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24 Ways to Get Lost... And Find Yourself

Need rejuvenation after enduring another Minnesota winter? Reconnect, refresh, recharge, and reenergize with a trip to one of these relaxing regional destinations.

24 Ways to Get Lost... And Find Yourself
Photo by Jim Brandenburg

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Reenergize Your Body

Triathlete Feats

Unless you’re a world-caliber athlete, you probably don’t have a chance of winning the annual Life Time Fitness Triathlon (the $500,000 purse has yet to be won by a beer-drinking spectator). But novices can get their feet wet, so to speak, at lower-profile races, such as the Heart of the Lakes (Annandale), the Timberman (Grand Rapids), or the Brewhouse (Duluth). The Minnesota Triathlon Club lists an online race calendar that indicates the course type and distances. Not all races stick to the traditional format: the Root River Triathlon in Houston substitutes a 6.5-mile paddle for the swim; the Fat Tire Tri in Cable, Wisconsin, features mountain bikes and a trail run instead of the standard road race. www.mntriclub.com

Women of the Woods

Tired of annual abandonment during the fishing and hunting openers? Haven’t paddled a canoe or pitched a tent since retiring the Girl Scouts sash decades ago? The DNR’s Becoming an Outdoors Woman program offers courses around the state for women to learn basic skills for fishing, hunting, ATV safety, camping, canoeing, rock climbing, and more. (Weekend-long workshops provide training in various areas.) Three Rivers also sponsors Women’s Programs, with day and weekend courses, including powerboating, kayaking, and navigation skills. www.dnr.state.mn.us/education/bow, www.threeriversparkdistrict.org/recreation/women.cfm

Pristine Paddling

The Lake Superior Water Trail, which links water-accessible sites between Duluth and the Canadian border, has made waves in the past two years, earning a spot on Paddler Magazine’s list of “America’s Best Water Trails.” Using the trail guide, kayakers can beach their craft to picnic or hike. In the past seven years, Minnesota has doubled its registered kayaks and the trail should further spur this fast-growing sport. www.lswt.org

Fantastic Fore!

Minnesotans really know how to swing: we have more golfers per capita than any other state. Two favorite golf destinations that offer a whole weekend’s worth of play: in the northeast, Wild North Golf links seven courses, with a total of 108 holes. Highlights include the Legend and the Quarry at Giant’s Ridge near Biwabik, which both made Golf Digest’s list of America’s 100 Greatest Courses in 2005; The Wilderness, which opened at the Fortune Bay Resort Casino on the shores of Lake Vermilion in 2004; and the Superior National at Lutsen, with its breathtaking lakeside overlooks. The Brainerd Golf Trail combines 17 courses, with more than 300 holes. Fairways at the popular Grand View Lodge, Madden’s, Cragun’s, and Breezy Point resorts make the Brainerd Lakes area one of the “Top 50 Golf Destinations in the World,” according to Golf Digest. www.wildnorthgolf.com, www.brainerdgolftrail.com

Paul Hardy/Corbis

Hot Summer Knights

Few games strain the brain more than the ancient tabletop pastime, chess. Players of all ages and abilities learn at the elbows of the game’s grandmasters at St. Olaf College’s chess camp. Instructors take an historical approach to the game, analyzing the moves of chess champions ranging from the American Paul Morphy (a Civil War–era pro) to the Russian Garry Kasparov (who sparred with computers before retiring from chess in 2005). www.stolaf.edu/services/conferences/camps/chesscamp

Better Than a Baedecker

If your memories of that semester abroad seems blurred by one too many nights at the Hofbräuhaus, here’s your chance to make amends and get the education you missed: a host of Minnesota colleges, from St. John’s University to the U of M, offer overseas learning trips for students of all ages—and, often, you don’t even have to be an alum. See Italy with an architectural historian, visit the home of past Thai rulers, or examine items excavated from the tomb of the first emperor of the Qin dynasty. The trips are an intellectual workout, yes, but thankfully, there’s not a bluebook in sight. Prost! www.csbsju.edu/alum/travel, www.alumni.umn.edu/travel.html

Question and Answer Period

Is democracy fair? Is honesty really the best policy? Is the pen mightier than the sword? Such questions are the stuff of great debate in tiny New York Mills each June, when crowds gather for the Great American Think-Off. Four finalists, culled from an essay contest, make their case pro or con on this year’s topic, Which should you trust more: your head or heart?, and the audience picks the victor. Which begs the question: is winning really everything? www.think-off.org

Dissecting Medical Science

Rochester’s Mayo Clinic has long attracted prime ministers, presidents, and Middle Eastern potentates looking for gold-standard health care. But aging Minnesotans, too, can now get a look at the inner anatomy of the clinic without scheduling a melanoma check or undergoing cataract surgery: Elderhostel, a global organization that promotes lifelong learning, sponsors classes on pioneering medical technology and complementary therapies at the Mayo.

Renew Your Relationship

Book a Trip

Some of the all-time best books for 9-to-12-year-olds were written by area women. For those enamored with the books of Maud Hart Lovelace, the Betsy-Tacy Society has mapped out a walking tour of Deep Valley (a.k.a. Mankato) that includes a visit to Tacy’s house on Saturday afternoons. Farther west, Laura Ingalls Wilder fans can frolic on the banks of Plum Creek, where the family briefly lived in a dugout. A museum in nearby Walnut Grove re-creates scenes from the Wilder home, as well as other tableaus from the books and the television series. Laura was born near Pepin, Wisconsin, where you can visit a replica of the Little House in the Big Woods. Also in Wisconsin is the childhood home of Carolina Augusta Woodhouse, whose pioneer-day adventures as “Caddie Woodlawn” were immortalized by her granddaughter, Carol Ryrie Brink. The home is located in Menomonie, as is the Heritage Museum where you can spend your hard-won silver dollars on memorabilia. www.betsy-tacysociety.org, www.walnutgrove.org, www.pepinwisconsin.com, www.discover-net.net/~dchs/sitecw.html In fact, a little education on reiki, riboflavin, and retroviruses may add a few years to your life. www.elderhostel.org

Learn a Craft

Make thee an ark, or at least a canoe, at the North House Folk School. The Grand Marais center for traditional northern arts and crafts celebrates wooden boats each June and offers year-round boat-building courses that should result in a seaworthy skiff in as little as 10 days. And just for fun, you can call Dad Noah forever after. www.northhouse.org

Richard Hamilton Smith

Up River

The Mississippi River begins its journey to the Gulf of Mexico in Itasca; your journey to Itasca State Park should begin with a visit to the online reservation center a year in advance. Rooms fill quickly, especially in the Historic Douglas Lodge. (Campsites are reserved 90 days out.) Once there, kids can participate in junior park-naturalist and park-explorer programs. A new interpretive center with a gift shop and restaurant honors park commissioner Mary Gibbs, who rallied for the preservation of the area in 1903. www.dnr.state.mn.us/state_parks/itasca

Learn a Language If you’re feeling as though you don’t speak the same language as your children, it’s time for an immersion program. Concordia Language Villages in Moorhead offers weeklong family camps in languages ranging from Arabic to Japanese to Norwegian to Spanish; weekend programs are conducted in 10 different tongues. The experience includes indigenous cuisine and crafts. No word yet on the oft-requested sophomore slang course. www.concordialanguagevillages.org

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