Special Report: Outdoor Options Part 3

Adventurous Groups Share Passion for Outdoors

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Lake Superior is one of the natural wonders of our nation, and even in the throes of winter it’s beautiful.

And for some it’s a playground.

“Just being outside, it makes you feel good,” explains Jake Boyce, a man who is as enthusiastic about the outdoors as they come.

“When I’m alone in the woods, or alone on the lake, I guess it’s just a peaceful feeling I get,” Boyce said.

On a day with temperatures close to zero, and near-freezing surface water, he took me on Lake Superior at a spot north of Duluth known as Stoney Point for some stand up paddle boarding.

“It’s really really entertaining just crunching through the ice and being like an ice breaker,” Boyce said. “And the other thing I really like about winter paddle boarding is the water is really clear. That’s something you don’t get in the summer.”

As the co-founder of Day Tripper of Duluth, Jake is the instructor on our excursion to the near-frozen Great Lake.

Paddle boarding is just one of the activities you can do with a package from Day Tripper.

“One thing I’ve really enjoyed with the guiding business is just seeing how much people enjoy the activity for the first time,” Boyce said.

Paddle boarding is a sport that’s not impossible in the winter, but since falling into the icy water is a likelihood for a beginner, it might be one a lot of people would be interested in when it gets a bit warmer out.

However, Day Tripper has a number of winter activities to offer.

“This winter had a lot of people come and try fat biking,” Boyce said. “And plenty of them have gone out and bought fat bikes right after the tour, because they loved it so much. And that’s what I really like seeing; it’s sharing my passions in order to get people to enjoy the same things.”

Further up the north shore, and just as frozen, is Gooseberry Falls, near Two Harbors.

Months of freezing temperatures have frozen the falls solid – meaning that intrepid adventurers see it as a challenge to climb.

“I think we’re fortunate to live in Minnesota where we have the seasons, the beautiful forests, rivers, lakes, ice, I mean it’s just a wonderful place to be,” said Black Cazer, co-founder of Positive Energy Outdoors.

Positive Energy Outdoors is a Duluth-based not-for-profit that has a goal to bring outdoor adventures to the masses, with an emphasis on family activities.

And greeted with a solid sheet of vertical ice, with his father holding his rope, Austin Casey is ice climbing for the first time in his life.

“It’s kind of on my bucket list,” Casey said. “I’m a teacher and some of my students have talked about ice climbing; so I thought I’d give it a try.”

It means he’s perfect for a lesson from Cazer, who guides him along every step of the way.

He coaches Austin during his climb, while also manning the belayer, a device that make sure the climber’s rope is held tight.

Cazer explains:

“As the climber goes up the belayer moves rope through the device and the device creates friction, so if the climber was to fall the belayer would have their hands in a position that would create friction and do what’s called ‘locking off the rope,’ preventing the climber from falling.”

Ice climbing is as physically exerting an activity as it gets.

His tools etching out holes to pull himself up, and the spiked crampons on his boots there to give him solid footing on the wall, Austin chips away inch after inch trying to make it to the top of the falls

And when that moment comes…

“It’s exhilarating to get to the top and feel like you’ve accomplished your goal,” Austin says with an exhausted smile. “Actually the second time he asked me if I wanted to go all the way or do you want to start coming down. I told him ‘Yeah definitely I want to go all the way.’”

Cazer tries to make sense of what draws people to sports like this, even in the wintry cold.

“I think some people when you ask why they ice climb, they like the challenge,” he said. “The physical and the mental challenge. Others would say they like being out with friends or family.”

And whether it’s a day of social activity or just yet another opportunity to be at one with the elements, Jake Boyce and Blake Cazer, and others like them, relish the chance to share their love with others, to make sure they create experiences no one will forget.

Both Day Tripper of Duluth and Positive Energy Outdoors say the best way to set up an outdoor adventure with them is to get in touch online. 

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