Great Lakes & AVA Convention 2021

New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin

June 21 – July 3, 2021 • 13 Days • $3550

The 22nd AVA Biennial Convention will be hosted in Madison, Wisconsin, in late June and early July of 2021. This itinerary features all 5 Great Lakes in the states of New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, and Wisconsin en route to the walks and activities of the Convention.

NOTE: This tour is now FULL.

Tour Type: Volkssport

Welcome to Great Lakes & AVA Convention 2021! We’re excited to explore this special region of the USA with you. So much awaits us. Did you know, for example, that the Great Lakes comprise 20% of the world’s fresh water?! Or that these 5 lakes provide drinking water for 10% of Americans? Or that Johnny Appleseed was a real person, and his legend represents him surprisingly well? Did you know that Ohio produced seven of our nation’s presidents? Much of America’s heritage can be traced back to this Great Lakes Region. It’s a delightful space of America, the Beautiful—we look forward to exploring it together!

 

Featuring:

  • Walks in New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, and Wisconsin
  • Capital city walks in Lansing, MI and Madison, WI
  • Walks and/or activities along 4 of the 5 Great Lakes (Lake Ontario is available as a Day 1 option)
  • Optional Niagara Falls Walk (Day 1)
  • Visit to the Henry Ford Museum, a National Historic Landmark, in Dearborn, MI
  • A cruise through Wisconsin Dells, a serpentine channel cut by the Wisconsin River into soft sandstone, creating a geological phenomenon composed of sandstone cliffs and rock formations
  • Walks and activities at the 22nd AVA Convention in Madison, WI

 

Including:

  • All land travel as outlined
  • Tourist-class or better hotel accommodations; top quality hotel in Madison equidistant to convention activities and the state capitol
  • Breakfasts where included by hotels
  • 7 walks prior to the AVA Convention in Wisconsin
  • 2 walks during optional Pre-Day excursion
  • AVA credit for walks prior to the AVA Convention
  • WAI guide service throughout
  • All tipping for coach drivers and any local guides
  • Pricing is based on double occupancy; single accommodations will be available for a supplement of $725

Activities/Visits:

  • Walks along 4 of the 5 Great Lakes: Erie, Huron, Superior, and Michigan, with Lake Ontario available on a Pre-Day option (see DAY 1 below)
  • Walks in five states: New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, and Wisconsin
  • Walks in two state capitals: Lansing, Michigan, and Madison, Wisconsin
  • The Henry Ford Museum ~ Michigan
  • Half-day driving tour of Heritage Route 23 along Michigan’s Lake Huron coast ~ Michigan
  • Mackinac Island ferry ~ Michigan
  • Door County driving tour ~ Wisconsin
  • Wisconsin Dells Cruise ~ Wisconsin
  • More fun stops than we can list!

 

Optional Activities:

  • Optional Niagara Falls & Lake Ontario Pre-Day, with optional Maid of the Mist cruise (Day 1)
  • Fish boil dinner in Sturgeon Bay (Day 7)
  • Kayaking or SUP on Sturgeon Bay ~ no additional cost (Day 7)
  • Pre-Convention events (walks and bikes) at Green Bay and Sparta, Wisconsin
  • Green Bay Packers Hall of Fame (Day 8)
  • AVA Convention walk, bike, & swim events and activities (beginning Day 8 ~ see REGISTERING FOR THE AVA CONVENTION under More Details below)
  • National Mustard Museum (Day 10)
  • Madison Capitol Walk starting from our hotel
  • Local YRE’s in Madison sponsored by Dairyland Walkers

Adventure Pace

Tour Pace: 1 2 3 4 5
Walk Challenge: 1 2 3 4 5

Important Info

Group Size

12-18 travelers

Hotels

Strategically located Tourist Class hotels or better

Transportation

Included. For groups of 12 to 18, we use motorcoaches with a seating capacity of 40+ seats. For groups of 7 to 12, van transport would be considered, seating no more than 7 travelers in a 15-pax van.

Meals

Most breakfasts (due to Covid-19 concerns, no group meals are included.  When possible, optional group meals may be offered.)

