The other day a couple of emails from my friends in the travel industry landed in my inbox—a welcome relief from the deluge of hair restoration and debt relief ads—which reminded me that spring is just around the corner, and it’s time to start plotting warm-weather adventures. Here are a few guided trips to get you in the mood for summer—while someone else does the organizing.
Moab-based outfitter Western Spirit Cycling may be best known for its classic multiday routes like the Kokopelli Trail and Colorado singletrack—both burly enough to brag about—but it also caters to the kid crowd, too, organizing half a dozen family trips each summer that blend backcountry camping and riding with quality time in the National Parks. Western Spirit’s rental fleet—from bike trailers, trail-along-bikes, and 20” and 24” mountain bikes—opens up a ton of territory for families with children as young as three, and because they staff their trips with an extra guide, you can ride longer distances while the kids chill (under adult supervision, natch) in camp.
Even if you dad chucked his old wafflestompers and canvas backpack before you were born, you can still have legit heritage gear that's as functional as it is cool looking. Here are four of our favorite old-is-new pieces:
LL Bean Maine Snowshoe: To celebrate its 100th birthday, LL Bean is bringing back key pieces on which its name and reputation were built. Top of the list: a classic Maine-style snowshoe. Made from steam-bent ash and a traditional leather H binding, this snowshoe is an exact replica of the one your grandfather wore, if he happened to be a trapper or one of Thoreau's pals. There are no fancy underfoot claws on these high float raquettes—just cowhide strapping to bite into the snowy ground. Available February 2012, $329, llbean.com
By late February, you reach a point where you need the promise of warmth just to get outside. The hot springs at Avalanche Ranch and Nordic trails at nearby Spring Gulch, outside of Carbondale, Colorado, will give you the kick you crave, and then some. Kids and adults can ski all day on groomed track and afterwards soak in thermal pools. If you’re so relaxed you can’t bear to drive home, spend the night at one of the ranch’s 13 rustic but cheerful log cabins.
With over 700 acres of land and a 13-mile network of Nordic trails, Spring Gulch, about 15 minutes from the ranch, has something for everyone. For those just learning how to cross-country ski, there are plenty of beginner and intermediate trails, including Rafter-T, Rabbit Run, and Lazy Eight. There are also longer tours, like Finlandia, and steeper climbs like Highball for the more advanced skiers in the family.
Exploring tidepools on Puako Beach (Emily Brendler Shoff)
Traveling to Hawaii with children can seem daunting. The flights are long and can get expensive. Oceanfront lodging can cost you a bundle, and planning affordable activities that make everyone happy can seem trickier than keeping salt water out of a kid’s snorkel.
But a trip to Hawaii doesn’t have to be hard. My husband and I have gone to the Big Island for the past decade, and in recent years, have taken our girls, ages 2 and 5. Whether we’re exploring lava tubes, chasing waterfalls, snorkeling turquoise waters, relaxing on white sand beaches, or meandering through farmer’s markets, we always leave the Big Island a little more in love with it and each other.
Beach bliss, off the beaten path: San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua [photo: Pelican Eyes]
It's about this time each winter that I start fantasizing about getting out of town. The holidays are long gone, spring break is still six weeks out, and The New York Times travel section is plastered with agonizing pictures of empty white-sand beaches and untracked powder. Good news is, there are deals out there if you know where to look.
Namely, Nicaragua. After violence and unrest in the eighties, the Central American country just north of Costa Rica has cleaned up its act to attract adventure tourists and retirees scouting second homes. Anecdotally speaking at least, the strategy seems to be working: Friends of mine honeymooned at Morgan’s Rock Ecolodge and raved about it, and my intrepid pal Steph Pearson recently reported a story about the country's revamped image in the November 2011 issue of Outside. But you know we're having a full-blown Nicaragua Moment when Groupon gets in on the action!