The trees may still be blooming, but Detroit's primetime summer adventure season is just around the corner! As you finish planning which outdoor challenges will accompany your leisurely summer activities, these five best adventure challenges should absolutely be at the top of on your agenda.
"The joy of living is theirs who has the heart to demand it. Life is a great adventure, and I want to say to you: accept it in such a spirit."
When in doubt, always start an adventure article with a quote from our most adventurous president, Theodore Roosevelt. We say this not only because the man's personal journals and speeches remain a never-ending well for inspirational quotations, but President Roosevelt truly lived out every meticulous word of every profoundly motivational sentence that he ever penned to paper. Despite a childhood riddled with debilitating asthma, Roosevelt went on to climb mountains, row rivers, horseback ride for days on end, backcountry hunt, lead wartime charges, commit to "polar plunges" in the Potomac River, and even hold boxing matches in the White House.
President Roosevelt owed much of his exploits in life to adopting what he coined as "The Strenuous Life" - a core belief that success comes not to the person who desires "mere easy peace," but to the person who "does not shrink from danger, from hardship, or from bitter toil, and who out of these wins the splendid ultimate triumph."
Here's the point of this brief history lesson: mixing in a healthy dose of "strenuous" challenges to your summer vacation plans is not only a good idea, but a presidentially-sanctioned fantastic idea. Summer in the Detroit region's outdoors provides an idyllic opportunity to grow as a recreationalist, athlete, adventurer, and - as President Roosevelt would attest - successful member of society. Don't get us wrong, leisurely walks on a beach or sitting in the stands at Comerica Park are fine ways to spend your summer days. However, if you clicked on this article, then you're probably not that kind of person. We'd bet that you've got a little of Roosevelt's spirit in you; a thirst for maximizing the adventure in your life, within our natural environment, while exploring the world-class outdoor opportunities that the Detroit region has to offer.
We at Expedition Detroit are stoked to have you within our ranks. Now, let's get after these 5 best adventure challenges for this summer:
COMPLETE THE METROPARKS TRAIL CHALLENGE
CHALLENGE: Hike, bike, run, roll, or paddle across the 13 Metroparks to hit your trail goals and earn incentives along the journey
TIMELINE: May 1st - September 30th
Right in time for peak trails season, the Huron-Clinton Metroparks JUST announced their brand new Trail Challenge for summer 2023! Spanning the entirety of the Metroparks' 13 park system, this challenge encourages Metropark enthusiasts to log their trail miles, enjoy the parks, stay active outdoors, and meet their trail goals on their own time and pace. Better yet, the Trail Challenge isn't just for one recreational activity - participants can hike, run, bike, skateboard, rollerblade, or paddle across the Metroparks' vast network of paved, natural, and water trails to earn their miles.
Here are the specifics: once registered ($25), you will receive a custom water bottle and passport with information on the Metroparks. Whenever you visit a Metropark, be sure to hit a designated Challenge Trail that features a specific "Trail Challenge" kiosk. Take a selfie at said kiosk and upload it along with your miles to the leaderboard. Each Challenge Trail that you visit earns a special badge on the online leaderboard, and at least 3 badges will further earn you a custom Metroparks insulated lunch bag. Earn all 13 badges and you will receive a 2024 Metroparks Annual Vehicle Pass so you can keep exploring the trails for another year!
RUN THE G.O.A.T. TRAIL SERIES
CHALLENGE: Complete 3 out of the 5 trail races within the G.O.A.T. Series
TIMELINE: April 29th - November 4th
Full disclosure, the G.O.A.T. Trail Series brings out the real competitive side of the Expedition Detroit team. Sponsored by our friends at RF Events, the G.O.A.T. ("Greatest Of All Time") Series comprises of competing in at least 3 of 5 trail races, spanning from April 29th ("Trail Weekend") to November 4th ("Bonfyre Trail Fest"). Runners are placed in either the "Sprint" or "Open" categories based on event distance, and are allocated points per race based on their results. At the end of the season, all runners who qualified for the G.O.A.T. Series are eligible to win special awards if they ranked as either the top three runners (by gender) for each of the Sprint and Open categories, or they collected enough "Leader of the Herd" points based on total race results.
On a personal note, I absolutely love this Series. Despite the inherent competitive nature of this challenge, RF Events has perfected the art of creating the most inclusive, supportive, and fun racing environment that I have ever experienced. Plus, any opportunity to participate in competitive sports into your 30s and beyond represents an opportunity worth seizing. The first race of the Series has already passed, but with 4 remaining there's still plenty of time to register, race, and qualify for the Series. The next trail race is on June 3rd - we'll see you there!
