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Survival Guide

Alan Maschhoff’s HYOH Adventures club presents an opportunity for people to experience the outdoors in a nonjudgmental environment, create beautiful memories, and find a new life path.

Gina Conroy
Marc Rains
November 28, 2019

Alan Maschhoff grew up in the middle of the desert in Ridgecrest, California, with his mother and sister, his parents divorcing when he was 9. Having little contact or financial support from his father, Maschhoff watched his mom work hard to provide for their family.

“Being poor, I had to create entertainment,” says Maschhoff, who loved to explore his surroundings as a kid. “I hiked in the desert, discovered mine shafts, caught lizards, snakes, and tarantulas.”

Always wondering what was over the next mountain or ridge, Maschhoff enjoyed his childhood adventures and was nurtured by strong, hardworking women. “My mother was a very athletic, responsible, and loving mother,” says Maschhoff. His grandmother also modeled the love and support Maschhoff needed to thrive. Even though she lived two hours away, his grandmother used to visit and take him and his sister on trips from time to time. “That’s where I discovered the appreciation for travel and closeness of family and friends,” he says.

When Maschhoff was 11, his grandmother died. Having never experienced death before, he was sad and confused. At age 15, they moved to Bakersfield to be closer to family. Compared to the desert, Bakersfield was a big city filled with new adventures and places to explore.

“I used to hike in the nearby mountains, which are part of the Sierras in the foothills of the Sierra Nevadas,” says Maschhoff.

At 17 and a junior in high school, the curious, adventurous boy had become athletic and popular, yet his security and strength still came from his mother, aunt, and an uncle who had become like a father to him.

HYOH Adventures fills a niche for adventurers, both single and married, to find fun, safe, and affordable ways to connect to the outdoors and others. (Photo: Marc Rains)
HYOH Adventures fills a niche for adventurers, both single and married, to find fun, safe, and affordable ways to connect to the outdoors and others. (Photo: Marc Rains)

Unfortunately, that year, a tragedy hit, crumbling Maschhoff’s firm foundation. Cancer, which had stolen his grandmother’s life years earlier, also took his mom.

“She was 38,” says Maschhoff. “This was a big blow to me and the beginning of my downward spiral to self-destruction.”

He went to live with his aunt, and though no one could see his emotional decline, his pain and hopelessness soon culminated in near tragedy.

“Everyone thought I was doing extremely well,” says Maschhoff, who admitted he played that part. “I thrived in everything I was doing and never showed any sign of no longer wanting to exist.” One day at 17, in his room while holding a gun, he contemplated suicide. “God only knows how I survived.”

Maschhoff’s hard times were not over. Years later, his aunt died of cancer.

“Before I was 26, I had lost everyone in my life who had supported and encouraged me,” says Maschhoff. Everyone he had admired because of their character, the way they lived, their ability to overcome obstacles, and excel in life was gone. Maschhoff felt alone, yet somehow managed to go on with life.

Ten years after his mom’s death, that popular jock in high school navigated his way to young adulthood and grew into a successful college student.

“I met a wonderful lady, got married, and we had two wonderful boys,” he says. Though Maschhoff never graduated with a degree from college, you could say he was living the American Dream with a house, cars, boats, and money in the bank. “Life was great and wonderful for a time.”

Then the stress of his job and family not only got to Maschhoff but also to his wife. She wanted to separate and, eventually, divorce.  

“That’s when I pretty much lost it,” he says.

Aside from outdoor adventures, the HYOH group has meetups, movie nights, and other family-friendly activities like volleyball and impromptu outings.
Aside from outdoor adventures, the HYOH group has meetups, movie nights, and other family-friendly activities like volleyball and impromptu outings.

Maschhoff fell into such a deep depression and anxiety that thoughts of ending his life took root again. “Things began to spiral down to the point that I took action to try to commit suicide on Christmas Eve,” says Maschhoff.

Thankfully his attempt failed. Coming out of the hospital, he had found his reason to live: His youngest son was 17, the same age he was when Maschhoff lost his mom.

“Why would I put my son through the same thing I did as a kid, especially on Christmas Eve?,” says Maschhoff. He knew there was more to life and that he couldn’t put his son through the same pain he went through growing up.

The only parent at the time, Maschhoff looked to the one thing that had given him joy growing up: the great outdoors.

First, he got out in nature by himself, and then he joined an outdoor adventure group in California led by his mentor, Bill Baugher. Maschhoff began to see positive changes in his life physically, emotionally, and mentally. His confidence was returning. He felt free to talk and open up without hiding. Soon he realized spending time in nature was not only changing him; it was healing him.

“I’m a different person now,” says Maschhoff. “I’m stronger than I ever was before.”

