For one local food-lover, 37 North Expeditions is the perfect marriage of fitness and fun.
The outdoor adventure company leads expeditions throughout Southwest Missouri and Northwest Arkansas and pairs hikes with hops, horseback riding with a trip to a winery or kayaking with a visit to a distillery.
“People love how much fun they have,” says Danny Collins, who owns the Springfield-based business with his wife, Cristina Bustamante. “It’s a combination of being outside, being healthy, but also being able to have a drink, explore a farm. The brand we’ve created is the main reason so many people give us great reviews on TripAdvisor and Facebook.”
The couple launched 37 North Expeditions – named for Springfield’s latitude – in April 2018. The company's motto is “Get Sweaty – Get Connected – and Get Happy.”
“The main core concept is the outdoors should be for everybody,” Collins says. “There is a really strong social component behind it all. We have an opportunity for people to be social but it is usually around the bar scene. Our idea was to meet like-minded people and make friends. Make it a fun day outside. We only chose wineries, breweries that are outside a city, ones you wouldn’t usually go to, ones with amazing decks, overlooks. Just like we find the trails for you, we find these places.”
37 North Expeditions visits apple orchards in the fall, you-pick berry farms and waterfalls in spring and the occasional small-town farmers' market. Customers meet at a central location and are shuttled to the outdoor spot where the adventure begins. The business caters to the novice outdoors person, someone who may have a desire to hike, kayak might be intimidated by the experience.
Collins has a master's degree in architecture and an MBA. He met his wife, an Ecuadorian native, at Drury University, and after college, they moved to Manhattan for a job. An outdoor enthusiast, he started leading hikes on the side and working as a guide on the weekends. Then, the couple moved to Ecuador where he led expeditions for National Geographic Unique Lodges of the World before moving back to Springfield in 2017.
“My father got really sick, was diagnosed with terminal cancer and that brought us home,” Collins says. “Moving back, I had a desire to stay in tourism and the adventure guide industry. We saw there is so much unexplored area around us; so many people that want to get out but don’t have the confidence, or want to do it a group setting.”
Collins and his wife both work as real estate developers now. In the beginning, the couple led all the tours on the weekends themselves, but now they work with a team of about eight to 10 guides.
The types of tours they offer continues to evolve, from plant identification hikes to photography expeditions. They offer custom tours, which have been popular for bachelorette parties. No matter the theme of the expedition, they try to promote conservation and teach people to appreciate nature.
“We are a source of information, but we are facilitating having a blast,” Collins says.
37 North Expeditions, Springfield, Missouri, 417.827.4582, 37northexpeditions.com