While some people would be best served by seeking an even keel in their lives, others, whether they realize it or not, would benefit from a little run-in with extremes. And no pursuit forces you into the realm of black and white quite like river kayaking. From one moment to the next, you can go […]

While some people would be best served by seeking an even keel in their lives, others, whether they realize it or not, would benefit from a little run-in with extremes. And no pursuit forces you into the realm of black and white quite like river kayaking. From one moment to the next, you can go from right side up to inverted, dry to submerged, breathing air to sucking river. Indeed, the yin-yang nature of running rivers can teach you a lot about the benefits of looking on the bright side (read: the side with air and without oncoming rocks).

Unbeknownst to most, Wisconsin has some of the best rivers in the region for kayaking. And with skimpy snowfall this winter, meaning less run-off and calmer waters, this season is shaping up to be prime for learning. Several rivers in the state can be run on kayaks, but it’s the Wolf River that stands apart for its combination of scenic splendor, accessibility and thrill. What’s more, one of the best instructional institutions around, Bear Paw Outdoor Adventure Resort, is located right on its banks near the picturesque town of White Lake in Langlade County (3.5 hours).

Bear Paw offers a variety of paddling courses to cater to everyone – from those wanting just a little taste of the action to those looking for three days of serious rapid shooting. The one-day “Experience Whitewater” course (ages 14 and up; $85, includes equipment, lunch and transportation) is a good way to test the waters, so to speak. Start in the morning on a lake practicing boat-handling skills before graduating to moving river water on the Wolf in the afternoon. For a more intensive introduction to the sport, opt for the “Whitewater Kayak 101” two-day course ($225 weekends; $200 weekdays), which features a four-to-one teacher-student ratio and a second full day of instructed on-river experience.

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After learning the basics from an intro course, consider honing your skills further through one of Bear Paw’s one-day specialty courses, which cover such concepts as rolling (an invaluable skill), river running and surfing. Once you feel confident on the river, join Bear Paw for a Friday guided run of the Wolf ($40) or the three-day “Northern Trifecta” ($299), which will take you down choice stretches of the Wolf, Peshtigo and Red rivers. Private instruction is also available for all levels.

Bear Paw offers a range of lodging options, including camping ($17.50), rustic and modern cabins ($22-$125) and rooms and suites in its main lodge ($55-$105). For more information, visit www.bearpawoutdoors.com or call 715-882-3502.


Art in Motion

Set to further enrich the capital city’s already impressive mix of cultural attributes is the newly built Madison Museum of Contemporary Art. The airy new Cesar Pelli-designed 51,500-square-foot museum, located in Overture Center for the Arts, will open on April 23 with a 13-day festival.

The festival kicks off when doors open at noon on the 23th. A “Kids’ Art Adventure,” live music, storytelling and a panel discussion are planned throughout the afternoon and evening. Over the next 12 days, events ranging from Tai Chi in the sculpture garden (April 26 and May 3) to live music performances (April 29 and May 5) and film screenings are slated. Several lectures, docent tours and discussions on history and art are also planned throughout the festival.

As the museum’s opening coincides with the sesquicentennial of Madison’s municipal chapter, an exhibition, “Between the Lakes: Artists Respond to Madison,” is scheduled to kick things off and run through July 16. The show invites seven artists to explore Madison’s history and culture through their medium (painting, film, photography and sculpture). The exhibition will run amid a 5,000-piece permanent collection that includes works by such celebrated artists as Alexander Calder, John Stuart Curry, Frida Kahlo and John Wilde, to name a few.

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If your to visit to MMoCA(mmm… mocha! Get it?) leaves you with a chocolate jones as well as a head for art, zip over to CoCoLiQuot (225 King St., 608-255-2626), a contemporary French bistro that technically has nothing to do with the museum but provides a modern art experience all its own. The restaurant features an extensive à la carte menu of chocolate desserts sculpted in a climate-controlled glass kitchen. They’ll change your concept of art forever. For more information on MMoCA’s opening, visit www.mmoca.org or call 608-257-0158.

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