When participants in Scottsdale’s outdoor recreation program show up for a hike, they are often perfect strangers. When they leave, they are often friends — sometimes even more.
The city’s outdoor recreation program has sponsored group excursions for nearly 20 years. The program offers activities twice a month to residents that include sightseeing, hiking and camping trips.
One of the most attractive features of the program is the sense of community — and of friendship, said recreation specialist Yvonne Massman. “One couple ended up getting married,” she said.
On a typical trip, Massman never even turns on the radio. In fact, she said, she’s lucky to get a word in among all the conversation in the vehicle.
Each trip requires a fee from the participant that can be up to $200. The fees help pay for Massman’s work, entrance into state parks and museums, firewood, and the cost to rent and fuel city vehicles.
“It’s not cheap,” Massman said. Yet some trips fill up on the first day of registration.
Recent activities have included a day trip to Sunset Crater Volcano near Flagstaff, a trip to museums in Prescott and a three-day campout in the White Mountains.
“It’s a wonderful way to see Arizona,” said Scottsdale resident Lee Berry. “I probably would not have had the opportunity to do the things I’ve been able to do if it hadn’t been for the S cottsdale Recreation Program.”
Berry said her first time camping was with the Scottsdale group.
“I wasn’t a camper,” she said. Now, she’s a regular.
People are expected to bring their own gear, such as clothes, water and sleeping bags, while also providing something to share at the potluck dinners.
Participants said they had a good time around the campfire, sharing wine and stories from their pasts.
Although the hikes can be long and strenuous, no one has been injured on a trip. Massman has training as an EMT and wilderness first responder. Prior to each trip, participants have to sign a waiver to exempt the city from responsibility in case of injury.
Massman said there have been some exciting times on the trips, such as seeing a black bear.
“I am so lucky,” she said of her job.
Upcoming destinations include a tour of an alpaca ranch, a visit to the Queen Creek Olive Oil Mill and a camping trip to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon, which is expected to reopen Monday after being closed for fire danger.
For information on the program, call (480) 312-7901.