Six Ways to Get Fit and Enjoy Michigan’s Outdoors in 2016

Happy Holidays! As we look forward to an eventful and adventure-filled New Year, guest blogger Shalee Blackmer from The Awesome Mitten shares some Pure Michigan ways to get active while enjoying the incredible scenery and outdoors the Great Lakes state has to offer.

New Year, new beginnings. By now, we know the beauty that Michigan offers, and with that beauty comes hard work. Sometimes in order to get the benefit of the stunning Michigan shorelines, high cliffs, and spectacular sunsets, we must work for it. We summit, hike, and climb to the destination, and we are rewarded with pure simplicity. A far away land miles from the nearest freeway, cubicle, or stop light.

Photo Courtesy of Shalee Blackmer

The start of 2016 is the best time to commit to becoming a healthier you. Fortunately, we’re able to go beyond the gym to gain the benefits. There are hiking routes that span the entire state, rock walls that are begging to be climbed, and hidden lighthouses that are patiently awaiting our arrival.

For some starter inspiration, I’ve combined some of my favorite Michigan outdoor activities that are fun, healthy, and always involve a little adventure.


Right now is the perfect time to invest in a pair of snowshoes and prepare for when temperatures drop and snow begins to fall. Snowshoeing is more of a work out than most people believe, but is easy enough to do with a group of friends. One of the best times to go snowshoeing is in the woods right after a winter storm. A winter wonderland surrounds you, but not a sound can be heard.

Photo Courtesy of Shalee Blackmer


Kayaking weekly will build arm muscles and allow you to enjoy the surrounding beauty in one. Michigan has hundreds of prime kayaking locations. Everything from the three-mile journey to Turnip Rock, to an afternoon down the Muskegon River, or a casual paddle around Presque Isle Park. Viewing some of Michigan’s most beautiful areas from the water offers a whole new perspective, and you’re guaranteed to feel the soreness at the end of the day.

Photo Courtesy of Shalee Blackmer

Ice climb/ Rock climb

If you’re ready to build that arm and finger strength, this one is for you. Both activities involve considerable workouts, and have different difficulty levels from beginner to expert. Places like Planet Rock, an indoor rock climbing facility, will train and teach you everything you need to know before you start. Eventually you can take those skills to the real outdoors, and climb everything from rocks to frozen waterfalls.

Photo Courtesy of Shalee Blackmer

Go backpacking

Nearly everyone is fit enough to backpack, even if it is just for a day. Finding routes that have more elevation changes (sand dunes, Porcupine Mountains) will allow for a more strenuous workout. Beginners can start on shorter and flatter hikes and then can set a year end goal of a week-long backpacking trip on Isle Royale or through the Huron-Manistee National Forests.


One of the most common winter activities in Michigan is skiing and snowboarding, which also happens to be one of the best winter workouts. No matter how many years someone has hit the slopes, they will be sore at the end of a long day filled with snow and friends. Lucky for us, there are dozens of ski areas around the state, and you can always find one within a few hours drive. Those who are beginners will soon learn why it is such a common activity in Michigan, and will want to do it over and over.

Surf or body board

Michigan waves are some of the most powerful waves in the world. When the waters are choppy, those who take on the Great Lakes power will endure a non-stop workout in attempt to catch the perfect wave. Those who are interested can visit Third Coast Surf Shops in New Buffalo or St. Joseph to rent surfboards, wet suits, and even get lessons from experienced freshwater surfers.

Photo Courtesy of Shalee Blackmer


What is your favorite Michigan outdoor activity?Shalee

About the author: Shalee Blackmer is a 21 year old college student who grew up in the small town of Mecosta. She currently attends Michigan State University as an advertising student and spends her time exploring the outdoors. Her hobbies include running her own travel blog, which aims to inspire college-age students to see explore on a budget and taking photos to share her story. She enjoys camping, road trips, hiking and cliff jumping and enjoying Pure Michigan beauty.

Getting to Turnip Rock: One Amazing Adventure

Over the summer, Awesome Mitten has been traveling around the state on #MittenTrip adventures of “awesome” proportions. We set out to cover the travel experiences of Team Awesome writers in twelve different cities over twelve weeks – it’s been a blast so far!

Over the Fourth of July weekend, I had the lucky charge of heading to Port Austin to learn more about the “tip of the thumb.”  The only way to get to the rock and its friends is by the water since the area surrounding is private property, and the best means is by kayak.

Harbor Beach, Photo Courtesy of Karen Murphy

Harbor Beach, Photo Courtesy of Karen Murphy

Although the Fourth of July weekend was an exciting one to be in the area (the Farmer’s Market and fireworks were great), I wanted my experience with the beautiful limestone structures to be a little more private than what a holiday weekend might elicit. In order to avoid the crowds, I rose early on Sunday morning to enjoy the trip in the morning calm. This brilliant idea wouldn’t have been possible without the excellent guidance of the folks at Port Austin Kayak who not only supplied all of the equipment for my escapades, but they were also generous with some sound advice about other things I needed to see and do while in their beloved village.

