|Opting out on the Forest Trail|
Friday, November 27, 2015
Any avid and experienced hiker and backpacker will recognize the brand names and retailers I encountered today, the day after Thanksgiving, also known as Black Friday: Recreational Equipment Incorporated, Fox River, Smartwool, Merrell, Royal Robbins, Patagonia, Eastern Mountain Sports, Kelty, Marmet, Sea to Summit, Nalgene, and GSI, just to name a few.
I did not come across these brand names in a mall or driving around to various stores. I wore or used gear bearing these names as I hiked over 8.8 miles of trails in western Pennsylvania’s Raccoon Creek State Park the day after Thanksgiving as I supported the #OptOutside alternative to shopping. Rather than joining the mad rush of Black Friday I chose to enjoy a Green Friday as I opted to go outside.
I left the house this morning before 8:00 AM and drove the twenty-five miles to the trail head at Raccoon Creek State Park. The 7,572 acre park boasts over 44 miles of hiking trails and the past several Fridays I have been exploring its trails using Mark H. Christy’s Walks, Hikes and Overnights in Raccoon Creek State Park as a guide. When I parked in the small lot across the park road from the trailhead there was only one other car in the lot, a car with three REI stickers on the back window.
I was on the trail by
8:45 AM this morning under overcast skies and with the temperature around 40
degrees. I first hiked the 4.24 mile Heritage-Buckskin-Camp Loop and saw only
three other hikers on the trail, first a single man and then a man and woman
pair. I next hiked the 4.59 mile
Palomino-Buckskin-Camp Loop and saw a man on horseback, a group of two men and
dog, and a group of five or six male hikers. By the time I finished the two
loops the temperature had risen to 64 degrees, 20 degrees higher then what I
experienced in the park a week earlier.
By the time I returned to the car there were at least four of five other cars in the lot. As I drove out of the park I saw two or more cars parked at each of two other trail heads. I met more people on the trails today than I have ever met before while hiking in the park. Apparently others, like me, opted to be outside in the wild outdoors this day rather than engaging in the wild retail rush of Black Friday.
I have been a member of Recreational Equipment Incorporated (a member co-op) for at least forty years. Over that span I have spent probably thousands of dollars at REI as I have purchased sleeping bags, hiking boots, clothing, climbing gear, tents, and more. I applaud my co-op for not only choosing to close on both Thanksgiving and the day after, paying its employees nevertheless, but to also encourage its employees and others to opt outside the day after Thanksgiving rather than going shopping. I hope REI will make this an annual emphasis and that other outdoor retailers, outfitters, and brands (like #royalrobbins) will join them in the future.