On a recent early morning bike ride, I passed a dog sled team on their training and conditioning session. Ten fuzzy, happy sled dogs were getting in shape for the upcoming season in the Minnesota Boundary Waters, trotting down a wooded jeep trail. Harnessed and pulling a musher on a wheeled buggy, the dogs were rehearsing their roles and building the strong muscles and endurance necessary to pull a 600-pound expedition sled across the north woods this winter. By December, the lakes will turn to navigable ice routes and winter will have reclaimed its icy grasp, with frozen lakes, fresh snow and a quiet desolation that beckons winter explorers. The sled dogs will swap out a muddy ATV for enthusiastic new mushers and skiers as companions to explore the snowy frozen north woods.
Every place has its transition to winter. Red maples and brilliant yellow aspens signal the countdown to winter in the north. Some watch the snowfall line drop in the mountains and salivate as the snowpack builds. Dog mushers log countless miles with pre-season dog training. Sailors and kayakers follow the migration south to warmer waters.
Whatever the medium, come winter there is a commonality to Outward Bound courses. Many of them are week-long adventures, designed for adults with busy schedules. They offer the opportunity to explore a new area and build technical skills, balanced with time for reflection, renewal and a refreshing change of pace.
Rediscover yourself through challenge and adventure. Here’s a peak at what’s on tap this winter…
Some Like It Steep and Cold
Avid skiers and snowboarders can build their backcountry skills with an 8-day backcountry touring course in the Sawatch Range of Colorado. Designed to maximize time skiing or riding backcountry slopes, learn to safely travel in avalanche terrain and work as a highly functioning team. The course is for ages 16+.
Want it Warm and Sunny?
Kayak through lush mangrove tunnels and explore a land of contrast amidst tropic and semi-tropic zones; land and sea; and salt and fresh water. Kayaks provide the ultimate freedom and ability to travel nimbly through this diverse ecosystem. During this 7-day sea kayaking expedition, students work together with their crew to learn to read tide charts and maps, explore fragile and unique ecosystems and camp on white sandy beaches under the stars. Discover what makes the Ten Thousand Islands famous worldwide, understand its environmental value and learn how we can better take care of it. The Ten Thousand Islands Sea Kayaking Course for Adults is specifically tailored for busy adults craving both introspection and an active adventure. Courses are available for ages 18+ and 30+.
Have an Itch to Sail?
Head to the Florida Keys and experience sailing on a 30-foot open sailboat, which will serve as both your home and classroom. You’ll learn skills such as compass navigation, small boat seamanship, weather observation and anchoring. These skills, and what you’ll learn alongside your crew members, will serve to strengthen your character and outlook on life. Courses are available for ages 30+.
Must Like Dogs and Snow
There is an unforgettable feeling the first time you step on the sled runners and feel the enthusiasm of powerful huskies moving the sled. Team up with exuberant sled dogs that love to pull and love affection on an exhilarating dog sledding and cross country skiing expedition. Travel arctic style, with both skiers and mushers sharing roles as you explore the renowned Boundary Waters wilderness. This course is certain to build your skills and confidence in winter camping, traveling across frozen lakes and through sub-boreal forests, caring for working sled dogs and cross country skiing. Courses are available for ages starting at 16 to 45+.
Travel Simply. Experience the Peace and Beauty.
The week-long desert backpacking expeditions in Joshua Tree and Big Bend National Park offer warm hiking days and cool nights. Both demanding and beautiful, the desert pushes you to challenge your personal limits and develop leadership skills in an extreme, natural environment. On the 7-day Joshua Tree Backpacking course, explore surreal landscape of rock formations and sculptural trees that is home to countless birds and animals amidst the park’s namesake Joshua Trees, cholla cactus and palms. Courses are available for ages 16+.
Texas Big Bend Desert Backpacking explores immense canyons and traverses a rugged desert guaranteed to hone navigation skills. Work as a cohesive crew as you hike both on and off trail; cross mountain passes and hop from one refreshing desert oasis, or “tinaja” to another, building self-reliance skills and gaining a deeper connection to life in the desert. Courses are available for ages 16 to 30+.
Leave the Grind Behind & Find Your Winter Adventure
Regardless of where your wanderlust beckons, there is adventure to be found and new perspectives to be uncovered. Whether it is the smell of wood smoke coming from a wall tent with the northern lights ablaze overhead, the call of a lone coyote silhouetted on the canyon rim or the taste of saltwater after an exhilarating day in a sea kayak – this winter has hidden wonders beckoning your inner adventurer. Regardless of the destination, you’re guaranteed to discover ‘there is more in you than you know.’ Explore more here.
More Courses This Winter
Patagonia Backpacking & Service – 12 days, starts 12/27/17
Bahamas Sailing – 15 days, starts 1/4/18
Florida Keys to Costa Rica Leadership Semester – 85 days, starts 1/16/18 &
Pathfinder Texas Big Bend Canoeing & Backpacking – 30 days, starts 1/17/18
Colorado River Instructor Development – 55 days, starts 2/20/18
Find a winter expedition that inspires you!
About the Author
Theo is a long time outdoor educator who has been involved with Outward Bound for over fifteen years. She serves as a course director and hiring manager at the Voyageur Outward Bound School. She has led outdoor trips throughout the US and Canada for the past 25 years. Previously, she directed outdoor programs for Cornell University, focused on developing undergraduate outdoor skills and leadership experience. Theo balances a penchant for planting ambitious gardens and growing local food with winters as a dog sledding guide. She holds a degree in Landscape Architecture from Cornell University and writes from the edge of the Boundary Waters wilderness in Minnesota.