The sensation set into the pit of Doug Marrin’s stomach like a bad gulp of coffee — he hadn’t connected with the world on his phone in hours.
His business partner Frank Schramm and the rest of the folks trundling along the path behind him felt similarly about their lack of mobile news, text messaging, smartphone games and whatever else they were accustomed to pulling out of their pockets and fiddling with to fill the empty time waiting at a doctor’s office or the DMV back at the civilization they had temporarily abandoned.
“It was absolutely hilarious,” recalled Doug Marrin, whose company Into the Wilderness LLC will (sometimes literally) pull you away from the modern world and take you to a place where a more genuine sensory and spiritual experience awaits.
“Once you leave the car and you’ve got your backpack on, you head into the wilderness and you can’t get a phone signal — everybody goes through this withdrawal,” he continued, but after awhile the complaints die down and the anxiety wanes, as the crunch of the trail, the smell of fresh air, and the rich sounds of nature begin to cleanse the group of any longings for what they’ve temporarily left behind.
“Once it begins to happen, it’s great — the thrill for me isn’t just being out there, but I just enjoy the experience and the real thrill is to see other people realize what I know when I’m in nature,” Marrin said.
It’s quite different from serving coffee to people in a burgeoning small town like Dexter, where his goal was to deliver a wholesome cup full of nature’s goodness into his customers’ hands. With Into the Wilderness, Marrin must reverse that concept by bringing the customers into nature’s hands.
Marrin’s been taking nature excursions for the last 14 years. Until recently it’s just been friends going with him, but as more and more people have heard positive reviews from the lips of those who have experienced Into the Wilderness word has spread around and beyond Dexter.
Realizing that there was demand for his stewardship over other people’s journeys into nature, Marrin had the idea of joining another of his passions together with the concept of building a business around it.
With his beloved Foggy Bottom Coffee flagging the past couple of years, the decision to try something new and unique was even more attractive.
“Until now it’s just been an informal ‘who wants to go backpacking or camping?'” Marrin said. “Slowly I started thinking of how I can do more of it. I absolutely love it — I thrive on it. And seeing the interactions and hearing the commentary of the group is a lot of fun.”
Marrin and his groups begin a process of “re-creation” borne out of recreation, he explains it. The idea is to re-create how people interact, how they relax, how they think, and how they feel – for starters – in an environment filled only with the things that matter.
While Into the Wilderness is going to be run like a business, Marrin says he isn’t looking to make oodles of cash create a staff of people to replicate the experience provided by he and Schramm, a professional chef who cooks delicious meals when the Marrin-led groups set up camp.
Into the Wilderness is offering a range of opportunities: sometimes Marrin and Schramm will “go west” in a very continental way, while other times they’ll stay in state and target a nature destination somewhere around Michigan. With Schramm’s culinary prowess, Marrin expects a good deal of interest in what he calls (and sports fans will understand as) “trail-gating.”
“Frank is a top chef — his food is amazing,” Marrin said. “We’re eating grilled salmon, buffalo burgers, chicken breast and all of these sides. It is a great way to cap off an exhilarating day among the peaks. Most trips involve a couple of meals in town with the last night being a trip over the continental divide for a night out in Aspen.’
Extrapolating trail-gating from Schramm’s trail culinary work was an obvious extension of the concept, which will allow Into the Wilderness ample opportunity to provide more outdoor opportunities right here in the Dexter area.
“Trailgating is the name I’ve given to our local group hikes in Pinckney Rec Area or U of M’s Stinchfield Woods area,” Marrin said. “We meet at the trail-head for a bit of food and coffee and then head into the woods for an hour or so.”
Those who like the idea of eating food more than hoofing it through nature will be pleased to know that Into the Wilderness hikes don’t require anybody to be Captain America in order to come out the other end of a trip in one piece. The excursion opportunities are detailed on the Into the Wilderness website and mention the parameters of the trip, such as how high the peak is that the group will be dealing with on a given trip with guidance on the level of difficulty and who should and shouldn’t consider a particular outing.
Into the Wilderness prices are a quarter of the price that the big companies charge for the same experience, according to Marrin.
Weekend trips in Michigan will begin to come available next fall. Later in the year there will be yoga in the Rocky Mountains trips, an “intense” backpacking trip into the heart of grizzly country in Montana, and a lighter backpacking trip on the Appalachian Trail.
Marrin and Schramm also take special trip requests from those who are particular about how they want Mother Nature to mold them.
“The whole thing is transformative, we like to make that happen for people,” Marrin said.
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