Click our logo for the Sierra Club homepage.
Printer-friendly version Share:  Share this page on FacebookShare this page on TwitterShare this page by emailShare this page with other services

Sierra magazine
Bulletin | News for Members

By Della Watson

Grilled | DIY: Green Transit | Ain't No Party Like a Green Sex Party | Welcome to the Club!

Invading the Privacy of the Volunteers Who Make the Club Tick

Name: Dave Bybee
Location: Portland, Oregon
Contribution: Sierra Club Outings leader and hot springs expert

We hear you don't use the word "hike." John Muir thought "hiking" had militaristic overtones. He once said, "Sauntering in any wilderness is delightful." So I prefer the word "saunter." I rarely break camp before nine in the morning and try to make camp by four in the afternoon. I stop a lot along the way.

So you're the keeper of the Club's legendary hot springs list. Within the Angeles Chapter, they have the 100 Peaks Section, and people climb peaks because they're on the list. Back in the early '80s, Elden Hughes and Owen Malloy and others decided there ought to be a hot springs list to spoof the arduous peakbaggers. I set a goal for myself to be the first person to finish the list, and I've been leading hot springs trips for 27 years.

That's a lot of soaking. There are 70 soakable springs on the list and more than 1,400 in the United States, according to NOAA [the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration]. I've personally soaked in maybe 200.

Is nudity required? I'm confident these are the longest continuously running "clothing optional" outings in Sierra Club history. On the trips I lead, I make it clear that if you want to wear a bathing suit, that's fine. If you don't, that's OK too. It becomes a selective filter to meet some remarkable people. It's an opportunity to go beyond barriers.

Tell us about the bathrobe. Years ago I decided that if I'm going to lead hot springs trips and award patches to people at the end, and also because of my mystical views about hot springs, that I ought to have some sort of a celebratory robe. And so I found that robe with the hood, and my sweet niece, Olivia, decorated it for me with the patch and fifty dollars' worth of genuine brocade. There's also yards of velvet and then the faux-fur collar. It's not real fur, because part of the image I try to project includes kindness.

You seem to think that environmentalists should be having more fun. Some people say that unless you're fighting a battle, you're not pulling your weight in the Club. I'm not interested in leading people to a dump or a coal plant. I want to inspire them to get back to their instincts, to have a good time in a wild place, so when they go back home, they'll respond in a protective way. —interview by Della Watson

Dave Bybee's Orange-Spice Campfire Cupcakes

6-10 large navel oranges
1 box of spice-cake mix
Eggs and oil, if required for cake-mix recipe*

Utensils to pack: spoon, tongs, knife, container for mixing

  1. While the campfire is burning, cut off and set aside the navel end of each orange. Hollow out the oranges, as you would a carving pumpkin, reserving the juice and pulp.
  2. In a separate container, prepare the spice-cake batter per the box's instructions, substituting the oranges' juice for any liquids. Stir in the chopped-up pulp.
  3. Fill each orange 1/3 full with cake batter and replace the orange "lid."
  4. Snuggle the oranges close to the hot coals but away from the open flame and rotate them every 3 to 5 minutes with the tongs. The rind will singe black.
  5. The cupcakes are ready when the expanding cake lifts the oranges' lids (about 10 minutes).

    * Eggs can be cracked into a wide-mouth bottle at the trailhead.

Do you know a Sierra Club volunteer who deserves recognition? Send nominations to

DIY: Green Transit
Walk This Way

One chilly fall day, nearly 40 Twin Cities hikers convened to explore the banks of the Mississippi River and learn about its ecology. While it seemed like a typical Sierra Club excursion, two things set it apart: The green space was in downtown Minneapolis, and everyone arrived by foot, bike, or public transit.

"The whole idea is to show people it's possible to access natural areas without a car," said Deb Alper of the Minnesota North Star Chapter's Transit to Green Space program. She launched the initiative in 2008 after struggling to find information about how to get to the metro area's parks using ecofriendly transportation.

Transit to Green Space organizes about eight trips a year and maintains a blog detailing transit information and outing descriptions. The first group foray was a train-and-bike excursion to the Minnesota Valley Wildlife Refuge. Another group schlepped their gear on a city bus for a cross-country ski trip. Next, Alper hopes to arrange a trip with inner-city kids to show that they don't need a car to get out in nature. —Jamie Hansen

QUICK TIP To organize transit-based trips, Alper researches regional parks and transit-system schedules, then does a trial run: "The initial outings are explorations into unknown territory."

ON THE WEB Get ideas and inspiration for accessing green space via public transit at

Ain't No Party Like a Green Sex Party

A lively atmosphere—facilitated by bubbly drinks made of tequila, orange liqueur, peach puree, champagne, and green food coloring—prevailed at the Georgia Chapter's "Green Sex Party," a presentation on women's issues and the environment. Held in a hip, brick-walled eatery in Atlanta's historic Inman Park neighborhood, the event was the first installment of the chapter's social-program series "Hot Planet, Cool Drinks."

Attendees received green-packaged condoms and signed petitions urging Congress to allocate $1 billion for international family planning, advocating comprehensive sex education, and supporting a Global Poverty Act. Samantha Sayer, a volunteer who helped organize the event, hopes the series will attract a wider range of activists to the Club. "We're doing more than going out in the wilderness and hiking," she said. —Julie Littman

Welcome to the Club!

The Sierra Club's new executive director, Michael Brune, first saw the power of grassroots activism as a teenage surfer in New Jersey. The beaches had been littered with chemical waste and hypodermic needles until a community campaign succeeded in closing a local chemical factory and banning hospital-waste dumping. After college, Brune joined Greenpeace and, later, the Rainforest Action Network, where he served as executive director for seven years.

These days, the avid outdoorsman cites his children, Olivia and Sebastian, as his inspiration. "Being a parent produces an almost instantaneous, gut-level desire to protect and provide for your kids a safe and healthy world," Brune says. "For me, one of the ways to be a good parent is to be good at my job. I can't take this work more seriously than that."

Photos, from top: Susan Conroy, Jesse Lefkowitz, Joshua Houdek, Raja Viswanathan, Joshua Houdek, Lori Eanes



Sierra Club® and "Explore, enjoy and protect the planet"® are registered trademarks of the Sierra Club. © 2023 Sierra Club.
The Sierra Club Seal is a registered copyright, service mark, and trademark of the Sierra Club.