Little did Maschhoff know at the time his love of the outdoors that healed his soul would also give hope to others. “Everyone goes through a lot of things in life,” says Maschhoff. “I wanted to take something I’ve experienced and overcome to try to help others.”

That’s where Maschhoff’s passion for creating a club where all are accepted, included, and treated like family came from. What Baugher did for him, he now offers to everyone else through the HYOH Adventures club.

“Everyone hikes their hike in life, so we should all live and let live on and off the trail,” says Maschhoff. “That is the meaning and foundation of our adventure cub’s name, HYOH: Hike Your Own Hike.”

Although Maschhoff has been leading outdoor adventures in Oklahoma and Arkansas for six years, he didn’t start his group until January 2019. With only a name, Facebook page, website, and photos of all the various adventures he’s led over the years, the page follows started to increase. In six months, HYOH Adventures had 500 followers and 2,700 by Nov. 1, and it’s not slowing down.

Maschhoff seemed to have filled a niche for adventurers, both single and married, to find fun, safe, and affordable ways to connect to the outdoors and others.

“HYOH makes adventures of all kinds possible to anyone, regardless of age, strength, skills,” says Beverly Hill, a solo adventurer. “Not just Alan, the founder, but the members, despite varied backgrounds, are welcoming adventure seekers who seem to act like making friends is also one of life’s grandest adventures!”

“Alan is a great leader and planner,” says Teri Goforth, who attended a weekend trip to the Ozarks. “He knew all the details of our hike and planned fun experiences in town. We will add this trip to our great fun adventures list.”

But Maschhoff’s quick to remind everyone they’re not just a hiking club. Aside from outdoor adventures, the group has meetups, movie nights, and other family-friendly activities like volleyball and impromptu outings.

“First, Alan is a generous man with his time, his resources, and his skills,” says Kimberly Osment. “Second, what a great group of people. Third, they organize everything: a variety of activities; local, day, and weekend trips away; pub crawls; and dancing. And they are open to suggestions.”

Community is not the only reason Maschhoff started HYOH Adventures club.

“Adventures can be costly for people with limited funds and set incomes, so I wanted everyone to have the means to be included and to experience opportunities and adventures in the outdoors,” says Maschhoff.

Despite their exponential growth, their mission remains the same: present an opportunity for people to experience affordable adventures in the outdoors in a safe, nonjudgmental environment, create beautiful memories, and develop new friendships.

With the success of the club and page likes growing daily, Maschhoff decided to take the club to the next level by offering membership benefits. With a membership-based club, he could lead more trips, provide more equipment, and offer group discounts for the members.

“I wanted people without proper gear to experience these adventures without spending a lot of money on the gear first,” says Maschhoff, who isn’t compensated for his time prospecting, planning, preparing for, and leading these trips.

In April 2019, paid membership opened, and by November, membership had grown to 350.

Veronica Lovell went on her first HYOH Adventure with her husband and 10-year-old, who said he would hate it. “He loved it because of the people,” says Lovell. “Alan planned everything with down payments, getting keys, and scouting areas. We jumped on board to be members because of his dedication. We are staying members because of him and the wonderful people who made my kiddo want to go hiking and camping again.”

“It’s never been about the money,” Maschhoff says. The membership money collected is put back into the group to buy new gear and equipment for members to use.

But members aren’t the only ones to benefit from the club and trips.

“I believe in having free days and family days open to the public where people can use the equipment without being a member,” says Maschhoff. “I want everybody to experience something, but the money will help more people benefit.”

Maschhoff’s spring goal is to finish his inventory and be able to accommodate 30 people to use the kayaks and other equipment like backpacks and camping gear. Currently, the inventory is stored in a unit Maschhoff rents with money out of his pocket. Once the group grows, he can afford a bigger unit and more equipment.  

“One day, I hope to have 20 backpacks with all the gear people can check out at once,” says Maschhoff. He also envisions having 20 mountain bikes so he can load them in the trailer to have them waiting for people to use at the trail.

HYOH Adventures ended its big adventure of the year with a hike in the Buffalo River Valley in November. While winter is a slow season for outdoor activities, they plan to host three different options a week for the rest of 2019, including cave tours, meetups, movie nights, and other local, day trip outings.

What started as Maschhoff’s passion for sharing his story of tragedy to triumph through the power of nature to help others has grown into something more than he could have envisioned: serving the community.

“In September, we hosted an event to help clean up the Oxley Nature Center, and in October, we assisted Tulsa Nightlife’s event in feeding the homeless,” says Maschhoff. And that’s just the beginning.

Nikkie Petrillo-Boyd, HYOH community service coordinator, is planning more outreaches like volunteer tutoring with kids in the community, habitat for humanity, and walking animals at the pound.

“HYOH wants people in the community to know they are valued,” says Petrillo-Boyd. “By investing our time and talents in the community, it gives people a sense of belonging.”