This is my year of microadventures. Why not join me.
Microadventure isn’t the oxymoron it might sound like. In fact, it’s OK to think small. Micro understates the idea of the micro-outing, which has a power in its wild simplicity and versatility. A microadventure is on some level the outdoorist equivalent of, well, keeping it local. Instead of looking elsewhere for fulfillment or letting the thrum of modern media define your life of adventure, you write the rules.
You can, but you needn’t, ski the Rockies. You can, but you needn’t, rock-climb the Tetons. You can, but you needn’t, hunt elk across the spine of some western ridge. You can do a lot of big things in 2017, but you needn’t go big to have a rewarding next 12 months in the outdoors.
Alastair Humphreys, an English adventurer and writer, has championed the idea of the microadventure on his blog and in book form. “The aim is to encourage self-motivation, independence and learning from mistakes in a safe way, with minimal time or financial cost,” he wrote online.
“Adventure,” Humphreys emphasized, “is a state of mind.”
Microadventures are straightforward. Some can be putting a new twist on an old “adventure.” So, you like to snowshoe Sunday afternoons when conditions are good? Maybe this is the year to instead lay down tracks under a wondrous full moon.
Microadventures, too, are quick and spontaneous. Maybe the timing and the snow are just right for taking the kids to that killer sledding hill on the other side of the metro (see some ideas). Or jumping in on one of the Fort Snelling State Park summer fishing outings in the river bottoms.
Microadventures can be inexpensive to dirt-cheap. One winter my kids and I explored our nearby park reserve in a new way, coursing along some outer-rim deer paths to look for shedded antlers. We didn’t find any. No matter; we still talk about that walk into mystery and anticipation.
“The destinations presented in the media are generally so unattainable by most people that they might as well be on the moon,” wrote Hansi Johnson in a post last summer on Adventure Journal’s website.
Johnson’s point: the conceit underlying some of today’s popular outdoors journalism. He knows a bit about adventure in his work as director of recreational lands for the Minnesota Land Trust, where he collaborates with the city of Duluth and others on projects aimed at preserving and promoting the area’s natural spaces for people to do what they love outside. He’s reaped what he’s sown and has helped make Duluth mountain biking world-class.
“It’s just that idea of one experience being more invaluable than another,” Johnson said in a conversation this week. “It’s like, ‘No, it’s not cool unless you are dropping off the tram at Jackson Hole, vs. that really fun powder day you had at Lutsen. But it’s not apples to apples. It’s the fact that you are getting out there and that you are enjoying it.
“[Minnesota] is a unique place. We’re a unique geography. And what we can do here is truly unique to who we are and where we are.”
My year of microadventures will embrace that uniqueness. Last January, I committed myself to try several new things in the outdoors or experience new places. New could be a traditional activity in a new place, or a new activity in a familiar haunt, or something completely fresh. I didn’t realize I was in the orbit of Humphreys’ microadventures.
Now, my plans for 2017 have a framework. I am hoping to capitalize on some of my outings in recent years, with a goal of doing at least one microadventure each month (some of which are listed with this story).
Last year, on a bitter night in January, I strapped on lightweight snowshoes, lit up my headlamp and ran 5 miles with a few others over and through Carver Park in Woodbury. The cold stillness on the woodland trails made for an exhilirating night. I’ll go back before the end of February, with the goal of bringing along a newbie. Microadventure. Check.
Last March, I hopped on a sweet Framed demo fat bike and volunteered as bike patrol at the Fat Bike Birkie in early March along the same rolling trails used by the skiers in February. This year my mountain bike-loving son and his buddy will join me and several friends on patrol. March microadventure. Check.
I took on two new trail runs in 2016 in the spring and fall that were idle notions that went nowhere in 2015. The runs were quad-busting affairs through the commanding bluff country in the driftless region of southeastern Minnesota and La Crosse, Wis. This year I’ll do some trail running with a different purpose: pacing and supporting friends who are taking on the Superior 100 Mile Race in early September on the North Shore. Get the idea?
Consider writing your list of microadventures for this new year. Maybe you’ll experience them all, and then some. Maybe not. Don’t fret, but rather use it as motivation for 2018. Just the act of putting them down will give you a window into your outdoors soul, how you define adventure, and how adventure defines you.
Bob Timmons’ year of microadventures
January Take a skate ski lesson
February Run under the full moon
March Volunteer for bike patrol at Fat Bike Birkie
April Run the Zumbro Bottoms 17-mile trail race near Theilman, Minn.
May Volunteer to do trail work in Minnesota
June Camp with family at a new state park
July Road-cycle for a weekend in Wisconsin
August Take a road trip and camp outstate in advance of the total solar eclipse
September Be part of support crew for friends who run the Superior 100 Mile Race on the Superior Hiking Trail
October Run the Twin Cities Marathon
November Lodge at state park cabin on the North Shore
December Host a winter solstice party
Bob Timmons wants to hear about your outdoors plan in 2017, micro or otherwise. Write him at firstname.lastname@example.org • 612-673-7899