| Week of September 12-18, 1996
Sleaze-free outdoor trips for singles
Primitive camping in Florida
A guide for Maine sea kayaking
Suicidal paddling in Alabama
Happy kiddies in the tropics
Sleaze-free outdoor trips for singles
Question: I would like to go on a really FUN active vacation from December 28 through January 4, 1997. I will be with a girlfriend and we want to go on a singles-oriented trip. We both ski, bike, and hike. We'd like to stay in North America, the Caribbean, or Mexico. We're looking for something different than Club Med or skiing Vail. Thanks.
Take, for example, Backroads' inn-to-inn cycling trip through Northern California's wine country. How can you go wrong with a trip that combines choice pedaling (25 to 50 miles a day) along the craggy Sonoma coastline, through the low, rolling hills of the Napa Valley? You'll get topnotch California cuisine, sinfully self-indulgent spa stuff (goopy mud baths, massages, and the like), and more wine than you could ever hope to imbibe in a five-day period. And did I neglect to mention the beyond-cushy country inns along the way and optional hot-air balloon flights and glider rides? The only small--let's even say microscopic--drawback is that this is Northern California in the winter, so you'll need to bring the fleece: Temperatures during the day usually max out in the 50s or 60s, with nighttime averages in the 30s. This pamper-yourself-while-you-pedal approach to biking will set you back $1,507 per person, including bike rental and van transfer from San Francisco, and runs from (among other dates) December 29 through January 3. Call Backroads at 800-462-2848 for more details.
If this sounds a little too plush for your tastes, consider taking a more hard-core approach to the holidays by signing on to the American Alpine Institute's six-day backcountry ski touring course in southwestern Colorado's San Juan Mountains. You'll spend the first two days perfecting your cross-country techniques before heading east into the highlands, where the snow can be up to 7 feet deep. Six to 10 miles of skiing per day is the norm, with instruction on interpreting mountain weather, building snow shelters, evaluating avalanche hazards, and preventing frostbite and hypothermia. For this section, you'll be based at two remote high camps--one a remote bowl and the other an isolated mountain pass--both of which offer easy access to open snowfields at 12,000 feet and expansive views of nearby peaks. Classes run weekly from December through April by arrangement and subject to guide availability. Costs range from $750 to $1,380 per person, depending on student-to-guide ratio, and the only prerequisite is intermediate cross-country skiing skills. Be forewarned that group size usually maxes out at four people and one instructor, so you may have to sacrifice a little sociability for some hard-to-beat San Juan skiing. For more info on accommodations while in Ouray (try the Victorian Inn; doubles, $59-$65; 970-325-7222), equipment rental, and other trip details, call AAI at 360-671-1505.
One final possibility: How 'bout a seven-day pack-horse trip (you asked for something different!) into the Grand Canyon via the less-traveled, wintry North Rim. This year Equitours is running a December 28 through January 3 ride from the confluence of Hack and Kanab Creek Canyons down to the warmer climes of Dave's Canyon, Dripping Springs, Esplanade, and on to spectacular Kanab Point, with its dizzying views of the Colorado River 1,500 feet below. Over the last three days, you'll mosey back up to civilization by a different route. You'll definitely want to pack lots of layers and a 15-degree-or-below sleeping bag for this trip, as daytime temperatures will vary from the 40s to the upper 60s, depending on your elevation. And, yes, snow is always a possibility. Camping each night is full-service and the pack horses will carry all group and personal gear. Getting there means flying into Las Vegas and then taking a two-hour van ride to St. George, Utah, where you'll meet the group. Cost is $840 per person, including horses, guides, all meals, and transfers. Call the horse experts at Equitours (800-545-0019), and check out "Season's Fleeings" in the Destinations section of Outside's January 1996 issue.