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Why We Created GrandTaiga

Nick Uthe  // FEB. 22, 2021

5 min read
5 min read

Nick Uthe  // FEB. 22, 2021

Portrait of Nick Uthe by Sam Axness

"We represent the light within, the joy of discovery, and the grit to preserve."

Inspire Enthusiasm for Life

Back in my early days, as a forward thinking adventurous and creative kid, I saw the colorful and endless possibilities of life early on. I was blessed with a duality of having a wise foundation and vision for an extraordinary life without the traditional resources and wealth to immediately attain the joys and pursuits I imagined. As this conflict unearthed itself, I had to choose between letting my ideas die in my mind or bringing them into reality. Step by step, I chose the latter. I think all business owners grapple with this at one point or another, but it becomes an easier decision to act courageously as we grow wiser. Growing up in Wisconsin and only having enjoyed a trip to Florida or two, by the time I was in college I had a severe case of wanderlust and an explorer mindset ready to be released. In mid development of my creative skills at University studying digital marketing and design while embracing my photographer’s eye, I couldn’t believe I’d lived in such close proximity to the surrounding destinations, I had yet to explore. My curiosity and enthusiasm for the unknown was growing. There was much to see and even more to learn; I needed a deeper understanding of being, and a vehicle for self-discovery.
"In the spirit of living grand with never ending possibilities, I decided the best vehicle to drive the growth was by building and living out of a travel van."
See How to Build a Travel Van on a Budget to see how we constructed our first van build. I was at best an amateur photographer, and by the time the van was completed I had recruited two of my best buddies to come along for the ride and 16 outdoor brands to co-sponsor the wild excursion I had dreamt up. It was to be titled and engraved in stone, Explore the North! A road trip, walk-about, media extravaganza, a journey of many pursuits. It was inspired by the phrase “A mari usque ad mare,” loosely translating to “from sea to sea”, and is exactly what we set out to accomplish. We desired to push the boundaries of travel. Our hearts were set on truly seeing the world for the first time. So, we packed our small bags, and road tripped across the United States and Canada, first breaching the Atlantic Ocean and finally the Pacific Ocean. All in all, we were gone for around 50 days spanning 11,000 miles. Somehow on average, we managed to drive 250 miles a day and hike 4.2 miles a day. We backpacked and experienced whaling towns of eastern Quebec, paddled isolated and tranquil lakes of Ontario’s wilderness, climbed towering peaks of the Canadian Rockies, cruised the peaceful backroads through Olympic Peninsula’s shadowed evergreens, dove into icy glacial lakes, camped along the mystical beaches of the northern Atlantic Ocean, backflipped off waterfalls and much more. With what little we had, we channeled our inner wild, and lived to our fullest potential.
Explore GrandTaiga’s About Page to engage with the entire backstory and hear personal accounts from the explorers themselves.

Sam Axness backflips over Nick Uthe

This trip forever altered the trajectory of my life. The experiences and wisdom I gained are forever embedded into my DNA. This is exactly the reason we’ve taken the time to showcase and illustrate this story on Our Story page. From this legendary tale to now , we want to use our platform to inspire enthusiasm for life similar to the values found in the fabric of Explore the North. We want to continue to live inspired through the same spirit, share that with our team and community, and help build up the stories of those who live by the same values.

Produce High Quality Sustainable Products

Shop GrandTaiga’s Soft Touch Graphic Tees!

Many people would be content just getting to experience a trip like Explore the North. Believe me, fulfillment and a lifetime of excitement was found by all parties who participated, but I also viewed it from an additional angle. As mentioned above, at the time of the trip I didn’t know what it was like to use high quality performance gear and apparel. Up until that point, I made do with what I had. I had never even considered spending more than $300 on a sleeping bag. I’ve always had an inventive mind with the ambition to bring something new into the world, so with this foundation in place, I was immediately fascinated by brands that made phenomenal products. I began studying each product to find out what made each one so special. Was it the material? Was it the design? Was it the reinforced durability? Was it the subtle branding? Was it the brand's commitment to sustainability? I often found it was an interesting intersection of all of these elements combined. Furthermore, being that I was so involved with the storytelling aspect of the outdoor experience, I also found inspiration through combining the experience of the internal and external world, and then attempting to transcribe that through art in the form of apparel. That’s why each product in our store currently has an interesting story paired with it. Another observation worth noting is that I was fortunate enough to have been sponsored by a local apparel company whose entire focus was on producing highly inventive sustainable gear. This was a concept that wasn’t at the forefront of my mind but one that needs to be synonymous with GrandTaiga. These experiences, with the help of a highly motivated and conscientious GT team, has set in motion a mission to achieve a future of highly inspirational, sustainably driven apparel products sourced through ethical manufacturing solutions.

Live Courageously & Have Curiosity for the Unknown

Behind the media and gear, a prominent pattern in my life is that I like to bite off more than I can chew. I see endless possibilities and thrive off bringing ideas into reality. I have an appetite for the unknown. In review of our mission statement, “We represent the light within, the joy of discovery, and the grit to persevere,” it’s obvious we didn’t diverge from this path, with good reason. The three segments within this statement are ideas that fulfill a wide range of ambitious missions I’ve set forth in my own life, missions that likely will never come to an end, but are worth striving towards day by day, year by year. I present to you, the ultimate bite. The light within, means in remembrance of who we are at our core. We are kind, loving, strong, and passionate. We shine when we let our truest self-take hold and are powerful beyond belief. The joy of discovery means we are pioneers, we experiment, we’re curious and ready for our next great quest. The grit to persevere means through the darkest days we are able to find strength. We love going through the fire just to see what happens when we make it out the other end. We are able to find peace within suffering. It is an incredibly aspirational trait and one of the strongest of human emotions. I believe all of these traits should be exercised and practiced.
The task of building a great brand and inspiring others alongside this mission will be a never-ending climb, but one worthy of our attention, dedication, and focus. A quest that may just provide what we’re looking for, a life full of adventure.
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