2 Hours, 46 Minutes, 20 Seconds to Freedom

May 2, 2004
Outside Magazine
Outside Magazine, 1999 Annual Travel Guide

2 Hours, 46 Minutes, 20 Seconds to Freedom

Ten easy getaways from ten big cities — because sometimes a weekend is all you need

... From San Francisco
Weekend vacations for my husband and me used to be last-minute, grab-some-clothes-and-lock-the-door events. Now that we have two small children, however, even an overnight has all the spontaneity of a nuclear arms summit. Which is why we like our destinations to be as low-key, yet cushy, as possible.

Our new favorite: Manka's Inverness Lodge (415-669-1034), a rustic 1917 hunting and fishing lodge located in the redwoods above Tomales Bay. With an excellent restaurant serving game dishes like venison and boar, and four-poster log beds heaped with down comforters and feather pillows, we often find it difficult to get up and outside — sinful because of what's right outside the door.

There's great hiking and mountain biking through pastureland and along beaches and chaparral ridges on the hundred or so miles of trails in the surrounding Point Reyes National Seashore. Kayakers can head just down the hill to Tomales Bay (try Blue Waters Kayaking in Inverness for rentals and classes).

Manka's Inverness Lodge, about a 1.5-hour drive northwest of San Francisco, has 14 guest units, some with kitchens and fireplaces, ranging from lodge rooms to one-bedroom cabins to a two-bedroom waterfront cottage ($135-$365 per night).

Take U.S. 101 north to Sir Francis Drake Boulevard to California 1 north to Inverness.
— Ginny Graves

... From Seattle
When Lewis and Clark made their way down the Columbia River Gorge nearly two centuries ago, they stumbled upon ancient forests, graceful waterfalls, and nasty weather, thanks to an omnipresent gale-force wind racing in from the Pacific.

Modern-day explorers will note two significant changes: The river, now dammed, is a lot tamer. And so are the beds, thanks to Skamania Lodge (800-221-7117), which has the woodsy, fireplace-smoked feel of a newish National Park lodge, and is hidden away on the Washington side of the Gorge. The resort has 195 guest rooms ($110-$225 per night) decked out in Pendleton wools and decorated with Northwest art.

Just up Washington 14, Beacon Rock State Park offers nearly 30 miles of woodsy trails and fire roads for hiking and mountain biking (rent bikes at the lodge). The Pacific Crest Trail passes nearby, and there is a string of waterfall hikes across the river. You'll also find 40 miles of cross-country ski trails in the nearby Gifford Pinchot National Forest. In between, of course, is the Columbia itself — still navigable by determined canoeists willing to portage around a concrete dam every hour and a half.

Skamania is about three hours south of Seattle. Take I-5 south to Vancouver, then Washington 14 east.
— Ron C. Judd

... From Chicago
In summer, members of the Chicago country-club crowd pack their $1,600 titanium drivers and point their Lexuses north toward The American Club in Kohler, Wisconsin. You'd never know that the Tudor-style building was constructed by the Kohler Company in 1918 as housing for immigrant workers. You'd also never guess that come winter, the L.L. Bean set shows up en masse with their Fischers to take advantage of low-season rates and the 30 miles of groomed cross-country ski trails running through River Wildlife, the resort's 500-acre private reserve.

You can go ice-skating on the resort's own Wood Lake, and there's an 85,000-square-foot health and racquet club with a spa, full gym, two indoor pools, and six indoor tennis courts. The Wisconsin Experience, offered November 1-April 29, costs $299-$489 for two people for two nights, including one dinner (call 800-344-2838).

The American Club is about two and a half hours from Chicago. Take I-94 north to Exit 126 to Kohler.
— Everett Potter

... From San Antonio
Even native Texans, upon viewing the western edge of the Texas Hill Country, scratch their heads and wonder: Are we still in Texas?

