The Outside Trip-Finder: North America

Outside magazine, February 1996


The Outside Trip-Finder: North America
By Kathy Martin


New
ALASKA: Mountain Biking around Denali

    The Route: A six- or 14-day knobby-tire tour on dirt and gravel roads through the mountain-flanked plains east and south of Alaska's Denali National Park, with overnights in backcountry lodges or campgrounds

    When To Go: July-August

    Difficulty: Moderate

    Travel Advisory: Summer temperatures often fluctuate between the fifties and the high nineties. Prepare to chill out during the midday heat and ride late into the still-bright night.

    High/Low Points:

  • Having all to yourself the same grandiose scenery that most Denali visitors only see from the bus inside the park
  • Disputing right-of-way with a moose in the middle of the road

    Luxe Factor: Camping; Rustic lodging

    Outfitters / Departures / Price
    Adventure Cycling Association / 2 / $825
    Alaskan Bicycle Adventures / 2 / $1,595


Classic
ALASKA/YUKON/BRITISH COLUMBIA: Rafting the Alsek River

    The Route: A six- to 12-day rubber bump-and-grind down southern Alaska's wildly scenic Alsek, where you'll encounter Class III and IV rapids, grizzlies, and bald eagles. Six-day trips run only the upper half of the river

    When To Go: June-August

    Difficulty: Moderate

    Travel Advisory: The Alsek roils with bigger whitewater than the nearby Tatshenshini, and the trip includes a scenic helicopter portage over unrunnable Turnback Canyon. However, all this jacks up the cost of your trip by a few hundred dollars.

    High/Low Points:

  • Bouncing into the confluence with the Tat, where the river flows six times larger than the Colorado
  • Getting blown back upstream by 40-mile-per-hour winds on the flatwater of the upper Alsek

    Luxe Factor: Camping

    Outfitters / Departures / Price
    Alaska Discovery / 2 / $2,450
    Canadian River Expeditions / 6 / $1,420-$2,445
    Chilkat Guides / 3 / $2,475
    Tatshenshini Expediting Ltd. / 3 / $1,200
    Wilderness River Outfitters / 2 / $1,980
    Yukon Mountain & River Expeditions Ltd. / 1 / $2,250


Classic
BAHAMAS: Sea Kayaking the Exumas

    The Route: A five-day to two-week paddle through gin-clear, 80-degree water along the immaculate reefs and islets of Exuma Cays Land and Sea Park, with time to snorkel and explore sea caves

    When To Go: February-May

    Difficulty: Easy to moderate

    Travel Advisory: A good beginners' trip: Except for a few open-water crossings, you paddle in protected waters inside the reef system. Most outfitters don't supply masks and fins, so bring your own.

    High/Low Points:

  • Transforming a gusty wind into a free ride by raising sails on your kayak
  • Getting the willies off Waderick Wells Cay, where rumor has it a slave ship sank with no survivors

    Luxe Factor: Camping

    Outfitters / Departures / Price
    Ecosummer Expeditions / 6 / $1,295-$1,895
    Ibis Tours / 9 / $1,350
    NatureQuest / 6 / $1,295-$1,895
    Steve Currey Expeditions / on demand / $995



CALIFORNIA:
Rafting the Cal-Salmon River

    The Route: A two- or three-day, Class IV-V, adrenaline-pumping drop through the narrow canyons of the Trinity Alps and Marble Mountains in northern California. Some outfitters combine this run with trips on the Scott, Yuba, or other rivers.

    When To Go: April-June

    Difficulty: Strenuous

    Travel Advisory: The Cal-Salmon is free-flowing and very fast, with steep gradients and challenging plummets--not for the faint of heart or muscle.

    High/Low Points:

  • Falling asleep to the roar of Freight Train Rapid in your head--after you've successfully run it
  • Uncramping your legs after the seven-hour drive from the Bay Area to the put-in

    Luxe Factor: Camping; Rustic lodging

    Outfitters / Departures / Price
    ARTA / weekly / $270
    Cutting Edge Adventures / weekly / $240-$335
    Electric Rafting Company / weekly / $210-$315
    Noah's World of Water / weekly / $295
    Tributary Whitewater Tours / weekly / $250-$380
    Turtle River Rafting Company / weekly / $242-$356


COLORADO: Winter Mountaineering and Ice-Climbing in the Rocky Mountains

    The Route: Five to seven days of mountaineering instruction or an 18- to 23-day Outward Bound expedition training course; programs teach backcountry safety, navigation, and snow-and-ice technique, with a few nights in snow shelters

    When To Go: April

    Difficulty: Moderate to strenuous

    Travel Advisory: Dig out your eighth-grade textbooks and bone up on Earth Science. You need to know about things like snowpack configuration, weather patterns, and avalanche formation.

