On a cold but sunny Monday a few weeks ago, we left not only our desks but the city limits and hopped in a car with our guides for the day, Clarissa Driban and Rich Minkoff of The Billycan, an outdoors experiential events group. Our goals were simple: experience their back-to-nature-focused mission while capturing Canada Goose’s latest collection along the way.
Clarissa and Rich, who also run a creative agency called Shine & Polish and are married, started The Billycan two years ago as a passion project. “We love being in nature and were always planning trips in and around New York. We’d discover things like an old boy scouts camp on an island in Connecticut or a rustic cabin tucked away in Woodstock and think—this is so cool, way too cool for us to experience just the two of us,” explains Clarissa.
They started taking the initiative of renting out unique outdoor spaces and organizing transportation and food for interested friends, and the opportunity to get away without having to be stressed out by the logistics appealed to far more people than they initially expected. “We launched The Billycan as a way to encourage people to get outside of their day-to-day and back to nature by making it easier and more accessible,” says Clarissa. Now, they organize several events a year—in both city green spaces and outside the city—that encourage people to get out and unplug. “We hope people begin to think of us as their outdoorsy travel agents,” Rich adds.
With that in mind, they invited us to explore Opus 40, an impressive 6.5 acres of bluestone sculptures created by artist and quarryman Harvey Fite over the course of nearly 40 years. We brought along Brooklyn Drones and photographer Sidney Bensimon to document our adventure in the truly awe-inspiring space, which feels not unlike a labyrinth with its artfully formed curves and subterranean passageways.
“Opus 40 is beyond impressive. I mean, the idea that someone would set out to create a masterpiece spanning over a lifetime is incredibly inspiring,” says Rich of the unique location. “There’s a certain willpower you have to channel when you’re in the midst of a challenging trail run or climb; I imagine the artist’s mental state while building this within the quarry was kind of like that—but on steroids!”
By the end of the day, we were indeed feeling unplugged and closer to nature—and, thanks to Canada Goose, not cold at all despite the dip in temperature throughout the day. “Something special happens when you pull someone from their daily routine and put them in a space that’s foreign, perhaps a bit out of their comfort zone, and with new people,” says Clarissa. “The newness causes people to relax, to step away from their phones and their daily stresses, and they begin to interact more.” With that, the topic quickly changed to where our next adventure would be.
Scroll on for more from our day with Clarissa and Rich and to Shop the Story.