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Outdoor Diary: Hitting 1,200 Days Outside, and a ‘Smooshing’ Race

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76 Outdoor Diary: A Retreat With a Side of Outside

How do you make holiday memories outside and power through the dark days of December and winter? In this week’s Outdoor Diary Amy talks about her favorite annual outdoor festival in her small Alaska town and marks her latest milestone, 1,200 days in a row going outside for at least 20 consecutive minutes

Some of the good stuff:

[:35] Big things in Amy’s outdoor fun

[:50] What’s up with Amy’s little town and why it matters

[2:25] What is “Colony Christmas”

[2:45] The “smooshing” race

[4:20] Why hitting 1,200 days in the winter is important

[5:05] More about The Pants (yes, again)

[5:55] Some housekeeping stuff you should hear

Connect with this episode:

Follow us on Instagram and share your outdoor life with the hashtag #humansoutside365.

Here’s an edited transcript of this installment of Amy’s Outdoor Diary. Listen to the episode on iTunes, Google Podcasts, or wherever you find your favorite podcasts.

‘Tis the season for making memories outside.

OK, fine, that’s all the seasons for me. But two pretty big things happened in outdoor fun for me this week. First, I hit 1,200 days of heading outside every single day on Sunday, Dec. 13. And, second, Dec. 12th was the annual Colony Christmas festival.

OK so first let’s talk about Colony Christmas. You need a little background. If you’ve ever seen Gilmore Girls, my adorable town, Palmer, is the Alaska version of Stars Hallow. We have all the characters and all the town spirit you can possibly imagine. And, as in Stars Hallow, our town spirit manifests itself in festivals. If there is a day in the year, there is a festival in Palmer. We have parades for Christmas, for the State Fair and for our own made-up summer holiday, Colony Days. We have Palmer Pride, which is a day we celebrate how much we love Palmer and on Fridays in the summer we have Friday Flings, because, well it’s Friday, and why the heck not?

And if you’re wondering what the “Colony” thing is that keeps popping up, here’s a little Palmer lore for you. During the New Deal era, struggling farmers in the northern mid-west volunteered to come up to Alaska and start a new farming resettlements. A parade of these were conducted all over the U.S., with several as completely new towns. Among those was the area known the Matanuska Valley Colony, established here in the then-territory of Alaska. 203 families were brought up here by ship and train to start over. It wasn’t exactly the farming paradise they were hoping for or used to in the mid-west, and only 31% of those original farmers remained 12 years later. Nonetheless, the agriculture area we have here now is the legacy of their work.

And that’s why everything is colony-this and colony-that.

Which brings us to: Colony Christmas. In true Palmer small town fashion, Colony Christmas features basically the same parade seen two other times a year, but this time in the dark. There’s kid games, Santa seeing, cookie decorating and all sorts of indoor things in non-COVID years. But my favorite of all of these is the “smooshing race,” an event where four people strap their feet to a pair of two by fours and attempt to move in unison down to a turn around point and back.

This was my third year doing this, and I have to be honest — I am very, very bad. That of course is the point. Other people think being good is the point, which would be why I come no where near winning … except due to lack of participation. Those same other people let little things like 15 degrees and high winds keep them home. And so it was that this year my family and I, all dressed in zippered onesies, yes even Luke, came in second place, and scored over $100 in Palmer “bingle” money. Yes, Palmer has its own currency, because that’s how extra we are.

And guys, it was so so fun. We spent all day outside in Palmer, with a short break for volunteering packing food boxes indoors at our church. We were full of holiday spirit, made many technicolor memories and are the reigning worst smooshers in the land for the third year running. If that’s not some festive success, I dont know what is.

I also take a certain pride in heading to a long, outdoor festival on a very cold day and liking it anyway. I wore all the layers – yes, including The Pants this time under my reindeer onesie. I looked absolutely ridiculous. And we just had the best time.

And Colony Christmas marked day 1,199 outside in a row. I’m now at over 1,200 days. I think marking this moment in the dead of winter is important, because it reminds me how much wanting to keep up this habit is a factor of actually having it. When I hit 1,000 days on a gorgeous Alaska summer day, it seemed like, yes, of course I go outside every day for 20 minutes. Why wouldn’t I?

But when the temperature is 15 degrees fahrenheit and the wind is howling, going outside seems slightly less inevitable. It seems like a chore. I still do it. I still have yet to regret it. But it doesn’t happen naturally all of the time. I have to want it.

Back to Colony Christmas again really fast. I mentioned The Pants. If you’re new to the podcast, you don’t know about our long term love affair with insulated down or synthetic pants. We’ve talked about two specific brands in the past – Monte Belle and Mountain Hardwear – and we love them because you slide them over whatever you’re wearing, or in my case this weekend put your reindeer onesie over them, and BAM – instant warmth.

Now I’ve got a third brand option for you. I think my husband, Luke, was getting some pants jealousy because he felt like we both deserved to have a pair to wear in the cold. So he bought another pair, this time the Black Diamond version. It was a little less spendy than the Mountain Hardwear ones. I’ve been wearing them and they seem just as good to me. That’s another good option for you if instant leg warmth seems like a good idea. You can find a link to these Black Diamond pants in the show notes.

Now, a few housekeeping things. For the rest of December and the first part of January we only have these weekly outdoor diary episodes — no full guest episodes. I’m working hard on getting Season 3 ready and am super stoked about the guests I’ve got coming up. But if you know someone who you think really should be on here — maybe that’s yourself — or if you have any idea of someone you’d love to hear, hit me up and tell me! You can message me on Facebook or Instagram or shoot me an email to contact@humansoutside.com .

Next thing, I’ve been spending a ton of time giving our weeklyish newsletter a good shakeup. It’s going to look entirely different going forward, and hopefully be fun to read and useful. That’s my goal, anyway. If you want to check it out, head over to HumansOutside.com and sign-up.

Finally, as always you know I want to see your outdoor photos, and I share one of mine every single day on Instagram and Facebook at humansoutside. Tag yours with #humansoutside365 so I can check them out.

And until next time, we’ll see you out there.

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