Hikers opt out of Black Friday shopping for outdoor adventures
On a brisk Black Friday morning that left a dusting of snow atop one of the ridges in Linn Run State Park southeast of Ligonier, a group of 23 Western Pennsylvania hikers opted out of the shopping mall crowds and opted in for a nine-mile hike along a trail that rose 800 feet.
Why traverse a muddy and rock-ribbed uneven path, slippery with wet leaves, when they could be taking an escalator up and down levels of an indoor shopping mecca, offering them all the gifts their money could buy without the need for a hiking pole to maintain their balance?
“I’d rather be on the trail than in the shopping mall any day,” said Terri Rosen of Pittsburgh, one of the organizers of the Pittsburgh Meetup Hiking Group that sponsored the adventure on Friday.
Her partner, Jeff Hawkins of Regent Square, a sales associate at nationwide outfitter Recreational Equipment Inc., was taking advantage of his company’s generous offer of a paid day off from the hectic shopping day so they could take to the outdoors. Hiking in the woods is the norm for them, Hawkins said.
“We’re out almost every weekend,” Hawkins said, noting they have participated in REI’s Opt Outside opportunity the past several years.
Among those enjoyed the hike were Angela Pease of Derry and her dog, a mixed-breed Siberian husky.
“She loves being outside,” Pease said, as she held tight onto Sasha’s leash because Sasha did not seem interested in stopping for a rest.
Since 2015, REI has encouraged people to join its #OptOutside movement. The Seattle-based co-op closes its stores on Black Friday — known as the busiest shopping day of the year — and pays its workers so they can go outside.
“The goal was to encourage Americans to get outside with friends and family instead of fighting it out in the aisles on Black Friday,” said Yan Hryciw, REI’s Local Experiences market coordinator for Pennsylvania.
This year, REI has added a new element — Opt to Act — by helping to promote community service projects throughout the nation, focusing on beaches, riverbanks and parks.
“We’re taking the movement one step further by asking our members to not just #OptOutside, but to join in the fight for life outdoors, starting with a nationwide day of service and a commitment to opt to act on Black Friday and every day after,” Hryciw said in an email.
Included among more than 100 REI service projects listed nationwide were several in Southwestern Pennsylvania on Friday.
A crew of volunteers and Friends of South Side Park teamed up for an invasive vine cleanup at the Pittsburgh park.
In addition to Black Friday, REI has challenged people to a 52 weeks of action “to reduce their impact, get active and leave the world better than you found it.”
The year-long project includes weekly challenges, starting with picking up litter daily, choosing reusable bags and opting out of junk mail.
Other challenges include going meatless one day a week, cutting down on single-use plastic items, choosing public transportation and switching to LED light bulbs.
The Pittsburgh Botanic Garden in Oakdale is a participating partner with REI’s Opt Outside efforts. A spokesman for the botanic garden could not be reached for comment.
Anyone wanting to walk around the Winnie Palmer Nature Reserve next to Saint Vincent College in Unity can trek around the trails, but the Learning Barn will not be open Saturday, a spokeswoman said.
Joe Napsha is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Joe at 724-836-5252, [email protected] or via Twitter .