like something was missing."
missing piece turned out to be a post-hike stop at a local
winery, brewpub or "funky little restaurant," Kamysz
says. "I like the idea of continuing to socialize."
years ago, the Los Altos hiking enthusiast started her own
group, Great Hikes Plus One — the "plus one" is
the post-hike activity. Within the first week, 75 people had
signed up. Now nearly 600 members have joined her group.
Kamysz organizes and leads three weekend hikes.
don’t see all 600 at once," Kamysz says. Of the core 40
to 50 members, there are 12 to 15 she sees on every hike,
"no matter what."
process, she has brought together a congenial, friendly group
of people, she says, who "liked each other and would
support each other."
Na, of Palo Alto, was on the Great Hike’s first trek — and
nearly every one since then. It was the foodie aspect of the
group that appealed to her. "I like that this takes me to
places near where I live that I never knew about or had gone
to before," she says.
start of each hike, Kamysz has everyone form a circle and
introduce themselves. She asks a random question to break the
ice, such as "Who is your favorite historical character
associated with the Fourth of July?" After several names
— Benjamin Franklin, Betsy Ross and Uncle Sam — are
bandied about, the group sets off.
is swift as they head to the San Andreas Trail head at Sanborn
County Park. This hike is known for its majestic redwood
trees. And it’s relatively close to downtown Saratoga and
the hikers’ extracurricular destination, Savannah-Chanelle
Vineyards, for post-hike wine tasting and picnicking.
inclines get steeper, the group stays pretty much together, no
one peels off ahead of the others. The pace is conducive to
both a good workout and conversation.
week of doing this helps get you in shape," says San
Francisco hiker Ed Kopakowski, who joined the group two years
ago. "I do this two to three times per month. If you keep
hiking, you start getting into shape after four, five, six
health benefit is a big incentive for Los Altos’ Eric Breydo,
who belonged to a hiking group for 20 years when he lived in
Virginia. "I thought I didn’t have time to take a whole
day hiking," he says. "Then I realized I couldn’t
afford not to. It’s for my health in every sense, both
physical and emotional."
Great Hikes is an all-day commitment. Hikes average eight to
12 miles; this particular hike is an 11-miler. Kamysz calls a
snack break at Indian Rock, a scenic viewpoint where hikers
can watch rock climbers scaling a steep wall.
the social aspect that keeps folks like Kopakowski coming
back. He moved to the Bay Area from the East Coast two years
ago. "In August, I’m heading off with two people from
this group and going backpacking for nine days," he says.
"Any group that is activity-based is a good place to find
people with similar interests."
Appel, of Sunnyvale, echoes the sentiment. She’s been hiking
with the group for a year. "I wanted to meet new
people," she says, "and do things with other people
that liked to do the same things I did."
Appel and the other 600 members of the group, that means great
hikes — plus a gourmet extra or two.
the trailhead, the hikers head for their cars, then drive to
Savannah-Chanelle, where Kamysz has arranged for a group
picnic spot on Pinot Hill. She has secured some special
bottles of wine to taste, including a 2004 Estate Pinot Noir
and a 2012 Insider’s Club Pinot Noir.
set those bottles aside for our group, since they don’t have
many left," she says.
shade the picnic tables, libations are poured and summery
dishes shared. There are birthday cupcakes and a rousing
chorus of the cheery song. It’s the perfect plus-one after a
great hike with friends.
passionate about hiking, you can start your own Meetup group.