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Making an Impact - Our DEI Journey Begins

Making an Impact - Our DEI Journey Begins

Greetings, my name is Nathan, I’m the newest member of the Cnoc Outdoors team, and I’m pretty excited to be part of this small but mighty company. My official role is Impact and Outreach Manager, which means I’ll be focusing on the environmental, ethical and social impacts of the company, and supporting our outreach efforts. And, since Cnoc Outdoors is small and scrappy, I also help pack orders, build trekking poles (they are nearly ready to ship, and they are going to be awesome), clean the bathroom, write blog posts, and water the plants.

I first met Gilad when I bought my first Vecto last year. Cnoc Outdoors office is along the bike route my son and I take on the way to his school, so I stopped in one day to say hi and buy some stuff. At that time, I was a stay at home dad and had a few hours free during the day, so I reached out to Gilad to see if he needed any help in the warehouse. This was around the same time that Cnoc Outdoors ran the Kickstarter campaign for the trekking poles, so there was a lot of work to do.

Nathan assembling poles

After a few more conversations, Gilad shared some thoughts and ideas he’d had for a while, but didn’t have the time to focus on himself. Those included ensuring that Cnoc Outdoors was doing its best to Leave No Trace. I started volunteering a few hours a week with Cnoc in January 2020, and became a formal employee at the end of April. Some of the projects I’ve been working on include securing B Corp certification for Cnoc Outdoors - which I hope we will finalize by the end of this year - and establishing recycling procedures for faulty and damaged Vecto’s we have in our warehouse.

Another initiative that we will be working on over the next few months is around Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. Cnoc Outdoors has always been an advocate for equity and inclusion for all people in the outdoors. We have often put our money where our values are by supporting under-represented groups in the outdoor community, and by donating money to advocacy initiatives. However, we aren’t satisfied yet, nor do we feel like we’ve done enough. Over the next few months, Cnoc Outdoors will be taking time to reflect, learn, grow, mess up, ask questions and listen. We want to become a better company and to do that, we need to better embrace, understand and advocate for DEI internally and within the outdoor community. As a micro company of only 4 people, we obviously don’t have the answers (or resources to do everything ourselves), and will actively look for input from our customers and the wider outdoor community. We are open to feedback, thoughts, criticism, support, suggestions, and advice. Please feel free to reach out to us - we are truly listening and eager to learn and grow.

Inclusivity

We plan to post blogs sharing the journey we are taking to keep you informed of our process and to seek your feedback. We want to be open and transparent, which may expose us and show our mistakes, but we feel that is the best way to learn. We hope you will join us and become part of the journey.

Notable Mentions from the Best Day On The Trail 2020 Contest

Notable Mentions from the Best Day On The Trail 2020 Contest

We received some great stories for our Best Day On The Trail 2020 Contest, and our three winning stories truly deserve winning. But since we had so many great stories, we thought we offer three more stories that really caught our attention and offered good competition to our winners:

Meredith D. - Wonderland Trail

In August 2019, my boyfriend and I hiked the Wonderland Trail around Mt. Rainier. On our #bestday we hiked from Nickel Creek to Indian Bar, which is one of the most famous trail sections of the WT. As we were leaving our campsite at Nickel Creek and getting ready to head out on the trail to Indian Bar we noticed a good amount of cloud cover and worried it would obstruct our views of the mountain. Little did we know that we would soon be climbing above those clouds.

Wonderland Trail

For the first couple miles we hiked uphill through dense forest, making sure to admire the towering green canopy above us. The forest slowly began opening up the canopy to reveal small meadows, alternating between dense forest and open meadows. Around midday the trail climbed out of the forest and reached above the clouds. It was our first and only time the entire trip that we would be above the clouds. The views left us with our mouths agape. The Cascade Range was breathtaking, giving us expansive views of Mt. Adams just south of us and Mt. Rainier in front of us. And I haven't even mentioned the countless fields of wildflowers! Lupines, Paintbrushes, Bistorts and Alpine Daisies painted the landscape with vivid hues of purple, blue, white and pink. The smells were intoxicating. It smelled like we had stepped into the most wonderful flower shop and the air around us was blanketed in a wildflower fragrance. If only I could have bottled that smell up into a perfume. Every few minutes we would stop hiking just to awe at the picturesque landscape of wildflower fields surrounded by extensive alpine views.

