You don't need a passport to have some of the Western Hemisphere's greatest adventures. Problem is, neither does anyone else. Whether on your own or with a guide, here's expert advice on beating the crowds en route to a once-in-a-lifetime American adventure.
Mountain-Bike the White Rim Trail, Utah
The Trip: A four-day tour past a 100-mile parade of sandstone spires in Canyonlands National Park.
The Plan: This popular route along an old jeep trail isn't technical; the tough part is scoring a coveted campsite. Call the Park Service now for remaining fall dates ($30 per trip; 435-259-4351, www.nps.gov/cany) or go with Rim Tours ($695 for four days; 800-626-7335, www.rimtours.com).
Crux Move: On private trips, volunteer to drive the sag wagon on day two. You'll skip the gnarly ascent of Murphy Hogback Hill.
Epic Factor: 5 (on a scale from 1 to 10). The 1,000-foot climbs make you feel like you've earned your dunk in the Green River. But after you cool off, the low mileage (25 per day) leaves time for hikes to explore ancient pueblo granaries and hidden slot canyons.
Paddle the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, Minnesota
The Trip: A voyage through your pick of 1,000 portage-linked lakes scattered across a million acres of northern Minnesota. Despite its fame as America's most popular wilderness, you're still likely to encounter moose, black bearor both.
The Plan: The most beloved of the 60-plus entry points can get crowded, but even in the peak of summer you can find open permits if you're willing to shove off from a lesser-known, harder-to-reach entry point, like Trout Lake, in the western La Croix district. Check with the Forest Service for availability (permit, $10 per adult and $5 per kid; reservation fee, $12; www.bwcaw.org). Once you're in, you can stay as long as you want.
Crux Move: You'll have to work at balancing a week's worth of food, bass bait, and bug juice in your tippy canoe. And get to camp earlyif your planned spot is filled you may have to hunt for another one, by moonlight.
Epic Factor: 7. The challenge is in the portages. They're measured in rods320 to a mile. Keep that in mind when studying your must-have Fisher maps (www.fishermapsmn.com).
Get Fresh (cont.)
organic farm vacations
At The Apple Farm : Picked Peppers
organic farm vacations
At The Apple Farm : Resident goats
organic farm vacations
At The Apple Farm : Sleep like a farmer
Cherry Hill Vineyard
Budding "pinophiles," as owners Jan and Mike Sweeney dub them, will love walking the 55 acres of pinot noir vines on Cherry Hill Vineyard's 150-acre estate in the Willamette Valley, near Salem.
Prime Time: Spring and fall
Haute Adventure: Cherry Hill's Wine Camp isn't like anything you remember from summer campinstead of spinning the bottle, you'll focus on what goes into it. Come here for a few days to crush grape samples for analysis in the lab or fill barrels with the grape juice that yields Cherry Hill's light-bodied red wine. Or arrange for a private wine tutorial.
Sleep Easy: Unwind in a rocking chair on the front porch of one of the six log cabins or enjoy the cocktail hour in the farm-style dining hall. Pacific Northwest wine-country meals include entrées such as hazelnut chicken with berry sauce.
Where to Play: Fly-fish for steelhead in the Santiam River, 20 minutes away; hike the foothills of the Cascades, a half-hour drive; or ride a bike around to other vineyards to taste yet more wine. Cherry Hill will pack your lunch.
Details: Doubles cost $250 per night, including meals. (503-623-7867, www.cherryhillvineyard.com)
Hollister Hill Farm
The velvety green hills of Vermont's Winooski River Valley and the family-oriented Hollister Hill Farm offer a panacea for those weary of blaring horns and the latest Dow reports.
Prime Time: Summer and fall
Haute Adventure: There's no shortage of options: Tap maple trees, gather duck eggs, preserve fruits and vegetables, feed the animals, or even muck stalls, if that's your thing. Bob and Lee Light's 204-acre farm produces sustainably raised beefalo (a cow-buffalo hybrid), poultry, and pork, all sold at the farm shop.
Sleep Easy: Three bright farmhouse rooms and a suite have queen beds, private baths, and a fireplace or sauna.
Where to Play: After eating Lee's breakfastslike cornmeal cheddar pancakes with Hollister Hill's own baconpostpone the inevitable food coma by hiking and biking the trails on the farm or fishing and swimming in lakes nearby.
Details: Doubles cost $90$100 per night; the suite costs $135$150. (802-454-7725, www.hollisterhillfarm.com)
whitewater rafting, grand canyon, arizona
"What a Grand .Canyon": The mellow side of Arizona's famed big hole
Raft the Grand Canyon, Arizona
The Trip: Spanning up to three weeks and 277 miles, through scores of rapids and 1.7 billion years of geology, rafting the Colorado River in one of the world's seven natural wonders is breathtakingif you can get on it.
The Plan: Sign on early. The majority of the 169,950 user-day rafting slots go to commercial outfitters, and even with trips costing upwards of $200 a day, much of 2004 is sold out. Meanwhile, the waiting list for private trips has grown so longmore than 8,000 names and a 20-plus-year waitthat the Park Service has stopped taking names.
Crux Move: Outfitters will open up no-show slots to wait-listers, and if they can't get fill-ins on the original date, they'll set up an additional trip in September. Find outfitters through the Park Service (800-959-9164, www.nps.gov/grca/river/river_concessioners.htm) and join their waiting lists.
Epic Factor: 6. Plan to paddle your heart out through most rapids, though the outfitters' gourmet meals sure take the edge off the exertion.
Climb the Grand Teton, Wyoming
The Trip: This iconic peak, looming 13,766 feet above Jackson Hole in the Teton Range, is one of America's hallmark mountaineering destinations.
The Plan: Get expert training on a privately guided climb with Exum Mountain Guides ($650$700; 307-733-2297, www.exumguides.com). Two days of climbing instructionincluding skills such as belaying and rappellingare followed by a two-day venture to the summit.
Crux Move: The biggest challenge: maneuvering along Wall Street, a tapered ledge. At its end the rock plummets about 1,200 feet to the valley floor.
Epic Factor: 9. Ground school will build up your technical know-how, but you can't crash-course your quads into shape. Train at home with day hikes and a lot of mileage on a StairMaster.
Hike the Appalachian Trail, Georgia to Maine
The Trip: The ultimate do-it-yourself summer adventure through the surprisingly wild Appalachians. Knocking off the 2,170 or so miles of the classic Georgia-to-Maine route takes anywhere from three to six months.
The Plan: You don't need reservations, and camping is free, but you do need a plan. Get a head start by beginning at Harpers Ferry, West Virginia, in May. You'll hike north with spring's blooms, skipping the mid-Atlantic summer swelter and the August crowds in the White Mountains.
Crux Move: Dream up a good nom de voyage: Even section hikers use trail names, like White Blaze.
Epic Factor: 810. Burning up to 6,000 calories per day will make you fantasize about food, so spring for that ultralight cookset. For advice on how to pick a hiking companion, read Bill Bryson's A Walk in the Woods.