Going Beyond My Limits – My Adventures At The First Ever REI Outessa Summit Part 2

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I went to the REI Outessa Summit in hopes of making new outdoor loving girlfriends, to learn more about the outdoor sports I already love, and to find new passions to put my time and energy into. I went to this event with high hopes, but I came home with so much more than I had anticipated. I came home already counting the days until next year's summit because I am planning to go EVERY year! At the end of part 1 in this two-part series, I went to bed sweaty, dirty, and extremely happy from all that I had experienced so far. I couldn't imagine how the weekend could get any better, but it totally did.

I got to watch the sun rise over the Utah mountains

At high altitudes, it turns out, everything is enhanced in your body, including caffeine. I had spent all day Friday drinking coffee, yerba mate tea, and eating all sorts of delicious energy bars and chews that were provided everywhere we turned. That night, even though the wind wasn't nearly as earth-shaking as the night before, I still got laying there awake, because I mistakenly ingested too much caffeine. I tossed and turned all night long, half awake, because of the caffeine running through my veins. Having had very little sleep over the last two days, I mistakenly thought that my first class of the day, a morning meditation with world renown author and life guru, Kristine Carlson, was at 6:30 am. At 6:00 am, I gave up on getting any real sleep and scrambled out of the warmth of my sleeping bag to find some coffee before class. Thankfully, I had my coffee in hand when I realized my class wasn't supposed to begin until 7:30 am. I had once again risen way earlier than I needed to. Thank goodness I did because I got to sit in the sunken yurt with my organic coffee in hand, watching the sun rise over the Utah mountains. Watching the sky morph from the Milky Way speckled darkness to the rainbow of colors that slowly peeked over the horizon with the first light of the day, was one of the highlights of my weekend. There's something magical about the sunrise in the morning.

Meditation magic early in the morning

After mindfully watching the sunrise, I left the warmth of the sunken yurt to find the Amy's Kitchen tent, where my meditation class was scheduled to take place. It was a brisk 40-something degrees outside, and I was shaking furiously in my hiking boots. I wondered to myself how many people were dedicated enough to show up for meditation this early in the morning, but I was surprised to find that the Amy's Kitchen tent was bustling with ladies, all smiling and ready to make some meditation magic. The next 30 minutes were amazing, and we all left that tent with a peaceful smile on our faces.

Altitude sickness stood in the way of my Saturday plans

After morning meditation, I had a couple hours to kill until my next class, so I headed back to the yurt to hang with girls while they ate breakfast. As it would turn out, I did not attend any of the rest of my classes that day because altitude sickness had taken a hold of me. My head was pounding so I went back to my tent to try and nap it off. After a small nap, I was so hot in the tent that I walked down to the Amy's Kitchen tent to lie down, knowing how comfy their setup was. Their huge hippy inspired tent was lined with comfy mattresses, pillows, and warm fuzzy blankets all for us to snuggle with. In the middle of the tent, they had a table decorated with adorable succulents planted in recycled Amy's Kitchen soup cans, and all the materials needed to make friendship bracelets in your favorite colors. I lucked out when I chose their awesome tent to relax in because I got the chance to make friends with one of the most inspiring women I met over the entire weekend, Ironman triathlete Kendra Goffredo.

Inspiration comes from the most unlikely places

While I rested in the Amy's Kitchen tent, I just happened to be in the right place at the right time to hear Kendra speak. I was very impressed when she told me how she secured the IRONMAN US Championship title and raced to a top 10 finish at the IRONMAN World Championship in Kona, Hawaii in 2012. I was even more impressed that she did all of that despite learning to swim AND competing in her first triathlon just one year before. The most impressive part though was her passion for spreading the word about the charity that she works with, the Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation.  As we sat there discussing the benefits of using our social clout to help spread the word about charitable causes we're passionate about, I realized that this was just what I wanted to do. I was emboldened to take action, and I immediately knew what charity I wanted to work with for myself. Kendra's story also made me realize that I could do more physically too. She didn't know how to swim the year before she won the US Ironman. I never thought that I could run in a race because of my partially paralyzed legs, but her story inspired me so much that I decided I was going to train for my very first 5k race! Thanks a ton, Kendra! You really gave me a lot to think about when I came home!

The most amazing surprise of the entire weekend

While I was spending my day lounging around Amy's Kitchen, I heard through the grapevine that the farm-to-table dinner that night was supposed to be a 1-2 mile hike (or shuttle bus) away from camp, at the Wasatch Overlook area. After a day of elevation sickness, I wasn't sure that that sounded like something I wanted to do. Thankfully, my girls convinced me that I didn't want to miss out on a single moment, and I decided that I felt well enough to hike with them. Lugging all of our warm clothes, blankets, and headlamps with us, we all met near the Outessa registration tent and began to hike toward the unknown. As we hiked, we joyfully chatted with our newfound friends around us. When we finally arrived at the overlook, we were shocked to see so many tables set up, lined with chairs on both sides. There were enough chairs and place settings for the hundreds of women attending. The tables were set with wine glasses adjacent to our dinner plates and the plates were adorned with a cloth napkin decorated with twine, twigs, and leaves; giving the tables a cute rustic feel.

