An Interview with 37 North trail guides Emily Wilson and Cindy Willis
Interview by Jeremy Lux, article written by Eric Gasa
When it comes to the great outdoors you can never be too prepared. But even if you’re not the prepared type there’s always the skilled men and women of 37 North Expeditions that will have your back. From the seasoned adventurer to the newbie hiker, 37 North trail guides provide a great service to anyone who is wanting to tame the trails and seek a closer connection with the Earth. Founded by Danny Collins in Springfield, Mo, 37 North has expanded all over southwest Missouri, but as trail guide Emily Wilson says, their mission remains the same; “Get sweaty, get connected, and get happy.”
Chatting with Jeremy Lux for the latest Life in Motion episode are 37 North guides, Emily Wilson and Cindy Willis, two passionate outdoorswomen, who not only love their jobs, but are very proud of the community that their company is building. From majestic scenic sights off the beaten path, to some guy opening a bottle of champagne with an antique sword on the trail, there’s never a shortage of adventures when on the job for these two.
“So 37 North is basically a guiding service here in town,” Emily explains, “We’ve got locations out of Springfield, Branson, and Bentonville. We simply want to connect people with one another and we want you to always leave happier than you came.”
It’s a tall order, but the 37 North experience never fails to satisfy. Expeditions usually end with laughter, conversation, and lots ales, drinks, and plenty of high-fives. But what Emily and Cindy want to especially create is a welcoming environment for women.
“For women, we want to make sure they feel safe and feel like they’re truly in a group setting. They’re not going to get bullied or looked down upon. We just want to create an environment that allows people to simply learn,” Emily elaborates.
Cindy also agrees.
“Women are social creatures and so are men. So it’s key that we foster an environment that is for anybody,” she says, “No barriers!”
Expeditions usually number between 10 to 15 people. Sometimes it’s a whole party of folks, other times it’s a dozen random people from off the street. But no matter who’s in attendance, the experience brings everyone together.
Cindy says she can tell she’s done a great job if everybody’s asleep in the back of the car during the drive home. And if they still have plenty of gusto, the group will often hit up a winery or brewery for celebratory drinks. There’s just something about the great outdoors and good wine that bring people together.
Cindy recalls a trip she guided with a group of 12 strangers who didn’t know each other before that expedition. But by the end of the day they were busy chatting, swapping phone numbers, and telling stories.
“It was very cool to see that happen with a group of people who were all strangers when they first met up that morning,” Cindy shares.
But apart from the social aspect there are plenty of motivational moments on a 37 North expedition. Emily thinks back to a trip she conducted with two women in their late 60s to early 70s. She remembers them feeling very overwhelmed by the hike but after some encouragement from herself and some of the younger members of the expedition, and the two women were able to proudly conquer the trail.
She remembers the words she said to them; “We will take this pace at whatever pace you need. And by the end of the day, you are going to be able to say you accomplished this.”
On top of being team players, Emily and Cindy both try to stay prepared for any situation including literally being caught upriver without a paddle. Yes, that old cliché. Cindy retells a time where one of her patrons fell off a paddle board and tried to break his fall with his paddle. The paddle was no match for the full weight of this man so the thing snapped in half. Unfortunately, not very many people keep a spare paddle in their back pocket, but Cindy made do with what she had. Pro tip! Always bring duct tape!
Then there’s also the time Emily went to a winery with her group for some post-trail drinks. Her party wasn’t expecting the owner to come out with a bottle of champagne, glasses, and of all things…an antique sword. Maybe it was his inner Zorro calling, but the man sliced the bottle perfectly off the top and served everyone their drinks.
Or as Jeremy put it, “You know what? That’s not a bad way to end a trip. I don’t think anybody’s ever opened a bottle of champagne for me with a sword.”
“Yeah,” Emily chuckles, “He was very proud of it and he did a fantastic job! Real movie quality stuff.”
But at the end of the day, 37 North is all about bringing people closer together, whether that involves duct tape or clinking glasses of wine.
Emily especially nails it on the head when she explains how surrounding yourself with likeminded people really enhances any hobby or experience.
Get sweaty, get connected, get happy, and always bring duct tape. That’s the 37 North way.
Wanting to see the great outdoors? Check out 37 North on their website www.37northexpeditions.com or stay up to date with their latest tours via Facebook, Instagram, or TripAdvisor. As for the rest of this interview listen to the full Life in Motion episode to hear more trail stories from Emily and Cindy! It’s all on the Life in Motion podcast with Jeremy Lux on iTunes, Spotify, and Google Play.