Kayaking. Pan drumming. Blacksmithing. Beer tasting. Glassblowing. Laughing yoga. Ziplining. In Adventure Club, the escapade is limited only by price and the imagination of the planner. Outings are monthly, with the date and time announced a few weeks before, but the exploit itself remains unknown until the last minute. That's because the very purpose is to make you try new things. Club founder Susan Seaman perched on the edge of one of Because Coffee's cushy armchairs and enthused about the group's beginning, how it gave her and a circle of friends a chance to try new activities that they might not opt for deliberately and wouldn't have to commit to for a length of time. "It was based on my own weakness," the 44-year-old Seaman continued. "If I like something, I can always do it another time, and if I don't like something, I'll never do it, but I can't resist not knowing a secret. ... Each adventure is like Christmas morning."
I'd heard about Adventure Club through a friend, who invited me to join, but it was a few months before I was able to make an event. We were to meet at the Eureka Kmart parking lot, wear good hiking shoes and bring $5. Lunch would be provided. As I drove, I contemplated what the adventure might be. Walking the Elk River Trail? Bird watching along the Hikshari'? I pulled into the parking lot, surprised to be nervous; already I was out of my comfort zone. I found existing friends immediately and was quickly shaking hands with soon-to-be new ones. Once everyone was gathered around, the organizers told us the next step: carpooling to the Humboldt Botanical Gardens, a place I only vaguely knew existed. At the gardens — which are so lovely that I'm anxious to return with a picnic and my husband on the next sunny day — we were given silly sunglasses and divided into teams for a scavenger hunt. Each team got a page of riddles — clues to items and hiding spots in the 44.5-acre expanse. Imbued with humor and a slight competiveness — there would be prizes for the fastest teams — we set off. Over the next hour-and-a-half, we figured, deduced and searched. A tiny vase was hidden in (if I recall correctly) Lost Coast Brewery's Native Plant Garden, and a Snoopy figurine rested beneath the Moss Family Temperate Woodland Garden's rare Wollemi Pine, Wollemia nobilis. Along the way, stories and laughing; at the end, lunch. The very novelty of the experience forces you to exist completely in the moment — a wonderful grown-up version of being lost in play.
"It can be learning a simple skill, participating in an activity we don't usually consider, or trying something more adventurous," reads the "About" section on the club's Facebook page. In the 18 months since the first adventure — a class at North Coast Fencing Academy — the group's membership has grown from the original 10 or so to nearly 170 women, mostly professionals, mostly empty nesters, but only mostly. When I attended, the average age was likely the upper end of 40, but I'd guess several women were in their 60s and an equal number were in their 30s. "It's really diverse in terms of what they do," Seaman noted, but participants tend to be both confident and busy. "Not the sort of people used to sitting around," she said.
Some of the members she doesn't know at all, although to be approved a person has to have at least one connection to an existing member. "At least there's some vetting," she said. "It's never been a problem." Typically about a dozen to 20 women attend any one event, but sometimes more. If enough people commit, sometimes the adventure happens in shifts (two separate classes, one after the other, for example). The club also caps any fees for the events at $35 to keep them as inclusive as possible. Over a year-and-a-half in, the loose guidelines are working. "The things that could be problems, aren't yet," Seaman said, smiling.
The all-women designation wasn't intentional, she continued, nor was it a hard stance, but keeping it that way took care of concerns that the Adventure Club might turn into a hookup club. Men, and those who like to have fun with them, take note: Due to demand, not only has Seaman authored a "How To Start An Adventure Club" Facebook page — "It's just like owning a Sea Monkey for a pet! It's not complicated!" — but Adventure Club TWO, a new coed offshoot, starts up on Jan. 10. As with the first club, there's no age limit, no minimum attendance and any physical requirements for the adventure will be posted ahead of time. The only thing participants must commit to is a willingness to try.
A funny thing happens when you motivate yourself to embrace new experiences, Seaman observed. "The more adventures you have, the more you recognize that everything is an adventure."