Waking up in a massive sleigh shaped bed at a 5-star resort was the last thing on my mind when I froze my running bum off sleeping on the ground under 5 billion stars in Bears Ears National Monument this spring. But that is exactly (or partially) how I found myself at Deer Valley resort in June to attend Outdoor Press Camp among some of the leading editors, writers and brands in the outdoor industry.
The inclusive and intimate event is a direct contrast to summer OR and gives attendees an actual opportunity to dig into the finer details of presenting brands via one on one meetings that are much longer than 15 minutes, ample time to socialize (and sit) during gourmet catered meals and an entire afternoon off to play outside and test gear. I even got to ride the chair lift UP the mountain to go for a run!
Fellow freelancer Aaron Bible tipped me off about the event (totally joking that it might be a nice way for me to get a shower since I’m “homeless” aka living a beautiful life of freedom out of my Jeep Wrangler) and connected me with event coordinator Kenji Haroutunian. It only took one email exchange between Kenji and I to realize that I needed to be a part of second annual event, not only for my background in the running industry and trail specialization, but because of my time spent living in Bears Ears. Kenji sits on the Board of Directors for the Access Fund, and played an instrumental role in growing and shaping Outdoor Retailer into what it is today. Given the media invite list Kenji took advantage of the opportunity to integrate the very timely issue of public lands, and specifically Bears Ears, into the event in order to inform the media with balanced viewpoints and access to voices and leaders at the forefront of the issue including…….Politics aside, we both felt that despite Bears Ears prevalence in the outdoor media, the stories, sources and even visuals that are being pushed out are largely the same. He gave me the opportunity to present a slide show with some of my favorite images from exploring Bears Ears while sharing my story about what it’s like to actually be an athlete, writer and activist living on ground zero.
The opportunity came at an ideal time as REI re-released my original story about my experience “Running To The Sunrise” in Bears Ears. While there is nothing I love more than waking up on the ground next to a trail head in the desert as the sun rises over distant peaks, staying at Deer Valley and sleeping in a super comfortable bed during this time felt like an immense treat, the frosting on an already delicious cake.
Getting a chance to listen to the viewpoints of the Utah Lieutenant Governor Spencer Cox, President of Outdoor Recreation Thomas Adams, UTE PAC Director Robert Lucero and Tribal Council Member Moroni Benally tossed on the sprinkles and then getting to interact with them and even brainstorm about critical issues with them was washing it all down with a cold beer. Poolside and dressed in my fancy pants, I soaked in the experience more rapidly than high altitude sun rays–fully knowing that this experience was born out of the magic that is the Bear.
During the remainder of the week at Press Camp I enjoyed some serious one on one time with innovation leaders in the outdoor industry. The full attendee list can be found here, and given the topics I cover in my writing and for personal use I especially enjoyed meeting with Altra Running (love at first lace up and I’m picky), Tentsile (tree tents!), Camp Chef (aka my future Dirtbag dream kitchen), Oboz Hiking Boots and Sandals (with a rad design story out of Montana), Ryder Sunglasses (lens technology is on point for trail running), Swiss Army Knife/Victorinox (I’ll be cutting cheese, wind shields and brush like a pro), CamelBak (primo fitting hydration solutions) and Boulder Denim (life changing since I never wore jeans until now–these are like yoga pants).
When I wasn’t in meetings I immersed myself into “resort life” to fully recover and rest up for upcoming big training blocks in the mountains which meant indulging in all of the amazing food, max pool time and even getting a pedicure with Oboz and the other ladies attending the event.
I left Press Camp with a much richer experience than I have ever had at a trade show and the creative gears in my head had enough time to properly churn and come up with future project ideas. The trip to Park City marked the last official destination in my insane 4 week travel/event line up: Bears Ears Gu Media Trip at the end of May, New Hampshire for the U.S. Mountain Running Championships, drive from new Hampshire to Boulder, Creede and CO to race with a donkey and write about it. In all I traveled through 13 states this month and ran in 9 mountain ranges. I have more stories to write than I have hours in 7 days, a smile on my face, a Swiss Army suitcase packed with sick gear to ensure I’m ready for anything and TONS of new friends. But you know what I left Park City thinking about the most–I need to get back to Bears Ears. There is much work to be done there both politically and personally. It is no longer a mystery why I continue to feel called to return. Going to Bears Ears is going home.