The #OptOutside movement is full of good intentions but do they have to hold it today? Jim DuFresne our main blogger at MichiganTrailMaps.com, wonders if there isn’t a worse day than the final Friday of November to encourage people to go outdoors in Michigan.
What this day is great for is planning next year’s outdoor adventures. And in that spirit, we’re having a holiday sale; 20% off all books and trail maps in our e-shop, including guides to Isle Royale National Park or the Porcupine Mountains. Just go to our eshop and enter the coupon code xmas2018 at checkout and then spend Black Friday planning that long-awaited trek of the Lakeshore Trail in Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore.
By Jim DuFresne
In 2015 REI, the outdoor recreation cooperative based in Seattle, started the #OptOutside movement to encourage people to bypass the shopping frenzy that is Black Friday.
It was a radical idea coming from one of the country’s largest chains of outdoor stores. Instead of making their cash registers sing on the day after Thanksgiving, REI wanted its staff and customers to go outside and play. So on the busiest shopping day of the year, the company closed its stores, including the three in Michigan.
Hundreds of government agencies across the country quickly joined the movement promoting their parks as a destination for fun today instead of fighting crowds at Macy’s or Best Buy or Target. That includes the Michigan DNR which is waiving vehicle fees to Michigan state parks, trails and boating access sites to help you #OptOutside.
I think the idea is noble and being somebody who has made a career out of writing guidebooks that show people where to hike, backpack, camp and kayak, it would be in my best interest to wholeheartedly support it.
But I have a hard time with one aspect of the movement. Is there a worse day in Michigan to enjoy the outdoors than this Friday in late November? Even Michigan’s mush season in late March, when everything is melting into a quagmire of oozing mud, dirty snow and soft ice, is better than the last weekend in November because I’m so happy winter is over. Or most of it.
I am not happy that autumn has faded away.
Hiking is a wonderful activity in October and early November. But by now the fall colors are gone and the leaves have fallen, blanketing the ground so well it’s tough to distinguish any footpath you might want to follow. Combine that with nightfalls that arrive unexpectedly early – because we all just set our clocks back an hour – and you’ll understand why the only time I’ve come close to getting really lost in the woods was late November.
Then there is that firearm deer season. I don’t own enough blaze orange for me to feel comfortable trekking or mountain biking along a state forest pathway during the 16-day hunt.
The Michigan DNR had several other outdoor suggestions in a press release sent out earlier this week. One was fishing and I’m a passionate angler. But the DNR weekly fishing report that followed the next day was short and filled with phrases like “Those braving the elements,” “When the weather allows” and “the action overall has been a little slow.”
Thanks but I think I’ll #OptOut of fishing.
Other ideas from the DNR were fat-tire biking, snowshoeing, cross-country skiing and my favorite “enjoy the peace and quiet of camping.”
There is a reason nobody else is out there in the state park campgrounds. Unless you own a 40-foot RV with a generator, heated shower and satellite TV, then camping at this time of year is something you just do once to justify purchasing a sleeping bag good to 20 below.
And while much of the state has snow on the ground it’s rarely enough for Nordic skiing. That’s why we all have a pair of rock skis that use to be our good skis until we used them once in late November.
Excuse me if I #OptOut.
Don’t get me wrong. I won’t be waiting for a Walmart to open today so I can save $100 off a 42-inch, high definition TV. I’m not a shopper. I’m a buyer. I walk into a Home Depot, I buy what I need when I need it, I walk out.
And I definitely won’t be doing any buying today, not on Black Friday.
What I will be doing is taking a long stroll on a beach looking for shark’s teeth while soaking in the sun because this year I’m spending Thanksgiving weekend in Florida visiting my father-in-law.
I guess I #Opt4FloridaInstead.