Let’s OptOutside

Let’s OptOutside

Thanksgiving ushers in a season of celebration. We set aside our hectic lives to gather with family and friends to break bread, give thanks and enjoy cherished traditions. Roasted turkey with all the trimmings has usually been our mid-day meal, and when I was growing up the prelude to the gut-busting feast was my hometown’s traditional Thanksgiving football game with our rival high school.

For many years the day after Thanksgiving has been a day when retail stores offer discounts thus kicking off the frenetic Christmas shopping season. Bargain hunters line up at department store entrances long before opening time in hopes of nabbing the “hot” gift of the year while they last. For years those opening times became earlier and earlier, leading to Thanksgiving night openings and sales. Retailers of course enjoy the sales.

In recent years the day-after-Thanksgiving tradition of shopping has competition for another activity, another option and, yes, a new tradition. Instead of waiting in line at the checkout counter, some folks are considering “opting outside” and spending the day in the outdoors – checking out an adventure in nature.

Where did term OptOutside come from? Recreational Equipment Incorporated (REI) a nationally well-known outdoor equipment and apparel retail store made the decision to give their employees not only Thanksgiving Day off but also the following day. They closed their stores and encouraged employees to head to a park or even their own back yard to get some fresh air and take time to immerse in nature.

Perhaps it was simply a brilliant marketing move, but the idea has taken hold to the point that some may not recall how it began. The National Park Service joined the tradition and here at TLGV we have offered OptOutside programs as well.

Last year in-person sales and shopping were greatly diminished and many people were unable to travel to be with families. Last year TLGV made the decision to offer more outdoor opportunities to help us all enjoy the outdoors safely and in community. We call it Walktober Redux and there are options for the entire family to enjoy the outdoors the Friday, Saturday and Sunday following Thanksgiving. Information on TLGV’s Walktober Redux can be found at:

https://thelastgreenvalley.org/programs-announced-for-walktober-redux-nov-26-28/

Our region is full of exceptional state parks and forests. There are likely several within a short drive of home. TLGV has done the work for you with website information and links to parks and hiking locations. Below is a helpful link for finding your own outdoor adventure – not just the day after Thanksgiving, but any day of the year.

https://thelastgreenvalley.org/explore-the-last-green-valley/recreation-guides/hiking/

Here you’ll find links to the Connecticut Forest and Park Association, CT State

Parks and MA State Parks. You will also find options on Connecticut’s new Trail Finder website, which is being regularly updated with new trails. You can find their websites:

https://www.ctwoodlands.org/

https://portal.ct.gov/DEEP/State-Parks/Connecticut-State-Parks-and-Forests

https://www.mass.gov/visit-massachusetts-state-parks

https://www.cttrailfinder.com/

Eventually the Connecticut Trail Finder will include many more publicly accessible land trust and municipal trails. Until then, we are blessed with active land trusts in the National Heritage Corridor with miles of trails to explore. You’ll want to check out their websites for locations, trail maps, and information on their work in several communities in The Last Green Valley. Here’s a list and links to their websites.

Avalonia Land Conservancy – https://avalonia.org/

Dudley Conservation Land Trust – https://dudleyclt.org/

Joshua’s Trust – https://joshuastrust.org/

New Roxbury Land Trust – http://thenewroxburylandtrust.org/

Northern Connecticut Land Trust – https://northernctlandtrust.org/

Opacum Land Trust – https://www.opacumlt.org/

Eastern Connecticut Forest Landowners Association/Wolf Den Land Trust – http://www.ecfla.org/

Wyndham Land Trust – https://www.wyndhamlandtrust.org/

Here’s one last and important safety reminder before you head outdoors. It is fall hunting season and the firearms deer hunting season began Nov. 17. There is no reason hunters and non-hunters can’t share the land, and it is advisable for everyone to wear orange or bright colored clothing in the fall months. I always have a bright orange vest in my vehicle and put it on when in the woods, no matter where I am.

All the above outdoor locations and resources are available to you for free. Feel free to contact me if you need additional suggestions for your next adventure in nature.

We live in a beautiful place called The Last Green Valley. Every day of the year provides us the golden opportunity to OptOutside and experience our amazing natural resources. I hope you’ll join me and many others this Friday, and every day as we care for it, enjoy it, and pass it on.

Bill Reid is the Chief Ranger of The Last Green Valley National Heritage Corridor. He can be reached at 860-774-3300 or bill@tlgv.org.

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