Kayakers Paddling on Lake Huron, Photo Courtesy of Jennifer Hamilton

After signing up from the kayaks and getting a quick rundown of the journey I was about to take on, I made my way to the launch area. Port Austin Kayak’s launch site is right behind their building and is the closest place to get in the water for the trek to the rock formations. If you rent from them, they are gracious enough to let your friends with their own kayaks launch from their spot, too. There was a quick lesson on how to use the equipment, and the paddling was in full effect.

Leaving from this spot, I was able to acclimate to my morning adventure in a small river leading to the Port Austin Marina and the harbor area that is protected by the Port Austin Breakwater. This calm beginning was just a precursor to the picture-perfect paddle toward the rock and tree formations that I was working toward. Along the coast, I was amazed by the clear-blue shallow water and the trees seemingly jutting out of the water in tiny strip-like islands. It was like being transported to another time and place that was quieter than the one we all deal with day to day.

Around every bend, I kept anticipating the huge rock formation to emerge from the water in front of me, but it kept evading me. I will admit, I might have paddled a little faster than necessary in anticipation. Believe me, it was well worth it when I finally made it around that bend after some intriguing sea caves. Turnip Rock is even better in person, and I started joining the other kayakers in taking photos and celebrating that I made it to a place I had only been dreaming about.

Turnip Rock

Turnip Rock. Photo Courtesy of Joanna Dueweke.

After drifting around a bit and discovering other beautiful sights around Pointe aux Barques and Alaska Bay, I started my journey back to Port Austin Kayak.  I didn’t rest because I was hungry for a hearty breakfast on the mainland (The Lighthouse Cafe is a good choice).

Blueberry French Toast, Photo Courtesty of the Lighthouse Cafe

Port Austin Kayak doesn’t rent out tandem kayaks for this particular trip because the waters get shallow, but the paddle isn’t too much work and it equates to about six miles round trip. I think it might be fun to try on a stand-up paddle board, but you should probably be pretty proficient at that as well. I’m not sure how much fun the adventure would be by any other means because the waters are shallow on the way to the rock, and getting close is half the fun. This experience alone was worth the #MittenTrip to Port Austin, but my other adventures were awesome as well.

Where is your favorite place to kayak in Pure Michigan?

AuthorAbout the Author: Joanna Dueweke lives and works in Detroit where she finds great joy in working, studying Library and Information Science at Wayne State, exploring the city, and traveling. Her days are spent working for Detroit SOUP where she helps fund creative projects in the city and its neighborhoods. When she’s not writing for The Awesome Mitten, or attending any number of events in Detroit, Joanna enjoys visiting other places in the state, sampling Michigan’s fine wines and craft beers, and getting in the water as much as the summer will allow.


Six Thrilling Water Sports to do this Summer

Life in Michigan revolves around amazing bodies of water – from the picturesque Lake Huron to the enchanting Bond Falls – you don’t have to go far to hit the waves. Here’s a list of six thrilling water sports for you to do this summer. 

Lake Superior

Lake Superior. Photo Courtesy of

1. Bodyboarding – For a perfect weekend beach activity, catch a wave and have some fun in the sun! If you need a board, have no fear – there are many options around the state for equipment rentals, like Sleeping Bear Surf and Kayak. Absorb the sunshine and feel the water splash over your shoulders as you ride waves on your belly. All you need is a body board or “boogie board,” a pair of fins and a thrill-seeking attitude.

2. Jet Skiing – If you have a need for speed, then hoping on a jet ski is for you. Michigan offers dozens of gorgeous waterfronts for you to jump across the waves during your summer adventure.

3. Kayaking – Navigate swift moving rivers and lakes in a kayak this summer. Kayaking allows you to access remote destinations and brings you closer to nature. Far and wide, there are many lakes across the state that offers rentals.

Photo Courtesty of Todd & Brad Reed Photography.

Kayaking in Ludington, Mich. Photo Courtesy of Todd & Brad Reed Photography.

4. Scuba Diving – Explore the wonders of the underwater world through scuba diving. Stare a fish in the eyes and feel the stir of the water as you take the plunge this summer. If you’re looking to explore the depths of the great lakes, try Four Fathoms Diving or Thunder Bay Scuba!

5. Parasailing – This high-flying experience is the thrill of a lifetime. Take in the sights of your surroundings as a giant parachute sends you soaring hundreds of feet above the water.

Photo Courtesy of Mackinac Parasailing.

Parasailing on Lake Huron. Photo Courtesy of Mackinac Parasailing.

6. Tubing – Getting pulled by a high-speed boat and flung around by waves could be the best part of your summer. Chances are you’ll go airborne, but don’t worry, the big splashes make for big fun. Need a rental? Look no further than Holland Water Sports.

What are some of your favorite water sports to enjoy in Pure Michigan? Let us know below!