When Lisa Wandel, director of residential dining at Pennsylvania State University in University Park, was doing her favorite outdoor activities, she often wanted company. So she started a Meetup group called The Women’s Adventure Club of Centre County, where women from all over could come together for hiking, bike rides, kayaking and other active pursuits.
“I had a group of friends and we would do a lot of outdoor stuff together. As I started getting busier, training for 5Ks or sprint triathlons, I wanted people to play with beyond my immediate friends, who all had their own things going on. At the same time, I was doing a workshop for women at one of our local outdoor stores and the topic was Hiking 101 for women. I went online to look for information to give them and I typed in ‘hiking women’ and came across meetup.com. There was a hiking club for women in San Diego. I thought something like that would be phenomenal in our area. So I decided to start a group, and within a day or two people joined up. It just kept growing, and we recently got our 450th member.
In the beginning I wanted to make sure [the group] took off, so I was pretty much it in terms of planning events. I decided to plan events that I’d want to do regardless of whether anyone showed up. Over the summer I just started planning hikes, bike rides and kayaking events and posting them on the website. People just started signing and showing up. I didn’t want [the group] to die in the wintertime so I thought we could still hike in the winter even if there was snow. So I posted Friday night hikes where everyone has to wear a headlight. Sometimes we’d have five to eight people show up. We’re dog and guest friendly so people can bring others or pets.
Basically, I look at the calendar and say, ‘OK, we don’t have anything going on the next two weeks and we need get something up there.’ For example, when Labor Day was coming up I thought it would be a perfect time to do a hike in the morning where we hike up a local trail and have breakfast at the top. Also there have been many women who have joined lately who want to learn how to kayak. So I thought I could do beginner lessons on one of our small lakes and limit the class to eight. We try to do consistent hikes on Wednesdays that we bill as ‘Hump Day Hikes.’ We usually do bike rides on the weekend because everyone has more time. The whole point was to get all of the members to feel comfortable posting events. The only rule I have is the event can’t be like ‘go to a flea market.’ It has to be something active.
I have always enjoyed being outdoors. I think it balances out work and play. Our jobs are very stressful and you have to balance it out somehow. Some people find other ways to do it, but this is my way. It puts you in a better place mentally. When you come to work things don’t look as bad. Things could be worse. You could be cycling up a huge hill. It makes you more productive and just a happier person.”