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Kerri Kolstad, the owner of Wahoo Adventures, paddles with her dog, Addy, on Lake Superior at Temperance State Park the day of the solar eclipse 2017. Photo courtesy Kerri Kolstad

Forgot how to get outside and play? Minn. woman's new venture will teach you

WHITE BEAR LAKE, Minn.—Kerri Kolstad has loved spending time outdoors since she was a kid growing up in northern Minnesota.

Ten years ago, she quit her corporate sales job at Dell Computers and founded Wahoo Adventures, an adventure-travel company whose motto is "Get outside and play." She leads snowshoe trips, teaches kayaking and takes people on guided bicycle tours.

Kolstad, 57, of White Bear Lake is branching out into adult day camps this summer in partnership with Oakdale Recreation and the community education program of North St. Paul-Maplewood-Oakdale Schools. The first session will be May 18 at the Oakdale Discovery Center and Nature Preserve.

The one-day "camp" is a series of classes designed for "active adults who want to experience the outdoors while staying close to home," she said. "People can try a new activity or revisit one that they haven't done for years."

Classes range from keeping chickens to kayaking to paper making.

"I've been reading a lot about baby boomers wanting to try new things," Kolstad said. "They don't want to just retire and fish—although we are offering fly-fishing classes in case they do. They don't necessarily want to camp overnight, but they still want to get outside and have fun. With this, they can try new things and meet some new people with like-minded interests."

Kolstad graduated in 1979 from Fosston (Minn.) High School, where she played volleyball and softball. She has a bachelor's degree in recreation management from the University of North Dakota.

She recently sat down to talk about her new venture:

Q. How did you get into the adventure travel business?

A. Ten years ago, I just had had enough of being in airports. I wasn't doing all the things I like to do — camping, bicycling, hiking, being outside. My motto came from years ago when ... you headed out with friends on your bike and you were gone all day. Mom said: "Just get outside and play."

Q. Why do people need your services?

A. A lot of people don't have a kayak or don't have a bike that works or need lessons or just want someone to hand-hold them. They might not have the gear or can't throw it on their car or trailer. It's nice to know that if a thunderstorm happens or the weather is bad, someone is looking out for you.

Q. How can parents instill a love of the outdoors in their children?

A. Kids out hiking may say 'When are we done? When are we done?' but then when they grow up and have their own kids, chances are they will take them out hiking. It's definitely something that is passed on from generation to generation. Just because they're tired doesn't mean they are not having fun.

Q. Talk more about being outside and the importance of spending time in nature.

A. We've been using the word "ecotherapy" lately. People are so stressed out these days. They're unhappy. Everyone is on their phones. Getting outside is one of the most therapeutic things you can do. It can change the way you feel in an instant. Being outdoors in the fresh air and hearing the leaves falling, running water, trickling water, bubbling, is very therapeutic.

Q. Who instilled the love of the outdoors in you?

A. When I was born, we had a 10-acre property (near Bemidji, Minn.) The best memories I have are wandering out in the backyard, in the swamps, picking flowers, looking for wildlife and birds, dragging home everything you found.

I went on a couple of Boundary Waters trips in high school with some good teachers, and that was really fun, and went again in college. We're lucky to have the (BWCA) right in our backyard. Even though when you're there, it's hot, it's cold, there may be mosquitoes, and you still end up looking back on it fondly.

Q. Did you go to camp as a child?

A. Yes, I was in 4-H and in Girl Scouts. I have fond memories. We were in cabins. But when I met my husband (Dave Kolstad), he was visiting every state park in Minnesota with Kimo, his golden retriever, so I joined along with him.

Q. Have you had any adventures leading a trip? What's the worst thing that ever happened?

A. In 2014, I had a group of Mayo Clinic ladies bicycling in the Hudson area on a really hot day (90 degrees plus), and I kept telling them we needed to take extra stops, more water breaks, and I was the one who ended up fainting! Waking up on a country road to see a bunch of Mayo Clinic healthcare professionals looking down at me was enough to say that we were done for the day. We stopped at the Bass Lake Cheese Factory to be in the AC and recuperate.

Q. What are your plans for Park-N-Play Day of Discovery? Do you hope it will become an annual event?

A. Yes, we hope to do it again next year. My hope if they do one class, they'll come and do other classes as well. The classes are priced at only $15 to $25, so they're a really good deal. It gives people an opportunity to try them at a really good price. I definitely want them to come back and take a longer trip or bring their whole family.

IF YOU GO

• What: Park-N-Play Day of Discovery, with hands-on experiences for adults.

• When: May 18; classes offered from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Registration deadline is May 11.

• Where: Oakdale Discovery Center, 4444 Hadley Ave.

• Classes include: Natural dyeing, bird identification, kayaking, herbs, chicken keeping, fly tying, fly casting, paper making, foraging for food, bicycle maintenance

• Price: $15 to $25 per class

• For more information or to register: Contact Laura Heimke at 651-747-3860 or Laura@ci.oakdale.mn.us.