One of the most popular Meetup groups in Ventura County is The Moderate Hikers. The group is run by a local Thousand Oaks woman who started it with one vision in mind: To create a fun, social hiking group where everyone felt welcome.
Katya Volpi, Hike Leader & Organizer, says it all started from her failed attempt at hiking.
“About 8 years ago, I needed to start exercising regularly for my physical and mental health, so I decided to try hiking, but the few local groups out there were too advanced for me, which I ended up learning the hard way.”
She joined the group on a hike and quickly found herself losing sight of everyone as she fell further and further behind. “Here I was, on an unfamiliar trail, by myself, not knowing where it was leading, but I kept going because I didn’t want to give up."
"Once I reached the top of the trail, the entire group was waiting for me. The group of about 30 hikers were not too happy about it either because they were experienced and expected you to know your own abilities. I essentially did the Hike of Shame the entire way back, coming in last and looking pretty ragged. I vowed from that moment to become a stronger hiker.”
Hiking four to five days a week on her own for several weeks, Katya developed her skills and became better and stronger, but after trying another hike with that same group, she found she still couldn’t keep up.
“I didn't completely lose sight of them, and it certainly wasn’t difficult to finish the hike, but they were going at such a fast clip. I realized then that I am not super-fast, nor do I want to be. For me, it’s not a race, it’s an enjoyable, healthy activity. It was then I realized there was a need for a different option. I thought, there must be others like me that want to do a reasonable amount of miles at a moderate pace, so I decided to start my own group."
"I took note of what was lacking with the groups already established, thought about how I wanted to present mine, and saw an opportunity to make a better hiking group. I wanted it to be friendly and welcoming, so I get to know my members on a personal level. It’s a group where you can meet new people and make friends because I make it social, interactive and fun; we don’t take ourselves too seriously. I never want anyone to feel like they don’t belong.”
Those qualities are what she attributes to the success of the group. “I have been running The Moderate Hikers for 7 1/2 years, I have almost 3,000 members and we’re still growing strong. Even our name lets people know exactly what you can expect. Its success is a testament to my passion and commitment, but make no mistake, my members are what makes this group because without them, I wouldn’t have one. Every time I hike with them, I am inspired by their sense of adventure and willingness to participate! I am truly grateful to have such an amazing group.”
You can find Katya and The Moderate Hikers at www.meetup.com/themoderatehikers.