Wednesday, December 28, 2016


Have you heard of the "Opt Outside" movement?  It's a campaign created in 2015 by outdoor retailer REI.  Instead of spending time at the mall, the company wanted people to recreate outdoors on the day after Thanksgiving.  To show they practiced what they preached, REI boldly closed all their stores and suspended online sales for the busiest shopping day of the year.  Not just shuttering stores, REI also encouraged their employees to participate by giving them a paid day off.

My guys at the Rattlesnake Trailhead

When I first heard of REI's plan, of course I was all for it.  But that year, my bargain-hunting family wanted to hit the malls.  I grudgingly gave in and followed my loved ones through the crowded stores on their quest for doorbuster deals.  And totally regretted every minute.

The Opt Outside campaign was so successful, REI planned an encore for Black Friday 2016.  With the Thanksgiving holiday fast approaching, I put my foot down.  No shopping this year - my family was going on a hike!

And...they're off!

This Thanksgiving, my hubby and I journeyed to Missoula, Montana to spend the holiday weekend with our son Cody.  I had a lovely time - and even got a break from cooking as my son prepared the entire meal.  However, I made it made it clear that the next day we were going to get outside and work off our turkey dinner.

Unique white berries

Missoula is a huge outdoor town.  Boasting miles of trails inside the city limits, and several nearby recreation areas, our only question wasn't if we were opting outside, but where.

Lots of trail choices

My son suggested Rattlesnake Canyon.  Located north of Missoula, the Rattlesnake National Recreation Area and Wilderness was a short drive from downtown.  Known for it's miles of hiking and mountain biking trails "the Rattlesnake," as the locals call it, sounded perfect. 

Vibrant green lichen

Cody chose a flat trail that followed Rattlesnake Creek.  We planned to hike in about three miles, turn around, and retrace our steps.  A nice mellow ramble, I decided not to bring my big backpack and just carry my camera.  Thinking we'd only be out for a couple of hours, I didn't even bring so much as a water bottle.  (Big mistake!)

Intricate patterns in a frozen puddle

Although it was late morning, temperatures still hovered near the freezing mark when my hubby, son and I began our hike.  The trailhead had a large parking area and bathroom facility, was well signed, and the kiosk was even fully stocked with paper trail maps.  Luckily, Cody thought to grab one!

Skiff of snow on this fallen tree

After making the men pose for a couple of photos by the trailhead sign, my hubby and son rocketed away, leaving me in the dust.  Both are fast walkers, and knowing there was no chance of keeping up, I lingered in the rear, stopping to snap photos of anything interesting that caught my eye.

Consulting the map

Luckily, the guys did stop occasionally and wait (I think they wanted to make sure I was ok).  But I wasn't worried about getting lost.  The trail followed a wide roadbed through the forest.  Nearly flat, it was an easy ramble.  Side trails and junctions were well-marked.

River glimpse

So many interesting photo subjects!  Lichen-draped Ponderosa pines, frozen puddles displaying interesting patterns, and fallen logs dusted with tiny snow pellets.  And every once and awhile, the forest would clear to produce a teaser glimpse of the creek far below.

Cute little 'shroom

Since this road was shared with mountain bikers, an occasional bike would pass by.  The riders were all very courteous, calling out warnings before they overtook hikers.  I noticed a couple of bikers with rifles strapped to their backs.  I'm not sure if they'd been out target shooting or merely carried them for protection (Cody mentioned that bears and mountain lions lived in the hills just outside of Missoula and sometimes wandered into town).

Surrounded by green

At the 3-mile mark, we passed a restroom.  Totally impressed me to see one so far down the trail!  (Of course, I took the opportunity to use it.)

Pause at the riverbank

Although the scenery was lovely, and the trail flat and gentle, I was a bit disappointed it didn't follow the creek at water level.  Instead, the path remained high above or just far enough away that we only got glimpses through the trees, and teasing sounds of rushing water.

River bottom patterns

Just beyond the restroom we came upon a trail junction.  Consulting the map, Cody pointed to a side trail that would lead us to the creek.  To follow or not to follow?  It was a quick decision which way to go.

Trails were well-marked

A short path through a meadow led my family and I directly to Rattlesnake Creek.  The stream was quite picturesque, lined with large pine trees, it's bed a collage of colorful rock.

Enjoying the river views

The men hung out on the banks and looked for fish in the water.  I, on the other hand, put my camera to good use!

Gnarled trees

We'd reached our 3-mile turn around point.  But the day was still young, and my guys weren't ready to head back quite yet.

More lovely mushrooms

Consulting the map, Cody noticed a trail that would connect with a parallel trail, enabling use to travel in a loop, rather than an out-and-back hike.  The connector trail was only supposed to be 2 miles in length.  Adding 2 miles to our planned 6-mile journey didn't seem like a big deal.

Forest patterns

But then I glanced at the map and noticed the connector trail was drawn with several tight zig-zagged lines.  Pointing this out to Cody, I told him it looked like we were in for some climbing.

Climbing up and over the ridge

Oh, and was I right!  Leaving the main trail our path dived upwards almost immediately.  Huffing and puffing up this steep grade quickly warmed my body.

My view looking back

But looking back, scenery like this rewarded us for our efforts.

Creek crossing

A trail sign at the main junction had stated this connector trail was 2 miles in length.  After climbing for the better part of 1.5 miles, I began to look for our next junction.  The map noted we'd cross a creek before reaching the next trail.  But we kept climbing....two miles came and went with nary a creek in sight.  As a matter of fact, we were on the top of a long ridge.  To reach the creek, we'd have to climb back down the other side.

