Rue with Angela from KEEN
It’s been a week since I had the chance to visit Kirkwood, California at the Outessa event, hosted by Outdoor Afro partner REI. In collaboration with several outdoor brands, this was a curated weekend of activities geared toward women of all abilities in California’s beautiful Sierras. After a scenic beautiful drive several hours from my home in Oakland, I was glad to arrive and represent KEEN footwear as a KEEN ambassador and to present on the topic of getting kids outdoors.
From morning to night in the Outessa village there were delicious, and healthy meal options served family style. And over meals I had the chance to make connections with women who trekked from far and wide (the farthest participant I met was from Mexico City) to find encouragement and inspiration to try as many outdoor activities possible.
Activities began early with 6AM sunrise yoga, an inspirational talk over a delicious breakfast, and then participants could head out to take on an outdoor adventure. Outessa women could choose mountain biking, hiking, camping, climbing, stand-up paddle boarding and many more courses organized throughout the day. The KEEN booth was a popular gathering place where participants could “check out” a pair of Terradora shoes to scramble trails for the day.
Many participants had never tried outdoor activities like those hosted at Outessa, while many more were intrepid adventure travelers, ultra marathoners, triathletes, and more.
Trying on KEEN shoes
Outdoor brands showed in up in force, providing lectures such as fellow KEEN ambassador and environmental leader Meg Haywood Sullivan on stewardship, to workshops teaching skills like how to build a fire using simple tools, cook outside using cast iron, hydration strategies, or even learning to hula!
Unwinding after an incredible day
Just before departing on Sunday, I slipped on my KEEN Whispers and managed to squeeze in a delightful morning kayaking trip with about a dozen women. A courtesy shuttle delivered us to our launch site at nearby Silver Lake, where helpful REI Outdoor School instructors taught us some great stroke techniques that had everyone gliding over the calm glassy lake under the mountains with ease.
For me, the sold out women-focused weekend was unlike anything I have ever experienced. It was well organized with the highest quality of support and outdoor leadership, making it so easy to feel confident, find camaraderie, and give oneself over to simply being #SweatyDirtyHappy.
Rue with Angelou, CEO of Greening Youth Foundation
I highly recommend an Outessa weekend!
I’m grateful for the vision to create an experience that welcomes more people into outdoor experiences, and I hope that my fellow Outessa alums join me in spreading a love of adventure in the outdoors wherever they go!