New outdoor adventure company taps Duluth's recreational setting

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Summer camp isn't just for the kids anymore.

Andrea Gordon wants to show that adults can have just as much fun with outdoor activities. And she's tapping into some of Duluth's signature features -- Lake Superior, the St. Louis River, the Lakewalk and the city's hiking trails -- to do so.

"Duluth is one of the few places where you can go hiking, biking, kayaking and canoeing all in one place," she said. "There are endless activities available here."

Gordon recently started Self Discovery Adventures, a business that offers guided day trips, weeklong camps and custom retreats in Duluth.

While similar camps tend to draw an audience of mostly older females, Self Discovery Adventures has opportunities for anyone 21 and over, Gordon said.

The business offers camps for three demographics: women of all ages, women 55 and older and couples. Additionally, day trips of kayaking, canoeing, biking and hiking are open to anyone over 21. Custom trips are also available for small groups, such as businesses that may be interested in team-building retreats.

While the day adventures consist of a morning or afternoon outing in one of the four outdoor activities, the weeklong camps also include hotel accommodations, meals and transportation. They also incorporate traditional camp activities such as games and arts and crafts.

Gordon said she expects her business to draw Duluthians and tourists alike.

"That's a big part of why we decided to do the daily adventures," she said. "People in Duluth might not want to pay for a hotel or spend a whole week at the camp. But they have a chance to kayak on the lake or bike on the Lakewalk. For many people, that may be something they haven't done in a long time, or ever."

Gordon and her mother, Judy Gordon, formed the idea for Self Discovery Adventures last summer. Andrea's father, Gary Gordon, died suddenly of leukemia last May, and Andrea, living in the Twin Cities at the time, moved back to Duluth to be with her mother.

Gary Gordon had taught exercise physiology classes at the College of St. Scholastica, and together with his wife created and led the school's "Camp KID-Again" program. The camp was designed to help women over 50

become and stay physically active through outdoor activities in Duluth.

"It was sort of based on my idea of the ideal vacation," said Judy, who also teaches Zumba classes in Duluth. "It was very fun and we saw some amazing results. One woman went out and bought a kayak after that. Another bought a bike. One woman was inspired to get weight-loss surgery. People were transformed."

After Gary's death, Andrea and Judy decided to bring the Camp KID-Again concept to the next level with Self Discovery Adventures.

Andrea already had a background in outdoor recreation. She went to college at the University of Redlands in California, designing her own degree in adventure-based education. After graduating, she had the opportunity to build an outdoor program for the school from the ground up.

Before coming back to Duluth, Gordon went on to work at a teen adventure travel company in San Francisco, a therapeutic boarding school in Utah and a summer camp in Minneapolis.

"I had heard all the rumors about there not being jobs here, especially in the world of outdoor education," she said. "It was never really on my horizon to move back to Duluth. I thought I wanted to be in a bigger city or do something different, but I feel very fortunate that I ended up back in Duluth."

In addition to Andrea and Judy, Self Discovery Adventures will employ several part-time guides.

Andrea said she believes her business has the potential to grow significantly once it's off the ground. She described Duluth as a mecca of outdoor education thanks to the University of Minnesota Duluth's outdoor and recreational learning programs.

"I'd love to be able to employ some of those UMD grads," Andrea said. "I'd love for them to not have to leave to work in outdoor education, to stay here in Duluth."

The program could help build Duluth's retirement community as well, Judy said.

"In Duluth, you don't have to drive any distances to bike or hike or canoe or kayak," she said. "Everything's right here in the city. I think we're really positioned to become a center for active aging."

Reservations for camps and daily adventures can be made online at selfdiscovery adventures.com or by calling (218) 409-6896.