A Desert Oasis, A Meeting of Friends, and Project Z
Several months ago we all received a teaser email inviting us to block our calendars for a week in June. A few weeks later this showed up in the mail:
I attended both parts (Sedona and Havasu). Over two weeks have passed since I returned and I’m finally ready to start writing about what an incredible experience this was. There were multiple dimensions to the event – the location, the activities, the gear, and the people – and breaking it all down is tough. I’m going to start today with a recap of the first half of the event in Sedona, followed by another post about our hike along the West Fork of Oak Creek, and finally wrap it up with a post about the epic backpack to Havasu falls. I’ve also been using the heck out of some of the new gear and will be writing up some reviews soon.
Arriving in Arizona
After going through the standard routine of airport checkin and flying, the mysterious part of my journey started. I really had no idea what to expect. We had received a suggested packing list and basic itinerary a few days before. I knew the OmniTen would be there and I was really excited to meet everyone face to face. What I didn’t know was who else would be there, what the activities would actually be, or what new gear we’d be trying out. So I dealt with the uncertainty in the only way I know how – by being super organized around that which I could control and packing EVERYTHING I OWN into a giant duffel.
In PHX I got off the plane and headed to Baggage Claim where I ran into this gentleman. I was greeted and instructed to grab my bag and the ‘others’ on my shuttle to Sedona would be along soon. Hm, I knew was the last of the OmniTen to arrive, so I wondered who these ‘others’ were. It’s already getting interesting.
By the time I’d grabbed my bag the others were rolling in, including Amy Jurries of The GearCaster and Billy Brown of Trek Tech Blog. I was already “Twitter friends” with Amy and it was great to meet since we’d missed each other at past events like the Outdoor Retailer Show. Clearly there was more to this event than just the OmniTen!
We hopped into a shiny Cadillac Escalade decorated with Columbia and Mountain Hardwear logos and were whisked out of Phoenix towards Sedona, our destination for the evening. The ride’s soundtrack was provided by an all-90′s station, and additional entertainment was provided by Billy, who I quickly learned was quite the story teller.
About half way to Sedona the Escalade pulled off at a desolate and remote exit. I was starting to wonder if this special event was going to be releasing us somewhere in the desert and seeing how many of us found our way back home. (new reality show!) But no, just around the curve appeared a lovely desert oasis – an ice cream truck!
After a short break in which we ate a custom mint flavored blue ice cream we piled back in the Escalade to finish the drive to our hotel in Sedona. We arrived around 4:45, and according to our tightly arranged itinerary we had to meet in the lobby at 5 pm to catch the bus to dinner. I booked it up to my room and barely had time to take it in – a nice king suite complete with fireplace and balcony. And a nice couch. At least I think it was a nice couch, because I couldn’t see it under all the Columbia Sportswear gear.
I had about five minutes to try everything on before I had to meet in the lobby so I didn’t even take a photo of my nicely arranged pile o’ goodness, luckily Gina got this good shot. A hydration day pack, a longer haul pack, two pairs of shoes, pants, shorts, several tops, a hat, water bottle, jacket, and more. All of it was gear that I’d get to play with over the following days.
I had no time to absorb my surroundings because Columbia and Mountain Hardwear were whisking us all away to a beautiful dinner and presentation. When I arrived in the lobby I finally got to meet my fellow OmniTen face to face. And something interesting happened. Since we had all been interacting so much on Twitter and a private Facebook group we skipped right past a lot of that awkward ‘getting to know you’ stage and right into the ‘friends having a good time’ mode. After less than five minutes with this group I knew the rest of the week was going to be awesome. In addition to the ten of us there were representatives from several media outlets. This was a much bigger deal than I had expected!
They bussed us to a beautiful setting outside of Sedona and fed us a spectacular dinner complete with local craft beer (they know the way to my heart). After dinner we sat down for the reveal of Project Z: the new OmniFreeze Zero technology that is the foundation of their spring 2013 line. I’ll save discussion of this technology for a future post, except to quickly say that it’s really, really cool (yuk yuk yuk). When we got back to the hotel I finished checking out my gear and making sure everything fit, then fell into the giant comfy bed shortly after midnight. I had to report to the lobby at 5 am the next morning for an ‘intense’ hike!
Coming Soon: The ‘Intense’ Hike up the West Fork of Oak Creek