On an unseasonably warm September weekend six years ago, I capped off my first summer in Seattle with my first backpacking trip. The destination: Rachel Lake in Washington’s Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest. For a kid who grew up in Texas and spent the vast majority of her childhood indoors, it was a momentous occasion.
In the years since, many of the details have faded. But there are a few things I won’t forget.
I remember stuffing my brand new 65-liter pack to the brim. Preparing for the trip, I insisted on making a trip to REI—as a member, not yet an employee—to buy a camp pillow, among countless other things. I couldn’t fathom the thought of sleeping without one. (My former self might be surprised to learn the things I’ve considered a “pillow” since then.)
I remember standing at the trailhead, desperately trying to figure out how to properly fit my pack. What did the helpful REI employee tell me again about how to adjust my hipbelt and shoulder straps?
I remember tentatively climbing over roots and feeling off-kilter as I tried to haul myself up large steps on the trail.
I remember the sweet relief of tossing (read: throwing) my bag on the ground once we reached camp—my body aching in places I didn’t know could hurt.
I remember being acutely aware of every ominous snap of a branch as I was falling asleep in my tent.
Despite the aches and fear, most of all, I remember pushing myself and feeling connected to nature in a way I’d never experienced before.
New beginnings are as exhilarating as they are nerve-wracking. Just as I gingerly took to the trail in 2013, the co-op is embarking on a new chapter with the launch of our first-ever print magazine, Uncommon Path. Sure, we’ve created beautiful print catalogs and published compelling stories online before, but this project has pushed us to take our storytelling to the next level. I’m immensely proud of the teams at REI and Hearst that created this magazine from the ground up.
Our aim with Uncommon Path is to help awaken, nurture and restore a lifelong relationship with the outdoors. We hope it creates an opportunity for our community to slow down and connect with nature in a new way. Through the quarterly publication, we’ll chronicle the experiences, events and ideas that shape the relationship between people and life outside.
The magazine hits newsstands, REI stores and members’ homes this week. We’re also sharing some of our favorite stories here on the Co-op Journal. I hope you can spend some time reading about the people, places and ideas captured in our first issue.
I’ve tried more challenging and certainly scarier things in the outdoors since my first backpacking trip. But it signaled a shift in my perspective of what I was capable of accomplishing. I hope Uncommon Path serves as your invitation to try something different and take the path less traveled.