Airfare

Not included. Travelers will fly into Buffalo, NY and fly home from Madison, WI.

Traveler Age

Our travelers usually range from 50–75 years of age. All ages welcome!

Your Guide

Dan Friesen has been guiding tours for 30 years on all 7 continents. He has hiked the Great Wall of China, hobnobbed with penguins in Antarctica, felt the spray of Iguaçu Falls in Brazil, trekked through the shadows of the Pyramids of Giza, yodeled from the heights of the Swiss Alps, and walked the ruins of majestic Machu Picchu. But Dan is now looking forward to exploring a corner of our own US of A that is largely new to him. “I recently began reading The Pioneers: The Heroic Story of the Settlers Who Brought the American Ideal West by David McCullough, one of my favorite authors,” he shares. “McCullough has really whetted my appetite to explore these Great Lakes states which were part of the former Northwest Territory wrested away from England after the American Revolutionary War. He weaves a tale of amazing determination and high ideals, fascinating and uplifting. History is always my trail of bread crumbs between the modern and original realities! Finishing at the AVA Convention in Wisconsin will be the cherry on top!”

Itinerary

Click on each day to reveal more details.

Day 1 - June 21: Arrive Buffalo, New York (B, for those who purchase the Pre-Day package)

Optional: Niagara Falls Walk, NY – 5 km, rated 1B
Optional: Queenstown War of 1812 Walk, NY – 5 km, rated 2
A

LAKE ONTARIO

Travelers arrive into Buffalo, New York today for the beginning of a Great Lakes odyssey en route to the 22nd Biennial AVA Convention in Madison, Wisconsin. Our hotel near the airport offers a shuttle dependent your time of arrival.

Optional Niagara Falls & Lake Ontario Pre-day

Walkers looking to add the 5th Great Lake to their resume, as well as imbibe panoramas of the incomparable Niagara Falls, are invited to come in one day early for an all-day, pre-Adventure experience. The day begins with a drive north to Niagara Falls for the first of two 5 km walks, plus the option to ride a legendary Maid of the Mist boat into the thunderous spray of the Falls. After time for lunch, we continue north to the shores of Lake Ontario for a second 5 km walk in historic Queenstown, which also features War of 1812-era Fort Niagara. The optional Pre-Day excursion includes an extra night at our hotel in Buffalo (double occupancy), bus transportation, walk credit for two walks, WAI guide service, plus an optional Maid of the Mist cruise ($26) for those eager for a more up close and personal connection with Niagara! Price: $145 per person; single supplement: $60

Back at the hotel this evening, we meet for a post-dinner-hour Welcome Orientation to get acquainted and prepare for the next 12 days of Adventure!

Day 2 - June 22: Buffalo – Mentor, Ohio (B)

Buffalo-War of 1812, NY – 5 km, rated 1B
Presque Isle State Park Walk, PA, 5 km, rated 1A

LAKE ERIE

Lake Erie figured prominently in the War of 1812, the 2nd war between the upstart American colonies and the globe’s most feared fighting force. This morning’s walk is one of the day’s two Lake Erie walks featuring the War of 1812 Seaway Trail, the confluence of the Niagara River into Lake Erie—the western terminus of the legendary Erie Canal, and the inauguration site of Theodore Roosevelt on September 14, 1901, following the tragic death by assassination of President McKinley in Buffalo.

We follow the contours of Lake Erie out of New York and into Pennsylvania. Our Lake Erie day continues with a walk from the lakeside town of the same name—Erie. Presque Isle State Park is Pennsylvania’s most visited state park and Pennsylvania’s only “seashore”, boasting 13 beaches on the lakeside edge of a peninsula jutting out into Lake Erie.

We finish our day with a short drive southwest toward Cleveland. Dinner is available from several eateries in easy walking distance from our hotel, or consider heading into nearby Fairport Harbor for something with a little more local character.

