Monday, June 26, 2017

Whine and cookies

Disclaimer time:  My ideas are my own and do not reflect those of the REI Coop or the AMC.  Enjoy,

So I decided to feel sorry for myself and whine.  It's what I do.  But it kinda resonated with many people.  I never thought it would.  Turns out many women feel the same way I do.  Am I comforted knowing I am not alone.  NO.  I am not comforted knowing other women (or men for that matter) feel so self-conscious in the outdoors.  That anyone would is upsetting.  Everyone, regardless of gender sexual orientation/identification, age, race, income, region, weight, abilities, etc should be allowed to enjoy the outdoors.  Period.  Unless they are doing harm, like harassing wildlife, starting fires, or pooping on the trail, the outdoors are free for all to enjoy.

But this is not always the case.  Some people are told they are not welcome in one way or another.  Like the overweight woman who is told to get in better shape to hike or criticized for using it as a way to lose weight.  The Black child who is looked at with suspicion or asked if he is lost.  The older gentleman or woman who is asked if their kids know they are doing this.  The woman hiking alone who is asked if her husband approves and what about her kids.The female climbing guide who is mansplained.  The Black gay woman who worries for her safety because of what she sees and hears on the trail.  The lesbians who claim they are sisters because they feel at risk at a campground.  I could go on, but you get the idea.

There seems to be an idea of who belongs in the outdoors and who does not.  There are ideas of gender, body types, fitness, speed, race, etc.  If you don't fit that mold, you are told to change or do something else.  Lots of groups also tend to cater to the fitness/speed ideal.  While there is nothing wrong with this, little else is offered.  Some fantastic groups like Trail Dames and Outdoor Afro exist, but they seem to be few and far between.  One of the reasons I tend to hike alone is that I hate that I am slow and struggle. I hike, I have achieved goals, it makes me happy.  I may never do book time, but I will make it eventually.  By the way, book time is considered slow.  Book time being 2mph plus 30min for each 1000ft of elevation.  I guess I am glacial.

Even before I started doing the backpacking class, I knew I wanted to help people, especially women, to feel confident.  I have to seen women struggle with clothing made for an ideal,or try to get a pack to fit that has been shrinked and pinked.  While it is incredibly awesome to have clothing and gear made for women, manufacturers need to realize that not all women are just smaller.  And my God, not all of us like pretty soft colors.  And YO, we need pockets.  Women come in all shapes and sizes.  Believe me, I have seen many things to complain about.  Many.  Lots.  However, until people speak up and demand change, nothing will happen.  So ladies, started emailing and demand pockets.  And ask for color coded straps.  Confidence with gear is one thing I can try to do.  What happens when they use the gear, I can't control.

I do seem to talk more about women, but the truth is, we tend to get the shorter end of the stick.  We are criticized for our weight, appearance, age, gear, relationship status, etc.  I am very lucky that I have friends who could care less about my gender or skin color.  I am beyond lucky and I know it.  I have encouragement and unbiased advice.  That is why I feel it is important to provide encouragement, even if it is describing a work around a tough trail.  And I guess just  doing it encourages others.  You know if they see me do it, they feel like they can.  Who knows.  I just want to end this idea of what is the ideal hiker.  The only ideal hiker is one who is prepared with the 10 essentials and knowledge.  That's it.  You can be male, female, transgender, Black, Hispanic, White, Asian, old, young, short, tall, thin, fat, slow, fast, amputee, wheelchair bound, it does not matter.  If you are prepared and knowledgeable, you are a hiker in my book.

So what did I write?
It has to be said, so I am just going to say it. Alabama lady had a point about athletes being the only people able to hike in the Northeast, I say this as a fat, slow hiker. There, I admitted it. I am fat, overweight, by some measures obese. I don't get a lot of exercise because I have 2 jobs and some hormonal thing that kills my energy levels. I have lots of stress and I have a heart murmur. I might have asthma, but I will find out Tuesday. I know these are lame excuses for being fat, but it is my reality. I am just not fit enough to hike. I hiked for 4 hours, but could not get Old Speck. I did work. Getting kids to stay sane for the last 88 minutes of the school year. I drove 4 hours just to get there. And on less than 4 hours of sleep. I know, lame excuses. People with half of what I have do twice that. I do not know why I make destructive decisions not to do at least 30 minutes of cardio every day and eat "bad" food. How can I call myself a hiker when I do not act like one?
If you sense the sarcasm in this, you get a cookie...which someone needs to remind me that I need to buy. Please message me to remind me. I work with women who I know will get discouraged because they are larger or slower. I know what people will say to them because I have heard it before. I know some will spend tons of money and get discouraged. And maybe quit. Which is sad because, umm, hiking is an awesome way to get healthy. Not thin, healthy. Because weight is not the only thing that makes people slow. I have also heard many people say they cannot get onto hikes without the right pedigree. All this makes me sad. The trail has done things for me no gym or medicine could. It cannot replace medicine, or daily walking, but it made a HUGE difference in a life that was spiraling into an abyss. I am a better person because of hiking. I have made many awesome friends from hiking. I always tell women in my classes to find their tribe. It is hard, but essential. I hate that people feel like I often do, embarrassed and not worthy of the trail. And want to know something? After school, I could have gone home and slept. Saving maybe $70 in gas, tolls, and campsite. I could have taken a nap and eaten chocolates. But I drove 4 hours, started hiking late, didn't summit (shameful), hiked down in the dark and rain, and had no fun putting up my tent at near midnight. But I woke up and had tea by a river. I enjoyed fresh air as I began 1 of 2 crazy 8 hour days. I did not try, I did. I got exercise. I did something many will not even think about. I saw what I am capable of, what I am made of. I faced fears and was prepared for the unexpected.
And Ilse made my day. Not bad for a fat, slow hiker. Maybe one day I will be a real hiker. Until then, I will be hiking and backpacking.
Image may contain: outdoor and nature
Grafton Notch Campground FTW

And for the record, I did make it to Old Speck.  Kind of.  I have awesome friends. Thank you Ilse.

