There is no disputing that winter is the best in the Mighty Midwest. And spring. And summer. And fall. Heck, there’s so much going on every season we couldn’t focus on just one. From camping on balmy summer nights to exciting ice fishing contests on frozen Mille Lacs Lake, here is a must-do insider’s guide to the ten best outdoor adventures in the area.
Run on the water
Asking someone to pick his or her favorite outdoor adventure in Bayfield is like asking a parent to choose a favorite child. They are all wonderful and unique in their own way; it would be impossible to choose one over another (one could only hope). Bayfield is located 220 miles north of the Twin Cities on the shores of Lake Superior, at the furthermost tip of Wisconsin. Considered the “ Gateway to the Apostle Islands,” adventures on the open water include exciting sailing, top-notch fishing, kayaking, scuba diving, and island cruises. Adventures on the land range from hiking, biking, and golfing to birding and orchard tours. On the snow and ice, winter explorers will stay busy with ice caves, downhill and cross-country skiing, dogsledding, and ice fishing.
Two exceptionally exciting winter events in Bayfield are the Apostle Islands Sled Dog Race February 3-4 and the “Run on the Water” February 10.
Photo Courtesy of Bayfield
Chamber of Commerce
Spectators watching the sled dog race February 3 and 4 will line the beautiful Sand River Trail System to cheer for more than 100 dogsled teams from around the country. The races include an eight-dog, 80-mile race; six-dog, 60-mile race; a 20-mile Sportsman’s Race; and a 16-and-under 10-mile Family Race. The excitement is contagious.
The 15th annual “Run on the Water” will take place along the five-mile “ice road” from Bayfield to Madeline Island and back. This fun family event is open to people of all ages and skill levels. You can run, walk, ski, or snowshoe the course.
For more information about the sled dog race or the “Run on the Water,” call the Bayfield Chamber of Commerce at 1-800-447-4094 or visit www.bayfield.org.
Get Your Gear
Retired semi-pro baseball player, railroad engineer and general tough character George “Stormy” Kromer lost a few too many hats to the icy wind whipping through his locomotive. On a cold morning in 1903, Stormy asked his beloved wife, Ida, to help him modify one of his many hats from his baseball days by sewing earflaps on the thing. The newly revised cap also featured a soft flexible visor—and was a great departure from the traditional engineer hats of the era. Today Stormy Kromer caps are still made true to the original design, by the folks of Ironwood, in Michigan’s UP, who know a thing or two about the cold.
Find the legendary Stormy Kromer cap along with coats, vests and shirts in the Twin Cities metro at Kaplan Brothers in Minneapolis, and most area Gander Mountain, Fleet Farm, and Cabela’s locations, or on the web at www.stormykromer.com.
Party on the ice
Mille Lacs Lake
With over 139,000 acres of frozen water and ice fishing contests all winter long, ice fishing on Mille Lacs Lake is some of the best ice fishing in the state.
“On any given winter, there are up to 6,500 ice fishing shacks on the lake,” says Judy Cain, director of the Mille Lacs Area Tourism Council. It’s a community within a community, and there’s a reason so many people flock to the area—or, more specifically, a few reasons—in the form of hungry walleye, jumbo perch, monster pike, crappies, and sunnies. Visitors who don’t own an ice house can rent them in half-day increments, everything from bare-bones shacks to homes with carpet, gas heaters, cook stoves, and separate bathrooms. Ice fishing packages are available with transportation to and from the icehouse, overnight lodging, bait, tackle, and meals.
Not only is there excellent ice fishing on Mille Lacs, but ice car racing, snowmobile races, windsurfing competitions, winter festivals (complete with a hot air balloon launch over President’s Day weekend), and miles of uninterrupted ski trails. One group of regulars even brings a sauna out onto the lake.
“Every weekend there’s a party on Mille Lacs,” she comments. “We would rather celebrate winter than grumble through it.”
For more information about the Mille Lacs area, call 1-888-350-2692 or visit www.millelacs.com.
