When I first moved to Charlotte NC back in 2009, I knew barely a soul. It was a tough first year, just going to work, coming home to my wife at the time, who was on her daily 3 hour call with her ex husband. Weekends were at my late father’s house, listening to the same old story, complaints about people and politics. Every day, every weekend was the same people, same routine. It was soul crushing. One day, early 2010, my receptionist introduced me to Charlotte Outdoor Adventures.
The Adventure Begins
Charlotte Outdoor Adventures (CHOA) had a very basic website, some icons and a single calendar listing all of their events. It was packed full of things to do, every single day. I was amazed and signed up for my first event, a “moderate” hike to DuPont State Forest. I hadn’t gone hiking in years, but loved the occasional hike in Massachusetts and New Hampshire. So I signed up, but ended up on a “waiting list”. It was two weeks out so no worries. It would sure be better than whatever squabble between my father and I the “loving” wife would fabricate in order to step in as the “hero problem solver”. The fake drama had no end.
The day before the hike started I got an email from the CHOA system, it said a spot opened for the hike and I was “good to go”. But I had nothing in the way of hiking gear. So I rushed to Dick’s Sporting goods (a huge mistake) bought shoes, backpack, socks, “hiking clothes” and some snack bars. I was a silly looking city boy going on a country hike.
Charlotte Outdoor Adventures has a theme of conservation. So carpooling was highly suggested. Parking at Dupont was a dusty dirt lot that could barely fit 20 vehicles. The meeting spot was at the Bi-Lo in Belmont, a place I’d never been. GPS at the time was flaky and kept steering me into some abandoned warehouse. Time was running out! I found the meeting location and pulled up as the last of the groups were getting in their “assigned” cars. I offered to drive, but the “blond lady in charge” said no, carpools were already decided and I was to ride with two other people who were short on riders. So the three of us having never met before hop in a car together and disembark to the great unknown (for me at least).
What happened that day and in the years to follow, well those stories will all unfold in future posts. Though I made friends that day whom I still hang out with regularly. That is the true beauty of CHOA.
Death of CHOA
Charlotte Outdoor Adventures (CHOA) was founded in 1998 by Don Salomon who later Partnered with Andy Phan. Together they ran it until Don had to depart the club to focus on his family around 2006. CHOA was held together by the fantastic leadership team. All volunteers that ran hikes, social events, parties, wine tastings, amazing things that kept the calendar full almost every day. But a new website came about that started dominating the market, Meetup. So in 2012, Andy closed out CHOA and took a job in Raleigh NC where he moved with his family. But the CHOA spirit raged on…
Instead of being the closed group with control and vetting of leadership as CHOA was; Meetup was set up in a way that anyone could host their own group and run their own events. It was a huge success at first, but the openness of the site weighed and fragmentation of 1400 individual groups really started to burn people out. The simple times of one calendar, vetted leadership and a single source of events was yearned for. Facebook also has an events feature, but those too suffer the fragmentation that meetup has as well. Only it’s facebook pages and it requires people to share and market the events. So customer base and outreach is limited.
Rebirth of CHOA
Don Salomon is back. His family grown up and no longer needing his dedicated attention he yearned for the days of Charlotte Outdoor Adventures. The dead feeling inside from a lack of activity and no ability to really find what’s going on, due to the massive fragmentation of events and social gatherings. He opted to post in the CHOA remnants group that he was ready to start anew. Overnight it was a hit, people scrambled to state their excitement about CHOA and it’s rebirth.
Shortly after the Charlotte Outdoor Adventures website was launched (choaclub.com) with the same simplistic philosophy of the original site. Free membership, one event calendar, a core team of leaders and safety first attitude. CHOA is not a dating club, it’s an adventure group that brings people together to explore North Carolina and have amazing stories to tell. The friends made through CHOA are usually lasting as it’s a low pressure environment where people just get together and talk, have a good time and find new adventures.
Note: Charlotte Outdoor Adventures and Carolina Adventure Guides are separate entities and not affiliated with each other in any way.