We still had some steep uphill climbs to tackle, but not even the uphill battles could wipe the ear to ear smile off my face. When we finally reached Indian Bar, we were met with an epic view of the vast green valley of Ohanapecosh Park into which countless waterfalls pour. The roaring sound of Wauhaukaupauken Falls as we crossed over the bridge to our campsite was deafening but inspiring at the same time. Our campsite had front row seats to the valley and Mt. Rainier, and I spent the rest of the day trying to soak up as much of the view as I could. There have been few days in my life better than this day.

VECTO on the Wonderland Trail

P.S. A few days earlier on the trail we came upon two distraught looking backpackers headed in the opposite direction. They informed us their Sawyer Squeeze water pouch had just ripped and they had no other way to filter water. Thankfully, my boyfriend and I each had our own CNOC Vectos so we offered them one of ours. They were so appreciative! A few days later we ran into them again and they said we had turned them into lifelong CNOC fans. They loved the Vecto, but really who doesn't?

Aaron S - Mount Robson

It was September, I had an 80L pack on my 5’5 frame, I had no idea what to bring, or what I was doing, I had well over 50lb in gear, I was uncomfortable, tired, sore by the end of it, and at it was then, that I realized I had fallen in love with backpacking!

It was my first overnight backpacking hike, with the gorgeous backdrop of Mount Robson, BC.   I had been convinced by a friend to join, and had borrowed all my gear for the trip.  Up until then I never knew what the fuss was about, and what lured people to venture so far away from everything.

Two friends resting on a trip

I got to experience up close, the behemoth rush of water that is emperor falls, the lush alpine meadows and ice field on snowbird pass, and the pristine water with floating ice in berg lake.  For these 4 days I got to slow the pace of life, remove myself from the glow of my phone screen, earn the views, appreciate a meal so much more at the end of a day, and reflect on how truly gorgeous our natural world is. 

These moments were something that resonated deeply with me and planted the seed for a new passion – and the excitement of a world to explore from a new found perspective.

Glacial lake

Jessica B. - Appalachian Trail

Last summer, my son and I were backpacking on the Long Trail in Vermont.  We were a few days into our trip, and we were hoping to get a glimpse of a bear at some point.  We got up with the sun, packed everything into our packs, and headed off for the day.  We were hoping to get to a shelter for the night since we are lazy and don’t like to pitch our tent if we don’t have to! 

Around 3 pm, we found ourselves at a shelter with a beautiful view and a nice porch with bench seating across the front.  We weren’t sure if we would stop for a rest and hike on, or stay for the night.  We chatted with several hikers that stopped for a snack in the shelter, and decided to stay.  As the shelter filled up and many tents were pitched in the woods around, we all cooked our dinners and hung up our food bags for the night.  Several of us were seated on the shelter porch, getting to know each other and share our trail names.  In the midst of the conversation, I turned my head and saw a very large male bear less than 6 feet away.  I could have poked him with my trekking pole!  I immediately got up, walked away from the bear and whispered to my companions, “There is a bear right there.”

Bear on the AT

We immediately stood together in a wall of people on the porch, we held our poles up high and banged them together.  We shouted.  He kept coming closer.  We started throwing stones (which were placed all around the shelter for THIS REASON).  He retreated a bit and started circling the shelter in the tall grass.  It reminded me of a shark – we could only see the ripples in the grass.  He started advancing towards us again until one of our friends hit him hard with a large rock on the shoulder.  He turned quickly and walked over to the privy. 

For the next 30 minutes we watched as he ripped the bear latches off the door, ripped the door off the hinges and went inside.  He tore apart the bales of pine shavings, ripped the toilet seat out of the floor and trashed the entire privy.  When his tantrum was finished, he sat in the privy and looked out at us.  Eventually he wandered off and saw him no more.

Outhouse damage on the AT

We later learned that the bear grew more aggressive in the next few days, and was “put down” by game wardens a few days later.  It was a sad day for us, as he was a beautiful animal and this was obviously a result of irresponsible humans.   