Experience an unforgettable Adventure Weekend
Photo Courtesy of Lutsen Resort
Photo Courtesy of Lutsen Resort
With a wide variety of activities available (catering to both the complete novice and experienced adventure-seeker alike) and cozy lodging accommodations perfect after a tremendous day of exploring, Lutsen Resort is a hit with outdoor enthusiasts of all ages.
Take part in “Adventure Weekends” in February, including “Winter Photography Weekend” February 2-4 and “Winter Women’s Adventure Weekend” February 23-25. The photography adventure includes workshops with professional photographer Bryan Hansel, an all-day snowshoe excursion with winter expert Adam Harju, opportunities for guided cross-country skiing, sunrise and sunset photography clinics, and with a little luck—the northern lights. The women’s weekend is geared toward women of all ages and adventuring abilities and includes guided Northwoods snowshoeing, evening cross-country skiing, yoga, dogsledding, and a guided cross-country ski tour. Carin Gulstrand and Beth Hazelton, two of the most dynamic instructors on the North Shore, will lead the activities. Throughout the year, guests can enjoy complimentary adventurous activities, ranging from night snowshoe adventures in winter to naturalist hikes in the spring (complete with spectacular views of waterfalls) to guided sea kayaking in the warm months to color tours in the fall.
“I try to encourage people to come up here during a season they wouldn’t normally think of,” says Adam Harju, Lutsen Resort activities and recreation director. “Every season has so much to offer, it’s like having four distinctly different destinations all within a few hours from home!”
For more information about Lutsen Resort, call 1-800-2LUTSEN (258-8736) or visit www.lutsenresort.com.
Snowshoe out the front door
Cove Point Lodge
Photo Courtesy of Cove Point Lodge
Photo Courtesy of Cove Point Lodge
A quiet hub in the center of North Shore activity, Cove Point Lodge in Beaver Bay is the perfect destination for a relaxing winter escape.
Located just outside the Superior Hiking Trail, close to Gooseberry Falls and near the Gitchi-Gami Bike Trail, there’s always something to do while staying at the Scandinavian-style lodge. In the mild months, guests go hiking, biking, golfing, kayaking, berry-picking, and canoeing; in the snowy months, they ski, snowshoe, or snowmobile right outside the door. Snowshoes are available to guests free of charge.
“We are within 10 minutes of four major cross country trails,” says Marcia Hillestad, owner of Cove Point Lodge. “We’re very centrally located. Lake County is truly, almost more wilderness [than other counties] because we’re less developed.”
The Northwoods Ski Trail, maintained by locals along the Beaver River outside of Beaver Bay, is groomed more often than state trails, making for some smooth cross-country skiing. After an invigorating day outdoors, guests can enjoy a full meal in the dining room before relaxing in front of a roaring fire, or unwinding in the indoor pool, hot tub, or sauna.
For more information about Cove Point Lodge, call 1-800-598-3221 or visit www.covepointlodge.com.
Play outside, relax and rejuvenate inside
The Lodge on Lake Detroit
Photo Courtesy of Lodge on Lake Detroit
Photo by Chris Holland-Mehlhaff
The grounds at The Lodge on Lake Detroit slope gently to a 500-foot lakefront, creating the ideal backdrop for summer and winter fun. In winter, forget the boat, just keep on walking out to your ice house. (You can rent a house by the hour, for a four-hour chunk of time, or for a full day.) Everything needed for an ice fishing adventure on Big Detroit Lake is provided, the staff at the Lodge will even heat the house and drill the holes for you! For a different twist, book the Ice Fishing/Spa Package and enjoy a soothing hot stone massage after an invigorating day of ice fishing. “Regain a sense of serenity and wellness after a day of fresh air and outdoor activities,” comments Chris Holland-Mehlhaff, owner/operator of The Lodge at Lake Detroit. Guests can choose from a variety of spa packages available at The Spa Within, conveniently located at The Lodge.
Ice fishing is only one of many ways to appreciate the winter season in Detroit Lakes. Guests can snowmobile on more than 200 miles of groomed trails, go ice-skating, or cross-country ski on over 50 miles of trails. After a fun day on the trails, soak in the hot tub or do a few laps in the pool before relaxing in the fireside lobby (complete with LoLaD’s bar) to enjoy daily grand piano sunset serenades. Once a month guests can enjoy “Live at the Lodge,” a wine tasting event followed by live jazz in the lobby. The Lodge at Lake Detroit is a 55-room luxurious lifestyle hotel just a few miles from area restaurants and year-round attractions. For more information, call 1-800-761-VIEW (8439) or visit www.thelodgeonlakedetroit.com.
