It was about ten years ago when, wanting to make a few new friends, Stacey Morris headed to the LGBT Community Center for an Open House introduction to its services and to the organizations that meet there.
Morris never considered herself an “outdoorsy” type, but she did enjoy hiking as well as taking walking tours around the city. As a result, she decided to give Sundance Outdoor Adventure Society a try.
Countless boating excursions, hikes, and ski trips later, she views her participation in the non-competitive LGBT outdoors club as one of the best parts of life in the city.
“They are a super friendly group, just a remarkably friendly and open, enjoyable group of people,” said Morris, who currently serves as Sundance’s secretary. “I have loved our metro tours, trips to the Intrepid and museums, and the great skiing trip at the ski house we used to rent for the winter. I particularly loved all the boating outings I led.”
Chair Richard Dinnen agreed that one of the best things about Sundance is that “once you’re a member, you can lead your own outings and events. It’s fun to be able to share your experience and organize events for other people, and have them go well.”
The volunteer-led organization relies on members to set up excursions, although they ask new members to co-lead an excursion before planning one of their own.
When Dinnen moved to New York in 1999, a friend introduced him to Sundance via a relaxed fall hike.
“I was hooked on Sundance right away,” he said. “It’s a great way of meeting new people, and getting out of the city.”
In 2001, Dinnen organized a canoeing trip in Canada. The members drove to Toronto, where they enjoyed the city for several days, then moved on to rustic camping in Algonquin Provincial Park.
Other Sundance events include trips to restaurants and museums, concerts at Carnegie Hall, lectures at the American Museum of Natural History, bird-watching, and lots of nature hikes.
“I love the hikes, myself,” said Dinnen. “It’s so fantastic to leave the city, and you don’t really have to go very far. You can usually get there by public transportation in about an hour; just get out in the fresh air and spend the day hiking.”
An upcoming trip to the Breakneck Ridge on the Hudson River sets off from the Metro North line at Grand Central Station. The group will climb the mountain for the first hour, and enjoy the panoramic views of the Hudson from the top of the hill. From there, they hike to the town of Cold Spring, where they will have dinner.
Future planned excursions include a May 7 intermediate hike to Hook Mountain in Nyack to enjoy the views of the Tappan Zee, and a July 4 weekend camping trip at the LGBT Woods Campground in the Pocono Mountains in Lehighton, Pennsylvania.
Sundance sometimes teams up on events with sister clubs, including Philadventures in Philadelphia and the Chiltern Mountain Club in Boston. The club also hopes to team up with Women About, a women’s adventure society, for future outings.
“We are trying to encourage a more diverse membership,” said Dinnen. “The main thing is to share what we have with as many people as possible. It feels like we are doing some good.”
Sundance’s membership is currently about 70 percent male, with most members in their 40s. Membership is open to all, straight and gay, and fees are $40/ $20 students and hardship, or $5 a month, billable to your credit card. Guests are permitted two free outings before joining.
Specific excursions may incur additional costs to participants.
“It’s a fantastic place for people new to New York to make friends,” said Morris. “You are doing things that are inherently social: walking, hiking, and boating, so you are just gonna meet people and find yourself in all kinds of fun situations.”
CRUX ROCK CLIMBING
The search for some new friends is what prompted Danielle Jablonski to co-found CRUX, the city’s LGBT rock climbing club. Jablonski, who now serves as the group’s president, said she started climbing about six years ago with her girlfriend.
“There was nobody else climbing at the time, no LGBT climbers I knew of, so I started to build a community by introducing some non-climbing friends to the sport,” she said. “I actually co-founded the group three years ago, and we have more than 700 members now.”
The group, said Jablonski proudly, is evenly balanced between men and women.
The group’s home base is Brooklyn Boulders at Degraw Street near Third Avenue at the western edge of Park Slope, which Jablonski explained is the only gym in the city big enough to hold 50 climbers, the number which the group’s events usually attract.
CRUX also holds outdoor events in Westchester, as well as winter ice-climbing trips. The group has begun offering one or two outdoor climbs in addition to their weekly indoor climbs. CRUX helps set people up with beginner lessons and clinics to match their level. On occasion, the group participates in competitions.
“Climbing is an individual thing in terms of competing against yourself, but also a trust thing because when you are climbing, you must rely on someone to hold your rope,” said Jablonski. “There is a core group of 50 people, and we really have a camaraderie, a big sense of community.”
Rock climbing provides as challenging a workout as many competitive sports. The group balances the climbs with social events that follow. On Friday nights, the group caps their climb with a trip to Canal Bar, on Third Avenue and President, in the Slope.
CRUX has also mixed it up with kayaking and skydiving excursions, and a group film festival outing. A contingent in this year’s Pride parade is also planned. The group has recently hosted events for formerly homeless LGBT youth now housed through the Ali Forney Project and Green Chimneys.
“We want to get LGBT youth into climbing, and really give back in that way,” said Jablonski. “We had eight kids come out on Sunday, and they had a blast. We are talking to private donors about sponsoring them for membership.”
Annual membership to the group is $40; $20 for students and hardship. The cost of climbing sessions at Brooklyn Boulders is $20, which includes gear rental. The cost of purchasing your own gear runs at about $200, but CRUX will help members connect with gear providers who offer a discount.
For information about the group, visit climbCRUX.org.
©2011 Community News Group