Every time I’m asked about my trail name, I have an opportunity to tell my story and remind other hikers about the importance of proper food storage on the trail to SAVE THE BEARS.

And the winners are... Best Day On The Trail 2020 Contest Winners

And the winners are... Best Day On The Trail 2020 Contest Winners

During the first half of April 2020, as we were all starting to conform the life under the "shelter in place" order due to the COVID-19 outbreak; we ran a little contest:

We asked you to send us stories about your best day on the trail from 2019, so we can all get a little inspiration. We had a host of stories that were really great to read. After many internal debates (we were not allowed to share our opinions with each other), we have selected 3 winning stories. Those winners are:

First prize: Cristina R.

Christina story was a great, terrifying and exhilarating story from the PCT, and for that she is taking home a pair of our new CNOC Outdoors EVA Trekking Poles. Here it is for you to enjoy:

An ‘Outdoor enthusiast’:
• Respectfully enjoys the beauty of nature’s finest offerings
• Accepts there will be times fraught with physically exhausting elements and natural challenges
• Perseveres to overcome obstacles

Much as a strength can originate in a weakness, the spotlight on my best 2019 trail day was lit the day preceding it. Linda ‘Nails’, Donna ‘Day-Z’, and I, were backpacking north through Washington state on the Pacific Crest Trail.
On August 9, we three senior hikers traversed the ‘Knife’s Edge’ in the Goat Rocks Wilderness Area. It exceeded the breathtaking, mindfully-stepped journey we’d been anticipating...with a kick.

Following several foggy mornings, this day dawned crisply clear. We were elated. After the circuitous Old Snowy alternate, bypassing the more direct but snowy final approach, we lunched overlooking both steep sides of the looming range. On rocks far below, some of the area’s namesake goats lazed sunnily.
Fortified by our respite, we set off to [finally] hike the Knife’s Edge! Noting the marbly tread, I promptly reinforced the notation by slipping and falling flat on my back. That fast.
Unharmed, I began again, albeit with heightened respect for my alliance with this trail.

We hike at different paces. Linda is generally well ahead; Donna and I tagging steadily along. This stretch, heeding a strong personal focus, I moved forward. Though not alone, a sense of singularity prevailed. Awareness of our edge-top vulnerability coupled with the weather’s fickle unpredictability no doubt guiding my steps.
Through a panoramically recollecting lens, I see myself in that rugged. richly saturated landscape; silent exhilaration filling my heart; unparalleled freedom, my soul.

Ridge

In due time we safely exited the ridge line onto an open area, deeply grateful for the amazing experience.
Glancing back, dark ominous clouds roiled overhead. We donned rain gear as distant thunder boomed. Fat wet raindrops multiplied torrentially, lightning illuminated our exposure.
We hurriedly sheltered in a cluster of small dense trees until the rain subsided, then, far from dry, resumed hiking. Assailed by erratic thunder and lightening, a thin line of smoke immediately rose from a hillside strike just ahead. Almost before comprehending this peril’s significance, another downpour extinguished any danger.

Trodding on mostly in rain we passed full and fuller camping spots, until finding refuge in an old hunting camp.
Anyone on trail that night recalls what they heard, felt, or feared. If you pray, you prayed. Three hours that storm raged. At 12:25 a.m., a simultaneous thunderclap-lightning bolt resounded so fiercely-brilliantly, the ground shook. I thought about miracles.
Though heavy rain continued, that last terrific boom had been the chaotic symphony’s grand finale. I slept. Soundly.

Best 2019 trail day? The day following one with incredible splendor and gutsy challenge; neither canceling the other. That August 10, embodied in the truest spirit, outdoor enthusiasm emerged unscathed from tents up and down the trail. Yawning-stretching-laughing-growling, it assessed damage and checked maps and broke camp. Then, grinning in muddied boots and damp packs..... it hiked on.

Second Place: David I.

