This upcoming weekend is always one of the toughest of the year for me. No, it's not dealing with worsening road conditions; it's choosing between two incredible outdoors events, each featuring presentations from outdoor adventurers who have been to some of the wildest corners of the world, climbed the highest rocky peaks, and survived the coldest temperatures on record:
- Midwest Mountaineering's Outdoor Adventure Expo in Minneapolis (November 21 - 23)
- North House Folk School's Winterer's Gathering (November 20 - 23)
Midwest Mountaineering Outdoor Adventure Expo
Midwest Mountaineering is one of the best outdoor gear shops in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area--the entire Midwest, for that matter--and each year, Midwest Mountaineering holds a Spring and Fall Outdoor Expo. This weekend marks their 59th Expo! That's a remarkable number, and it's easy to see how they achieved it with everything the Expo offers:
- Free admission to all presentations (yes, you read that correctly, it's free!)
- World-renown guest speakers
- A film festival designed specifically for the outdoor enthusiast
- Hands-on skills development and enhancement classes
- A chance for all attendees to visit with gear manufacturers of all kinds
- An opportunity to share outdoor techniques with other outdoor adventurers
- Excellent prices on the massive gear sale
I've spent innumerable hours hanging out at Midwest Mountaineering's Expos, and the knowledge I've gained has proven invaluable. I've learned about everything from hiking in Scandinavia and New Zealand, to touring Chile's wine country on horseback, to surviving the wilderness in several North American destinations. I also attended outdoor skills sessions taught by experienced wilderness gurus, including Bear Paulson, Cliff Jacobson, Kevin Callan, Andrew Skurka, Lonnie Dupre, and Rob Kesselring, as well as institutions like Outward Bound and NOLs.
If you're in the Minneapolis or St. Paul area this weekend, I strongly recommend checking out Midwest Mountaineering's Outdoor Adventure Expo. With free admissions, this is a can't-miss event for any outdoorsman.
North House Folk School Winterer's Gathering
Drive a few hours north of Minneapolis, and you'll run into the North House Folk School sitting on Lake Superior's north shore in Grand Marais. Dedicated to preserving traditional Scandinavian skills, knowledge, and crafts, the North House Folk School offers classes such as:
- Wooden boat building
- Wilderness skills
- Timber frame building
Each November, the North House Folk School hosts a Winterer's Gathering, where they "celebrate the crafts, customs, landscape, history and stories of winter travel, traditional ways in the North. Coursework, workshops, a winter tent camp, gear swap, community dancing, evening films, featured speakers and more."
I first attended the Winterer's Gathering in 2010, when Mors Kochanski, noted Canadian wilderness survival instructor and author of Bushcraft, taught a course on Winter survival and bushcraft. I'd read Mors' book cover to cover and jumped at the chance to work with him in the woods! The course included spending a night in the Superior National Forest (freshly blanketed in deep snow) in my newly-built "Kochanski Super Shelter" with no sleeping bag--only a couple of wool shirts. The course and field time with Mors were excellent, but I discovered there were more good times to be had at the Winterer's Gathering: the contra dance, chili feed, Winter tent camp, interesting presentations, and making new friends who I've since teamed up with for other outdoor trips and continue to correspond with today.
In 2011, I returned to the Winterer's Gathering to take classes and camp with legendary Maine Guide and author of the definitive guide to traditional Winter camping, Snow Walker's Companion, Garrett Conover. If you ever get a chance to spend time in the woods with Garrett, you won't be disappointed.
During my third visit to the Winterer's Gathering, I took bushcraft classes and spent time in the field practicing survival skills with David Cronenwett, the very knowledgable and talented owner of Wilderness Arts Institute.
The North House Folk School has another great Winterer's Gathering line-up this year, and I'm sure the camaraderie among those who love traditional northern skills will be as strong as ever at the contra dance and in the tent village! If you can make it Grand Marias, give it a try. You'll have fun and learn plenty.
These are both excellent events, but this year, scheduling conflicts rule out the trip to Winterer's Gathering in Grand Marais, so it was an easy decision for BMP. We'll happily spend time at the Midwest Mountaineering Outdoor Expo! Not only that, BMP will hold a meetup next door to the Expo at Acadia Cafe/Pub starting around 6:00 p.m. after the presentations wrap up. Join us and other outdoor enthusiasts for drinks, food, and good company!