Sunday, May 28, 2017

2017 Seek the Peak

Sooooo, you know the deal.

Seek the Peak is a hiker event.  We hike to raise money for the Mount Washington Observatory.  And if I am going to fundraise for a non-social/medical/educational cause, this is it.  Many people, hikers and non-hikers alike, rely on the forecast from the Observatory.  They collect vital data to help us make sense of our weather and climate.  They also have a fabulous museum with cool exhibits.  As the highest mountain in the Northeast, it gets lots of traffic from people who want to see all it has to offer.

This is my second time Seeking the Peak.  Please consider a donation to help me support this great organization.  And yes, there will be pictures.

Karen's Fundraising Page

And from my last trip.  Scroll to the bottom for more awesome pictures.

2013 Seek the Peak

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Retail Therapy

You know the deal.  Contents of my blog are my thoughts only.  They may not reflect the ideas of REI, the AMC, MA DESE, Greater Lowell Technical.  You have been warned.

Yeah, it’s been a bit quiet in here.  I have done some hiking. No new 4Ks since Mansfield, but I did Pierce for February.  Did lots of little stuff.  A winter camping trip too.  Some adventures in Maine.  Trust me, get snow tires.  With school, work, and 2 wonderful bouts of bronchitis, I have been sidelined.  Try getting energy when faced with all that.  Yeah, I could cut expenses and quit REI.  Yeah, I hear you laughing too.  Let’s face it, that keeps me from getting out like the cat having issues.  Actually Willy’s IBD has kept my plans small, but working hasn’t.  I understand.  There are retail jobs, but there are completely different retail jobs.  That is REI.  It is retail, but it has been on the Forbes 100 list of best places to work for 20 years.  That says something.  We are #28, above Marriott.  And Marriott employees treat you like family.  But so do we.  

Springer Mountain register

Imagine this on top of your car.
REI is different. It is a cooperative started by friends who just wanted quality gear. Clicky the linky. Almost 80 years later, we are the largest consumer cooperative. Members drive decisions, not shareholders. Who are REI members? Owners. Our members help us make decisions about gear and how we spend our profits. Whether we help build trails in CA or offer funds to local outdoor organizations, we help others enjoy the outdoors. We are launching Force of Nature, an initiative to encourage women to go outside and be themselves without labels. Yes, there are other benefits. Up to 10% back in dividends on full price purchases. Discount on rental, shop services, rentals, lift ticket, classes, and adventures. And access to our awesome Garage Sales. Think running of the brides with used gear. Someone's dislike of a color can save you lots. And how much for so many benefits...$20, for a lifetime. Yup, a lifetime.

Taking #forceofnature to the kids.  No, they have not figured out where I work yet.
So what is so great about working at REI?  Well, where else can you dress up as Elf on the Shelf on Christmas Eve?  Who gives you 2 days off to play outside?  And who really wants to work on Black Friday?  I don’t. Haven’t since I started working at REI. We have it off so we can go outside and play. And guess what? Other companies are following our lead to enjoy the outdoors instead of all the craziness in the mall.  Yeah, there is an employee discount and ProDeals, but working at REI is so much more.  This is the one place where I feel like I am appreciated.  Where I feel like I have to do my best because people believe that is what I am capable of.  I feel like I make a difference and people are truly thankful.  I can get that in teaching, but this is different.  Kids have to be there.  Customers choose to be at REI.  

#OptOutside 2016  Mt. Hight.
Mt. Mansfield
Somewhere on the Kanc.

Plus I work with awesome people.  I mean really great people.  We work together and help each other.  We take on different roles to help our customers.  What if a customer has a question we can’t answer?  We get on the radio and find an answer.  We have fun, turning stressful situations into something to laugh at.  We dress up on Halloween, wear jerseys on Sundays, and everyone was in green on St. Patrick’s Day.  We have store get togethers, camp outs, and movie nights.  I mean, this is retail. How many people want to hang out with the people they work with? This is more like a family. Did I mention the food?  Makes the holidays bearable.  

Sasquatch says find me.

Pizza and Elf!

Laser tag with style.
Santa's spy.

Are there days where I wish I didn’t go in?  Of course.  Bad day at school.  Lack of sleep.  Being sick.  Too much hiking beforehand.  Just feeling crabby.  There are those days.  But I put on a smile and get to work.  And there are those customers, very few and very far between, but they are there.  It seems like all they want to do is make you feel awful.  Since last October, I have only had that happen once.  But remember, I have awesome coworkers (and customers).  So 5 minutes later, you are laughing.  Do I make mistakes?  YUP.  But we are very good about fixing them and making sure they do not happen again.  And I am learning new things. I started training in clothing and footwear.  I even do a class now.  Women’s backpacking, like you didn’t already know.  And I got Rock Star for my birthday month.  Kinda like employee of the month, just better.

So how long will I work a second job?  I don’t know. I really don’t want to leave.  This is a great place to work.  I like the people I work with and it is a nice break from the usual.  If nothing else, it makes me go out and interact with people.  Plus I get to know about all the new gear that is out.  I have something special.  What started out as a way to make ends meet when I took a new job is a wonderful part of my life. How many people can say they have two jobs that allow them to enjoy their passions?  

Some of my REI family.  

Random meeting with peeps from the Cranston, RI store.  We are a LARGE family.

Yes, he found his way home.
Please buy HydroFlask tumblers.  Pretty Please.  Give one to all your friends.  Cool colors too.