Published: September 2008
Central States
Check out the season's best weekend trips near you.
Text by Contributing Editor Robert Earle Howells
Paddling: Zoom Into Zen

The zen level is off the charts on Northern Soul Wilderness Adventures’ canoeing trips into Whiteshell Provincial Park 90 miles west of Winnipeg. Before and after floating one of 200 pine-fringed lakes, paddlers break for hatha yoga sessions at sunrise and sunset. “We choose our campsites for their proximity to good yoga studios,” says Northern Soul’s Dave Pancoe. By “studios” he means nice flat expanses of rock within the thousand square miles of granitic Canadian Shield terrain. The Yoga Canoe Weekend includes about 17 miles of paddling across Caddy, North Cross, and South Cross Lakes, which are linked by old railway tunnels ($399; Enlightened paddlers have been known to groove on the reverberating sound of “om” in the passageways.

Mountain Biking: Ride the Chequamegon

Up in Wisconsin’s North Woods, "Chequamegon" rolls off the tongue as readily as "beer and brat." The word has three related meanings: a 1.5-million-acre national forest with superb mountain biking trails, a long-ago-sold-out bike race, and a rollicking fat-tire festival in its 26th year (September 12-14; "Just watching the mass start of 1,700 riders will knock your socks off," says festival director Gary Crandall of the marquee event, the Chequamegon 40. The festival includes three other sold-out races, but anyone can get in on a mountain bike orienteering event or a tight-course criterium race. Or just go ride. It’s a great month for traversing rolling terrain on 300 miles of marked and mapped trails maintained by the Chequamegon Area Mountain Bike Association (

Hiking: Explore Rare High Country

Elevation stats don’t tell the story in Frozen Head State Park, but they’re pretty impressive nonetheless. The wildland boasts 13,122 acres of Cumberland Mountains terrain in eastern Tennessee. The signature summit is "only" 3,324 feet high, but the seven-mile, 2,000-foot hike to the top via Old Mac Trail gets you to an observation tower with a view of the Cumberland Plateau, Tennessee Ridge and Valley, and the Great Smoky Mountains. Frozen Head is just one of the park’s 16 peaks higher than 3,000 feet. The reserve recently reopened a classic CCC-built route called North Bird Mountain Trail, whose switchbacks lead to several Phillips Creek falls en route to the top. Big Cove Campground is an ideal base for hikes ($13;

Bird Watching: Watch Raptors Attack

North America’s premier predator convention is held each fall in the skies above Nueces County, an astounding sight that can include as many as 400,000 Buteo platypterus (aka broad-winged hawks) in a single day during the last two weeks of September. Twitchers muster on a platform in Hazel Bazemore County Park just west of Corpus Christi, the de facto hawk-watch headquarters. Staying at George Blucher House B&B Inn in Corpus Christi puts you right across the street from Blucher Park, a superb bird sanctuary ($140; And it’s just a short drive north to Aransas National Wildlife Refuge, where the first whooping cranes are arriving for their winter vacation.