I was truly impressed last month when a leading outdoor retailer, REI, announced that all 140+ nationwide stores would close on Black Friday and that the company would pay their employees to go outside. The company believes that being outside makes life better and I couldn't agree more.
The nearest REI Store to us is in Boston so it is likely that a lot of rural Mainers are unfamiliar with the company or with this "Opt Outside" movement. I didn't know what REI was before moving out west. Here is a bit about my experience with REI:
My husband Mark and I met while working for REI (Recreational Equipment Incorporated) in Colorado in 2008. We made lifelong friends and shared countless outdoor adventures with the great people that we met while working for the company. The people that chose to work at REI are all passionate about one outdoor activity or another, they are passionate about outdoor stewardship and are committed to getting customers the gear and education they need to have a memorable and safe experience in the wilderness.
It doesn't surprise me that the company would try something as bold as locking up on the biggest shopping day of the year, but what does surprise me is the number of people that have vowed through social media to take the Opt Outside pledge instead of fighting their way through crowed stores. To date, over 1,015,000 people have committed to bundling up and hitting the great outdoors instead of stores. State Parks across the country have announced free entrance on Black Friday in response to, and partnership with, REI's movement.
Now that Mark and I are living back in Bethel, Maine, we have recreational opportunity in every direction. Inspired by REI's effort, Mark and I have committed an entire day to a long hike in West Paris around Little Concord Pond and up Bald Mountain. (Mark will spend the first couple hours of the day in his tree stand). We are fortunate to get outside for quick dog-walks or for a few miles of jogging, but as busy as we are this time of year, it's rare that we take a whole day off to go play outside.
There are countless ways to get outside this time of year. The roads are still clear of snow and ice so cycling could be an option. Sunday River Resort has reported 15 trails open and more available each day. Deer season runs through Saturday so if you are in the woods hunting, hiking or climbing, be sure to wear orange.
To add your adventure to REI's Opt Outside count, use social media to post a photo of the adventure you plan to take, or adventure that you complete, and hashtag #OptOutside. To see the count rise, check out the Opt Outside website: http://optoutside.rei.com/