Day 3 - June 23: Mentor – Monroe, Michigan (B)

Cleveland Cultural Walk, OH – 5 km, 2A (2 routes)
Toledo Wildwood Metropark, OH – 5 km, rated 2B

Ohio was the heart of the 18th century Northwest Territory, wrested away from England at the close of the Revolutionary War. The territory was later carved into the states through which we now travel. Most prominent of these was Ohio, which became our 17th state in 1803 and played a major role in the history and development of the new societal experiment called “United States of America”. Producing seven of our U.S. presidents is just one evidence of Ohio’s contribution. Only Virginia, with eight, contributed more. En route to Cleveland this morning, we pass the home (now a National Historic Site) of James A. Garfield.

The walking club in Cleveland offers two 5 km walks. One takes walkers through Cleveland’s various “cultural districts”, including Coventry with its unique shops and restaurants, and Little Italy. The second features Wade Chapel, on the National Register of Historical Places with its exquisite Tiffany design in Lakeside Cemetery, where walkers pass the gravesites of empire builder John D. Rockefeller and federal agent Elliot Ness, head of the small team of “Untouchables” who destroyed organized crime in Chicago and brought down gangster Al Capone.

The Metropark system in Toledo is considered one of the country’s best park systems. After time for lunch in the classic lakeside town of Port Clinton, our second walk of the day is through Toledo’s lovely Wildwood Metropark.

Day 4 - June 24: Monroe – East Lansing, Michigan (B)

Lansing Capital Walk, MI – 6 km, rated 2A

The main event today is a phenomenal museum in Dearborn, Michigan, memorializing the incredible innovative spirit of Henry Ford, the man who revolutionized the assembly line concept and made it possible for the average American to own an automobile. Half a day is dedicated to exploring this remarkable site and your ticket includes entrance to two of the three major venues: Henry Ford Museum of Innovation, Greenfield Village, and Ford Rouge Factory Tour.

The walk of the day is the capital walk for the state of Michigan and includes historic neighborhoods, the Grand River Trail, and the campus of Lansing Community College.

Day 5 - June 25: East Lansing – Cheboygan, Michigan (B)

No walk today

We take a break from walks today as we traverse large portions of the state of Michigan, often within sight of Lake Huron, our third Great Lake. Most of the day is spent on Heritage Route 23, a historic coastal highway along Lake Huron renowned for a plethora of stately lighthouses, shipwreck tales, and mile-upon-mile of sweeping beach panoramas. We follow the highway its entire length, making multiple stops en route for photos, short walks, with a likely pause in Old Town Alpena for lunch on Thunder Bay. Our destination is Cheboygan, a classic example of small-town Michigan.

Day 6 - June 26: Cheboygan – Marquette, Michigan

Mackinac Island Walk, MI – 6/13 km, rated 1A

LAKE HURON

A 20-minute scenic ferry ride takes us from Mackinaw City out to charming Mackinac Island, with superb views of Mighty Mac, the legendary bridge that spans the Straits of Mackinac between Michigan’s Lower and Upper Peninsulas. The island was the country’s second national park after Yellowstone until 1895, when the Federal Government closed it. Since then, most of the island has been a Michigan State park. Over four hours are set aside to enjoy the trail set up by the local club, who prompts us to sample the fudge shops, which have apparently been a unique island confection for over 125 years!

Cars are banned on the island. If you don’t plan to walk the 13 km trail, a horse-drawn carriage is an alternative way to see the island. Bicycles are also for rent and miles of beautifully wooded, paved bike paths beckon. Several museums are available, and don’t forget to have lunch before we meet back at the ferry dock early this afternoon.

Rendezvousing with our bus on the mainland, we cross Mighty Mac to the Upper Peninsula. Our home for the night is Marquette, on the shores of Lake Superior!

Day 7 - June 27: Marquette – Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin

Marquette Lake Superior Shoreline Walk, MI – 6 km, rated 3A

LAKE SUPERIOR

This morning’s walk features Historic Downtown Marquette, more lighthouses, charming heritage neighborhoods, and the shoreline of Lake Superior—coldest and most pristine of the Great Lakes and largest freshwater lake (by surface area) on the planet! Turning south, we reach the western shores of Lake Michigan, our fifth Great Lake, and cross the state line into Wisconsin.

