Rolling on the river: Dirty Girl Adventures expanding into NOTO

Denise Selbee-Koch, left, and Jennifer Woerner are co-owners of Dirty Girl Adventures and the recently opened Compass Point outdoors shop at 800 N. Kansas Ave. [Thad Allton/The Capital-Journal] Hide caption

If you’ve been secretly hankering for a life of outdoor adventures but find yourself more inclined to spend your weekends sitting on the couch munching Doritos, slurping Coca-Cola and watching reruns on Netflix, a Topeka-based business will help you get unstuck and discover the thrills that await you in your own backyard, even if that means traveling 20 or 30 miles to get there.

Dirty Girl Adventures, which has been up and running since 2014 out of Jefferson County, has branched out and recently set up a base camp at a business called Compass Point in a brick building on the south end of the North Topeka Arts District at 800 N. Kansas Ave.

The business, which is co-owned by Denise Selbee-Koch and Jennifer Woerner, works with individuals and groups by offering everything from hiking to kayaking to river rafting to yoga to live music concerts.

Many of the outdoor adventures take place on rivers, lakes and trails within a 25-mile radius of Topeka.

“Our vision,” Selbee-Koch said recently, “is to encourage, empower and motivate people of all ages and abilities to explore their full potential through outdoor adventure and connection with a community that promotes whole health.”

Selbee-Koch said 2019 marks the sixth year for Dirty Girl Adventures, “and it is an expansion year, as we have moved into our new base camp at Compass Point.”

She said Compass Point offers “outdoor and Kansas-themed retail items,” in addition to special events including retreats, weekly yoga classes, live music concerts and special events supporting whole health and wellness.

“Dirty Girl Adventures has historically operated from our homes in Jefferson County,” Selbee-Koch said. “We have always provided guided outdoor adventure — hiking from three to 30 miles, camping, kayaking at Lake Perry, Lake Shawnee and Lake Clinton as well as on the Kansas River, and whole health and wellness events focusing on mental health and self-growth.

“We have long dreamed of moving into a base camp location, a place to gather and socialize, to teach and learn and to store all our stuff. We have a tendency to share what we love and enjoy, so we have branched into retail to share some of our favorites and some things we love.

“We will expand our offerings to include more outdoor gear and eventually hope to be the local outfitter with the knowledge and expertise to best serve our customers.”

Selbee-Koch said she and Woerner are excited about the opportunities that are opening up with the addition of Compass Point in the NOTO district.

“We look forward to providing more opportunities for adventure, growth and learning in the form of classes, retreats and individual social work services,” Selbee-Koch said. “We are excited to launch our Thursday yoga classes with registered yoga teacher Jennifer Seiben. In addition, we hope to provide more informational classes, hands-on creative activities, social time with live music and opportunities for people to learn, grow and connect.”

Selbee-Koch said she is excited to see Compass Point become a place known for offering live, local music. A number of concerts have been lined up for the summer months with more to come.

“We’ve already scheduled First Fridays through August, and we’re adding additional events now,” Selbee-Koch said. “Music will usually be between 6 and 10 p.m., with food trucks available for dinner.”

Among guest musicians scheduled so far are the Gary McKnight Trio, Home Brew, Cryin’ Out Loud and Unfit Wives.

Selbee-Koch said it’s all part of a plan to connect with as many people as possible with Compass Point

Having a standalone store in Compass Point, located a couple of blocks north of the Kansas River, promises to be a big boost to Dirty Girl Adventures and its many offerings, Selbee-Koch said.

“We know that getting outside is good for everyone and that, more and more, our society is pulling inside,” Selbee-Koch said. “People want to connect with others and they want to get outside for adventures. They just need a little push, information and guidance. We love being able to support and empower others and believe that having a brick-and-mortar location will help us be more accessible to more people.”

She added: “We have always loved and felt drawn to the NOTO district. It is also just two blocks from the Kansas River. The property that we purchased happens to be the perfect fit for our dreams. … It’s in a vibrant, creative and growing neighborhood, it’s close to the river and we have a great outdoor courtyard to supplement our interior venue.

“NOTO is full of energetic, creative and motivated people who are hard-working and accepting of others. This fits in with our vision and values. We have loved moving into such a great neighborhood and have received tons of support and positive energy from our neighbors.”

Some of the services offered by Dirty Girl Adventures “may surprise some people,” Selbee-Koch said.

“Obviously, we take people on outdoor adventures ranging from hiking, kayaking, backpacking and some camping,” she said. “In addition to that, we offer special events like retreats that focus on self awareness and whole health. We love teaching self-care and compassion skills and supporting individuals in that way. In addition, we provide outdoor adventure to support and engage teams, from sports to corporate. Sharing time with your team outside, unplugged, is a recharging experience.”

Selbee-Koch said the inspiration for Dirty Girl Adventures “came from our love of sharing outdoor adventure and personal connection with others.”

“Years ago,” she said, “Jennifer and I worked together in an alternative education setting where we taught students service learning and environmental education. After both of us changed positions, one of the things that we missed was sharing and teaching outdoor adventure and all of the positives that come with spending time in nature.

“We have found that many people would like to spend more time engaged in outdoor activity but they aren’t sure where to go and they need support and encouragement to try it. Now, after five-and-a-half years, we have people who independently adventure regularly. And the best part? They do it with the new friends they have found through Dirty Girl Adventures.”

Selbee-Koch said Dirty Girl Adventures is all about getting people outdoors and introducing them to ways to experience wilderness for themselves. Safety is a key factor, she added, recommending that no one takes to a river or lake on their own without first going out with a reputable guide.

Speaking of the Kansas River, Selbee-Koch said: “We always say, ‘the Mighty Kaw is our river home’ and we love it. It is beautiful, dangerous and alive. Every adventure on the river is different but wonderful.”

She added that the Kaw is “a great resource for our city and state, both recreationally and as a source of drinking water. We love sharing the river with others and we love being part of the advocacy team of Friends of the Kaw.”

For more information, visit www.dirtygirladventures.com.

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