Outdoor Nation Recap

This past weekend, courtesy of the folks at Merrell I attended the Outdoor Nation Summit in New York. In addition to camping out in Central Park (literally creating a tent village) the 50 or so attendees (the other ON summits have ~200 people) spent the majority of the weekend learning about non-profits (as in, how to start/run one) grant money,  and creating plans to encourage young (which ON defines as ~16-28) people to get outside.

The attendee’s were broken down into 5 separate groups, based primarily on location (although my Jersey-centric group had a few locational outliers) with the intention of creating projects designed specifically to encourage people to GTFO through whatever means possible. The projects ranged from urban farming, to social-networking, databases, to literally creating space.

The project I was directly involved in should be launched in ~3 weeks, and primarily focuses on using social networking (facebook, blogger twitter etc) to incentivise people to bring their friends out. Focusing the lack of mentorship amongst outsiders, we’re hoping to motivated the experienced to share the wealth of information, using a combination of prizes, and competitions, the plan is to mobilize those of us who are regularly outdoors to take those among us who aren’t along on our adventures.  More on this later as the project fully-develops (we’re in the process of determining the official name, branding, and creating a logo before the official launch).

The most inspiring part of the summit was hands-down, the diversity. Usually when you think of the “great outdoors” in the parks and recreational sense of the word, you’re thinking of a bunch of crusty old white dudes hiking slowly through our national parks (and getting aggravated when they’re passed by a half-naked tarzan in split-shorts). But, this collection of people was as American as could be. Every demographic was well-represented, socially, economically, racially, and I think that’s arguably the most encouraging part of the whole thing. Getting out has no barriers, and with some luck, ON will succeed in their mission.

OH, and Merrell gave everyone a free pair of Mix Master 2’s!

Yoon was very excited about his free Merrell Mix Master 2’s

VERY excited


Carlos, the Jester

Brandon

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Enjoy the Mountains

No man should go through life without once experiencing healthy, even bored solitude in the wilderness, finding himself depending solely on himself and thereby learning his true and hidden strength. — Jack Kerouac

I understand that it’s unbelievably clichè to begin any posting by quoting an author, and even more trite to do so by quoting Jack Kerouac, but he makes a very valid point in this quip from Lonesome Traveler. Kerouac is emphasizing the grand importance of not only self-reliance, but the joy of the wilderness, and this was in 1960. If Kerouac had to emphasize the importance of the outdoors then, well before iPads, iPhones, Wireless internet, HDTV, Xbox, and the litany of other technological distractions we’re privy to in the current generation, how are we to encourage the importance of life outside?

Next weekend I’m attending the Outdoor Nation summit in NYC, courtesy of Merrell, who have chosen me to be among a small handful of delegates attending these summits across the nation. So myself, annd approximately 70 other 20-somethings will find ourselves camping in Central Park, getting to know each other, and brainstorming. Fundamentally, the purpose of these regional summits is to gather young people to generate ideas and projects to encourage our peers to spend more time in the outdoors, reaping the benefits of the woods and mountains, and helping to preserve what is left of our great unadulterated forests.

John Muir once said “Climb the mountains and enjoy their good tidings.” In going outside, and participating in true outdoor distraction-free travel, we can as individuals, discover our strengths, our weaknesses, and more importantly, come closer to the realization of what it truly means to be human.  About a year ago, I decided to backpack through the White Mountains, into the Mahoosuc’s via the Appalachian trail. Compared to the folks who hike the entirety of the footpath, this was a miniscule trip, but by dumb luck, I found myself placed inside of the “bubble” where the Northbound Hikers (who typically start in Georgia in March) and the Southbound Hikers (who start in Maine in June) cross paths. This, by default gave me the opportunity to converse with a wide variety of hikers, all there for their own personal reasons. While the hikers were as individual as could be, they all had a handful of things in common: their love of the woods/mountains, a huge amount of pure guts, and that joie de vivre that you can only get by spending the vast majority of your time outside.

In running, I’ve found similar traits to be prevalent. Trail runners, when they come across each other on trail, seem to always acknowledge each others presence, often stopping to chat for a bit (something I’ve never experienced on the pavement…) and moreso, even within a race, the sense of comraderie is a huge contributing factor to the overall vibe. Outdoor people seem to all know that we’re part of some sort of club, while our activities may vary, the intention is the same, a pursuit of peace, both inner and outer, and the overwhelming desire to embrace our humanity by submitting to nature.

“In every walk in nature, one receives far more than he seeks.” (John Muir) So go out, run, walk, hike, kayak, climb, do whatever you can to get yourself outside, and reap the benefits, they’re free, and will always give you more than you’re seeking. In fact, do one better, and take a friend with you, preferably someone who’s unfamiliar with whatever activity you chose, be it hiking, running, kayaking, or climbing, they’ll thank you for it.

Take a Buddy!

First day back on the hill in 6 weeks…