An outdoor opportunity that wants to get you outdoors in minnesota

external opportunityThe PBS web series, hosted by Minneapolis yogi and rapper Chance York, is a fun take on the diverse outdoor activities Minnesota has to offer. From snowboarding to rock climbing to gardening, this show has something for even the most novice adventurer.

Host York Opportunity Sailing aboard the Bde Maka Ska with Joe Ledley of the Minneapolis Sailing Center (Season 2, Episode 3). Image courtesy of Twin Cities PBS

Now in its second season, external opportunity Available for free online on the TPT website and on YouTube. York brings an infectious energy and enthusiasm to each short episode (most are between 8 and 12 minutes long) and connects with his guests and audience. Some of the activities highlighted may surprise you.

I think most Minnesotans fall into one of two camps: those who can’t stand the winter cold and those who can’t stand the summer heat. Since I fall so firmly into the former category, I’m going to first highlight a few winter activities that caught my eye.

The first season of external opportunity It begins with an episode about snowboarding, a sport I had never heard of. It’s not unlike windsurfing, except that the water is freezing. York drives us to White Bear Lake, where he learns from Chad Dobson of Dynamik Kiteboarding. Snowkiting is a relatively young sport, dating back only 60 years or so, but York tells us it’s also a legitimate way to travel in places like Greenland and Antarctica, where people need to travel long distances from the frozen tundra.

After giving a brief overview of the sport and its history, York dives right in with Dobson’s help. And boy, let me tell you, it looks joking. It also seems like an easy sport to pick up – even if you don’t snowboard, water ski or kite fly, you can still catch snowboarding. York himself is a complete beginner graduating from a training kite to a larger model and soon he’s off. It is definitely a sport that I will need to try next winter.

The next episode made my heart skip a beat as it focused on photography, one of my favorite passions and hobbies – even though I had never considered it a sport or an outdoor activity before. York joined North Shore photographer Christian Dalbeck at Two Harbors to capture some winter beauty. The host describes in more eloquent words what I love about photography: “I’ve rediscovered what’s always been there.” It’s about looking at things in a new light or from a different angle, and capturing a single moment.

The two start out in the woods, and Dalbec talks about the difference between hiking with and without a camera. His observations match mine: When I go for a walk without a camera, I enjoy nature and relaxation. When I have my camera on, it’s almost as if I have a pair of “observation lenses” over my eyes. I started looking for the details, not just the bigger picture. I entered the area and started building compositions. In Dalbec’s words, “You’ll start looking for other things in front of you to stop and focus on, like the snow on a branch or, when it’s cold, the sleet that’s coming out of all these needles and stuff… When you start to see nature, it’s hard to go through it.”

Once York and Dalbeck have snapped some woodland photography, they don wetsuits to take photos in the freezing cold waves of Lake Superior. (And I thought I was hardcore for wading through snowdrifts and lying in the snow for a good shot!) The couple plunge fully into the frigid waters for one of Dalbec’s signature “Lake Superior Looking At You” motifs. Dalbec’s dedication to his craft is evident, as is his passion for photography.

I find it hard to get out of doors during the winter. I’m a huge baby because of the cold. If I could hibernate, I would. So I am interested in any activity that sparks my interest in venturing outside during the cold winter months. But maybe you’re the opposite – maybe the hot, humid summer weather will have you running for comfort with air conditioning and cool indoors. If so, we hope you’ll find an activity in this series to entice you out into the sunshine. I chose a couple to highlight it.

Rock climbing is something I’ve only ever done at REI, Vertical Endeavors, and other indoor venues, but outdoor rock climbing has always intrigued me. York joins climbing guide Janelle Rieger at Taylors Falls for some top rope climbing, in which climbers tie a rope from the top of a cliff and throw it down to ascend again from the ground. Taylors Falls offers a wide variety of these types of climbs. York declared, “In this park, there are 80 top rope climbs available, and we’ll tackle all but 78 of them.”

If you’re afraid of heights, don’t worry — York admits he is, too. Rieger guides him up two climbs, literally showing him the ropes. She shows how to install anchors in cracks in the rock face and leads uphill for the first time, York credits her. As they travel to the second climb, they discuss what drew Rieger to the sport and some of her favorite climbs in Minnesota.

This highlights one of my favorite aspects of the series, which is that York encourages his guests to be realistic for a moment about the discrimination or exclusion they have experienced because of their race or gender identity. When Rieger asks what it was like when a woman of color got into rock climbing, her answer is as unsurprising as it is disappointing: Bullying, racism, and sexism are sadly common in white and male-dominated sports, including climbing. Rieger stuck with her, continuing to pursue her passion for climbing despite the naysayers. Now a climbing guide and mountain guide, she becomes the change she wished to see in the sport, providing a space for BIPOC climbers to excel and learn.

While most episodes feature sports, photography is not the only exception to this theme. York leads us to interview Marcus Carr, director of North Minneapolis Programs at Youth Farm, for an episode on gardening. Carr gives us a tour of the North Side community gardens, providing local food options in a food desert where healthy foods are hard to come by. Carr is passionate about providing the neighborhood with nutrition and fostering a community around good food. “Food is the one thing we all relate to,” he says. “We all have to eat.” Youth Farm is his endeavor to connect, strengthen community, and “make social change.”

I can tell from experience that there is something deeply satisfying, relaxing, and rewarding about pushing your fingers through the dirt, letting things grow. It gets you outside, it does something constructive, and when those plants grow, there’s no feeling like it in the world. And I have taken advantage of the community gardens in my hometown. They provide a nurturing space where people can grow their own food and come together for a common cause. There is always work to be done: watering, weeding, tilling, planting. Community gardens give people an opportunity to serve and be a part of something worthwhile, to do some good in their area. They give people a sense of purpose. They serve much more than just a physical need for food—they serve the emotional needs of their neighborhoods, too.

Fly Fishing at Forestville State Park with Ashley Peters (Season 2, Episode 4). Image courtesy of Twin Cities PBS

external opportunity It’s about more than just getting out there and staying active. York highlights the importance of diversity and accessibility at Minnesota activities and brings out the best in each guest by being honest and asking smart, sometimes tough questions. His passion for what he does is evident, and his love for Minnesota, its history, and its people shines through in every episode. He’s not afraid to make mistakes in order to learn something new – it takes courage to admit you don’t know something, but he makes every activity feel like something anyone can learn. I particularly appreciate his willingness to address issues of discrimination in the various sporting communities. These are important conversations and they should continue to happen.

Whether you’re looking for ideas for what to do outdoors, want to learn some neat Minnesota history, or just need something to see, external opportunity Worth your time.

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