"This summer I pledged to go hiking more...even hermits need some regular social interaction!"

This summer, I pledged to go hiking more—and to do so with other people. Even hermits need some regular social interaction. (But just a bit.)
So, every Thursday evening I laced up my boots, drove to various trailheads throughout the Valley, and went hiking with The Venture Out Project. The hikes weren't super long, but they were enough to clear my head after a long day of production deadlines and grumpy authors. And it felt particularly good to do so with other queer and trans people.

Sometimes we saw waterfalls, sometimes caves, sometimes sweeping views of the valley. Sometimes the humidity and mosquitoes were so oppressive that it felt like you were swimming up the mountain, doused in DEET. There were croaking ravens, a moose and its calf, and a veritable rainbow of fungi by the time summer came to a close. But the company—the reason that I kept returning week after week—was constant.

Most recently, we spent the day hiking the Seven Sisters, a classic ridgeline hike in the Holyoke Range with no shortage of views and just as many summits. The autumn equinox had brought with it a distinct chill to the air, and in the spirit of the season, someone had packed a bag of apple cider donuts to share in lieu of the traditional trail mix. Although the trail was slick and steep in parts, conversation was easy and what silences we shared were comfortable. After so many ascents and descents (rinse and repeat), that meant tired feet and achey knees for me, but a pretty full heart.

I'm a shy, 30-something, queer nerd with a binocular harness, a whole lot of anxiety, and too many gender feelings for one body. I am all too familiar with the feeling (however misguided) of not being good enough, or athletic enough, or fast enough, or queer or smart or tough enough. Of wanting to go too slow and feeling self-conscious about getting distracted by coral mushrooms and red efts and warblers in the deep woods, when other people just want to bag another peak. But somehow, those thoughts never materialized on these hikes, and I'm really grateful for Perry, Oliver, and the rest of the folks at Venture Out for fostering such a welcoming, communal space on the trail.


perry cohen