Enjoy golf and gaming
Dacotah Ridge Golf Club/Jackpot Junction Casino Hotel
The ingredients for the perfect golf getaway can be found at Dacotah Ridge Golf Club, in the beautiful Minnesota River Valley region of southwestern Minnesota. Take two parts golfing, one part casino action, and one part nightlife, mix them together, and you have the ultimate golf resort destination.
“We have a very unique golf course, a natural, prairie-style design, not found anywhere else in the state,” explains Peter Kurvers, a PGA professional and general manager of Dacotah Ridge. “Combined with our resort property (Jackpot Junction), this creates a seamless entertainment venue.”
Dacotah Ridge Golf Club was named by Golf Digest as the “Third Best New Affordable Golf Course in America.” Since their inception, they have gone on to assemble an impressive list of awards and accolades from national golf publications. Golf Digest rated the Rees Jones-designed Dacotah Ridge Golf Club as one of Minnesota’s best golf courses, top ten golf course in Minnesota overall, and the third best public golf course in Minnesota. Travel and Leisure Golf Magazine named Dacotah Ridge Golf Club amongst their list of the “Top 100 Golf Courses in America $100 or Less.”
Popular golf packages include Play and Stay packages (includes lodging, breakfast, cart, range, club cleaning, bag tag, and tax), Texas Hold ‘Em Tournaments, and Women’s Get Away Weekends.
For more information, call 507-644-GOLF or visit www.dacotahridge.com.
Develop leadership skills
Photo Courtesy of YMCA
YMCAs offer an array of camping experience: summer day camps that serve as child care solutions for working parents; overnight/resident camps that offer the traditional “camp” setting, campfires and cabin experiences; and special interest camps, such as sports, arts, academic, teen adventure or leadership sessions.
Although each may be structured differently, YMCA camps provide the same outcome: Kids have fun while they learn how to make new friends, build new skills and grow in self-reliance. Whether it’s through singing or swimming, through nature hikes or computer classes, counselors at YMCA camps have led kids in developing good values—and having fun—for more than 110 summers.
“The YMCA provides transformational experiences in the outdoors,” says Connie Rodosovich, general manager of Minneapolis YMCA Camps. “Our emphasis is on character development: developing integrity, self-reliance, and leadership skills. Our camps provide safe, fun, and enriching adventures in an environment of caring, honesty, respect, and responsibility.”
Each year, funds are raised through the Y Partners Campaign to make camps accessible to all kids through financial scholarships. The YMCA has 13 locations in the Twin Cities metro area.
For more information, call 612-371-8700 or visit www.ymcatwincities.org.
Learn from National Geographic experts
Hennepin Theatre Trust
Photo Courtesy of NASA
The 2007 National Geographic Speaker Series, presented by Hennepin Theatre Trust and National Geographic, will feature experts in the fields of wildlife conservation, space exploration, and severe storms research. All shows will be at 7:30 p.m. at Pantages Theatre in downtown Minneapolis.
On February 22, award-winning filmmakers and naturalists, Dereck and Beverly Joubert, will entertain the audience with stories of the adventures, hardships and dangers of living in the African wilderness (documenting everything from lions to zebras) over the past 25 years.
On March 15, Kobie Boykins, a dynamic young mechanical engineer who played a major role in NASA’s successful deployment of the two Mars Expedition Rovers—Spirit and Opportunity—will share the excitement of being involved in the design and construction of the rovers, tell the story of their successful missions, and present the remarkable images and discoveries that these automated explorers are sending us from the red planet.
On April 12, severe storms researcher Tim Samaras will share dramatic stories and riveting images from his close encounters with tornadoes. Samaras predicts a tornado’s track, arrives before it does, and deploys a probe directly into the twister’s violent, swirling path. Then, he promptly gets out of the way.
For more information, visit www.HennepinTheatreDistrict.org.