I never thought I would join a hiking club, let alone a gay hiking club. But here I am: walking in the beautiful English country side, joined by 22 members of a gay hiking club, called the H.O.T.B.E.A.R.S.
It’s the 50th hike of the unofficial club, and depending on the London gay party calendar, weather conditions and just other obligations, between 15 and 50 guys (and girls!) show up for the monthly hike. Why?
See the horizon every now and then
I have been living in large cities for almost 20 years now and even though I would never go back to living in a small town, I do miss the space and presence of a horizon every now and then. But joining a hiking club never crossed my mind. I don’t even know people who like to hike! And a special gay hiking club sounded like a historic thing, for guys who survived the 80’s and still hang on to a non-digital lifestyle.
Alex joined the group a few hikes ago, just to go out of the city and breathe in some fresh air and learning about his new homeland. Coming from Italy he definitely missed outdoors life more than I do.
As a Dutchy I am used to the flat countryside, which I consider boring. But the Windows-screensaver-like scenery of England is definitely something I would wake up for early on a sunday morning. So we did.
The gay hike
Around 8 am (!) the group gathers at a station in London, departing to remote stations.Each hike has a stop at a pub and a few points of interest. Nothing spectacular but a great way to relax, get to know the local stuff and warm up a bit.
Last month we walked near Windsor castle and all of a sudden I understood why queen Lizzy has dogs: this is a great area to walk them! This month we are walking from Lewes in East Sussex for a 25 km hike near the coast with beautiful views over the area.
The good thing about the H.O.T.B.E.A.R.S.-hikes is that the guys joining are all super relaxed. Sometimes even girls and dogs join the group. Meeting all these new guys with their different backgrounds is nice and we all have a few things in common: we woke up early on a weekend day, we enjoy nature and we love a bit of excercise without exaggerating that. Though at the end of the most guys fall asleep back on the train.
So why joining a gay hiking club?
The H.O.T.B.E.A.R.S. are not a real club. It is a Facebook-group that you get invited for after two hikes. The first walk you get introduced by someone, and the second time you probably won’t miss because you met so many new Facebook-friends on the first hike. Every month one of the group members plannes the route and does some research about the things to see and the pubs to enter.
How it started
They started the hikes because they wanted to do something else than clubbing and going to the common gay London places. To explore a bit more of the area they live in and just meet other people. Every month a nice mix of existing members and newbies join and I must admit that I never would have guessed I enjoyed it this much.
It is a totally different experience to have a casual conversation with a stranger instead of constantly checking who is within 500 m distance sharing his private parts after having asked whether you are top or not.
I enjoyed it so much that I am thinking to start a Burger Hike near Rotterdam, with of course a hamburger restaurant to visit instead of a traditional pub. I’m curious to know: would you join?