David brought to us a touching story about conquering cancer, and fulfilling a life ambition to pass the love of backpacking to his kids. David is getting a new single CNOC Outdoors EVA Trekking Pole to take him through many more adventures. Here is his story:

I have spent my entire life in the outdoors, either as a wilderness trekking instructor or in the military. I have diverted periodically into other pursuits in my life but the outdoor life has been my center since my father first took me into the woods near the Catawba River in North Carolina and taught me to make a fire with a single match chill of the night, a thrill I will never forget. He taught me that night the importance of simplicity and efficiency in the outdoors.

My life has taken many twists and turns professionally but in 2017 I was diagnosed with cancer and had to explain to my kids, all under 13 years of age, what was in store for myself and them as I undertook measures to deal with my disease. My first thought was that I had put off teaching them to backpack my way, simply and efficiently, and might not get the chance. I dealt with my cancer over the next several years and came out of the dark free of cancer, weakened but resolved to “catch up” with respect to teaching them the outdoor life.

The first thing I did was accumulate all the lightweight but durable gear I could for the four of us to take our first trips into the wilderness. Most importantly I needed a simple and lightweight system of water purification and storage. Time was of the essence I felt, even though it clearly wasn’t. The summer of 2019, mid-July, I took them on a dry run up the 13 Falls Trail in the Pemigewasset, and these kids who’d never see the woods other than around their home, were backpacking, under 20lbs a piece pack weight, and it was lovely. This trip was meant to learn the skills they’d need for more ambitious routes. 8 miles in and out over two days. At the end of the first day, we were in the stream at 13 Falls, and they were tired and thirsty. They took our CNOC bags and some Sawyer filters and filled all the water containers we had with stream water. The looks on their faces made me cry because I could tell they knew what this was all about, beauty, relative independence and the luxury of clean water, hot food and family comradery that so often gets lost in today’s simulated world.

A week later, with great ambition we walked the Pemi Loop in the same manner over four days. If I’d died then my life would be complete, they are avid trekkers now, and talking about more trails this year having done one of the most difficult treks in the US on their second trip of their lives. What a year.

Third Place: Lorne C

Lorne's story is a bit friendship and over-reaching while managing to be amazingly humbling and for that he won a Vecto of his choice! Here is his story:

My business partner and I decided to have our annual meeting in Bishop and get permits to climb Mt. Whitney. Gord and I had been friends since high school and did a lot of hiking and skiing back then. Now in our 50s we had been working together as business owners for the last couple years. I knew he was big into hiking and outdoors stuff. I on the other hand had drifted away from doing that as I was busy with career and family but was slowly getting back into it.

As we made plans for our meeting and the trip, I decided to get in touch with another high school friend of ours who it turned out was living in Southern California and we invited him to join us. He too was big into outdoor activities as well pretty much setting up his career around the skiing and ice climbing seasons in Alberta where we all lived in high school.

Gord and I did our meeting sitting at Whitney portal the day before our planned trip. We got our permits and that afternoon Ron turned up. Both Ron and Gord were pretty relaxed about the trip while I had planned it and was pretty nervous about whether I could make it or not.

We set off very early the next morning from Whitney portal. It was magical as it was a full moon and it was so bright we didn’t even need our headlamps as we climbed up and up and up. We got to the base of the 99 switchbacks just after dawn and took a break to fill up on water. The 99 switchbacks pretty much killed me as my lack of fitness really started to show. I did make it up while Gord and Ron patiently waited at the top of that section for me to turn up. I made it several more miles but by the time I got to about 1.5 miles from the summit I was taking about 20 steps and then stopping for several minutes to catch my breath.

Doing the math on our turn-around time and how I was going I decided to turn around while they went to the summit. The trail was very busy so I wasn’t worried about safety. We decided to meet back down at trail camp. I made my way down and relaxed at trail camp waiting for them to show up. Not too long later they showed up and we continued our hike down. It was quite late and I was VERY exhausted by the time we got back down to the Whitney portal parking lot.

I remember being almost in a delirium as I made my way down the last couple miles. We got back to the hotel room and crashed. While I was disappointed at not making it to the summit, the mountain will still be there another time but the day out with high school friends was the best day on the trail ever for me. Since then I am in much better shape and am planning to go back to Whitney to finish summiting it but as sweet as that will be it won’t be as good as that day hanging out with great friends.