In good company: Sierra Outdoor Sports Club offers exercise, friendship |

In good company: Sierra Outdoor Sports Club offers exercise, friendship

The Sierra Outdoor Sports Club has done it all. For more than 20 years, it has organized hiking, biking and paddling trips in the summer months and skiing and snowshoeing in the winter.

But in recent years, membership has seen a decline, especially among younger participants, and that worries organizers, who say this downward trend threatens the club’s existence.

“I wish there was a way to get a group of young people involved because if we don’t, eventually the club will just end,” said publicist Gale Wright.

Pizza parties and regular newspaper announcements have been attempts at recruiting younger members, and Wright says she gets quite a few phone calls from people interested in the club, which hosts many activities. But for some reason, the average age of club members has become a liability and has deterred growth of the group, says Wright.

“One younger person might feel strange, like they’re doing something with their parents,” said Wright. She encourages adventurous outdoor types under 40 with an interest in the group to bring their peers along.

The group started about 25 years ago as an outdoor club exclusively for single men. Those were the wild days of more dangerous, risky outings, such as white-water rafting. Over the years, the group took a milder tone, began to include women, and eventually married couples.

Today the group is made up of about 30 healthy active individuals averaging between the ages of 50 and 60 who enjoy the company of each other. Many have been in the club for at least 10 years. At one time the club had more than 70 members, with as many as 20 participating in one activity at a time. Those days are gone.

Former members have moved away or can no longer physically lead the lives they once did. Now only about eight people show for each outing. The ones that make it have strong friendships from years spent together.

The activities are held year-round and range from easy – such as wildflower walks at Bridgeport – to a rigorous 40-mile bike ride around the Sutter Buttes. When winter storms bring beloved snow clouds, the die-hard skiers make carpool arrangements and hit the high country.

Planning meetings are held every couple of months at one member’s home where everyone pitches their ideas for the upcoming calendar. Everyone takes turns leading outings and doing the research to properly guide people. Besides outdoor activities, the group holds weekly movie nights, TGIF dinners at the Holbrooke, urban treks to city art galleries and vacations to coastal towns like Fort Bragg and Mendocino.

For Fred Gerkensmeyer, former president, it’s the social advantages that make the club worthwhile. “One of the neatest things I like about the club is the quality of the people. I’m a very social person, and I live in Washington and there’s nothing going on here,” said Gerkensmeyer, who holds river parties at his property during the summer months.

Treasurer Don Scoles agrees that it’s the people who make the club. “They keep coming back because it’s a good ole gang. They’re active, they’re not just hanging around playing cards.” He added he also liked the diversity and chance to meet people he might not otherwise, such as a friend who works in the prison system with the “worst of the worst.”

Claudia Walker joined the club 15 years ago after her divorce. She says that by being involved with the club, she has been able to achieve a high level of fitness. “When you have other people to do activities with, it motivates you to do them,” said Walker. She has also been turned on to new activities such as spelunking in caves near Jackson or going to Ano Nuevo State Park to see elephant seals. The cost of membership is $15 and goes toward the club’s newsletter that comes out every couple of months and includes a list of monthly activities.

For those interested in joining, the first three outings are complimentary. The next planning meeting will be held May 7. Call Don Scoles at 274-2213 or Gale Wright 432-3073 for more information.

Laura Brown lives in Nevada County and covers the outdoors for The Union. Her e-mail is

Saturday, March 25 – Cross-country ski trip, weather permitting, at the Snowflower Sno-Park on the south side of I-80 at Yuba Gap exit. Call Tom (273-4409) for more information. Bring a lunch and meet at the Brunswick Flour Garden at 9:30 a.m.

Saturday, April 8 – Cross-country ski or snowshoe at Donner State Park. Call Marilyn (272-7693) and meet at the Brunswick Flour Garden at 10 a.m. Bring a lunch.

Saturday, April 15 – Hike at Bridgeport. Call Claudia (477-6421) and meet at the Brunswick Flour Garden at 10 a.m.

Saturday, April 22 – Hike along the North Yuba River to a waterfall. The trailhead is about an hour drive up Hwy. 49 from Grass Valley. Call Martin or Jan (271-0381) and meet at the Brunswick Flour Garden at 9 a.m. Bring a lunch.

Saturday, April 29 – Wildflower hike at Table Mountain in Oroville. Call Gale (432-3073) to reserve a spot and meet at the Park n’ Ride on Hwy. 20 at Pleasant Valley Rd. at 10 a.m. Bring a lunch.

Saturday, May 6 – Bike ride on American River Parkway from Folsom to Old Sacramento (about 30 miles). Participants will have lunch in Sacramento then ride the light rail back to Folsom. Call Peggy or Tony at 823-3893.

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