Sleep In The Dirt

The Journey and Preparation for REI Outessa

Essays From the Field

People always say practice what you preach. I believe if you are teaching something you should be passionate about it and live it. Not only do I work in the outdoor industry and deal with the products that we’ll be preaching about at the clinics at REI Outessa in Kirkwood, CA in July, but I LIVE what I’ll be teaching. I get outdoors as much as possible – every weekend – and actually get to practice the skills that are necessary for backcountry adventures. As an outdoor enthusiast your journey to Outessa isn’t just in the journey to the event, but it’s the process. To be able to share this experience and excitement with a group of women who are also passionate about the outdoors, or passionate about learning the tricks and trades, feels like such an honor.

My journey to Outessa started this past May. I was able to get an item off a bucket list that had been waiting patiently at the top for 30 years. This wasn’t my bucket list, it was my Dad’s. For his 60th birthday I planned a backpacking/road trip adventure through the Last Frontier – Alaska. I had everything planned — from quaint inns, to the route we were taking to McCarthy, the 3 day backpacking trip on the Ke’sugi Ridge, and the hikes in Denali National Park. Of course Big Agnes would be fully supporting us with the Slater UL2+ tent, Mystic UL 15 degree bags, and Q-Core SLX pads. The trip was a tribute to not only my father’s 60th birthday and his bucket list, but was also a tribute to what he’s passed along – the passion to get lost in the woods and disconnect. From his love of adventure I am able to show my love for the great outdoors to the women in Kirkwood.

Not all journeys are easy ones: We went through white-out conditions on the Ke’sugi Ridge to the point where we could only see 20 feet in front of us, and even less at times. Our rain gear shredded from the tough Alaskan wilderness after being soaked to the bone. We traveled through 50-mph winds at the Toklat River 53 miles into the Denali National Park, and then got to travel through 5 inches of Alaskan slush and snow on our 10-hour drive from Denali up and over Fairbanks and North Pole Alaska to McCarthy. At the end of the day each of these events (as nerve racking as they are when in the moment) made for a better story and made us more prepared for the next day and next adventure. We got to see Denali, saw tons of bears both grizzly and black, and caribou and moose were as abundant as pigeons. We got the chance to retrace history in McCarthy and Kennicott exploring mines and the old mills.

Since Alaska I have been in the woods honing my skills to show all the lovely ladies involved in Outessa how we can shine in the backcountry when things are not going as expected. If this sounds interesting to you, make sure to sign up for the Gear Repair Guru class! The beginning of my journey to REI Outessa wasn’t an easy one. I didn’t expect it to be, and I wouldn’t change what it was.

Nikki Flamio, Big Agnes Customer Service Representative


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