Our destination is scenic Door Peninsula, projecting east from the city of Green Bay into Lake Michigan. A driving tour here showcases the peninsula’s scenic villages, lovely lake shorelines, and perhaps a short stroll or two before checking into our lodgings on Sturgeon Bay, adjacent to Potawatomi State Park. Walkers with energy to burn may take advantage of the fact that the 1200-mile-long Ice Age National Scenic Trail runs from the state park directly past our resort. Water enthusiasts will be glad to hear that kayaks and stand-up paddleboards (SUPs) are furnished by the resort (supplies are limited).

The famous Wisconsin fish boil is a more sedentary, cultural activity, and the best way to have dinner this evening. This Door County cooking method, started by Scandinavian settlers more than a century ago, entails a huge black pot of fresh cod, potatoes and onions bubbling and hissing over an open fire. When the fish is done, a Master Boiler tosses a small amount of fuel oil or kerosene under the pot. A burst of flames causes the water and floating fish oils to boil over, and the steaming meal is ready to serve. The meal comes with boiled cod, potatoes, onions, carrots, rye bread, and Door County cherry pie with ice cream for dessert. All are welcome to attend the “boil over”; cost of the meal is $20.

Day 8 - June 28: Sturgeon Bay – Sparta, Wisconsin

AVA Pre-Convention Walk: Green Bay, WI – 6/11 km, rated 1A
Green Bay Bike event: 14/22/26/47 km, rated 1A

LAKE MICHIGAN

The first Convention events we attend take place today in Green Bay, Wisconsin, a short drive from Sturgeon Bay. The name Green Bay is most commonly associated with their legendary professional football team, unique in the National Football League in that it is owned by the fans. This pre-convention walk features the Packers Heritage Trail and passes seventeen trail plaques commemorating important locales in Packer history. Sites visited will include buildings associated with the early years of the franchise, “Curly” Lambeau’s birthplace and long-time office, the train depot used by the Packers when travel was exclusively by rail, and the ball fields used by the Packers in their early years.

A bike event is also available. Participation is complicated by the need to actually use a bicycle for the event! However, event coordinators are making bike rental shop information available in advance, so participants can weave the bike event into their walk, deviating, if necessary, to walk to the bike shop. We may also be able to use the bus to access a bike shop, depending upon logistics. (At time of publication, it appears that registration and fees for Pre-Convention events take place on the day of the events. Typically, event costs are $3 per event; $3 for the walk and $3 for the bike.)

We intend to allow about 5 hours for the walk and bike events here. Meanwhile, football fans may be interested in a tour of the Green Bay Packers Hall of Fame & Museum, which is not on the walk route. Cost of the visit is about $15 ($25 if combined with a visit into the stadium). Those who register for the Great Lakes tour will receive a follow up email with more information.

From Green Bay, we cross Wisconsin to Sparta, not far from the Mississippi River, the border between Wisconsin and Minnesota.

Day 9 - June 29: Sparta – Madison, Wisconsin (B)

AVA Pre-Convention Walk: Sparta, WI – 6/10 km, rated 1A
Sparta Bike Event: 26/36/48 km, rated 1A

Our hotel in Sparta is close to the walk start point and we plan to offer two shuttles. Our appointment for a Wisconsin Dells cruise requires an 11:30 am departure, so we’ll offer an early start at 7:30 and a later start as well.

Today’s Pre-Convention event displays the charm of Wisconsin’s smaller communities. The walk route includes a section of the Elroy-Sparta State Trail, considered to be the first “rails to trails” trail in America. It extends for more than 32 miles and is also be offered as today’s bike event.  The walk passes through several city parks and the Water Street Commercial Historic District, featuring many buildings on the National Register of Historic Places, including the Sparta Free Library (a Carnegie library built in 1902). Sparta is known as the “Bicycling Capital of America”, sitting centrally among 101 miles of state bicycle trails. Across the street from the library is the former Sparta Masonic Temple housing a collection of over 200 bicycles spanning the history of the development of cycling.

The Dells of the Wisconsin River is a 5-mile-long gorge famous for its swirling rock formations and tributary canyons glacially carved through Cambrian sandstone. A two-hour Upper Dells cruise, with stops to experience the beauty up close, is a relaxing way to enjoy this unique geological phenomenon.

