Seize the holiday

Seize the holiday

WORDS: john grace, nora o’donnell, andreas tzortzis and david wong
Photo: Richard Hallman

Some people relax on break. Others seek adventure. Why not do both? Five endurance tests that’ll get your blood pumping.

1. road bike


Are you ready to earn some liquid refreshment? Start off easy with a 70-mile bike ride in one day.

Anyone who lives on Michigan’s Leelanau Peninsula knows it’s a recreational paradise. But new visitors are often shocked by its beauty. Unlike in Chicago, where Lake Michigan is murky and polluted, the peninsula’s surrounding waters are a shimmering turquoise. Plus, the views from the shore rival the French Riviera and the dense forests are straight out of a Paul Bunyan tall tale. 

michigan’s leelanau peninsula

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Suttons Bay is just one of the many picturesque towns on the Leelanau Peninsula surrounded by Lake Michigan. To get there, book a flight to Traverse City, America’s cherry capital.

© Stephen Saks / Getty Images

To top it all off, Leelanau is also an award-winning wine region, and if you pace yourself, you can visit a few wineries and circumnavigate the peninsula by road bike in a single day. It might not sound like much of a physical challenge at first, but there are about 70 miles to cover and more than two dozen wineries to choose from in the area.

According to M22, a local outfitter named after Leelanau’s main highway, the best route to take starts in the village of Empire and heads up the Sleeping Bear Heritage Trail toward Glen Arbor. After about seven miles, you’ll reach the Dune Climb, where you can give your quads a break and work your calves with a quick run in the sand. 

Once you reach Glen Arbor, pick up the M22 highway and take the road up and down the peninsula for 40 miles to Suttons Bay. From there, avoid the heavy traffic and get on the Leelanau Trail, a 17-mile bike path that will take you to your final destination, Traverse City. If you’ve refrained from wine by this point, pour yourself a glass. Or if you’re not much of a wine drinker, Traverse City has great breweries, too. We told you it was paradise, didn’t we? —N.O.

Insider Tips:

1. No time for wineries on your ride? Try a local glass at Trattoria Stella, a nationally acclaimed Italian restaurant located in a former asylum in Traverse City.

2. Is a cold brew after your trek more your speed? Grab a flight of culinary-inspired beers and a waffle burger at  Right Brain Brewery on 16th Street.

Welcome to the land of painfully charming B&Bs. The Antiquities’ Wellington Inn is a meticulously restored century-old mansion in Traverse City. From $175;

2. If your legs give out before Traverse City, book a room at Black Star Farms, a deluxe inn, restaurant and wine-tasting room in Suttons Bay. From $240;

road bike

Ride into the sunset—and toward a beer—after traversing an entire peninsula.

© Ian Hylands

2. swim


Currents? Check. Cold water? Check. Sharks? Maybe. How to escape from Alcatraz.

The musty charm of the South End Rowing Club at San Francisco’s Aquatic Park is more Jack London than Sergey Brin. It’s there that you can meet up with a guy like Pedro Ordenes, a Chilean-American who has made the 1.25-mile crossing from the world’s most famous prison hundreds of times.

from alcatraz to san francisco

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Swimming the 1.25 miles must be done with a qualified group, like Ordenes’ Water World Swim. Arrive a few days early to get acclimated to the water temps.

© Corbis

His club, Water World Swim, organizes group swims for locals and out-of-towners who want to do the same.

Before plunging in, you should be able to swim an uninterrupted mile in a pool. A wetsuit is a must the first time around, as are earplugs and an insulated swim cap. Regulars swear that once you go Speedo, you never go back. And the best time of year to try that is the summer, when Bay water temperatures reach a boiling 58 degrees (and the sharks are mostly bottom feeders).

A glance at the tide tables will help you avoid being swept either down to San Jose or out of the Golden Gate. Most attempts happen before 8 a.m., when boat traffic starts. 

The first dip is the toughest, and Ordenes says that a few swims in Aquatic Park should preface any Alcatraz attempt to get your body to record and store away the feeling of cold.

