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I’m back from co-leading a 4 day retreat during Fall color peak. Wow did we luck out! 

This trip report covers a visit to Stone Lake Wisconsin with Thrive Women’s Outdoor Adventures, filled with biking, hiking, paddling, friendship, amazing food and a whole lotta rest! This is my 3rd women’s retreat with Thrive and my second time as a trip leader. I had the pleasure of leading a bikepacking trip in July with them this year and have attended two other Winter Retreats in the Hayward WI area that you can read about here and here.



LENGTH  various mileage and trails in the Stone Lake and Hayward WI area
DIFFICULTY easy to moderate
DATE VISITED October 6-9, 2022
MAIN FEATURES  In the Summer, the Hayward area is known for many recreational activities including fishing, mountain biking and resort tourism. In the Winter, it hosts the American Birkebeiner Ski race and draws winter enthusiasts with kilometers of wooded classic ski trails and fat tire bike routes.

Autumn is a great time to go for a hike, bike, long drive to see the fall colors or cozy up in a cabin. The Hayward/Stone Lake area is surrounded with old growth forests and my camera is filled with photos of fiery autumn leaves during the peak leaf-peeping season!

Additional Area Recreation Resources
Birkebeiner, Skinny Ski, New Moon Ski & Bike Shop Rentals, Haywardlakes.com, Camba Bike Trails, Washburn County Hiking, Stone Lake – Nordic Woods Trail

Thrive Women’s Outdoor Adventures

I’ve been a member of this amazing group of women for about 5 years and am always encouraged and inspired by them. I call them my “iron sharpens iron” friends. I’ve met endurance runners, thru hikers, mountaineers, cross country cyclists, and learned about many new activities to try and grow in. I appreciate that these adventurous women are always willing to encourage and connect with all levels of experience.

photo:Jill W

I’m so tickled to be a volunteer Thrive leader this year! When I heard that there was going to be a Fall Retreat, I jumped in right away. Thrive cabin trips are always just the right balance of fun and rest – and intentionally set in a cozy setting that can be used as a respite, recreational hub…or both!

If you are looking for a Women’s outdoor adventure group in Minnesota or Wisconsin that encompasses a broad range of activities, check them out. Looking for hiking buddies in your state? I’m also an ambassador for a great group called Women Who Hike where you can connect with their Facebook groups in your state or province.

Trip Notes:

Day 1: Settling in

  • Its a 2.5 hour drive from Minneapolis, MN to Stone Lake, WI. Fall has been a little late in MN this year, and we lucked out and arrived during the color peak, making for a stunning drive up. Driving alone, I felt relaxation setting in.
  • No camping on this trip, we stayed in a luxurious rental home with a view of Little Sissabagama Lake and 3 bathrooms! Fancy!
  • Packed for biking, hiking, yoga, paddling, and plenty of creativity, including my field art kit and some extra art supplies to share.
  • Temps were forecasted in the high 20’s to mid 50’s with rain, so I basically brought a weather-specific outfit for every sport, plenty of cozy clothes for lounging and a nice big blanket and mittens in case I decided to paint outside. This definitely wasn’t my ultralight packing list, and it was kind of fun to bring ALL THE THINGS
  • I had little to no cell phone reception in the house, and opted to ignore the wifi password and unplug for 4 days.
  • One by one, the women started to arrive – many had not met before, and we met them at the door, helping them with bags, doing introductions, doing our best to make them feel welcome.
  • Went for a little walk around the 14 acre property and enjoyed the colorful walk out to the road – settling into the quiet air and crunching leaves.
  • Evening started with a delicious meal of homemade food, comfy lounging around the cabin and getting to know one another.
  • After dinner I led a time of reflection through a creative activity. Each participant received a small watercolor paint kit, and we enjoyed reflecting on the beauty of imperfection through blind contour drawing and meditative painting. I love teaching this technique and it calms my mind and reignites my creativity just about every time I practice it.

Day 2: Gravel(ish) Ride and Cabin Time

  • Our chilly morning started with yoga by the big picture windows overlooking the lake and a healthy breakfast with plenty of good stuff to fuel the day!
  • Four of us headed to Hayward to hit the HS1 Gravel trail. At 10:30, it was 35 degrees with moody skies and a forecast of light rain.
  • Our ride started and ended at the New Moon Bike Shop in Hayward. A nice shop that has great gear and rents bikes, skis and has a repair shop. The HS1 Loop is listed as an easy a 25 mile loop on a mix of gravel and pavement. The route also includes some deeper sand, ruts and a few hills. Some riders may find this route challenging, especially if you are riding on skinny tires without tread…like our group. We made it about 7 miles, ran into some nice people in ATVs that told us that the trail was “about to get A LOT worse” and decided to re-route and bike the Mosquito Creek Road for a more enjoyable (and predictable ride).
  • Switching to a freshly paved road didn’t feel like a loss at all…we appreciated being able to glide along effortlessly, enjoying all of the beautiful Fall leaves, quiet rivers and were proud of ourselves for finding a nice alternative in a place we weren’t familiar with. We ended up doing 16+ miles total, got to experience a golden eagle swooping down close to us and even had a short blast of the first snow!
  • Made it back to the cabin for hot cuban sandwiches for lunch! It warmed our hearts and bellies, and we are so thankful for the wonderful gal that is cooking for us all this weekend.
  • Stayed in for the rest of the afternoon, cozied up, took a nap, read a book, and started a painting journal of my day.
  • My sister arrived just in time for dinner. We caught up by the fireplace and I snuck in a little more watercolor painting before heading off to bed.