It's a legitimate question. In the fall, hike through Lost Maples State Natural Area, 16 miles north of the town of Utopia, and behold autumn colors as brilliant as in New England. Drive County Road 337 between the towns of Vanderpool and Camp Wood and marvel at some of the most dramatic canyons, cliffs, and rock formations outside Arizona. Navigate the loop formed by County Roads 335, 336, and 337 and Texas 41 and view private game ranches with the largest assortment of giraffes, zebras, ostrich, and wildebeest this side of East Africa.

In the evening, after you've filled up on chocolate pecan pie at Lost Maples Cafe in Utopia, drive seven miles north and settle in at the Texas Stagecoach Inn (doubles, $85-$115; 888-965-6272), an 1880s mansion on the banks of the Sabinal River. The inn's four guest rooms, all decorated with hand-tooled leather furniture, can mean only one thing: You're definitely in Texas.

Utopia is 1.5 hours northwest of San Antonio. Take U.S. 90 west to County Road 187 north.
— Paul Kvinta

... From San Diego
Local fishermen tell a lyrical tale about La Bufadora (Spanish for "snort"), a 70-foot-high blowhole on Baja's Pacific coast: A mother gray whale and her calf were migrating north when the calf squeezed into a sea cave and was trapped. The groaning sound the blowhole makes is the cry of the stranded calf, and the tremendous spray is its spout.

Whether you believe this myth or not, the tiny town of La Bufadora, about three hours south of San Diego, is a great place to set up camp. You can don mask and fins and zoom through forestlike kelp beds lined with sea urchins and rock formations covered with strawberry anemones and nudibranchs. La Bufadora Dive Shop can set you up with fills and advice. Kayakers head out to the two Todos Santos Islands. Southwest Sea Kayaks (619-222-3616) in San Diego will take you there and also rents kayaks.

If you don't mind rowdy neighbors, camp five miles from La Bufadora at the developed La Jolla Beach Camp on the other side of the peninsula ($8 per night for two people). Or set up camp on one of the isolated pocket beaches to the south.

From San Diego, take California 1 south to Maneadero, turn at the sign pointing toward La Bufadora, and continue on that road for 13 miles.
— Andrew Rice

... From Boston
You have to love a place that is so out there that first-time visitors almost always think they're lost for the last 20 minutes of the journey. But rest assured, you'll reach Blueberry Hill Inn, in Goshen, Vermont, just off rutted, densely wooded Forest Road 32 — and it's worth the trip.

The blue 1813 farmhouse inn sits five miles up from the main road, high in a clearing surrounded by National Forest land. With 60 kilometers of groomed cross-country ski trails, Blueberry Hill is one of the Green Mountains' best touring centers and usually has great snow cover late into the season.

Inside, there are 11 pleasant but not overly cutesy guest rooms and there's also a two-bedroom cabin. Skiing is free to guests; visitors pay a $15 trail fee. Night skiing with miners' lights is offered twice a week. The center has retail and rental shops and offers private and group instruction. Rates are $95-$120 per person per night, including breakfast and dinner; call 800-448-0707.

Blueberry Hill is about three hours from Boston. Take I-93 north to I-89 north to Exit 3; then follow Vermont 107 west to Vermont 100, north to Vermont 73, west to Goshen.
— Meg Lukens Noonan

... From Atlanta
Of the many distinctive elements that define hiking in northeastern Georgia's Blue Ridge Mountains — the red clay, the tangled rhododendrons, the whispering streams — one thing stands out above all the rest: the fried chicken. Specifically, that served at Green Shutters Restaurant (open April-November) in the town of Clayton. In a valley about 15 minutes from a dozen trailheads, Green Shutters offers an absurdly bucolic dining experience: Goats amble across the adjacent meadow, horses graze, and butterflies flit over dinner-plate-size dahlias.

This is your reward for a full day's hike, whether you've been stalking wild turkeys on the 7.2-mile James E. Edmonds Backcountry Trail at nearby Black Rock Mountain State Park, or photographing purple irises along 5.5-mile Panther Creek Trail, about 15 miles south of Clayton. Or maybe you've just descended from the summit of 4,696-foot Rabun Bald (reached via a trail that rises nearly 2,000 feet in just over two miles), where you can see the purple-blue mountains of three states.

