The O List


Jan 10, 2001
Outside Magazine

Drake's Estero, Point Reyes National Seashore

Baseball Stadium  Mountain Huts  City Escapes  Eco Lodge  To do nothing  Sport Camps  Urban Park  Outdoor Basketball Court  Bird's Eye View

Far from Home Plate
By Randy Wayne White
Nicaragua, like baseball, is a dependable scaffolding for irony, and there is no better example than Estadio Nacional Dennis Martinez in Managua--aka Mad Monk Stadium to a few pro-Contra types I met back in the eighties--my favorite place to watch America's game. It's a big, rickety bowl that seats 30,000, and the theater in the stands is often better than the nine-act drama below. Nicaraguans are passionate about the sport, sometimes fanatical, so there are usually plenty of armed police on hand to keep control.

Baseball came to Nicaragua in 1891, and teams were later named after the warring nations of the day: the Boers, Russia, Japan. The stadium was built in 1948 by violent dictator Anastasio Somoza García, the man about whom F.D.R. quipped, "He may be a son of a bitch. But at least he's our son of a bitch." Somoza García was assassinated in 1956 by Rigoberto López Pérez, a deranged but pious rebel poet (hence the Mad Monk reference). In Nicaragua, the last shot counts, and in 1979 the Sandinistas renamed the stadium in honor of López Pérez.

For 15 córdoba (about a buck) you can buy a grand- stand ticket, and the food is superb: beans, plantains, yucca, chicken. The quality of play is excellent, although few Nicaraguans have ever made it to the major leagues. Dennis Martinez, a national deity who did make the trip up north to pitch for the Baltimore Orioles and Montreal Expos, was so beloved he was offered the chance to run for the presidency when he retired in 1998. He declined, so instead they changed the name of the stadium one more time.
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Refuge des Lacs Merlet
Parc National de la Vanoise, France

The draw: world-class fly-fishing in summer and fall, beautiful backcountry skiing in winter and spring. This 14-bed A-frame chalet sits on the stark white granite of little-known Aiguille du Fruit, a short walk from the ski lifts at Courchevel and just below two alpine lakes that are amply packed with char and brown trout.
$10 per person per night; contact the Parc National de la Vanoise, 011-33-4-79-08-71-49;

The Mountain House
Denali National Park, Alaska

This wooden shelter perched atop a 500-foot granite outcropping in the middle of Denali National Park's Ruth Glacier offers views of the Ruth Amphitheater that are nothing short of incredible. The hut is accessible only by bush plane from March to mid-July. The surrounding terrain is a backcountry skier's and mountaineer's paradise.
$85-$100 per night for up to eight people; contact Alaska Retreat, 907-733-2414

Regina Margherita Hut
Monte Rosa, Italy

A backcountry hostel just south of Zermatt that is 70 feet long, three stories high, accommodates 77 people, and balances on the summit of Signalkuppe—at 14,937 feet, it's the highest hut in the Alps. Bring binoculars to track climbers on the five-day Monte Rosa traverse.
$20 per person per night; contact the Club Alpino Italiano, 011-39-163-910-39;

Tasman Hut
Mount Cook National Park, New Zealand

With the most dramatic setting of any hut south of the equator, this corrugated-steel shelter, encircled by glaciers, looks onto the triangular profile of 12,349-foot Mount Cook from the edge of a 200-foot granite cliff. If bad weather strands you indoors, you can kick back and play cards with a handful of fun-loving Aussies and Kiwis.
$8 per person per night; contact the New Zealand Alpine Club, 011-643-377-7595;

Refugio Frey
Nahuel Huapi National Park, Argentina

Three good reasons to stop at this two-story stone hut on the eastern shore of Laguna Toncek in southern Argentina's lake district: warm bunks (40 of them), hot meals (the cheese fondue is to die for), and proximity to some of the best climbing in Patagonia on the granite spires of 7,888-foot Cerro Catedral.
$6-$8 per person per night; contact Club Andino Bariloche, 011-02944-422266;
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New York City
Mohonk Preserve

A 6,400-acre park in the Shawangunk Mountains, 90 minutes north of Manhattan, where you'll find 360-foot cliffs offering hundreds of 5.0 to 5.10+ routes, plus 65 miles of
hiking and biking trails.

San Francisco
Point Reyes National Seashore

With 140 miles of trails, this 71,000-acre preserve is home to some of the most dramatic coastline on earth and is a magnet for hikers, mountain bikers, and sea kayakers. A 35-mile winding drive north of downtown San Francisco.

Kettle Moraine State Forest, Wisconsin

An hour and a half northwest of Chi-town is the Moab of Wisconsin—21,000 acres of hardwood forest and glacial hills, and more than 41 miles of trails. Heaven for hikers and cross-country skiers, too.

