Megan Kelzenberg, 31, Maple Grove
Day job: Recreation program coordinator, Three Rivers Parks District
Few things top a summer evening out on my stand-up paddleboard. Feeling the sway of water under my feet, seeing the sun set, hearing a loon call, and I am in my happy place. Even a quick weeknight paddle can give me the feeling of being on vacation time, where I can let my mind be still and just soak in the scenery of a perfect lake view.
I love the versatility that stand-up paddleboarding in summer allows, when you don’t really mind if you stay dry or get wet. If you are feeling energetic you can push yourself for a great workout, or if you would rather take it easy you can move at a more leisurely pace. You can kneel on the board, sit, do yoga, lay down, jump off to swim and hop back on it – there are so many options to fit your state of mind. The views from atop a SUP also cannot be beat. I have enjoyed sunsets and full moons, have spotted countless birds and fish, and have seen the largest snapping turtle of my life. I once even witnessed a duckling paddle up on a participant’s board during one of my lessons.
Stand-up paddleboarding also has become my go-to activity for summer socializing. I love to catch up with friends during an outing on the water. I spend most of my time on Fish Lake in Maple Grove. I can walk the boards from my house directlyinto the water. The lake boasts a number of bays and a small canal, which means you can easily find a quiet spot away from boats and crowds. Fish Lake Regional Park also rents a SupSquatch, which holds 10 paddlers. Crazy? Yes. Fun? Absolutely! The Minneapolis Chain of Lakes is another must-do. There are always lots of people out enjoying the trails, beaches and restaurants. All make for a fun atmosphere. The lakes also host several SUP events and races, so they are a great option for those who would enjoy a more organized or competitive approach to paddling. We really are so lucky here in the metro to have the number of lakes and rivers we do within such proximity.
Maura Marko, 30, Excelsior
Lead for Twin Cities Hike It Baby and outdoor travel blogger at bobbyandmaura.com
Day job: Stay-at-home mom
With these few months of awesome weather in Minnesota, summer can get really busy. Hiking is a way for us to slow down and be together as a family with no cellphones or other obligations to worry about. Hiking with a toddler, my husband, Bobby, and I take our time and enjoy the moment. Everything is green and the flowers are out, and we take a lot of breaks to teach our son, Jack, things along the trail. Just stopping to watch an ant work makes you realize how magical nature really is. When we were recently in the Boundary Waters, our son didn’t touch a toy the whole time. He was happy to play with rocks, sticks and dirt.
Getting up north in the summer is my favorite because it’s a bit cooler — the Superior Hiking Trail, the Oberg Loop near Tofte, the BWCA and Eagle Mountain are all great. Locally, nature centers are outstanding for adults and children, such as Westwood Hills in St. Louis Park, as are the state parks close to the cities ( Afton and Wild River, for example). It’s crazy how much green space we have and opportunities to get outside.
We hike all four seasons here, and getting to watch the scenery change is neat. Going snowshoeing on a trail and then hiking the same route in the summer is amazing. Seeing the wildlife is really special this time of year, whether it’s spotting a deer or watching turtles lay eggs. For us it’s about the wildlife, the plants and literally stopping to smell the flowers. It’s a magical way to see the world and also teach your children about the world.
Eleanor Bacso, 26, Duluth
Women’s winner at 2016 Lutsen 99er mountain bike race (shown with husband Mason, fourth among men)
Day job: Events coordinator, Duluth Area Chamber of Commerce
One of my favorite things about mountain biking in the summer is the longer days. It’s nice to get outside for a ride after work and not have to rush before the sun sets. I love going out on group rides with friends where you can actually take a break and enjoy the views, fresh air and camaraderie.
Some of the very best spots to ride are right in Duluth. The city has a variety of trails to keep everyone smiling from the rocky terrain of Piedmont to the smooth flow of Mission Creek. The local club Cyclists of Gitchi Gummi is working on wonderful new trails everyday. The goal is to have more than 100 miles of single track all within city limits. Some of my favorite other spots throughout the state are Cuyuna Country (Crosby-Ironton), Maplelag Resort (Callaway) and Elm Creek Park Reserve (Maple Grove).