At day's end, warm up by the fire in one of 24 mountainside cabins owned by The Dillard House (cabins, $89-$189 per night; 706-746-5348). Ten miles north of Clayton, the resort has hiking trails, horseback riding, tennis courts, and a restaurant serving fried chicken, black-eyed peas, and cobbler. Be sure to gorge on a plateful of artery-clogging southern fry. Here, hiking and heartburn go hand in hand.

Clayton is two hours northeast of Atlanta. Take I-85 north to I-985, and then continue north on U.S. 23/441.
— Paul Kvinta

... From Tucson
Just where the road begins to wind down to the head of Aravaipa Canyon, you'll find an old tin-roofed ranch house sheltered among the trees. In this unexpected oasis, the Nature Conservancy's Aravaipa Canyon Preserve Guest House has two three-person bedrooms, a breezy sleeping porch, and a communal kitchen, all with comfy early-yard-sale furnishings.

Stash your stuff and you're ready to hike along Aravaipa Creek as it carves a 15-mile path through the northern end of the Galiuro Mountains. Cottonwoods, willows, and sycamores, sheltered by 500-foot cliffs, grow huge and hoary on the canyon floor. You can hike the whole canyon and several skinny side canyons, though the vegetation is often so thick that the only trail is the creek itself.

To reserve a spot at the Guest House, call the Nature Conservancy four to six months in advance ($75 per night for two; $15 each additional person; 520-828-3443). The Bureau of Land Management allows only 50 hikers in the canyon per day, so you'll need a daily hiking permit ($1.50 per day; reserve no more than 13 weeks in advance; call 520-348-4400).

The Guest House, at the eastern end of the canyon, is 155 miles from Tucson. Take I-10 to Willcox, then Fort Grant Road north through the towns of Bonita and Klondyke to Aravaipa Canyon Road.
— Ann Jones

... From New York City
Think Berkshires and you might imagine black-tie picnics at Tanglewood and Laura-Ashley-inspired country inns. But there's another, wilder side to the Berkshires. Two-and-a-half hours from New York City, in the far southwestern corner of Massachusetts, Mount Everett and Mount Race are the destinations for a knowing group of hikers, bikers, and snowshoers.

Stay at Race Brook Lodge (888-725-6343), a designated chintz-free zone; this 200-year-old converted timber-peg barn in Sheffield has 21 guestrooms with beamed ceilings and stenciled walls. From there, cycle the hilly country roads through pine forests, dairy farms, and quiet towns that move to a 19th century pulse. Or hike from the inn's door to the start of a strenuous, two-hour climb past Race Brook Falls to the summits of Mount Race and Mount Everett. In winter, you can tromp up the same trail in snowshoes. Don't forget your canine companions; the lodge welcomes dogs. Weekday rates are $75-$95 per night, including breakfast; weekends are $105-$145.

From New York City, take the Taconic State Parkway north to U.S. 44 east; in Salisbury, turn onto Connecticut 41 north for seven miles to the lodge.
— E.P.

... From Washington, D.C.
Most of us discover Virginia's Eastern Shore, the slender neck of sand hanging off the southern tip of Maryland, completely by accident. A few miles after crossing the Chesapeake Bay Bridge, you suddenly escape the bikinis and boom boxes of Virginia Beach and enter a pristine world of farmlands, forests, and white-sand beaches. You can kayak through the tall grasses of the area's salt marshes, where bald eagles and osprey seem unbothered by your presence. The Virginia Eastern Shore Company (888-827-4673) runs two-and-a-half-day guided kayak tours for $300 per person, including meals and lodging.

You can camp at 375-acre Kiptopeke State Park, three miles from the northern end of the Bay Bridge, with its fishing pier, one-mile nature trail, boat launch, and 141 campsites ($18-$26 per night; camping not available December through February). Or stay at the Wilson-Lee House (doubles, $85-$120; 757-331-1954) up the road in Cape Charles, where each of the six guest rooms has been restored to a different historical period.

From Washington, D.C., take I-95 south to I-64 east to Norfolk and get on the Chesapeake Bay Bridge.
— Will Rizzo

Copyright 1998, Outside magazine

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