by Stephen Regenold, Gear Junkie

When the founder of GearJunkie takes his family on a meandering midcontinent summer road trip, the stakes for adventure are high... if he can survive the screaming kids in the backseat.


I bought a longboard in Wausau, Wis. It was noon on a Sunday, the first day of a family road trip. I'd wanted a particular ride -- big wheels, large deck -- so on a whim I nabbed a Landyachtz reminiscent of the board I'd learned to skate on as a kid.

Rolling down an empty street toward Wausau's whitewater kayak park, my kids chased me and then ran ahead. Our big family adventure had begun.

Over the coming 12 days we'd mountain bike, rock climb, swim, run, SUP, zipline, and splash around a waterpark. Our route traced east from Minneapolis (our home), to Michigan's Upper Peninsula, and then south into the "mitten" of the state.

Next was some urban adventure in Chicago, a much-pleaded stopover in Wisconsin Dells at the kid paradise Wilderness Resort, and (finally) a long drive northwest back homebound again.

Could my wife and I survive four kids and a minivan packed with gear? Here are some highlights and some strangeness we found along the way. 

DAYS 1-3 : MARQUETTE : Michigan's 'Adventure Town'

Do you want a core, up-and-coming adventure-ready town? The mid-size municipality of Marquette punches high above its class. Flat out, the place and the people we met there rock.

A former mining and industry town in the forested reaches of Michigan's Upper Peninsula, I visited Marquette years ago. That time it was to ice climb dramatic frozen curtains growing on Lake Superior's shore.

But summer here was surprising bliss. Superior is a clean, clear, swimmable plane of turquoise, stretching to eternity from Marquette's beaches and shores.

My kids jumped right in, and one morning I hit a SUP session with an old climbing acquaintance, Bill Thompson of Down Wind Sports. We later top-roped a 5.10 pillar arching over the lake.

Mountain biking in Marquette is no joke -- the Noquemanon Trail Network is a wonderland of singletrack, beginner to advanced, that twists from the city into the deep, forested hills.

I pedaled with a friend, Candy Fletcher, for an afternoon and got an introductory tour of the Noquemanon's XC network. It was complete with shady stretches under dense canopy, exposed stone, tacky dirt, and smart trail design.

Ladder-bridges, jumps, and hints of old mining infrastructure crumbling off-trail make Marquette's mountain biking scene one of a kind.

We departed Marquette, sad to leave. But the road called, and so we drove east toward Lake Huron and the Lower Peninsula beyond.

To read about where Regenold and his family went next on their adventure and other great content in LAKE Magazine, you can purchase or subscribe online HERE and support this independent publication. By becoming a member you would receive the latest issues PLUS great Lake + Co. Shop perks!