Mappy Hour has been giving havens to people who want to enjoy the outdoors and want to feel a sense of belonging for quite some time. For the new Northwest Arkansas chapter leader Carly Gurel, it was a great opportunity to immerse herself in her passion in the outdoors, so that when the previous chapter leader moved away and the chapter was in danger of dissolving, she decided to take matters into her own hands. This is her story, how she got into the outdoors in the first place, and where she plans to take her new Mappy Hour chapter.
What got you interested in the outdoors?
I’ve always been pretty outdoorsy. It really kicked off when I went to college, I went to the University of Colorado at Boulder, it’s just one of the most active cities in the world, the population is always going and doing stuff, so it’s hard to make friends if you weren’t someone who goes camping or climbing. When I came back home to Arkansas, it was exciting to see all that I’d taken for granted, we have some of the best access to the outdoors. It’s just beautiful, there’s so much to do, so many different activities that it’s almost hard to stay out of the outdoors now.
What part of the outdoors do you connect with the most?
For me, the outdoors kind of slows you down, and puts everything back into perspective. If I’m having a hard week, or if I haven’t had the chance to get out there in the last few days, I notice that when I go out there and am surrounded by nature, it’s one of those things that is all-encompassing; it takes over all your senses, the smell, the sound, the sights, you connect with all of them, and it really just kind of resets you. So for me, to connect with the outdoors is really about hitting that reset button, and just making my life better by immersing myself out there as often as I can.
How did you first get involved with Mappy Hour?
I moved here right before the pandemic, I lived in Colorado for a year, and a lot of my friends had moved away, so I didn’t really know anybody. I was pretty outdoorsy at that point, so I was looking for meetup groups, and I had heard about Mappy Hour. I was lucky enough to attend one Mappy Hour event before everything shut down. When things had started to open back up I realized that our chapter leader had moved to Colorado, so there was no more Mappy Hour here. So I kind of just got started at the end of what ‘our’ Mappy Hour was.
What are your short and long term goals for the Arkansas chapter?
That ties into why I wanted to restart the chapter. One, we have so many awesome members already a part of Mappy Hour, I think we have 178 people, who are very excited to see events happen soon, so one of my main goals is to reinvolve people with similar experiences to mine, to have that perfect little place that hasn’t been around for them. The other thing is because we have all these great job opportunities here with the big outdoors scene, and there’s a lot of people who don’t have any experience here, and probably don’t even know what’s here. It’s just a really cool place where we have so many new people that might be really excited about meeting new people with the same interests. So my goals would be to first reengage and restart the chapter as it was, and also to give a home to people who might not know about Mappy Hour and have an outlet in the community.
Are there any specific activities that you’re planning at the moment?
We’re going to start by doing monthly events, and we don’t want to stop there, we want to plan hikes, boat trips, bike trips, etc. Our first event is coming up: we’re going to be doing a relaunch Happy Hour party on October 8th at The Hub. After that, we have a couple of really fun classes planned, we’re going to do a cooking in the outdoors class, a safety recovery and knot class, we have a couple of people coming to speak about the geology of the area.
Because there are so many great organizations specializing in sport, we don’t want to focus on any one thing in particular, but we want to be able to introduce people to things. We have an event planned for next year about women in the outdoors, so there will be a women-only mountain biking group or a women-only climbing group. But it’s not going to be like ‘alright, this week everybody’s mountain biking’ because that already exists, and I just really feel like we would be better off talking about trail etiquette and maintenance – if you’re a hiker or biker, how to best use the trails. So something more broad, that can spark people’s interest in case they want to learn more and dive into that sport.