Riding and racing mountain bikes all summer is a blast. A person can get such a sense of accomplishment when they can make it over that first “rock garden” or flowing over a berm. And after a long day at work, nothing feels better than flying through the woods on my bike. Mountain biking is just something that makes me smile and it truly makes me appreciate what we have to offer in our beautiful summers here. The one place I look forward to visiting year after year is Maplelag Resort in Callaway, just north of Detroit Lakes. Maplelag is a family owned and operated destination cross-country ski resort, conference center and mountain bike mecca. Every year it hosts Laddies Loppet, which is an amazing race with real old-school and fun single track (Sept. 3-4). I’ve been going to Maplelag since I was 13 for skiing, language camps and mountain bike races, and I think it is the most magical place. With endless cookie jars and the best home-cooked food, this is a place you will definitely want to visit.
Dave Heu, 44, St. Paul
Midwest Hmong Outdoors club
Day job: Self-employed, automotive industry
What I like about summer is I like being hot. I like the hot sun. I enjoy soaking in the sun. Fishing is a lot better for me because I can find more fish because I like to fish a little bit deeper water. The fish will stay a little bit deeper in the summertime. They’ll stay where they are comfortable. Usually, I don’t do too much walleye fishing, but I do a lot of bass fishing. That’s a fish that has a big part in tournament fishing. I’ll do some walleye fishing, too, around the opener.
Mostly I stay around the Twin Cities. I fish a few club tournaments. I just follow wherever the clubs are going. Pretty much, I stick to all metro lakes. I am not picky at all. I like every lake. As long as I get out. If there is a favorite lake to be on, it is Lake Minnetonka because it is a bigger lake and there are beautiful homes, beautiful water. The water from one section of the lake to the other changes color. You can go from clear water to murkier water, and the fish act so different in different parts of the lake. We do a lot fishing on the St. Croix River, too. Right around the walleye time in spring, we will fish for white bass. They go back to deep water in summer and are harder to find. But they do come out sometimes in the shallows to chase shad or minnows right before sunset in the summer.
As a child, my family always fished for panfish for food and family activities. When I moved to Minnesota from California in 1995, I just started fishing for fun, catching bass, northerns, whatever I could fish for. Just shore-fishing and trying to have a good time. Probably 14 or 15 years ago, I met a few friends and they were into fishing, too. I bought a smaller boat, and we just started doing a lot of bass fishing from there on. Our club has grown, and there has gotten to be a lot more competition. There are a lot of good fishermen out there. That’s what makes you want to be a better fishermen. Everything is planning, just like any competition. You try to better yourself so that the next time you head out to the lake, another tournament, you are prepared to do better.
Eric Pelto, 30, Minneapolis
Day job: Special programs coordinator, Minnesota Department of Natural Resources
Summer is all about being outside. Minnesotans simply cannot remain indoors on sunny days. For me, camping is a way to take advantage of every second of summer. I’ll spend about a third of my summer sleeping in a tent owing to work and personal trips. What I love so much about camping is that it allows us to integrate back into nature, as we fall asleep and wake up with the sun we’re able to experience nature in ways only possible if you’re camping. Waking up to the calling songbirds and enjoying a warm cup of coffee at first light is one of my favorite moments on any camping trip.
If you’re willing to explore, every trip can offer something entirely different. With four unique biomes in Minnesota, a couple hours in any direction provides an entirely new summer adventure. Rather than going back to the same destination I like to set out in a different direction each trip. This keeps the experience fresh and engaging. To the southwest: Hike through a sea of prairie grasses to observe grazing bison at Blue Mounds State Park, or tie on a fly for some morning fly fishing under the towering bluffs at Whitewater State Park. To the north: Find solitude and stunning overlooks while backpacking on the Superior Hiking Trail or head to Glendalough State Park for some canoe camping and excellent pan fishing.
I truly believe that everyone can find something to like about camping, whether it’s backpacking long distances or just getting away for a relaxing weekend at a state park close to home. For anyone that didn’t grow up camping or is interested in learning how, check out the I Can Camp! programs offered throughout the summer at Minnesota state parks and recreation areas. Since the I Can Camp! program began in 2010, more than 5,000 people from all different walks of life have gone camping with us, most of them for the first time. The one thing I think all of those people had in common was a desire to disconnect from the stress and hectic schedules at home and reconnect with friends, family and the calming nature of the outdoors. Whether you’re an avid camper or a beginner, camping is surefire way to relax, unwind and enjoy all that Minnesota summers have to offer.