Day 3: Yoga, Hike, Paddle, Bike, SWIM!

  • Another morning of single chilly temps, and yoga with the sunrise though the big picture windows. We are so grateful for our yoga-teacher friend that starts our morning off with a great practice that fits all skill levels.
  • Part of the group has been hitting the mountain bike trails each day on the Birkie and Hayward Hospital Loop with our other trip leader. This morning, I am leading a “leaf appreciation hike” at the Stone Lake Wetland. I selected this trail since it was a short distance from the cabin, and would allow for a full afternoon of paddling on the lake. The trail ended up being much shorter than I expected, but it was still a fun little walk out in the beautiful Fall leaves forest and we got to see the tiny town of Stone Lake and make a quick stop in to the Whistle Punk Coffee shop before heading back.
  • After a FABULOUS lunch of fancy grilled cheese and tomato soup (Brie+pear on Sourdough AND homemade tomato basil). We ran down to the Lake for about an hour of paddling. The lake is small, quiet and the reflections of the autumn leaves on the glassy water was one of my favorite sights from the weekend.
  • After lunch a few of us headed out on the lovely dirt road just outside the cabin for an hour long bike ride through the autumn leaves. I am not a mountain biker, and this ride was what I had wished the HS1 gravel route had been. I could have ridden that sweet, hilly, country road for hours.
  • It was still in the 50’s, but I was warm from riding, so I asked if anyone wanted to jump in the lake. No takers. So I grabbed a buddy and took a quick plunge right off the dock. WHEW! It was cold, but felt absolutely amazing! I ran up the hill to warm up by the fire, and after seeing that I didn’t die- a few more women wanted to jump in too! Next thing you know, we’re all down by the lake, screaming with glee, jumping off the dock into the freezing water, feeling alive and having the time of our lives! Im so glad we did that!
  • The evening ended with a hearty pot roast dinner, another fire in the fireplace and a time of gratitude and reflection.

Day 4: Sunrise paddle and making our way home

  • I woke up at sunrise and the first thing I thought of, was that freezing cold lake. I didn’t want to swim in it, but I scrambled out of bed, got dressed in my warm clothes, waterproof pants, and rainboots to hit the water for one last paddle – maybe the last one of the year!
  • I told someone where I was going, grabbed a mug of coffee on the way out the door and just about ran down to the lake with excitement. The colors of the sunrise, mixing with the flaming leaves and steam rising off the surface of the lake looked like a masterpiece! I paddled out to the tiny island and just sat there floating…just being. Then a little head popped out of the water…then a slap and a splash! BEAVERS! One by one, three little heads popped up out of the water, swam around me and splashed, eventually realizing that I was just a boring kayaker drinking her coffee and I did not want to come in their house. It was such a magical moment, and I felt like God was giving me a little gift right there.
  • I lingered a while longer, taking my time to return to shore, letting my heart absorb everything with gratitude.
  • Back at the cabin: yoga, followed by packing up and goodbyes. We sat together one more time before leaving reflecting on our experiences and sharing our appreciation for one another. A few tears were shed and many hugs given.

Final Thoughts

I’ve led many group treks and retreats for youth and adults over the last two decades through my church, Scouts, and other organizations. Sometimes, I come home from a trip feeling exhausted…or feeling like I need a vacation from my “vacation”, even if it was all worthwhile. But sometimes, even with all of the planning and the responsibility of being leader, I come home with a full heart and feel recharged. This trip was one of those “recharge the batteries trips” with a wonderful balance of rest and play. I feel grateful and blessed to know all of the incredible women that were a part of it.

Up next: I’m teaching two more Watercolor Classes through the Kula Academy this Fall, a couple of outdoor skills classes and and leading monthly group Hikes through Women Who Hike Minnesota. The best way to stay up to date on events and new art releases is to subscribe to my newsletter here.

As always, thank you for reading and for your support, it means so much. Drop me a note below, or join the Wandering Pine FB or IG to continue the conversation! I’d love to hear from you!

Happy trails!

~ WP


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