Autumn outings, classes, apparel

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As you head out and about this fall, REI outdoor gear and sporting goods stores are a great local resource to assist with a wide range of outdoor excursions and education.

The American consumers cooperative has two storefronts in Fairfax County: one off I-66 in Fairfax near Fair Oaks Mall, and another off Leesburg Pike in Baileys Crossroads.

Were not just trying to sell bikes to people, said Cindy Smith, a supervisor at the Fairfax store. Each store has an outdoor resource center chock full of local maps and other free materials to help educate and orient interested individuals to area hiking, biking, rock climbing and more.

Always on hand to answer questions, REIs knowledgeable and highly trained staff is another invaluable resource.

REI prides itself on running a successful outdoor school that helps take the guesswork out of learning a new hobby. Affordable classes and outings are offered in everything from sea kayaking to digital photography for families and individuals of all ages and skill levels.   

Ashby Robertson oversees the outdoor school at the Fairfax store. Upcoming outdoor school programs scheduled out of REI Fairfax include a class in backcountry cooking (Oct. 21), and introductory outings in outdoor rock climbing (Nov. 10), GPS navigation (Nov. 11) and map and compass orienteering (Nov. 18). Outings planned out of REI Baileys Crossroads, include GPS navigation (Nov. 3) and essential camping skills (Nov. 4).

Every single one of our outings has a few components, Robertson said, such as stewardship and Leave-No-Trace principles. We want to protect and restore the environment thats already out there.

Most REI outdoor school programs cost anywhere from $35/person for REI members to $75/person for nonmembers. Advanced registration is required in person at the store or by phone. For more information about the outdoor school, visit www.rei.com/rei/outdoorschool.

If you prefer venturing into the outdoors unguided, Robertson suggested some of his favorite spots for fall hiking and biking.

For hikes, he recommends the Billy Goat Trail, which traverses the rocky islands along the Maryland side of the Potomac River near Great Falls Park; in Virginia, a series of trails leading from Great Falls Park to Riverbend Park; Hemlock Overlook Regional Park in Clifton; and Fountainhead Regional Park in Fairfax Station.

For bike rides, Robertson likes the Chesapeake & Ohio Canal towpath, stretching 184.5 miles along the banks of the Potomac River from Georgetown in Washington, D.C., to Cumberland, Md.; and the Washington & Old Dominion  Trail, running 45 miles across Northern Virginia from Purcellville to Alexandria.

While out leaf-peeping this fall, remember to wear breathable fabrics and to dress like an onion, or in layers. Youre not going to be happy doing anything when youre cold, hot or hungry, said Smith, the Fairfax store supervisor.
To learn more about the new product line, visit www.rei.com/aboutrei/ecosensitive_materials.html.

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