History of the Harrimaniacs

Over the years The Harrimaniacs have gradually grown from an informal group of friends to an organized club. The beggining of that evolution goes back to the  1990's when  Pete, one of our founding members, went on his earliest hiking trips to Harriman and Bear Mountain State Parks with his family.  In 2001 it was Pete who suggested he and Dan go camping in Harriman as an alternative to post-prom partying. In June of that year the two made plans to go to the Bald Rocks Shelter for their first overnight without 'adult supervision' and the Harrimaniacs were born.  The events that have followed since that first trip have continued the spirit of independence, exploration, and self-testing set on that first night of orienteering, cooking, and camping.

Later that summer Pete and Dan returned to Bald Rocks with 5 other newly graduated high school friends for our second trip.  From 2001 to 2003 the group centered around these and other high school friends and their siblings, most notably Pete and Dan's brothers, Dan S. and Andrew.  Trips were usually relegated to Holidays and breaks when the friends returned to New Jersey from colleges abroad.  By 2004 and 2005 those who remained in New Jersey for college drew new membership from their newfound relationships at local schools and the frequency of trips began to increase.  It was at this time that hiking, rather than just camping, became an important activity for the group as more people who were unwilling to commit to staying the night were willing to take a day trip.

November of 2005 was a pivotal time for the group.  Much planning had gone into an overnight for the weekend after Thanksgiving.  On this first trip to Big Hill the longtime members in attendance discussed in retrospect the highlights from four years of camping in Harriman.  The idea was suggested that a list of all the trips should be made and it should include the people who were in attendance on each excursion.  We began making a mental list at that time.  Upon arriving back home, Dan began the compilation of the data, making many phone calls and emails to identity all of the trips, sequence them in the correct chronological order, and determine the dates and attendees for each one.  Dan decided to make the project the subject of a Myspace.com page to fulfill an assignment for a college course he was taking at the time.  The display name used for the page was Tribe of Dan, both a reference to the Biblical Tribe of Dan and to the fact that no less than five Dans were then on the group's roster.

Soon after the Myspace page was compiled, the main members began to devise a rudimentary raking system; spurred on by the excitment of seeing the list of trips put together. Many of the early members had been on track and cross-country teams and enjoyed the idea of tracking one's progress and competing against one's own best records.  It was decided early on that the most important facet of being involved with the Harrimaniacs was the number of nights spent in the wilderness.  We did, and still do, view each night spent in the woods as an experiment in self-discipline, self-testing, conquering fears, and overcoming obstacles beyond our control.  With this in mind, the raking system was designed to revolve around the number of nights spent in the woods.  The physical challenge of endurance hiking was also prioritized and accordingly the overall number of miles a member has hiked is the second most important feature in the ranks.

It was also around this time that members began to purchase digital cameras, enabling us to document each trip in detail with photos.  These photos, with their integrated meta data, made it even easier to document the times, trails, people, and weather for each trip. Each trip brought updates the the photos and stats on the Tribe of Dan Myspace page.  The combination of increased membership, easing college schedules, and motivation from the new ranking system precipitated a huge increase in the frequency of trips.  Whereas in the early years we my have met only 4 or 5 times a year, we have taken 12-15 trips per year from the fall of 2005 onward--and that number is increasing.

Early in 2007 the decision was made to abandon Myspace because of HTML coding restraints and a lack of flexibility to maintain our ever-growing archive of information and photos.  After a short stint at a free hosting service, the Harrimaniacs moved to their permanent home on the web, www.harimaniacs.com, where a robust website has developed with all of the stats and info from the original Tribe of Dan Myspace and even more photos and extras than we originally could have even hoped for.

So where does the name Harimaniacs come from?  It didn't take long before we began to create all sorts of puns and names to call ourselves.  Two of the early names we came up with were Harrimaniacs (Harriman + Maniacs) and Harimarines (Harriman + Marines).  Gradually we have adopted 'Harrimaniacs' as our official name.  In recent years 'Harrimarines' has become less used as a nickname out of respect for our members who actually are part of the Army and Navy .  Of course there was 'the Tribe' or ToD as well, coming directly from the display name of the Myspace page.  We have made an effort not to use this name in any official capacity since the Harrimaniacs is not only for people named 'Dan!'  Nonetheless, all of the serious members still refer to us as 'ToD.'

Its been 11 years since that first trip.  Now, more than 140 trips, 475 nights, and 4000 miles later, we are looking forward to many more barrier-breaking experiences and new horizons to explore.  We are always looking for new faces who mesh with our goals, worldview, and camping style.  Check us out--Next time you're in Harriman you might see us.  For more info, contact us at webmaster@harrimaniacs.com.  Happy trails.