Cutting through the bushes

I was getting tired, hot and thirsty.  Cursing myself for not bringing my backpack (which would've contained food and water) I begged Cody for a sip from his water bottle.  My gps watch was noting we'd covered 2.5 miles since the last junction.  I kept asking Cody if we were on the right path, and he insisted it was.

Red berries

After three miles, I was beginning to worry.  I didn't really want to retrace our steps back up that ridge, but I was starting to think we were lost.  Then a passing mountain biker told us the creek was right around the bend.  And sure enough it was - and just beyond was the trail junction.  Hallelujah! 

Late afternoon light on the guys

The final leg of our now much longer hike took us past a lovely little creeklet, lined with tall bushes of red and white berries.  By far the most scenic of the day's three paths, I struggled to capture a few photographs and keep up with the men, who by now were nursing a bad case of "horse in the barn" syndrome.

Stately Ponderosa pines

Our trail passed through a zone of stately Ponderosa pines, and a lovely meadow boasting killer views of nearby snow-dusted peaks before finally connecting back to the main trail/road where we'd begun the day's trek.

Snow-capped peaks

By the time we finally reached Cody's car, my gps noted we'd logged 10.5 miles and estimated at least 1500 feet of climbing.  So much for a flat, mellow hike!  Now late afternoon, the sun was beginning to sink below the mountaintops, and my tummy was ready for some turkey dinner leftovers!

Best way to spend Black Friday!

So that's the story from my first #OptOutside Black Friday adventure.  Despite the unexpected additional distance, I enjoyed hiking in a totally new area and spending time with my favorite guys.

( family doesn't know it yet, but I think opting outside will become a new holiday tradition.)


  1. I've always wanted to visit Missoula! I have a friend who lives there and spends a lot of time on Rattlesnake, it was cool to see how your impressions and photos compare to his.

  2. First and foremost.. love the trio selfie!
    I remember the OptOutside movement, thought it was a great idea.
    Wonderful captures, really liked the close-ups of the patterns you found.
    Beautiful country. Long hike.. glad you didn't have to backtrack.
    We're at the coast for the week.. doing a version of OptOutside.

  3. Uma bela caminhada pela natureza, gostei de ver.
    Um abraço e Boas Festas.

  4. Sounds like a more enjoyable day than shopping in a mall so you did the right thing, let's face it you could shop on line later. When I was young you could not go shopping on Sunday, every where was shut, even the pubs had different opening hours. Sunday was for going to Church and only pressure from the big stores on the government gave us the Sunday trading laws in the UK so now they can open for 6 hours personally I preferred it no opening we lost out then and now I think people are noticing it. hope you had a good Christmas and happy new year

  5. Lovely new area with so many details of nature. Thanks for taking me along...Happy New Year.

  6. Hello, Linda! Another great hike. I would much rather be outside walking than in a crowded store shopping. I love the forest and the mushrooms. Gorgeous shot of the snow-capped peak. The last shot of the three of you is great, a wonderful memory. Enjoy your day and weekend ahead! I wish you all the best in 2017, Happy New Year!

  7. Yes...the perfect after Turkey Day tradition! I believe I've hiked that exact same loop...that was a steep uphill and long day on the trail...especially if you have no water!

  8. Hi Linda! What a great walk! I especially love how you captured the river bottom patterns...and your last photo is a perfect way to end this post. Wishing you the very best in 2017 and always! Happy New Year to you! :)

  9. Hiking in large pine forests makes you think you're in a more open area. Awesome photos.

  10. What a wonderful way to spend time together. Such a beautiful setting. And bravo to REI for the Opt Outside campaign. I wish more companies would do this! It doesn't always have to be about profits.

  11. So pretty - much better than shopping!

  12. Great committment on the part of REI. And so nice to get out with your son. Sorry aboutthe e tra height and miles.

  13. I'd Opt for Outside too. great views.

  14. Seems like the perfect option for Black Friday to me.
    Strangely, it has only been this year that I had heard of 'Black Friday'.
    It's the Boxing Day sales that everyone goes crazy about here! UGH!

  15. Nice idea and nice hike and pictures

  16. REI catalog came and the idea of opt out is great. I didn't go to the malls then anyway. Not sure what I did now. But I enjoyed your day out with your husband and son. Yep...I leave things in car I wish I'd packed with me. Will remember to be smarter next time, huh?! :-D Glad your hike went well and no critters appeared. Happy new year Linda! Take care!

  17. Passei para desejar à minha amiga um Bom Ano de 2017 com muitas caminhadas.

  18. Nice variety of shots there. I always try to avoid the shops at any festive period. Shut for one day only over Christmas yet everyone goes mad buying up half the store. Sadly, these days I rarely pass up an opportunity to use rest rooms/toilets as well as many of our public ones in towns and cities have shut and you never know when the next one will come along.

  19. What an excellent idea. Outdoor recreation replacing consumer madness. Something we should take up in the U.K. Been some pretty embarrassing scenes on Black Friday here, people fighting in supermarkets over TVs etc

  20. This is a great idea! I avoid stores of any kind the day after Thanksgiving anyway, and this year we were out hiking. Sounds like you had a great weekend in Missoula; I love that area and we try to get to Western Montana at least once a year. Looks like you found a great trail to hike; love the photos!

  21. I applaud them for this fantastic effort to get people outside! Your hike looks great with so many lovely scenes. May the new year bring you lots of changes for great photographs!

  22. Great hike! We opted out too but didn't spend too much time outside! :)

  23. I can support that tradition! Nice hike, even though it was harder and farther than planned. And your red berries are rose hips (wild rose), and snowberry. Happy New Year, Linda, and here's to all the trail miles that 2017 will bring


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