From water to wine, Michael Gray’s Uncommon Adventures B&B kayak tours create a complete sensory experience. His recent Old Mission Solstice Tour, June 19-21, allowed two lucky couples to experience kayaking Lake Michigan’s coastline, sampling gourmet meals prepared with locally-produced ingredients, discovering the region’s finest wines, and retiring to the historic Old Mission Inn for a restorative rest.

Based in Beulah, Michigan, Michael founded Uncommon Adventures in 1984 as a way to share his passion and respect for the outdoors with those of us too immersed in the creature comforts afforded by the rat race. From guided coastal sea kayaking trips, to sea kayak instruction, to backcountry fly-fishing, his clients are reintroduced to the natural beauty of Michigan, Alaska, Canada, New Zealand, Central America, Iceland, and more.

Although the Water-to-Wine B&B Retreat is a new program for Uncommon Adventures, it is one that will, no doubt, have both repeat and new participants. “Our test-drive along the Old Mission Peninsula was blessed with settled weather for peaceful, contemplative kayaking, extraordinary natural phenomena, and wines that could stand nose-to-nose with many award-winning vintages,” noted Michael. “Any day that can include water, wine, and good company is a day well spent!”

Teri L. Williams of Ann Arbor reported “I was able to tempt another couple to join us with the enticing combination of water, professional kayak instruction, great food (prepared by Michael), and, for those non-campers among us, staying at a B&B on Old Mission Peninsula. Dangling the wine tour before them didn’t hurt our cause, and they took the bait!”

Not sure of your kayak-competency? This trip is ideal for beginners and advanced alike. Guests arrive Friday evening to get acquainted and settled into a suite in the 140-year-old Old Mission Inn. The following morning, basic skills are covered in a sheltered bay followed by a short day tour and naturally, a visit to a couple local vineyards. After a hearty Sunday morning breakfast, guests gear up to hone their new techniques on a 3-hour, open-water day trip. That’s thirsty work, so guests are invited to check out another winery before heading home. This trip included delicious discoveries from up-and-coming vineyards and award-winning established vintners like Two Lads and Blackstar Farms.

Uncommon Adventures strives to create quality experiences that exceed the expectations of their paddling guests so they continue to deserve the name “Uncommon.” Anyone who has paddled with Michael is delightfully aware of his reputation as a phenomenal backcountry cook. His lunch salad included grilled pears and pan-seared giant scallops served with a local bubbly. Lunch on the second day was an Argentine Tango Picada of olives, home-smoked meats, fresh veggies, wood-hearth baked bread, local spreads, and Michigan strawberries.

Teri summed up her feelings about the trip by saying, “Imagine water every hue of blue, purple, and green. Michael just happened to be an entomologist, so we were thrilled at every turn by seeing carp spawning, and being able to identify all the bugs and creatures around us. This was a great trip: Memorable paddling, memorable meals, and plain old good times. And yes, we’re really looking forward to our next trip with Uncommon Adventures!”

“With one ‘Water-to-Wine B&B Weekend’ tour under our belt and the growing respect of our regional wines,” Michael commented, “we’re excited to tailor more trips around both liquid pleasures!”

Future tours including either the Old Mission or Leelanau Peninsula Inns are scheduled to coincide with the Fall colors, September 25-27, or a “Last Chance” trip the weekend of October 9-11, 2009. For more information, please visit, e-mail, or call 866-882-5525.

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Photo(s) by Michael Gray