We arrive in Madison this evening in time for the evening Meet & Greet on the Monona Terrace Rooftop followed by dessert at the Concourse Hotel. Our hotel is located equidistant between these two walkable AVA Convention events.

Afternoon and Evening Convention activities
5:15-7:15 pm: Meet & Greet on the Monona Terrace Rooftop ~ $15
7:30-9:30 pm: Dessert and Ice Age Trail Presentation ~ $35

Day 10 - June 30: Activities from Madison

AVA Convention Pheasant Branch Conservancy Walk – 6/10 km, rated 2B
AVA Convention Madison Bike – 25 km, rated 1A
AVA Convention Madison Swim

Madison sits in an enviable position between five lakes and is one of only two cities in the USA situated on an isthmus (the other being Seattle). Today’s walk centers on Pheasant Branch Conservancy, a 550-acre oasis set aside to preserve wetlands that channel water into Madison’s Lake Mendota, and from there into the other four lakes. The route is mainly on wide trails and boardwalks along Pheasant Creek.

Following the walk, we’ll offer a couple different departures back to the hotel to accommodate both those who plan to attend State and Regional meetings at 12:30 pm and those wishing more time for the walk. Nearby the walk start is the National Mustard Museum; we plan to offer a free mustard excursion (a WAI first) which also provides opportunity for lunch in a local nearby brewery. We plan to be back to the hotel in time for the General Membership Meeting at 2:15 pm.

As a college town and state capital, Madison has developed a claim to have the highest “restaurants per capita” in the entire United States. A guided Beverage and Food Forage walk (sanctioned), is available this evening where walkers are encouraged to peel off at the eatery of their choice.  The free Concert on the Square, performed by the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra, also takes place this evening on the grounds of the State Capitol. Bring a blanket to sit on the lawn or support the AVA by purchasing a reserved spot with a Convention stadium blanket and wine basket.

NOTE: A bike and a swim event is available every day of the Convention. The swim can be done between 7:30 am and 5 pm at the Concourse Hotel pool (5-minute walk from our hotel). The bike also starts from the Concourse Hotel and follows bike/pedestrian paths—Southwest Commuter, Cannonball, Wingra Creek Paths, and the Capital City Trail. The route combines both urban and suburban environments and is relatively flat with some rolling hills offering great views of Lake Wingra, Monona Bay, and an iconic view of Madison’s cityscape across Lake Monona. Also of note is the happy coincidence that the Madison Capitol Walk starts and finishes from our hotel. This bonus walk can be done any of the days we are in Madison.

Afternoon and Evening Convention activities
12:30-4:00 pm: State and Regional Association Meetings
2:15-5:15 pm: General Membership Meeting
5:45 pm: Start of Beverage and Food Forage Guided Walk
6:00-10:00 pm: Concert on the Square ~ free with no reserved seating; $45 with reserved seating and a wine basket

Day 11 - July 1: Activities from Madison

AVA Convention Monona Bay Walk – 5/10 km, rated 1A
AVA Convention Madison Bike – 25 km, rated 1A
AVA Convention Madison Swim

Today’s main event is the Monona Bay Walk, starting from the Converse Hotel and completely circumnavigating Monona Bay. Lakeside and Madison city panoramas are practically non-stop.

A series of workshops are available this afternoon. Topics and schedules can be reviewed here. These workshops are free to those registered for the Convention and are held again tomorrow, July 2. A busy day is capped this evening with the Convention Gala event at Monona Terrace!

Afternoon and Evening Convention activities
12:30-3:30 pm: A series of 9 workshops are available, along with 1-hour tours of Monona Terrace offered at three different times. Check the offerings here.
6:45-9:00 pm: Convention Gala and Awards Ceremony at Monona Terrace ~ $65

Day 12 - July 2: Activities from Madison

AVA Convention Olbrich Gardens Walk – 5/10 km, rated 1A
AVA Convention Madison Bike – 25 km, rated 1A
AVA Convention Madison Swim

Olbrich Botanical Gardens are the highlight of today’s walk. The gardens feature 16 acres of stunning landscapes and Midwest-hardy plants and were voted one of the top ten most inspiring gardens in North America by Horticulture Magazine. We’ll transfer from the Concourse Hotel by vehicles, then walk back to the hotel through residential areas and city parks.