JOIN THE EXCLUSIVE HURON104 CLUB
CHALLENGE: Paddle the entire Huron River National Water Trail from Proud Lake State Recreation Area to Lake Erie Metropark
TIMELINE: Throughout 2023
There's only one way to earn a coveted place on in the Huron104 Club: launching at the headwaters of Proud Lake and completing a 104 mile journey down the winding, evolving, and stunningly beautiful Huron River to Lake Erie. Along the way, you will paddle through scenic destinations like Milford, Dexter, Ann Arbor, Ypsilanti, and Flat Rock as the trail's official "Water Trail Towns." The true allure of the water trail, however, is found in the exploration opportunities throughout the metroparks, state recreation areas, and other destinations that provide the natural scenery to its banks.
The Huron104 Trail Registry lists the names of each successful adventurer that has completed at least 100 miles of the water trail within a calendar year. As of the date of this article, the registry only lists 14 names, so the exclusivity of joining this prestigious "club" provides even more emphasis to the rarity of completing this adventure challenge. Paddlers can complete the journey through either "section paddling" the trail - i.e. completing the entire water trail via intermittent sections throughout the year - or "thru paddle" via one continuous, over-night expedition. Thru paddlers should plan on utilizing the four official canoe campgrounds along the water trail: Kensington Metropark (appropriately located off of Group Camp Rd.), Island Lake State Recreation Area, Hudson Mills Metropark, and Lower Huron Metropark. Advanced registration is required for each of these campgrounds.
RIDE THE MILFORD BIKE FEST'S CENTURY CHALLENGE
CHALLENGE: Ride all 5 trail systems that are part of the Milford Bike Festival
TIMELINE: June 3rd, 2023
June 3rd is going to be a big day in the world of Detroit outdoor recreation. As we've mentioned, the next event in the G.O.A.T. Series - "Flirt with Dirt" - will be kicking off at 7:30 a.m. sharp. But as the dust settles on Maybury State Park's trails, the action will just be heating up across five different trail systems surrounding the Milford area. And out of the hundreds of mountain bikers that will be riding as far north as Highland State Recreation Area and south as Island Lake Recreation Area, a select few will be accomplishing the crown jewel of the Milford Best Festival: the 100-mile "Century Challenge."
Sponsored by our friends at the Motor City Mountain Biking Association, the Century Challenge involves completing a continuous MTB ride that covers THE ENTIRETY of all five trail systems that are readily accessible from Downtown Milford - over a distance of at least 100 miles. These include the Milford Trail, Highland State Recreation Area, Hickory Glen, Proud Lake State Recreation Area/the Kensington Connector, and Island Lake State Recreation Area. I have biked each of these trail systems independently, and each one packs one hell of a punch. So, the thought of conquering all five in a single day...yeah, that's definitely one way to earn a post-ride beer!
The Milford Bike Festival isn't just ultra rides though. At its core, the festival represents a celebration of Southeast Michigan's growing mountain biking community. The festival occurs in Milford because of the trail town's central location to five world-class single track mountain biking trails and features live music, complementary drinks, food discounts, and hundreds of your new favorite riding buddies. We'll see you there!
CONQUER THE 52 HIKE CHALLENGE
CHALLENGE: Complete at least 1 hike per week for a year
TIMELINE: Throughout 2023
As you may have noticed by now, the beauty of these adventure challenges includes that these challenges are not mutually-exclusive. For example, paddling through several Metroparks along the Huron River National Water Trail as well as biking through Kensington Metropark during Century Challenge both count towards completing the Metroparks Trail Challenge. This final challenge is just as inclusive: conquering the virtual "52 Hike Challenge."
For the uninitiated, the 52 Hike Challenge comprises of an annual goal to complete at least one, 1-mile hike, per week. Despite its name, participants can also complete the 52 Hike Challenge by logging their trail runs, snowshoe adventures, or even leisurely walks around your subdivision. The goal of the challenge is to gain the physical, mental, spiritual, and emotional benefits derived from consistent hiking - especially when accomplished at your own pace and in the great outdoors.
The Expedition Detroit team actually completed the 52 Hike Challenge over 2022, prior to and during our initial launch of this venture. We utilized the challenge as inspiration to explore new parks, trails, and activities like snowshoeing throughout the Detroit region, including several that are new featured in our #TrailTuesday series. Better yet, we logged our "hikes" while competing in trail events like last year's G.O.A.T. Series. We could not more proudly endorse signing up for this incredible virtual challenge!
Which of these outdoor adventure challenges are you planning on completing this year? Are we missing any other challenges that are already on your agenda? Let us know in the comments or contact us here for additional information!