I love this forum, but the members tend to be really spread out geographically and diverse regarding the style of hiking they like. You may want to check out groups that are more local to your area to find fellow backpackers. I would search on Facebook and maybe ask at outdoor stores. Then, when you've found them, bring them back to the forum! We'd love to benefit from your experience!
Hiking is the ultimate realization that the journey is more important than the destination.