Workshops are available again this afternoon, as well as the second General Membership meeting. Those who wish to see more of Madison will know by now that the city is full of great walks. Two other YREs sponsored by the Dairyland Walkers club use the same start point located about 2 ½ miles from our hotel. One is a Civil War walk and features historical points of interest and neighborhoods of architectural significance. The second is called Picnic Point, a nature walk through Eagle Heights Woods and along the shores of Lake Mendota with views of the Capitol.

We’ll be looking for an opportunity for a no-host farewell dinner this evening before the President’s After Dinner Cocktail Hour. Several good possibilities lie walkable from our hotel. Stay tuned….

Afternoon and Evening Convention activities
12:30-2:15 pm: A series of 4 workshops are available, along with a 1-hour tour of Monona Terrace. These are repeats of yesterday’s workshop and you can read about them here.
2:15-5:15 pm: General Membership Meeting
7:00-9:00 pm: President’s After Dinner Cocktail Hour ~ $15

Day 13 - July 3: Depart for home

A post-Convention walk is available this morning from 7:30 am featuring the campus of the University of Wisconsin, founded in 1848. The walk also follows the shoreline of Lake Mendota for 2 km and offers more lovely garden walking. Those of you leaving later in the day are welcome to participate.

This morning, however, marks the official end of the Great Lakes & AVA Convention tour. We return home further enriched by our odyssey of discovery through this blessed, lake-filled region of America, the Beautiful! Thank you for sharing the Adventure with us!

More Details

Click on each heading for more details.

How do I lock in my place on this Adventure?

To register, a transferable $200 deposit is required to hold your spot. This amount is non-refundable; however, up until 60 days before departure, it can be transferred to a different tour.  A final payment is due 60 days before departure and you will receive a prompt email from us a week or two in advance.

An email with critical information on flight arrangements will be sent soon after registration, with important details about steps to take in the months before your trip. Please do not buy your airline tickets until you review the Flight Arrangements email.

Please follow this link to read our full General Tour Conditions.

Unique Aspects of this Tour

This is a Volkssport Tour (see WHAT’S A VOLKSSPORT TOUR? Below). There are two unique parts to the tour. The first week of the tour is devoted to exploring the Great Lakes states and walking along all five lakeshores. During this week, many of the walks are the shorter alternatives (5-6 km) offered by the clubs because this allows us to see more of the Great Lakes states.

The second part of the tour is focused on the AVA Convention in Wisconsin. From Green Bay on, we are on the schedule of the AVA Convention and participating in walks they have arranged and sponsored. Also available during this week are three bicycle events and a swim event in Madison. Further, the Convention features workshops on afternoons of two of the days in Madison, as well as evening social activities as listed in the itinerary.

Another unique element related to the Convention is the need to register for the Convention online. We are currently in discussions with AVA headquarters on the best way to accomplish this. Most recently, at the 2019 Convention in New York, walkers registered individually according to their activity and schedule preferences. (See REGISTERING FOR THE AVA CONVENTION below.)

What's a Volkssport Tour?

WAI offers walking adventures all over the planet. Most of the walks featured on these tours are developed by WAI tour planners in cooperation with local walking guides. These itineraries are the result of extensive on-site planning by WAI staff. A Volkssport Tour, on the other hand, streamlines this process and focuses more on walks and less on sightseeing. The objective is to feature more walking, and offer more volkssport stamps (a record of walks volkswalkers keep in a passport-like walking book), and to keep the price lower. Primary differences between Curated Classic and Volkssport Tours:

  • Walks offered are hosted by clubs, not planned by WAI staff. Usually, they are self-guided walks using club-provided maps and directions.
  • The itinerary focuses more on local club walks, and less on sightseeing and cultural activities.
  • Itineraries tend to be paced faster, offering walks in more locales.
  • Extensive work is done by in-office, but no on-site planning is done by WAI tour planners.
  • Volkssport Tours tend to be limited to the USA. International tours generally follow the Classic Curated model.
  • A larger number of walkers is accepted on the tour. During 2021, however, the maximum for all tours is 18 travelers.

