Published: June/July 2008
Central States
Check out the season's best weekend trips near you.
Text by Christopher Percy Collier
WISCONSIN
Sailing: Sail a Kayak

You'd think even a minor breeze would be a major setback while paddling Green Bay to Door County's Peninsula State Park. But the wind is a bonus when your kayak is outfitted with pontoons and a 21-square-foot sail. Rent a Hobie hybrid from Bay Shore Outdoor Store in Sister Bay ($50 for two days; kayakdoorcounty.com) and head south, past caves carved in 200-foot-high dolomite bluffs, to Nicolet Bay Campground, beaching your craft on a shore with rocks the size of bowling balls. At sunup paddle out to Horseshoe Island and an abandoned fishing village for a one-mile hike, then hoist the mainsail and cruise home. "Out here, it's like a miniature version of the Apostle Islands on Lake Superior," says guide Casey St. Henry. "Only a lot more accessible."

MINNESOTA
Climbing: Find a Higher Purpose

"Picture a shattered chalkboard with edges that go every which way," says climbing instructor Peter Graupner of P.J. Asch Otterfitters ($50 for a half-day guided climb; pjaschotterfitters.com). That's Noah's Ark, a route at Interstate State Park—one of the top climbing areas in Minnesota, and the most easily accessed. Just 49 miles from the Twin Cities, Interstate (aka Taylors Falls) has a hundred basalt routes of varying difficulty. There's Rosebush, a blocky, 50-foot-high, chimney-shaped hunk of rock, and AC (as in air-conditioning), a 70-foot-high crack, named for the cool air that shoots through it off the St. Croix River. Camp at the park and, should the rock heat up by noon, spend the rest of the day splashing in and out of a canoe on the St. Croix ($35 for a daylong canoe rental from P.J.).

MICHIGAN
Mountain Biking: Bomb Glacial Hills

Mountain bikers often cite the singletrack in 11,000-acre Pinckney Recreation Area as the most challenging in southeastern Michigan. It also happens to be some of the easiest to reach. The 24-mile network of trails through glacial hills and hollows loaded with granny-gear climbs and sudden turns is only about an hour's drive from Detroit. For the park's best, shoulder an overnight pack and pedal out from the Potawatomi Trail (or the Poto, for short). "You go through all different types of terrain, from gravel to sand to black swamp mud," says John Calvert, owner of Speedtrains Village Cyclery. Pass a series of kettle ponds on a tough eight-mile ride and camp at Blind Lake, then finish with an easy nine the next day ($30 for a two-day bike rental; speedtrainsvillagecyclery.com).

TEXAS
Stand-Up Paddleboarding: SUP in Padre

Not long ago, when the breezes died down on South Padre Island—which they sometimes do in late July—stand-up paddleboarding (SUP) became the no-wind alternative for kiteboarders. "We started offering it because we couldn't deal with all the whining around the shop when the wind didn't blow," says Ken Minnotte of South Padre Island Kiteboarding. Now it's a Laird Hamilton-endorsed attraction. Learn the sport in the protective waters of the bay ($75 for a 90-minute lesson), then the board is yours ($35 a day; southpadreislandkiteboarding.com). "It's not superhard to learn on flat water," says Minnotte, "but you'll definitely fall in a few times as you get used to it—and certainly when you hit the surf."