It’s not often that I go on a group hike. I spend a lot of time on the trail and have my regular hiking buddies. My friend Eli and I hike whenever he is in town, and we have probably clocked the most hours together in the woods.
When Eli is away, my default hiking companion is the lovely April. She’s a great buddy for impromptu hikes and last minute trips to the Adirondacks. She’s also the one who invited me out for a big group hike up Bonticou Crag.
It’s rare that I am hiking with more than two other companions, so the idea of a group hike with a dozen other people was an interesting one. I knew a bunch of the people going, but many of them were people that I didn’t know. It would be very different from traipsing into the woods with people I knew very well.
We drove out to New Paltz after work and met everyone at the trailhead for Bonticou Crag. The great thing about Bonticou is that it offers a great scramble and views, but doesn’t take all day to complete. It’s the perfect excursion for after work.
1. Alternate Routes / Experiences
I’ve hiked Bonticou a number of times. When our large, loud group started off down the path, everyone was sharing stories of hiking trips up the crag in the past. One friend of ours had shown up in flannel pajama pants, to much criticism. He explained that the last time he was here, he had suffered a split in his pants as he ascended the crag. We laughed.
As we climbed up the scramble, people showed the different routes they usually took. Everyone shared details of what made the hike more interesting for him or her. It was a lot of fun to hear from other folks, and it gave me a chance to view a hike that was very familiar to me in an entirely new light.
2. More Socializing – Best Of Both Worlds (Hiking / Party)
When we reached the top of the scramble, we hiked along the ridge, stopping to occasionally take a photo. Finally we made it to the wide open stone slab that offered us the amazing view of the Hudson Valley. We spread out and sat down, opening our packs and setting up for dinner.
Everyone had brought snacks and different beverages. Small flasks made the rounds, as well as chips and chocolate. With so many people sitting down to share a meal, it felt like a dinner party in the middle of the forest.
After we ate, instead of hustling on down the path, we lingered. There were more photos taken, and more conversations had. Another round of chocolate and flasks was shared as we watched the sun linger on the horizon line. It was like getting to have a night out, but without the loud noise and crowds of bars or restaurants.
3. More People To Go On Hikes With Large & Small
After we had taken photos and eaten all of the cookies, we began to gather our packs and head back into the trees to begin our descent. We hiked down in small clusters, talking and laughing all the way. The sun was setting and the forest was growing dark as we finally came to the last meadow before the road.
We stopped at the giant pavilion on the edge of the meadow and watched the sun set. Someone played music and we danced in the grass. It was the perfect ending to a day, and as the sun finally went down we headed out to the cars.
The best thing about the group hike was that by the time we made it back to the trailhead, we had made new friends. IT felt like we had known each other for a long time. Plans were made for different hikes throughout the week. I went home with April knowing that I had found new people to go on adventures with.
I had never considered how awesome hiking in a large group could be, but after the hike up the crag, I realize how great it is to bring a bunch of friends out into the woods.