Los Angeles
Channel Islands National Park

Two hours by boat from Santa Barbara or Ventura, California, and you can be in this undeveloped group of five windswept outposts. Sea-kayaking, diving, and hiking terrain abound. 805-658-5730;

Washington, D.C.
Harpers Ferry National Historical Park

An hour west of D.C. in West Virginia's Harpers Ferry Park, you'll find some of the region's best tubing, rafting, canoeing, and kayaking. Or jump on the Appalachian Trail for a hike.
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Set on 250 rainforest acres fringing a wide, white-sand beach, COCONUT BEACH RAINFOREST RESORT in Australia wins the "location, location, location" award. On Cape Tribulation in Far North Queensland, it's smack between two World Heritage Sites--the Great Barrier Reef and Daintree National Park, one of the world's oldest rainforests (dating back 110 million years). Search for tree kangaroos, flying foxes, and kingfishers from the veranda of your treehouselike villa; snorkel and dive among sea cucumbers and reef sharks off the Great Barrier Reef's Mackay Cay, just a 45-minute boat ride east.
Doubles $117­$175 per night; 011-61-70-98-0033;
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By Hampton Sides

Exertion has its merits but there are moments that cry out for concerted indolence--for sitting, sipping, and letting the world wash over us. My wife and I reached that point some years back after tromping all over the great ruins of Monte Albán, Mitla, and Yagul in southern Mexico. For days we had mulled the demise of magnificent civilizations led by people with names like Lord One Earthquake and Lady Ten Monkey, and we were suffering from a condition known as archaeological mindblow. We needed time to reflect, to get ourselves some mole and some mescal and put some perspective on the long swirl of epochs. So we headed to the zócalo.

No place beats the ZÓCALO of Oaxaca for its sheer staying power--that is, its capacity to entice a person to stay in one place, amused and mesmerized and oblivious to time. Virtually every town in Mexico has its central plaza. Yet the zócalo in Oaxaca, I would submit, is the apotheosis of Mexican town squares: It's the most magnificently sittable place I've ever sat my turista ass in.

The scale somehow manages to be at once grand and intimate. It's a perfect quadrangle, greened with old laurels, bounded on all sides by cafés, restaurants, and portales. The stone parapets of the city's Spanish colonial architecture rise above the scene. Automobiles are forbidden--this is strictly a realm of foot traffic--and the sidewalks churn with musicians, dancers, and vendors hawking fresh flowers and giant wormlike balloons.

We spent an entire day there, leaving only once, to inspect the endless piles of chiles and fresh dripping carcasses at the souk-like Juarez market nearby. Mostly, though, we stayed put. The crowds danced and sang and milled about. Café con leches slowly segued to cervezas, buenos días to buenas tardes. We stared for hours at a little man and his menagerie of leashed iguanas. Night fell and still we were there, eating chile relleños and kebabs on the balcony of El Asador Vasco, and stealing glances at Anjelica Huston, sitting one table over. By the end, we felt drowsy and sated and quite well-traveled. The world turns, and in some situations that is movement enough.

Contributing editor Hampton Sides is the author of Ghost Soldiers.
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Otter Bar Lodge, Forks of Salmon, California

Not only do founders Kristy and Peter Sturges of the Otter Bar Lodge, located in the Klamath National Forest in northern California, make sure you leave a confident kayaker, but a massaged, well-fed, pampered one too.

Exum Mountain Guides, Moose, Wyoming

For the past 75 years, Exum has offered year-round, intensive mountaineering training in the Grand Tetons by America's top guides.

Dave and Emily Whitlock Fly-Fishing School, Midway, Arkansas

The Whitlocks' 30 years of combined experience is put to use in the Ozark Mountains, where they'll teach you how to double-haul cast to German browns in no time.

Mountain Biking
Singletrack Ranch, Seattle, Washington

Run by mountain-bike Hall-of-Famer John Stamstad, Singletrack Ranch teaches clean lines and technical maneuvers at five-star riding locations in Arizona, Oregon, and British Columbia.

High Cascade Snowboard Camp, Government Camp, Oregon (summer) Bend, Oregon (winter)

Using a world-class half-pipe and a year-round snowfield, these guys have been teaching knuckle draggers to carve their way around a mountain for the last 12 years. 800-334-4272;
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You won't find manicured gardens or softball fields in Portland, Oregon's FOREST PARK; its 5,000 wild acres of lush cedars, hemlocks, and Doug firs have been gloriously left alone since the park's creation in 1948. Just ten minutes from downtown, the park is home to more than 60 species of mammals and welcomes the occasional visit from migrating bears, elk, and cougars. Best of all, the terrain is laced with 80 miles of spongy trails you can hike or bike without seeing another soul.
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"South Mission Beach Sports Park in San Diego. It's right at the south end of Mission Beach with beautiful volleyball courts and perfect basketball courts. You always find a good game there—it'd be nice if they passed me the ball a bit more, though."
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Get a seat on the left-hand side of ROYAL NEPAL AIRLINE'S flight from Bangkok to Kathmandu, and you'll have excellent Himalaya viewing: Everest, Makalu, Annapurna. It's almost like climbing the big guys yourself.
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