A farm-to-table crawfish broil

The biggest surprise came when we realized that we were attending a crab boil! There was fresh crab, shrimp, sausage, corn on the cob, corn bread, potatoes, wine, and beer. I was starving and beyond excited for all the food to make its way to us. The Outessa volunteers began bringing buckets of food and dumping it right in front of us on the paper-lined tables. We all voraciously filled our plates and chowed down while we chatted happily with one another, reliving the weekend's adventures while we broke bread together. After dinner, we all left our tables and walked across the trail we had hiked to get to the overlook. Our jaws dropped when we saw what they had waiting for us. The overlook was definitely just that. A flat piece of land sitting just off the trail, it overlooked the vast mountains and valleys below. They had decorated the overlook with goal zero's lights, strung around the propane-fueled fire pits. The fire pits were surrounded by a circle of hay bales and topped with warm blankets for everyone to sit on. As the sun set over the hazy mountain range, the colors in the sky began to fuse together making a collage of oranges, reds, blues, and purples. We all huddled together around our fire pits for warmth, while we enjoyed each other's company, drank wine, and ate smores. Choosing to hike back in the dark, we turned on our headlamps and happily made our way back down the dirt trail. It was the perfect way to celebrate the weekend that we had enjoyed, and I ended up sleeping better that night than any other night on the mountain.

Nothing goes as planned, and that is OK

Sunday morning, the last day of the Outessa summit, I woke up completely refreshed and ready for the day.  I was super excited because I had rearranged my schedule to pick up some of the classes I had missed the day before, due to elevation sickness. My first class was supposed to be map and compass skills, but during breakfast, we were told that we had to pack up our tents and gear before 11 am. I realized that I didn't have enough time to fully pack up my gear and make it to my class on time, so I reluctantly accepted that my schedule wasn't going to go as planned, and headed back to my tent to pack up my gear.

My first bloody mary ever

After packing everything up, I had an extra hour to spare so going with the flow I walked down from camp to see what random class I could pop into. I hadn't planned to attend Igloo‘s class on making bloody mary's, but it was 10 am and I was looking for something random and fun to attend. BEST. IDEA. EVER. I had never had a bloody mary before and I had the best time learning how to make them while snacking on all the snacks Igloo managed to pack in their packs, made just for entertaining out in nature. If I hadn't missed my morning classes, I would have never gotten the chance to enjoy bloody marys at ten in the morning with all my ladies!

You can do it all with one Leatherman multitool

A morning of bloody mary's with my ladies proved to be just what I needed. Afterward, I moseyed on over to the Leatherman tent, ready to learn new tips and tricks on using my own Leatherman multitool. During our class, we got to check out the different tools on the current multitools Leatherman carries, but even better, they put us to work using the tools in fun ways. We got to open bottles (and drink the beverages in them), saw through sticks, cut through fruit, and try our hand at using the flint on kindling. Who doesn't love a class about knives and fire? After seeing all the amazing tools that the Leatherman Signal has, I was sold. Every backpacker or hiker needs one of these multitools on them! It has 19 tools that are super helpful in the outdoors:

  • needlenose pliers and regular pliers
  • 154CM replaceable wire cutters, 154CM replaceable hard-wire cutters, wire stripper
  • 420HC combo knife and saw
  • hammer
  • awl w/ thread loop
  • can opener and bottle opener
  • 1/4″ hex bit driver, bit driver, 1/4″ box wrench, 3/16″ box wrench
  • carabiner, safety whistle
  • ferrocerium rod
  • diamond coated sharpener

Going off on my own unplanned hike

After the multitool class, I decided to do a little bit of solo hiking and hauled my camera down the trail, hoping for a good spot to stop and take pictures of the Utah mountains surrounding me. As I trekked further away from the Outessa camp, the sounds of hundreds of people having a good time started to fade away. Somewhere in the distance, I heard a hawk call out to its mate, landing in a far off tree.  Here I was in the middle of nowhere and all that I could hear were the soothing sounds of nature, it's time to meditate, I thought to myself. What better time than now! After meditating, it was almost lunchtime, so I headed back. On my way back towards camp, I stopped at one of the Eno hammock stations and lounged in a hammock facing the vast span of mountains. Even Netflix can't beat the kind of chill that I got from hanging out in the Utah mountains.

I was sad to say goodbye to my Outessa tribe

The end of Outessa, Sunday afternoon, was a bittersweet goodbye. I was definitely sweaty, dirty, and happy, but I was also totally exhausted and ready for a good shower in my hotel room. We had had the ladies weekend of a lifetime and I couldn't believe it was already over. My new friends were nice enough to drop me off at my hotel on their way to the airport, leaving me with a whole 24 hours to relax and rifle through the entire 45L backpack of freebies given to me, before I had to fly back home. As I sat on my flight heading home, I was sad that my weekend of adventures and fun was already over. I had accomplished a ton in such a short period of time. I hiked over 20 miles, learned to ride an EliptiGo bike, kayaked on a lake surrounded by mountains, learned all sorts of useful backcountry skills, and made a TON of new outdoor loving girlfriends. Here's to all my ladies who love to be #sweatydirtyhappy! I'll see you out in the wild and hopefully at Outessa again next year!

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