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Explorer Spotlight: Joe Whitson

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Name: Joe Whitson | Age: 24 | Location: Minneapolis, Minnesota

What’s your day job?
I'm working on my Ph.D. in American Studies at the University of Minnesota studying Public and Environmental History.

What are your favorite things to do outside?
Mostly just walking and taking pictures because it's free and you can do it wherever you want. But I also like canoeing, snowshoeing, and mushroom hunting when I get the chance. I'd like to get more into rock climbing too.

What first drew you to the outdoors?
My dad would bring my siblings and I camping when we were young and encouraged me to get involved in Boy Scouts where I spend a ton of time outdoors and where I ended up getting my Eagle Scout. I also went to an environmentally themed high school at the Minnesota Zoo, the School of Environmental Studies or the Zoo School as we called it, which exposed me to the science and politics behind the outdoors.

What’s your favorite hometown adventure? ...and, almost as important, where’s your favorite spot to get a beer after?
Taylor's Falls, a great park less than an hour out of the Twin Cities on a deep gorge in the St. Croix River, and Minnehaha Falls, an urban park just a couple minutes from where I live (literally every park in Minnesota has water as its central feature). Afterwards, check out the Blue Door Pub in Longfellow Neighborhood and get a local beer from Indeed or Dangerous Man Brewing.

What’s your essential gear that never gets left at home?
I always carry my Duluth Pack rucksack, bepatched from all my travels, and keep a water bottle, granola bar, a headlamp, and an external charger for my camera.

What’s your favorite trail snack?
Granola bars. I'm a man of simple tastes.

Any go-to soundtracks when you’re hitting the road?
I've put together this playlist I named The Bog which is essentially a sampling of folk music from the last 100 years from Alan Lomax recordings to the New Basement Tapes.

What’s the scariest thing that’s ever happened while you were adventuring? And/or, the funniest?
One time I slid down behind a frozen waterfall to explore. It was awesome back there, like a cave illuminated by light filtering through the blue-green ice. However, when I tried to get out, I discovered I'd slid down a hill of ice and every attempt at climbing back out found me sliding right back down the slick surface. I thought, "I'm trapped. No one is ever going to find me here." I obviously did get out by wedging myself against the stone wall and essentially crevicing out, hurting both my hands and my pride.

Who’s your number one adventure partner-in-crime? Who inspires you?
Jenna, why did you have to move to Liverpool!? But I've got a pretty tight group of friends who are always up for an adventure. The outdoors Instagram community has been huge in inspiring me to get out and discover new places. I'm also inspired by historical adventures like Sigurd Olson and John Muir.

What are your top destinations for adventure travel?
Too many. But top are probably hiking through Patagonia, taking the Trans-Siberian Railroad, and backpacking to Everest Basecamp.

What’s on the top of your must-do adventure list right now?
I want to hike the PCT, or at least part of it. And I want to take road trip down to the Appalachian Mountains.

Show us your most memorable photo, and tell us about it!

I love this picture of a canoe out at sunset. This is from a trip I took with my dad and brother to the Boundary Waters Canoe Areas Wilderness in northern Minnesota. I like it because it was the moment that I realized I don't have to go to far off and exotic locations to explore, there are unbelievable things right where I am.

And last but not least…What’s your personal motto?
There is no bad weather, only bad clothing.

Check out more of Joe's adventures here.

We want to acknowledge and thank the past, present, and future generations of all Native Nations and Indigenous Peoples whose ancestral lands we travel, explore, and play on. Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures and follow local regulations. Please explore responsibly!

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