By Jenn Haight

Houston offers no shortage of healthy, outdoor activities to enjoy. Running and biking, canoeing and paddle boarding, yoga and dance are all available, but sometimes the hardest step is the first one. It can be intimidating to become active on your own, and that's where joining a group can help. The Houston Outdoor Group (or HOG) has been organizing and planning activities for its members for the last 31 years.

Originally started as an exclusively outdoor group with camping, biking and canoeing outings, their calendar now has expanded to include a wide range of other social events. "We have trips to the theater, and we have trips to the Renaissance Festival, blueberry picking, ballet, Miller Outdoor Theater and Jones Hall," explains HOG president, Ron Drumm. This fall, they're also gathering to attend the Houston Greekfest together.

Over the years, the group has found one other common focus area by expanding to include one of life's primal needs and passions - food. Whether meeting for a potluck dinner, weekend brunch, dinner at a member's home or sampling the fares at a local restaurant, the group offers several food-based outings each month.

HOG is open to all but focuses on the gay and lesbian community. Part of the fun is that attendees tend to vary from event to event, leading to a different group almost every time. You only attend the things that interest you, and the planning is all done by the board. Members and guests simply need to RSVP and show up to the activities most likely to result in a good time for them.

Currently, HOG has 91 members ranging in age from 20-70. Drumm, who has served as president for two years now, is excited about the future of the organization and is hoping it will continue to grow. The membership consists of both couples and singles, and he's pleased with the overall diversity in people and get-togethers.

Although most of the activities with the group take place within the greater Houston area, some events extend well beyond the city limits. Drumm's introduction to the group involved one of those trips. "I was invited on a trip to Enchanted Rock State Natural Area...I was immediately hooked." This adventure led to him becoming a member of HOG.

Another group member, Howard Kanelakos, was also positively affected by his association with HOG. "Joining HOG was one of the best things that ever happened to me. It was a comfortable group of guys who were either comfortable with themselves or working on becoming comfortable with themselves."

Interested people are welcome to attend and join at any time throughout the year. Drumm stresses there are no required meetings and members are free to attend whatever activities they want. Membership is only $20 per year, and that's per household, not per person. Both low-price and low-pressure, Houston Outdoor Group may be exactly the group you need to get you moving.