Walk Difficulty

Walks on this tour on typically not difficult. All but one (Marquette) is rated 2B or lower (see WALK RATINGS below). In addition, prior to arriving at the AVA Convention, we’ve opted to include the shorter version of most walks due to scheduling advantages this allows.

Walk Ratings

We generally walk at a pace of 2 to 3 miles per hour. In most cases, we are not “strolling.” We are walking at a relaxed but steady pace. Your experience will be significantly affected by your level of physical fitness. Because these are group walks, the success of the walks is predicated upon walkers having this minimum level of fitness in order to ensure that we are walking at a somewhat similar pace. If not walking regularly at home, we strongly recommend that you make a priority of “training” beforehand in order to both enjoy the trip and avoid medical issues due to overexertion. If you have questions about your ability to participate, please talk with our office.

We have adopted a walk difficulty rating system which contains a numeric indicator for trail incline and an alpha indicator for trail terrain. The explanation for this system is presented below:

INCLINE

1. Very small hills or very little stair climbing. Cumulative elevation gain from Starting Point: up to 200 feet.
2. Some moderate hills and stair climbing. Cumulative elevation gain from Starting Point: 200-1000 feet.
3. Some significant hill or stair climbing. Cumulative elevation gain from Starting Point: 1000-2000 feet.
4. Lots of significant hills or stair climbing. Cumulative elevation gain from Starting Point: 2000-3500 feet.
5. Many steep hills. Cumulative elevation gain from Starting Point: more than 3500 feet.

TERRAIN

A. Almost entirely on pavement.
B. A significant part of the route is on well-groomed trails with very few obstacles.
C. A significant part of the route is on somewhat difficult terrain (rocky / rooted paths or soft sand).
D. A significant part of the route is on very difficult terrain.
E. The majority of the route is on very difficult terrain.

Registering for the AVA Convention

The AVA Convention hosts a series of walk, bicycle, and swim events in Wisconsin. Several afternoon workshops are also available, as well as evening events. We will skip the first Pre-Convention walk and join the fun in Green Bay. Because of the large number and variety of events, our hope is that walkers will be able to register individually and customize their choices and schedule. As of April 5, we are waiting for clarification from AVA on how this will work.

The WAI itinerary has been written with as much detail as possible; you can see when activities are and the costs associated with them. PLEASE WAIT TO REGISTER FOR THE CONVENTION UNTIL YOU HEAR FROM US. AVA wants to track how many people are signing up with tour groups in order to book the right number of buses for the rest of the participants.

Though the Convention offers full participation packages, we have our own transportation so you are better served to select the Walks Only package, which is $10 per walk for the four walks in Madison. Pre-Convention events are registered and paid for on the day of the event. Until we have gathered concrete information, here is an example of how we would register the WAI guide assuming we are allowed to register as individuals:

  • Walk Only Package: $10×3 = $30 (there is a 4th walk available on July 3 for those departing Madison late in the day)
  • June 29: Meet & Greet ~ $15
  • June 29: Dessert and Ice Age Trail Guest Speaker ~ $35
  • June 30: Beverage and Food Forage Guided Walk ~ walk credit only
  • July 1: Convention Gala and Awards Ceremony ~ $65
  • July 2: President’s After Dinner Cocktail Hour ~ $15

This totals $160. To this, I would add $3 per walk for the Pre-Convention walks in Green Bay and Sparta. If you plan to do the bike, add another $3 per bike event.

Again, please wait to register directly for the AVA Convention until you hear from us.

Tour Accommodations

Good quality, tourist-class or better accommodations are the standard for our Adventure. We are using national chains like Holiday Inn Express, Hampton Inn, and Best Western most nights. Accommodations are selected primarily as a practical base from which to pursue our itinerary. Most, but not all, of our accommodations on this adventure are either single-floor or have elevators. Travelers should be able to carry their luggage up a number of steps to get to a second-floor room if necessary.

How Is Airfare Arranged?

