In late June, time seems to stretch out miraculously in the lake country of northern Michigan. Mornings come early, evenings can linger well past 10 p.m., and nobody seems eager to go to bed.
One group of outdoor enthusiasts seems determined to pack as much exercise and adventure into the three longest days of the year. They've designed a three-day festival of noncompetitive outdoor activities from cycling and hiking to kayaking and river rafting in the thickly forested Chain of Lakes district east of Traverse City.
Known as SOLSTICE.08, the event will take place June 20-22 at Shanty Creek Resorts in Bellaire, just 30 miles northeast of Traverse City. Its organizers include sport clubs, community groups and businesses who share a common commitment to outdoor recreation and a desire to initiate more people into their favorite pastimes.
"There are lots of events out there for people who are already practiced paddlers, cyclists and hikers, but we wanted to make these experiences available to folks who may never have tried them before," said Maia Conway of the Traverse City Record-Eagle, one of the event's sponsors. "This is designed for the entire family. We're bringing together the best in gear and instruction for a weekend of outdoor exploration and a celebration of our favorite outdoor pursuits."
The three-day extravaganza will feature such activities as an early-morning kayak tour of the famed Grass River Natural Area, a moonlight paddle down the Jordan River, mountain biking and hiking expeditions through the hill country near Schuss Mountain, as well as more arcane sports like disc golf and geocaching (where teams of participants follow clues and GPS coordinates to locate hidden treasures) and a KIDathlon for young athletes.
The festival also has a few features designed for more experienced adults -- such as a 100-mile bicycle ride around Torch Lake, celebrated as "the third most beautiful lake in the world" and a long roster of presentations by outdoor instructors and outfitters. At the end of the day there are also a few sit-down events, including a wine reception, an outdoor film festival, and a bonfire with Michigan poet/storyteller Terry Wooten at his acclaimed Stone Circle performance center.
The first SOLSTICE event was held in 2007 in Traverse City, on a much smaller scale, but was so successful that organizers began looking for a larger venue where the festival could be allowed to grow. They found a ready partner in Georg Schluender, director of Shanty Creek's innovative "silent sports" program. The resort was pleased to be named base camp for the event, and responded with a series of reduced price packages for participants (as low as $79 a night).
"We're trying to make this as affordable as possible for families who want to get out for a weekend of outdoor fun -- all gear, guides, and good times included," said Schluender.
Cost for SOLSTICE.08 is $42 per person, and includes a free wine reception, a t-shirt and bag, one of four paddle trips, plus two other adventures of your choice, and a boxed lunch for the Saturday outing.
Lodging packages at Shanty Creek are priced as low as $79 per person per night for a group of four. For reservations visit www.shantycreek.com or call 1-800-678-4111 and use reservation code SOLSTICE08 to secure the discounted rate.
To learn more about specific activities at SOLSTICE.08 visit the event's official site at www.trailathlon.com.