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/
The North American Wife Carrying Championship and how it came to be: Sunday River, Columbus Day Weekend
This annually epic weekend is quickly approaching and, for good reason, everyone is getting excited.
This is a popular weekend in the Sunday River Area and our real estate market shows it: rentals are booked, residential closings are scheduled and people are calling daily to set up showings for properties while they will be in Bethel or Newry.
Columbus Day weekend is especially meaningful for me. In July of 2013, Mark and I got engaged during our hike from Mexico to Canada on the Pacific Crest Trail. We returned home that September and in October, anxious to maintain an ultimately unsustainable level of fitness, I signed up for the Sunday River OX2 Trail Race. Whether it was the lactic acid which I was sure to be burning through my thighs, or the literally breathtaking beauty of our fall foliage: I stopped dead in my tracks on Downdraft and admired this mesmerizing place in the world. This is where I wanted to get married.
The next year, in 2014, Mark and I spent our wedding day at The Peak Lodge at Sunday River. Close friends and family were there to share with us in celebration at a beautiful place that held so many of my favorite memories: hot cocoa as a River Runner, warming up with Telstar team mates under the hand dryer in the Barker Lodge bathrooms during race season, and Gould Academy's "the end" for its senior class celebration. None of these memories will hold a candle to our wedding but the combination of all these times spent at North Peak, or Sunday River in general, is what makes the place so special.
"So what's with the wife carrying"? Melissa, a close friend from Montana was curious about the event she had witnessed earlier in the day while waiting for the wedding to begin. That's a funny story.
I must have been a sophomore in high school when my father read an article (likely in Readers Digest or Runners World- I'm not sure which to credit) about the crazy Finns and their wife carrying tradition. "Well Bethel should do that". And so it began. Dad called Sunday River to host the event and then went to work with the logistics of the race, the feasibility of the grand prize (two round trip tickets to Finland to compete in the Wife Carrying World Championships were booked at his expense and at his assurance that this event would take off and be great for the community) most importantly, the race course and runner's strategy were planned.
"You will be suspended upside down with your legs in the air and your arms around my waist. I will carry you like this for approximately an hour- through mud, up mountains and over obstacles". My mother's face fell as she stared at my father. Not only did she agree but she practiced with him a few times in the front yard. "Cass, you'll need to find a few friends, we'll need some guinea pigs for the course before we send out the paying contestants". Bless their hearts- I rounded up 5 Gould Academy classmates and come race day, the three pairs hobbled through the course. Prior to the event my father was interviewed by TV, radio and other writers about the race. "Where did this idea come from? How'd the event come to be" he was asked over and over. His response was always the same "Sunday River has the perfect terrain for the race and our local community, along with the fun-loving tourists that it attracts, make up the perfect adventure-seeking crowd to turn this event into a long time tradition".
And it has.
If you'd like to sign up for the North American Wife Carrying Contest click here: http://sundayriver.com/events-and-activities/event…
If you love your experience at Sunday River's Wife Carrying Contest so much that you'd like to live here forever, please call us today: 207-824-1033