Let’s face it, making friends as an adult is hard. Long gone are the days where lifelong friendships could start with sharing a juice box in the park. But Kate has cracked the code: you just might need to swap your juice box for a pair of hiking shoes.
For as long as I can remember, I’ve been a (mostly) content loner.
I have a fantastic group of core friends who I love spending time with, but after a day of socialising I generally need to lock myself in my apartment for a few hours to recharge. Essentially, I have the socialising battery life of a 3-year-old iPhone.
Though I love the solitary life, I do know my limits. Working from home full time, living alone, and being away from most of my friends after a move further up into the Blue Mountains (I feel very lucky to be able to live and work in beautiful Dharug and Gundungurra Country) has seen me with more time to myself than even I would like.
As a kid, making friends was as easy as bumping into another kid at the park. As an adult, when a stranger approaches you in a park, they’re met with slightly more suspicion.
Much of the advice around meeting new people as an adult seems to centre around doing things you enjoy. One of my many interests is hiking. I’m not necessarily looking to challenge myself to any great extent, but ever since I was a kid spending afternoons and weekends playing in the bushland behind our house, I’ve loved being in nature.
With that in mind, I started my hunt for a hiking buddy.
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Reaching Out to The Locals
Social media can be the worst, but it can also be the best way to meet people. After finding a great massage therapist through the locals Facebook group, I’d already started to connect with people in my area.
Thankfully, this massage therapist also happened to be a keen hiker.
We chatted about her adventures (I was extremely impressed with her tales of days spent hiking alone) and I shared my desire to explore more of the area with someone who was at a similar fitness level to me.
That’s when she said, ‘You should meet Leo’.
Windy Walk to Castle Head
After going on a short walk from Echo Point to Katoomba Cascades – and laughing over the fact that we’d both told our loved ones the details of who we were walking with (being women stranger danger is a very real thing) – we took Leo’s AWD and headed down a dirt road to Narrow Neck Plateau.
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It turns out that one of the unexpected perks of making hiking friends is having access to a vehicle with better clearance than yours.
While our initial plan had been to walk part of the plateau, we saw a sign to our left that read Castle Head, 2.5 km and decided to check it out.
Through icy winds we hiked along the clifftop, taking in the stunning views back across the Jamison Valley to Katoomba. Though Leo and I had only just met, we had plenty to talk about and felt comfortable in each other’s presence.
Since moving to my new home in the Upper Blue Mountains, I had spent many hours at my favourite lookout, looking out towards Mount Solitary. To come to the end of our walk and see the beautiful landmark from another angle filled me with joy. I was getting to know more of this land, and it felt great.
Unique Views From Lockleys Pylon
For our next walk, we took our blossoming friendship over the other side of the highway and explored the beauty of the Grose Valley.
Lockleys Pylon is one of the most awe-inspiring places I’ve ever been to. The return walk takes 2-3 hours and is named after J.G. Lockley, a Sydney Morning Herald journalist who helped in the effort to protect the Blue Gum Forest from logging in the 1930s.
While taking in the 360-degree views, I felt grateful to all those people throughout history that have stood in the way of destruction.
Places like this feel so far removed from modern life. In fact, had I seen a herd of brachiosaurus walk past us, I would have nodded my head and thought, ‘yep, that makes sense’.
Though the walk back had me feeling slightly lightheaded (it turns out my iron levels are low, which was a good reminder of the importance of keeping an eye on your health when hiking), I couldn’t wipe the smile off my face as we drove the 20 minutes back to Leura.
Keeping the Friendship Ball Rolling
Since making a new hiking friend in the mountains, my connection to the community has grown. Even when I go on solo hikes, which I still very much enjoy, I always find myself chatting to locals and learning more about this amazing area. It seems mountain folk are more than happy to share their knowledge.
I’ve also found connections through Facebook groups like Sydney’s Hiking Women and Blue Mountains NSW Bushwalks. Adventure company Women Want Adventure is another great community and I’m looking forward to joining their hikes when lockdown ends.
I’ve even taken dates on bushwalks – though only once they’ve been vetted for serial killer potential, of course.
I’m still very much a beginner, both with hiking and making new friends, but I’m looking forward to my future adventures.
Oh the places I’ll go, and the people I’ll go there with.
Want to join a community of like-minded adventurers? Check out the We Are Explorers Community Facebook Group!
Feature Photo Thanks to @Henry_brydon