Learning something new

Young woman who took a selfie on a cold winter day and has frosty eyelashes.

I moved from California to Duluth in January 2022. I grew up spending summers in Brainerd and International Falls. Since moving here, I have really loved learning how to cross-country ski, snowshoe, and hike in this winter wonderland. It’s been a fun adventure!

I grew up canoeing in Minnesota. I love whitewater canoeing – my dad and I paddled the Mississippi River last summer and fall. That was a special experience and kind of the reason I decided to move to Minnesota. We didn’t know this before the trip, but almost a third of the whole Mississippi River is in Minnesota, which is unbelievable. We spent more than a month on the river just in Minnesota. It took us 100 days total to paddle the whole river.

Now that I live in Duluth and am learning cross-country skiing, I’ve been so lucky to have a ton of different trails nearby. Every weekend I’ve tried to go somewhere new. It’s really been a highlight to be able to drive 10 minutes and then feel surrounded by the woods or totally immersed in the woods – that’s such a treat for me.

I feel like I get to be my best self when I’m outdoors. I love the physicality of it and feeling strong and active. I know that really helps with my mental health. Connecting to the outdoors is an opportunity to put myself into perspective to the scale of the world and it’s just humbling, beautiful and refreshing. I go to the outdoors and the wilderness for that recentering. Since moving to Minnesota, I’ve been able to do that more often.  

If you want to get outdoors, look at maps and see what parks are around. I am still learning how to do the whole winter activity thing, so finding friends you can do it with is helpful and good safety-wise so you can get some instructions and know what to consider in winter climates before you go out and do it yourself. Start small and work your way up. It is sometimes intimidating when you’re around people that have been doing this all their lives and sometimes outdoor spaces can be predominantly white spaces and that can be intimidating as well – but finding likeminded people can be a great resource. Don’t let your fear or discomfort get in the way of trying something new.

I keep saying to my friends that it’s so wild to be 27 and experiencing something so unfamiliar to me. But I’m constantly learning and that’s also a great feeling!

- Samantha Armacost