Kayaking With The Duluth Experience in Minnesota during OWAA.




Founders & Guide At The Duluth Experience Talk Lake Kayaking & The North Minnesota City As An Adventure & Activity Hub

Kayaking on Lake Superior. [Photo Credit: The Duluth Experience]

The aspect of a city with outdoor properties is always a balance of modern and nature. With a city like Duluth, Minnesota on the edge of Lake Superior, it is even more defined. The North Shore and the Boundary Waters are almost literally within view of the city itself. The Duluth Experience, founded by David Grandmaison & Kris McNeal tries to encapsulate all the great experiences of the area from lake kayaking to brewery tours. The Buzz Editor In Chief Tim Wassberg journeyed out with local DE guide Bud Trinka and sat down with the founder to discuss the outdoor experience.

The Buzz: Could you sort of give a perception of kayaking of what you guys do on Lake Superior

Bud Trinka (Guide): Lake Superior offers just a really unique place to paddle. We get some really nice, predictable waves, Right by the shore - it's a little choppy but once we head further into the lake, it gets to be these nice rollers. Again, really fun to paddle on. But the lake can change pretty quickly too. We keep an eye on them, making sure that things are going to work out well for us.

The Buzz: So how did you end up as a guide?

BT: This truly is kind of a dream job for me. I first learned about them when I moved to Duluth three years ago and got a job working as a brewery tour guide. Most of my experience is working in bars and restaurants. And then slowly worked my way into getting the credentials to be an adventure guide.

The Buzz: Can you talk about the stamina it takes to do lake kayaking?

BT: Truly the best thing that we ask for is good clothing and a great attitude. We do cater to beginners and we try to give instruction and training so that really anybody can hit the water and be good to. Right now [for this paddle] we're on the beginning of Lake Superior's north shore. It starts in Duluth and ends well into the Canadian Wilderness there. What we see is a lot of exposed basalt.

The Buzz: The great thing is that we can see Duluth from here and yet we're in almost the wilderness.

BT: And I think that's one of the things that really separates Duluth. We've got this fantastic lake that's right by us, but we're really close to the wilderness as well. So you're getting a mix of that urban and wildlife that you're talking about.

The Buzz: Lake Superior is sort of the heart blood of this region. And it seems like it's the heart blood that sort of feeds your business, too, because it feeds the breweries, it feeds the kayaking, it feeds the outdoors.

Dave Grandmaison (Co-Founder): The whole reason that Duluth is what it is and where it is is because of Lake Superior. It's that fresh water resource. And we're talking about 10% of the world's accessible fresh water…the world's largest freshwater lake. 3 quadrillion gallons. But it's really about the way that water connects with humans and how that provides resources that humans need to survive. And that's why Duluth is where it is. I'm going all the way back to the first settlers that came in here, the early Native Americans, many of the Europeans settlers.  It's about the St. Louis River and the connection to Lake Superior. That whole estuary is just a beautiful resource of wild rice beds, and wildlife, and birds, and deer.

Landing spot for lunch after kayaking on Lake Superior. [Photo Credit: Tim Wassberg]
David Freemaison & Kris McNeal of The Duluth Experience. [Photo Credit: Tim Wassberg]

Kris McNeal (Founder): That's where the voyagers were. Doing fur trade.

DF: And so that's why Duluth became what it is. And then it entered sort of the industrial revolution.

KM: Lumber was huge up here.

The Buzz: You’re calling yourself The Duluth Experience. Is that how it's defined?

KM: We're the people who bridge the gap for visitors and for locals. That's our job. That's why we're not just in adventure because there's more than that here. We’re also dubbed the craft beer capital of Minnesota

DF: Duluth has this backcountry style with this front country vibe. We're going to go kayaking. We’re going to show you some of the most beautiful places on the North Shore. But we've got this beautiful city that has all these amenities and all these great things to do. If you're bored in Duluth, either A, you haven't heard of the Duluth Experience yet or you just don't know how to have a good time. Because there's so much going on here. There really is. But Chris is right; we kind of bridge that gap.

The Buzz: All the stories too.

DF: How they all connect to each other. You brought it up. You're on the lake. You're paddling on the world's largest freshwater lake. That lake is what you're drinking now in this beer. So we're connecting that and then we're connecting that to the history of why Duluth is here, with the early settlement and the industry. And it all blends together.

The Buzz: But certain things rise above the others…

KM: And now, what I really love to see is, Dave and I have both seen the struggles of this city, throughout our whole lives, and now, to see where it is today is really incredible. And now, all of sudden, we're getting all of these accolades, which are a long time coming. It just further solidifies, for everybody here and us as a business, and “Why Duluth?”

The Buzz: So “Why Duluth”?

DM: In my opinion, there's more history, here, than in the Twin Cities. We were voted the Best Outdoor City in America, voted one of the best small towns in the US, got gold-level ride city status by the International Mountain Biking Association and in 2013, we got the world's second most popular or second best outdoor hub according to Outside Magazine.

KM: The thing is people want it. They want that experience.


Tim Wassberg

A graduate of New York University's Tisch School Of The Arts with degrees in Film/TV Production & Film Criticism, Tim has written for magazines such as Moviemaker, Moving Pictures, Conde Nast Traveler UK and Casino Player. He enjoys traveling and distinct craft beers among other things.

Buffalo Valley Camping

Make Sure To Stay At:

Buffalo Valley Camping, which is open for camping all year with water & electric hookups (30/50 amp service), fire pits, tent areas and miles of hiking and biking. They are located on the Munger State Trail   and connected to the Jay Cooke State Park & Trail. There is also a new seasonal shower room.

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