Great Outdoors History
Great Outdoors was started in 1977 by Greg and Paul. Among many discussions, they wondered if it would be possible to offer an alternative place where Gay, Lesbian, Bi-sexual and Transgender people could meet and socialize outside of the bars. Paul, a catholic priest, suggested that it would be interesting to introduce the gay world to the phenomena of camping, hiking, getting dirty. Paul took Greg for a drive up the Big Sur coast. Greg fell in love with Big Sur and Great Outdoors was born.
First they came up with a marketing slogan: "OUT OF THE BARS AND UNDER THE STARS." Then they added basic values: Great Outdoors would offer outdoor activities with a range of ability requirements, from day trips to weekend camping. They would make affordable so that everyone could participate. They kept annual dues low and made trips reasonably priced. To encourage non-member participation in trips while encouraging them to join, they added low additional fees. They tried to offer opportunities for including people restricted by age or disability.
Their first outing was the July 4th weekend in the Los Padres National Forest. They had a fee for each person which included provision of food and some supplies. They arrived at the campsite for the weekend, refrigerated the food in a nearby mountain stream, established a latrine, organized tent sites and opened a fire pit. On Sunday morning, Paul conducted a worship service. Standing on top of a boulder, the tops of pine trees below and the Pacific Ocean behind, he was surrounded by the sounds of nature. The campers were men and women ranging in age from the early 20s to people in their 50s. The two men received a marvelous response from all participants.
Greg and Paul returned to Riverside and spent the next two years developing the organization. They promoted the organization, found locations and activities and published a magazine called GO! They assembled it on Paul's kitchen table. Greg established the original design for the Great Outdoors logo: the words Great Outdoors, a mountain in the background, a cloud on the right and the rays of the sun radiating from the G of Great. New chapters added new elements to the logo. Los Angeles added the palm tree, Orange County/Long Beach the rainbow and an extra cloud. Riverside added a Hot Air Balloon and Santa Barbara added dolphins. New chapters have continued this tradition: Palm Springs added a Joshua tree and San Diego added California poppies.
In 1981, organizational By-Laws were adopted allowing a new group of people to assume the leadership of Great Outdoors. Greg and Paul could step back. There have been chapters as far away as San Francisco and Phoenix. Today five chapters continue the work started over thirty years ago by two men trying to make a difference in their community. Greg and Paul still have great affection for Great Outdoors and are happy that it continues to promote the fundamental values which they instilled into it. Here's too many more years of outdoor fun.
This history was submitted by Father Paul Breton from San Bernardino. The photo above is of Paul - taken in 2008 at our 30th anniversary campout and conference.
The first annual conference (1981) was held in Palm Springs to establish the By-Laws. To read the article - (click here).
In 2014, after 30+ years with our original logo, we adopted a new Corporate logo. It was developed and first appeared on t-shirts in the 2012 Palm Springs Pride Parade. It appeared again in the 2013 Palm Springs Pride Parade by our Los Angeles Chapter. The new logo features a mountain scene, followed by the letters "GREAT OUTDOORS" below and a website URL.
California Great Outdoors, Inc., is a California nonprofit mutual benefit corporation organized under California's Nonprofit Mutual Benefit Corporation Law. We incorporated in 1981 and we are a not-for-profit IRS 501(c)7 tax exempt organization. Generally, our membership dues are not tax deductible on personal returns. Members who run a business should check with their tax adviser to determine if our dues can be classified as a business expense.
We are an all volunteer club and we have five Chapters serving regions throughout Southern California. Club membership entitles privileges to all events, activities and discounts sponsored by any of the Great Outdoors Chapters.