Once your breathing returns to normal, the swim is slow and steady and should include at least one break: in the middle of the Bay, gazing at the cityscape as the sun bathes San Francisco in the early morning light. —A.T.

Insider Tips:

1. From spring through fall, The Presidio welcomes food trucks of every stripe on Sundays. Rye on the Road serves up cocktails to go with your wood-fired-oven pizza.

2. Liho Liho Yacht Club is taking California cuisine in a decidedly western direction—like, almost to Hawaii. Book now because it fills up fast.

1. Gaze upon the Bay you just conquered in a national treasure. The Inn at the Presidio recalls the days when the U.S. Army owned SF’s top real estate. From $285;

2. Japanese soaking tubs in every room at the Hotel Kabuki will help you recover from the chill. The oft-overlooked Japantown offers some of the best spas. From $259;


Bone-chilling waters can be overcome with the right mindset. The views at the midway point are worth it.

© Getty Images

3. kayak


Hawaii’s breathtaking “Garden Isle” offers many leisurely activities. This isn’t one of them. 

Don’t let the abundance of guided tours fool you: Kayaking the Na Pali Coast isn’t for everyone. The 17-mile stretch on the northwest side of Kauai is deemed “the Everest of sea kayaking” for good reason.


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To get to the Na Pali Coast, you can book a direct flight from Los Angeles to Lihue, the county seat of Kauai. When to go: Due to weather, coastal kayaking is only recommended May to September.


Depending on the conditions, this can be a punishing paddle rife with capsizing, seasickness and sunburns. But if the weather is good, you’re relatively fit and you remember to pop a Bonine pill, you will experience some of the world’s most breathtaking scenery. 

There are several outfitters—such as Napali Kayak and Kayak Kauai—that offer guided day trips for around $250.Be smart and book one. Your journey begins at dawn in the bohemian town of Hanalei, where you’ll meet your guide before heading to the launch site at Haena Beach Park. After a mile of paddling, you’ll pass the bailout point. Unless you plan on staying overnight on the beach and hailing a rescue boat, there’s no turning back. 

Before long, the “pali” (“cliffs” in Hawaiian) come into view—an expanse of jagged, jungle-green fingers that plunge into the Pacific Ocean. It becomes abundantly clear why so many films, from Raiders of the Lost Ark to Jurassic World, feature scenes shot on Kauai. When you want an exotic adventure flick, this is the island you cast as the star. 

By late afternoon, the end is nigh. From there, it’s a lengthy, counterclockwise drive around the island back to Hanalei, where a beautiful sunset and a martini—shaken, not stirred—await. —N.O.

Insider Tips:

1. Head to Bar Acuda for the island’s best wine list, craft cocktails and locally sourced food. Think small-plate fare without the pretension. 

2. For a casual seafood and sushi spot on the Hanalei River, try the Dolphin. The service is friendly, the poke is fresh and the drinks are strong. 

1. Want extreme luxury for more than $500 a night? The St. Regis in nearby Princeville is hands-down the most upscale resort on the island with stunning  views.

2. If St. Regis’s rates feel too steep, book a comfy room at the neighboring Hanalei Bay Resort. The two hotels share the same beach. From $200;


True tranquility in Kauai. Not pictured: Huge ocean swells and capsized kayaks.


4. trail run


An endurance run that covers 30 miles and climbs 11,000 feet? Three words: Yes, you can.

The Art Loeb Trail in North Carolina’s Great Balsam Mountains is many things to different people. Just a half hour from Asheville, the 30-mile path is divided into four sections of varying length and difficulty.

north carolina’s balsam mountains

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About 30 minutes from the Art Loeb Trail, Asheville, North Carolina is a hip and historic enclave and home to the Biltmore Estate, the country’s largest privately owned house, built for George Vanderbilt II in 1895.

© Corbis

Nature seekers usually hike a portion of the trail, while hardcore runners who seek a serious challenge conquer the 11,000-foot climb in a single day. We’re guessing you’re the latter.

To prepare, you must be able to run at least 40 miles a week on mountainous terrain. For supplies, a good map, water purifier and plenty of food are essential.