Travelers will fly into Buffalo, New York, and fly home from Madison, Wisconsin. Details about flight arrangements and contact information for a travel agent will be made available after this tour has been finalized.

An email with critical information on flight arrangements will be sent soon after registration, as well as important information about steps to take in the months prior your trip. Please do not buy your airline tickets until you review the Flight Arrangements email.

Travel Insurance

WAI believes strongly in the importance of travel insurance for financial and medical protection from any number of unforeseen circumstances that can arise before departure or during your Adventure. This is now especially true in the era of COVID-19, which is typically treated like any other illness for travel insurance purposes. Many travel insurance providers are available for you to consider. Laura Pfahler and Sharon Mitchell of World Travel Inc. are travel agents who provides air travel and insurance services to many WAI travelers.

Check out Insurance Tips from World Travel for a short introduction to travel insurance. (NOTE: WAI receives no commission or financial remuneration from World Travel Inc.).

As always, do some shopping to ensure you are getting the best value. Using the SquareMouth.com website can be a good way to compare pricing.

Other options for travel insurance include:

  • Allianz
  • Betins
  • Travel Guard
  • Travel Insured International

NOTE: We suggest purchasing from a reputable, well-established insurance company (avoid buying insurance from an unknown company found only online). Travelers interested in purchasing “cancel for any reason” insurance coverage should be careful to check pricing and terms BEFORE they register for a tour. Recent changes in the international travel landscape have caused changes in the policies of some insurance companies, and made the purchase of this particular type of policy even more time-sensitive.

Tour Cancellations

Walking Adventures International reserves the right to cancel this tour departure if there are fewer than 12 participants, in which case registered participants will receive a 100% refund of payments received. This refund policy contains one exclusion related to the COVID-19 outbreak. Some suppliers require non-refundable deposits as a condition of booking services. Unforeseen circumstances linked to the virus can force us to cancel a tour. Due to these supplier’s non-refundable policies, WAI intends to retrieve as much of these deposits as possible, but cannot guarantee a 100% refund. In cases where full refunds cannot be obtained for a cancelled tour, we will do our best to transfer unrefunded money as traveler credits to be applied to a future tour to that destination.

Please follow this link to read our full General Tour Conditions.

COVID-19 Policies and Procedures

The Our Approach to Fun but Prudent Travel document identifies and explains Covid-19 mitigation policies and procedures WAI is using as a starting point for our 2021 tours. Because the knowledge base about COVID-19 changes daily, we review these policies and procedures on an ongoing basis, and will, of course, notify travelers on tour of updates as we approach the departure date of your tour.

We are monitoring conditions in all five states through which we are traveling. Back up routing has been developed should travel through any state but Wisconsin be compromised or denied by COVID-19 restrictions.

Contact our office with any questions at 360.260.9393 or [email protected].

COVID-19 Travel Waiver

WAI evaluates reports and conditions on an ongoing basis. Please read our COVID-19 Policies and Procedures document, Our Approach to Fun but Prudent Travel, before signing the COVID-19 Travel Waiver. Participation in this tour requires your signature on the COVID-19 Travel Waiver.

Contact our office with any questions at 360.260.9393 or [email protected].

What Happens Next?

Upon registering for this Adventure, you will receive a welcome email and initial invoice notifying you of your tour balance and due date. You will be able to make that payment online or over the phone. Any other payments necessary for optional services or one-off decisions can also be made this way.

An email with critical information on flight arrangements will be sent soon after registration, as well as important details regarding steps to take in the months prior your trip. Please do not buy your airline tickets until you review the Flight Arrangements email.

About 10 weeks before departure, you will receive a final statement reminder about the final tour payment, which is due 60 days before departure. Around 2-3 two weeks before departure, you will receive a final email packet with details of the program, including hotel names and contact information, a list of fellow travelers, and a more detailed daily schedule.

Take a few minutes to peruse the enclosed itinerary. In the end, we think you will agree that walking is still and always the best way to experience our world. Join us for this new Walking Adventure program celebrating the 22nd AVA Biennial Convention in Madison, Wisconsin, and exploring the Great Lakes region!