Kayaker Apostle Islands National Lakeshore via Flickr by Tim Wilson

3 Ways to Get Active in Wisconsin This Summer

Winter is finally over and it’s time to get active again! With state parks and natural areas featuring hundreds of hiking trails and bike paths, Wisconsin is a great place to explore the outdoors. However, without the limitations of a trail, there is so much more to discover. Leaving the trails behind can lead you to experiencing truly unique things and give you a view of nature that you’ve never seen before.

Ready to go beyond the basics? Here are three outdoor sports to get you off the beaten path.

Rock Climbing

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Image via Flickr by Brady Wieland

Rock climbing is a great way to get off the trails and immerse yourself in nature. You can go almost anywhere in the state and find climbing areas, but Devil’s Lake State Park is by far the most popular climbing spot with thousands of climbs for every skill level.

There are plenty of rock climbing gyms and climbing guides in Wisconsin to help you get started. Joining a gym is a great way to ease yourself into the sport and build your confidence if you’re not quite ready to scale a rock formation, while a climbing guide will help you jump right in and have you up a bluff in no time. Either way, you’ll be sure to meet new climbing buddies and make lasting memories.

Kayaking

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Image via Flickr by Tim Wilson

Wisconsin is bordered by Lake Superior and Lake Michigan and has more than 15,000 lakes and 43,000 miles of rivers, meaning there are plenty of places to go kayaking.

Water trails can take you to campsites that are otherwise inaccessible, making your camping trip an exclusive event. Lake Michigan and Lake Superior both feature water trails and several state parks and forests have marked water trails or water trails that are unmarked, but can be found on a map.

Don’t have your own kayak? The Travel Wisconsin website can help you find the perfect place to rent one. Buckhorn, Council Grounds, Devil’s Lake, Mirror Lake, and Perrot State Parks all offer adaptive kayak rentals so a disability won’t slow you down.

Scuba Diving

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Image via Flickr by Robert Hornung

Scuba diving is a pricy sport, but well worth the cost for a chance to visit the underwater world.

A quick online search can point you toward a scuba shop near you where you can sign up for lessons. A mixture of classroom work and practice in a pool will have you ready to hit the lake for your certification dives in just a few weekends.

Once you’re certified, all you need is some equipment and a dive buddy and you’re ready to explore the world below the water’s surface. If you’re not ready to buy your own gear, you can rent everything at your local scuba shop whenever you have a dive planned. You can find a dive buddy by having a friend take lessons with you, meeting someone in your scuba class, or just by hanging out at your dive shop.

There’s so much of Wisconsin that can’t be seen from a  hiking trail or bike path. There are plenty of sports that will help you immerse yourself in nature. Rock climbing, kayaking, and scuba diving are just a few ways to begin a life of adventure.

Hiking Devil’s Lake

Devil’s Lake State Park is one of the most popular state parks in Wisconsin. It’s known for the beautiful pink quartzite bluffs that overlook the lake as well as all the activities the park has to offer. Camping and swimming are some of the most popular activities. The park also has 29 miles of hiking trails, including sections of the Ice Age Trail, and the bluffs make Devil’s Lake one of the best rock climbing areas in the midwest.

My boyfriend, Bryce, and I are planning a day trip to Devil’s Lake this sunday. We’ll just be hiking and maybe swimming, since rock climbing isn’t my thing.

The last time I was at Devil’s Lake was last October, when I hiked the Balanced Rock Trail with a group of other hikers. The fall colors were out in force in October, so I’m excited to get some sunnier pictures this trip.

 

This time I want to do the Potholes Trail, which is extremely difficult and steep, but has amazing rock formations, making the hard climb worth it. The trail is only .3 miles, but the difficulty of it means it should take about two hours to hike.

How to help a tropical diver through their first lake experience

This past weekend I went diving with a guy whose only diving experience was in the tropics. He began diving when he was kid and was a very good dive buddy, but we both learned a lot about the differences between diving in warm ocean waters and diving in Midwestern lakes.

The first thing I had to explain to my buddy was that freshwater lakes are not nearly as boring as he expected them to be. You won’t see any coral reefs or super colorful fish, but perch and bluegills can be exciting too, and we do have freshwater jellyfish, though they’re rare. The idea of seeing a jellyfish got him excited, though they’re a very unusual sight.

Then we got him set up with gear. I had to explain to him why he probably didn’t want to wear full-foot fins when diving in Wisconsin and Illinois in September and October. Full-foot fins are fine if you don’t need lots of neoprene layers to keep you warm, but Fall in the Midwest is not the time or place for them. I helped him try on some boots and open-heel fins so he would be completely comfortable in the water.

Once we got to the lake, I walked him through how to put on all his layers. He had brought both swim trunks and compression shorts because he wasn’t sure which would be better under a wetsuit. I told him to wear the compression shorts because trunks will bunch under the wetsuit and be uncomfortable, an issue I have with the ties on my swimsuits.

I’m glad I was able to help my buddy through his first lake dives. In the Midwest, part of being a good dive buddy is helping with your buddy’s wardrobe, whether they need a zipper to be zipped, a hood tucked in, or they have no idea where to begin with all the layers.

My buddy may have been a little overwhelmed at first, but he really enjoyed his first lake dives and is looking forward to diving a wreck on Lake Michigan next weekend.

And yes, he did see a jellyfish.

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Post-dive selfie. #dive #divebuddy #selfie

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