Seven Free Adventures – Wherever You Are

High Pointing
No, you don’t need a snowmobile. High Pointing is bagging the highest point in any given region and you don’t have to be in a mountain range. This sport is normally played outdoors, hitting the peaks of a town’s highest bluff, county’s tallest ridgeline or state’s highest mountain, but feel free to improvise. For a list of traditional high point destinations, check out the U.S. Highpointing Guide.

But for weekend adventure, I find rules a bit of a hinderance. Need to find the highest point in Illinois? I’d aim for Chicago and plan a long stair climb to an  interesting The tallest building in the city is the 108–story Willis Tower (formerly the Sears Tower), which rises 1,451 feet (442 m), taller than 1,235-foot Charles Mound on the Wisconsin-Illinois boarder.

Trail running
If you like to run, chances are you’ll love to trail run. Slow down a little but keep a steady foot rhythm through rolling hills, up and down ravines, through forests or across meadows. Very few activities can match trail running for zen-like peace of mind. Just be careful, it can be addicting.

This art of finding your way through an unknown landscape is simple, fun and as competitive as you want. It can be as casual as a weekend walk through the woods to find an interesting lookout on a map to as serious as national championship competitions. Start easy and try not to get lost. You will need a compass and map to get started and not much else. You can start out simply finding your way through the countryside, finding predetermined points on a map. Advance to local competitions. Check out Orienteering USA for more information.

Historic sites
Ever seen those “Historical Marker”  or “Point of Interest” signs along the side of the road? Ever stopped at the one near your home? If you’re looking for a quick, educational adventure, these can be a great way to break up a trip. For more in depth historical sites, check out the National Register of Historic Places for a location near you. Historical sites can be simple roadside signage or immense outdoor museums. They are located all over the States and are often free.

State Capitol
If you live anywhere near your state capitol, give the building a visit. Most capitol buildings have fascinating architecture and history and can easily provide an afternoon of adventure. And who knows who you may bump into in those hallowed halls.

Follow a river
So most outdoor enthusiasts know that a good way to get out of the woods when lost is to follow a river, but have they ever tried it outside of an emergency situation? River bottoms can provide some interesting and, occasionally weird, entertainment. One recommendation – check out the river’s path on a map and find an area that doesn’t cross private property or nasty swamps and leads, eventually, to a road.

Star gazing is a fun, easy and free way to spend a night out OF the town. The key is to get away from light pollution. Pick a clear night and head out to the countryside. Simply grab one of the dozens of smart phone astronomy apps available online for free or a small fee for interesting star alignments and enjoy the incredibly interactive star charts your phone or tablet can offer.