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Turning OptOutside into BeingOutside

Outdoor gear provider Recreational Equipment, INC (REI) held its second #optoutside campaign this year where all of its stores close on Black Friday. Employees are given a paid day off, and the marketing message encourages everyone to spend that day outside rather than shopping. Last year Ridj-it held an #optoutside trip in solidarity, and this year was no different.

A clear Friday with beautiful sunshine and relatively warm weather greeted Ridj-it’s #optoutside Wachusett carpool. Nine adventurers left from Alewife Station in Boston to head out for the hour-long ride to Princeton, Massachusetts to hike Wachusett Mountain. Thin ice sheets lightly covered rocks on the Pine Hill Trail (the hardest part of the hike with its steady incline for about 25 minutes) but the rest of the loop felt like a mid-autumn jaunt.

Six people outside smiling at the camera

Adventurers watched skiers and snowboarders launch themselves from the lift off of Old Indian Trail, and later Echo Lake provided great fun to those who wanted to skip small rocks over its transparent icy gloss that held millions of tiny air bubbles. Further up the trail the rolling hills and apple trees of High Meadow gave a magical but forlorn look to the landscape, and the orange glow of a sun in descent outlined everyone in a Vitamin D high.

Woman walking down hill towards ski lift

Our decision to be away from Black Friday was the right choice, but how does one #optoutside without a car?

You don’t, or at least not without great difficulty and expense.

Google maps and Wanderu turned up nothing when seeking some type of public transportation access from Boston to Wachusett, and Uber Pool could get you there for $71 (one-way).Ridj-iteers got to Wachusett for $25 round-trip, and it’s only because our drivers and riders work together as a team. Maybe that’s what differentiates us from busing companies like Skedaddle or Boston Ski & Sport Club; the adventure is user-led, the logistics rely on cooperation, riders and drivers develop camaraderie in the intimacy of a car, and everyone helps each other along the trail. This is how we turn #optoutside into #beingoutside every week without the fancy marketing and expensive trips.

One Ridj-iteer named Kaytee gazed up at the leafless trees while watching her steps between ice and mud on the trail. “I’m supposed to be in the lab today working on episodic memories, but I don’t think I would be able to remember I was ever there compared to being out here today.” Shortly after, the Ridj-it herd of teachers, scientists, doctors, airline employees, mechanics, and undergrads reached the end of the Loop Trail back to the Wachusett parking lot while yelling out a couple shouts of “Whoo!”

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