When I was growing up, my family used to LOVE Black Friday at the mall. We would get up early, rush out to the King of Prussia Mall outside of Philadelphia, and spend all day shopping/waiting in line. My dad loves getting a good deal, and I loved getting new clothes! But as I’ve gotten older I’ve started to hate crowds, rude people, and standing in long lines just to save a little bit of money. I can’t even remember the last time I participated in a Black Friday at the mall. Which is why I’m so glad that REI has started its #optoutside campaign. Every year on Black Friday REI closes its doors for the day and encourages people to go outdoors instead of going inside to fight each other over Christmas gifts.
This year, my #optoutside activity was really special – I was co-hosting a group hike for Girls Who Hike, and it was sponsored by REI and 52 Hike Challenge! We were shipped outdoor goodies to give away, and we had recruited the event like crazy (and REI and 52 Hike Challenge helped us get the word out!). When we headed out to Eagle River Nature Center on Friday morning we weren’t sure how many people to expect. But we were pleasantly surprised when a total of 15 people showed up! Especially because it was in the single digits and the sun was no longer high enough in the sky to reach the valley we were in. Oh, Alaska. At least it made for a really pretty hike with all the snow and hoarfrost!
Our hike was the Dew Mound Trail, which I had tested out a few weeks ago when I realized that winter hiking is not really fun. It still wasn’t “type one fun” this time around either – my hair froze again, my water and snacks were frigid, I got tired quickly, and the snow was slippery in areas. But I had so much fun meeting new girls! I spent a lot of time talking to one girl who has the same running injury as I do, finally met one girl who is the leader of another hiking group that I’m usually too self conscious to hike with, and connected with my friend’s shy roommate. Having so many people to talk to really took away the difficulty of hiking in extremely cold weather. All of a sudden the 7 miles were over and we were back in the warm and cozy nature center, standing around the fire as our hair and snacks defrosted. Plus this time I had a thermos of scalding hot chocolate in the car waiting for me, and that really helped the warmup process.
I’m so grateful for Girls Who Hike for helping me meet new people and try new things. I honestly think that last year the cold weather would have scared me away from doing a hike like this, and this year I was co-leading the hike! Hiking with other like minded people has helped me become a more confident and adventurous person who is more willing to opt outside than stay indoors.
Did you opt outside on Black Friday? Tell me about your long weekend adventures!