Once you’re ready, the journey begins at the Davidson River Campground and proceeds with a jungly 12-mile stretch through the Pisgah National Forest. After rounding Cedar Rock Mountain, you reach the second leg at Gloucester Gap. From here it’s a brutal, seven-mile climb up Pilot Mountain, but each soul-crushing step leads you to your first amazing view. Then it’s an endless series of switchbacks to the crest of Pisgah Ridge.

By the time you hit section three, your legs will be pretty much shot, but the best 360-degree views are still to come: The next seven miles take you over the iconic summits of Black Balsam Knob and Tennent Mountain.

The final four miles descend the edge of Cold Mountain—the inspiration for the book and film of the same name—toward Camp Daniel Boone. This is your breather, a time to reflect on the past 30 miles. At the trail’s end are the rushing headwaters of the Pigeon River. Go for a dip. If you’ve made it this far, you deserve it. —J.G.

Insider Info:

1. Head to South Slope, Asheville’s industrial brewery district, for a pint, or two or three. Wicked Weed, Catawba, Burial and Green Man are just a few of the breweries in the area. 

2. Need some Carolina pork to soak up all that brew? Try  Buxton Hall BBQ for some smoked meats, hushpuppies and a fancy liquor drink—if you’re still able to stand.

1. For the ultimate in Asheville lodging, stay at the historic Grove Park Inn. The 100-year-old resort has unmatched views of the Great Balsam Mountains. From $239;

2. The  Aloft Hotel in downtown offers a classic “Ashvegas” experience, with great people watching and a busy hotel bar and outdoor patio. From $239;

trail run

Peak performance in North Carolina: Why run up a hill when you can run up a mountain?

© Corbis

5. surf 


Warm-water surf is so cliché. Find pleasure in pain on the Oregon coast. 

Surfing in Oregon is a secret joy, but it is also an absurd, body-numbing endeavor. Here you will whimper in your wetsuit, but you will also find transcendence. This isn’t an easy sporting exercise; it is something else entirely.

cold waters in northern oregon

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About 90 miles from Portland, Short Sand Beach is part of Oswald West State Park. While in the area, stay at Cannon Beach, a charming weekend getaway just 10 miles north of Short Sand that’s popular with Portlanders.

© Gerry Reynolds / Danita Delimont /

Less than two hours northwest of Portland is Short Sand Beach, an idyllic spot to challenge your fear of the cold. From the parking lot off U.S. Highway 101, crews of Portlanders lead your way down a damp, squishy trail through a grove of Douglas firs.

The atmosphere feels dark and prehistoric, and your arrival at Short Sand Beach offers a happy reprieve. This quarter-mile-long cove tempers wind, protects beachgoers and serves up left- and right-handed waves along its outer edge­—all with several peaks in between. 

That said, surf in Oregon is not guaranteed, and this won’t be the spot to bring your foam board and try out surfing for the first time. The coast is beyond indifferent, and swell size can go from small to pushing 10 to 15 feet depending on the time of year. 

But this is all part of the challenge. Overcoming the malfunctioning weather is half the battle, and when you get your chance, the chilling waters dare you to enter. Take the dare. The shock of the water will transform you into a primordial and triumphant beast. In return, the coast screams a simple truth: that life is about living, even when it’s pouring down rain. —D.W.

Insider Info:

1. After a day of cold surfing, head to Public Coast Brewing Co., a new gastropub with an excellent selection of seasonal beers in nearby Cannon Beach.

2. Local staple Warren House Pub is the spot to breathe in the salty air, soak in the sun (if you’re lucky) and share a pitcher on the outdoor deck of this converted century-old home.

1. Cannon Beach’s Tolovana Inn is a classic, weather-beaten establishment that attracts a youthful crowd with beach walks and bonfires. From $99; 

2. The views of the 235-foot Haystack Rock and the Pacific Ocean from the Stephanie Inn are unmatched. Stay here for full-service luxury. From $319;

cold waters in northern oregon

In Oregon, it’s a good day of surfing when you start to lose feeling in all your extremities.

© Luke Shadbolt

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05 2016 The Red Bulletin

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