    High/Low Points:

  • Posing for an impressive photo of yourself clinging to a frozen waterfall with crampons and ice ax
  • Concluding on day two that you're really more of a summer person

    Luxe Factor: Camping; Rustic lodging

    Outfitters / Departures / Price
    American Alpine Institute / on demand / $990
    Colorado Mountain School / weekly / $745-$1,130
    Colorado Outward Bound School / 4 / $1,795-$1,995


MEXICO: Diving the Gulf of California

    The Route: A seven- to nine-day live-aboard dive boat trip, including daily dives to see large pelagics in the Gulf of California or manta rays at Socorro Island, 250 miles off the coast of Baja

    When To Go: June-October (Gulf), January-June (Socorro Island)

    Difficulty: Easy to moderate

    Travel Advisory: Don't gripe about the water visibility being only 60 feet in the Gulf. The plankton that cloud the water are the same ones that attract the big fish.

    High/Low Points:

  • Spending an hour swimming with amicable whale sharks and sea lions
  • Spending a week sharing three heads with 12 people on an 80-foot boat

    Luxe Factor: Boat accommodations

    Outfitters / Departures / Price
    Baja Expeditions / weekly / $1,695
    Pacific Coast Adventures / on demand / $1,500-$2,100
    San Diego Shark Diving Expeditions / weekly / $1,495-$2,300
    See & Sea Travel / weekly / $1,645-$2,195


THE NORTH POLE: Skydiving over the Polar Ice Cap

    The Route: An 11-day expedition to experience free fall above the North Pole (solo or in tandem with a group leader), including a practice jump and a stay at a base camp on Norway's Svalbard archipelago

    When To Go: April

    Difficulty: Moderate

    Travel Advisory:Your clothing is survival equipment. The outfitter can get you a reliable expedition suit for $925 (yes, that's wholesale), and you'll need a balaclava, ski goggles, and chemical hand warmers as well.

    High/Low Points:

  • Joining the elite club of the fewer than 500 people who've skydived the North Pole
  • Waiting up to several hours in minus-30-degree temperatures for the helicopter to lift you back to base camp

    Luxe Factor: Tourist hotels

    Outfitters / Departures / Price
    Forum Travel International / 1 / $7,500


NORTHWEST TERRITORIES: Dogsledding and Skiing Ellesmere Island

    The Route: An eight- or 15-day sled and ski odyssey across the tundra, glaciers, and fjords of Canada's northernmost island, with stops to view Arctic wolves and herds of musk oxen and caribou

    When To Go: April, May

    Difficulty: Moderate to strenuous

    Travel Advisory: You need dogsledding experience and strong winter camping skills to handle freezing temperatures and seven-hour days on skis. To get your winter résumé up to snuff, some trips include a warm-up session in Minnesota.

    High/Low Points:

  • Counting yourself in the company of Shackleton, Scott, and Peary, who passed through Ellesmere on their way to polar history
  • Helplessly chattering your teeth even though you're lugging a 45-pound backpack on skis

    Luxe Factor: Camping

    Outfitters / Departures / Price
    Adventure Canada / 1 / $2,695
    The Northwest Passage / 1 / $6,000
    Wintergreen Expeditions / 1 / $6,000



NOVA SCOTIA/NEW BRUNSWICK:
Hiking the Bay of Fundy

    The Route: A five- to seven-day jaunt along the rugged Atlantic coastline through centuries-old fishing villages, with visits to the spruce and balsam forests of Kejimkujik or Fundy National Parks and side trips for whale-watching and sea kayaking

    When To Go: June-September

    Difficulty: Easy to moderate

    Travel Advisory: July or early August is humpback whale migration time; you might also sight one of the last 300 Atlantic right whales, an endangered species. On other trips, expect to see minke whales, Atlantic whitesided dolphins, seals, and muskrats.

    High/Low Points:

  • Sucking down platefuls of Digby scallops, caught near the mouth of the Bay of Fundy
  • Spending up to two hours a day in a van between hiking venues

    Luxe Factor: Camping; Rustic lodging

    Outfitters / Departures / Price
    All Adventure Vacations / 12 / $708-$1,295
    Backroads / 13 / $749-$1,275
    Fundy Hiking and Nature Tours / 1 / $800
    Scott Tours / 2 / $600



WYOMING / MONTANA:
Cycling the Yellowstone-Teton Loop

    The Route: A five- to eight-day, 250-mile road tour from the bubbling mud and steaming fumaroles of Yellowstone National Park to the jagged peaks and glacial lakes of Grand Teton National Park.

    When To Go: June-September

    Difficulty: Moderate

    Travel Advisory: You won't hit much traffic along the back roads, but you'll need to bring out your defensive riding skills around congested campground exits and park road construction areas.

    High/Low Points:

  • Cresting the last ascent in hilly, forested Yellowstone before coasting downhill toward the wide open panorama of the Tetons
  • Downshifting for RVers with with their eyes anywhere but on the road

    Luxe Factor: Camping; Rustic lodging

    Outfitters / Departures / Price
    Adventure Cycling Association / 1 / $550
    Backcountry / 6 / $1,125
    Cycle America / 1 / $390-$460
    Timberline Bicycle Tours / 5 / $1,195
    Wilderness River Outfitters / 2 / $650-$950

See also:

Trip Finder Directory

Copyright, 1996 Outside Magazine






©2000, Mariah Media Inc.

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