Outside magazine, January 1994
New Year's Trips: Ringing It In Outdoors
By Bob Howells
New Year celebrations being among the most tedious of social obligations, the best way to get through them is to be irrevocably out of town. Out of any town, that is, because stargazing from a North Country yurt as the timberwolves howl is an infinitely more appropriate way to meditate on the start of a new cycle than fox-trotting to the strains of some Guy Lombardo knockoff on time-delayed TV. Whether you're willing to meet winter head-on or prefer a low-latitude adventure, it's not too late to plan a worthy New Year escape. Figure on some sort of homage to the changing of the calendar, but goofy hats and cheap champagne are definitely optional.
Mushing Minnesota's Boundary Waters
On the second and final day, you mush another 25-40 miles to a wilderness cabin,where everyone trades dog stories in the sauna or over a dinner of maple-cranberry-glazed duck, grilled trout, or shish kebab. If you've discovered that mushing's in your blood, you may decide to stick around to see the Grand Portage Chippewa John Beargrease Sled Dog Festival, which precedes a race just slightly longer than the name (500 miles) from Duluth to Grand Portage and back. Events, including a cutest-puppy contest, a weight-pull competition, and a meet-the-mushers banquet, begin January 2 in Duluth; the race starts January 9.
Cost for the December 31- January 1 mushing trek is $490 per person, extendable for another mushing day and night at the cabin ($230). Fly to Duluth and drive 110 miles northeast on U.S. 61 to Grand Marais and 32 miles north on the Gunflint Trail to base camp. Call Boundary Country Trekking at 800-322-8327 (218-388-4487 in Canada); for information about the festival and race, call 218-722-7631.
Learning to Climb at Joshua Tree
Camping at Joshua Tree is free but primitive. It's also optional--12 miles away are the three-hot tub Yucca Valley Inn and other motels--but it's more fun to camp with the guides at the Sheep Pass group site, where informal buffets tend to materialize around the campfire. Bring your own shelter, sleeping bag, food, and plenty of water.
Joshua Tree is 30 miles northwest of Palm Springs on California 62. The seminar costs $285 per person. Call Vertical Adventures at 714-854-6250, Joshua Tree National Monument at 619-367-7511, and Yucca Valley Inn at 619-365-3311.
Bicycle Touring Central Florida
The first two days are based out of the Lakeside Inn in Mount Dora, the last three out of the Mission Inn resort in Howey-in-the-Hills. Mount? Hills? Yes, there's some distinctly un-Floridian contour to the land here, but the cycling is still easy--particularly enjoyable for couples of disparate abilities or for spending time with Florida-dwelling parents who ride a bit.
The fully supported five-day, five-night tour costs $1,095, including most meals. A van transfer from Orlando costs $50, and you can rent one of Backroads's touring bikes for $109. Call Backroads at 800-533-2573. The Lake County Alternative Transportation Specialist's office (904-343-9655) can help you plan a self-guided or abbreviated tour; call the Mount Dora Chamber of Commerce (904-383-2165) for maps and information about lodging along the route you decide to take.
Tracking Mountain Lions in Idaho and Utah
Home base is a ranch house in Malta, Idaho, with modern conveniences. Evenings are mostly spent being exhausted and preparing one-pot meals, but the scientists and professional trackers are good raconteurs, and project head John Laundré plays a mean fiddle.
The first expedition of 1994 is January 8-16; the tax-deductible cost per volunteer is $1,295. Figure on flying to Pocatello, Idaho, via Salt Lake City on the seventh. Call Earthwatch at 800-776-0188 (617-926-8200 in Canada).