For me, life has two seasons: summer and second summer. Of course, I know this is not true, but a girl can dream. There’s something about the ability to shed layers on a sunny day’s hike to a pristine lake or becoming one with the ocean with the sun’s rays beaming down on you. Summer is a favorite time of year for many that includes a natural high of Vitamin D, getting outdoors and childhood memories. If summer’s nostalgic ice cream trucks and summer camp shenanigans are calling you, it’s time to try adult summer camp. These choose your own adventure lifestyle camps are a growing trend and were created to squeeze the most enjoyment possible out of every moment outdoors.
The Outdoor Foundation states the 48.6% of American’s are into outdoor recreation and I’m one of them. I love wild places. I love sore muscles and a layer of outdoor residue as payoff for my time outside. I recently joined a three-day adult camp in the basin of Utah’s Northern Wasatch Range. The peaks were still painted white from the season’s heavy snowfall and tents of the hundreds of people here for the weekend speckled the field like fireflies as the sun dropped.
The Pursuit Series, a summer camp favorite, was founded by Brian Heifferon and Tyler Drake, the two innovators behind Outbound Collective. The Pursuit was born when they noticed a lack of equal opportunity for everyone to get outside and wanted to make outdoor education accessible. They saw opportunity to create structure and guidance in real time, in one location, where previously it was scattered across the internet. A big piece of that was eliminating the typical barriers to entry of outdoor activities: expense, access, inclusion and awareness.
With 48.6% of American’s outdoors that still leaves 51.4% of people not getting their outdoor stoke. Some of those groups include African American’s, Latinos and those in impoverished neighborhoods. I caught up with Nailah Blades Wylie, adventure coach and founder of Color Outside, about her initiative to widen opportunities – and the conversation – about diversity in the outdoor industry. She started Color Outside in 2017, after leading hikes as a hobby that quickly led to a full-blown brand, now being featured in Outbound Collective’s upcoming outdoor diversity film series.
On her opinion about not seeing people like herself outdoors Nailah states “I felt like, what right did I have to be there, or other people thought I wasn’t supposed to be there. But I have a right to be here and stand tall. Standing boldly in myself.” She now hosts outdoor retreats that include life coaching, wellness and outdoor education, in addition to her hikes and workshops. “We tap into a lot of deep personal things that happen in the lives of these women of color. This [discussion] helps women break through their blocks. It adds another layer to Color Outside.” She continues.
“We tap into a lot of deep personal things that happen in the lives of these women of color. These discussions help women break through their blocks. It adds another layer to Color Outside.” – Nailah Blades Wylie
The Pursuit event founders signed off on the CEO Diversity Pledge, a group “leading outdoor brands in one-on-one relationships with inclusion advocates to advance representation for people of color across the industry” according the Diversify Outdoors website. This means a dedication to an outdoor platform – in this case an event – that includes all voices.
During the three days at base camp, I met dedicated brands, like, Hoka One One, Stanley, Mountain House, Rinse, Eagle Creek, MedTerra, Eno Hammocks, and many other labels who have been shaping the industry for decades. All of which I now have in my go to adventure kit and that I know support this outdoor initiative and gladly shared their outdoor knowledge. I shared sincere conversations around twilight fire pits, sipping low calorie sparkling wine and sharing smore’s with people who were strangers’ minutes prior. I couldn’t help but ruminate on all my prior outdoor adventures, and how later in life it became a defining and satisfying exercise in confidence, skill and opportunity. This is where your outside, becomes your inside. Come as you are, learn as you go.
My camp days were full, kicking off with outdoor yoga, then onto photography class, wilderness medicine, tram ride and hike, a ride on the one wheel, more hammock yoga, evening kayak excursion, cocktail hour, corn hole competitions, and winding down around a fire with live music in the background. And that’s all with health fueled meals, and sponsored drinks. My schedule differed from some of my associates, but that’s kind of the point. Meeting new people, being messy, pushing our limits, tapping into learning and all the complexities hard wired into our brains that attract us to newness and purpose.
Instead of summer camp panty raids and T-ping campers’ tents, you’ll find visitors from across the nation seeking a common bond, the outdoors. I overheard conversations from a group of women giddy with emotion having just completed their first real outdoor top-rope climb (in the exacting Wasatch Range no less) “That wasn’t a first level climb!” one says “I have never been so scared….but I did it. I did something I’ve never done before!” she continues, her friends emphatically nodding in agreement. I smile to myself.
I met plenty of other campers following their bliss, including Azure, an Art Director and Hermel, a Graphic Designer, who packed up their Sprinter van for roadie adventure from California. We bonded over laughter, and drinks as we discussed everything from campfires and travel to the unexplainable fashion of high waisted jeans. Both spend plenty of time outside, and Azure is an ambassador for Bell Helmets, a program getting more girls on bikes, outside. We’re all here, as if we were waiting for permission to explore new things and share our voice. A place where we harness the collective wisdom of outdoor professionals and industry pros in a format that doesn’t intimidate. A place to hone your own outdoor love and leadership style. These are the moments I cherish.
These events blend together a love of wilderness wellness – yoga, meditation, and movement – and an adult camp that allows you to maximize your time, and push both amateur to experienced enthusiasts to fish, climb, paddle, move and wander in perfectly curated wilderness locations. A balance between comfort and campy. So, whether you join in Kirsten’s hammock yoga promoting outdoor wellness, or take that mountain bike for a spin before investing thousands, you’re in good hands.
Pursuit is an event that creates stewards of nature, leaves no camper behind and stands behind its initiative to get every community outside. Sometimes we fool ourselves into thinking we have more control over situations than we do, this is a place to let illusions go and unlock countless what-ifs, friendships and skill. I’m going to continue to find my own outside, and inspired by the principles of Color Outside, be the girl who shows up and never gives up. I left a bit more blissful, happily exhausted and more sun kissed. When I got home, I immediately wanted to do it all over again. I’ll see you on the trail with #everyoneoutside. We can create everyone’s voice one story at a time.
Stay tuned for more on our article coming up about how camps like these are creating more Wilderness Wellness and our love of nature yoga.
Find out more on 2019 and 2020 Pursuit Series Camp Outs at OutboundCollective.com
If you want to get more involved in the outdoor diversity conversation contact: Pursuit Series, Color Outside, Brown Girls Fish, Unlikely Hikers, Outdoor Afros and Melanin Base Camp