PACIFIC COAST | CENTRAL | ROCKIES | EAST
Where the Hard Core Soften, California
When thru-hikers on the Pacific Crest Trail need serious
pampering, they detour four miles (6 kilometers) to
Gold Mountain Manor ($129; www.goldmountainmanor.com) on the edge of San
Bernardino National Forest, in Big Bear. Built in 1928 by
a Hollywood mogul, the log-and-stone mansion is an
ideal base for charging hard all day. Try the eight-mile
(13-kilometer) hike to 8,201-foot (2,500-meter) Bertha's
Peak for views of the Mojave Desert and San Gorgonio
Mountain and relaxing in style by night (ginger milk
Pull the Plug, Oregon
Olallie Lake Resort ($70; www.olallielake.com) is
detox for the wired generation. The nearest trace of civilization is an hour away down a gravel road, the 12 cabins and four yurts are lit by propane lanterns, and cell phones are useless. "It takes first-time visitors about two days to relax and start walking slower," says owner Doneal Thornton. From the lodge, hike eight miles (thirteen kilometers) round-trip to Jefferson Park, a high alpine basin of lakes, meadows, and coppices of trees so artfully arranged they seem landscaped.
Get More Face Time, Washington
Mount Shuksan's jagged, spectacular north side is the face that launched a thousand mountaineering careers. Lucky for novices, attempting the 9,127-foot (2,782-meter) summit is just a three-day proposition with Mountain Madness, via the easier south side ($595; www.mountainmadness.com). The 7,000-foot (2,134-meter) ascent unfolds with roped glacier climbing, similar to routes up Mount Baker and other Cascade volcanoes but with a twist: The last 500 feet (152 meters) are up a steep, rocky summit pyramid—no ax needed.
Canoe a Boulder Field, Kentucky-Tennessee
Summer's worst heat never seems to penetrate the deep, shaded gorge of the Big South Fork. Pack a cooler and rent canoes from Sheltowee Trace Outfitters ($55 for canoe and shuttle; www.ky-rafting.com), then spend two days immersed in wilderness. An otherwise feisty river, the Big South Fork calms considerably in the 19-mile (31-kilometer) section between Station Camp and Blue Heron with stretches of flatwater punctuated by Class I riffles and Class II wave trains known to swamp inexperienced canoers. Camping is unrestricted, though the best sites are found below Big Island.
Cast Away in Blue, Michigan
Plopped in the middle of Lake Michigan, the Beaver Island archipelago is largely uninhabited, thickly forested, and surrounded by Caribbean-hued waters that warm to the upper 60s by midsummer. Translation: You just found kayaking nirvana. Take the two-hour ferry from Charlevoix, on the Lower Peninsula, and Ken Bruland of Inland Seas Kayaking will meet you in St. James for a fully supported two- or three-day tour ($100 a day; www.inlandseaskayaking.com). Garden Island features an ancient Ojibwa Indian burial ground; Hog Island boasts the wrecks of the wooden schooners Baltimore and Niko.
Finish First, Wisconsin
Mountain bike Wisconsin's Chequamegon 40 racecourse now, and you can actually enjoy the North Woods scenery—unlike the panting hordes that come here in September for one of the sport's biggest races. In fact, Chequamegon National Forest and the surrounding area host 300 miles (483 kilometers) of bikeable trail, and the Cheq 40 isn't even the prettiest or most challenging of the lot. That honor goes to the Rock Lake Trail. Combine it with the Glacier Trail for 20 miles (32 kilometers) of granny-gear climbs and unspoiled lakes. Make biker-friendly Telemark Resort ($79; www.telemarkresort.com), in Cable, your riding headquarters.
Track Big Cats, Arizona
Baseball fans have fantasy camp; wildlife enthusiasts have Sky Island Alliance's 16th annual Fort Huachuca Mountain Lion Track Count, held June 3 and 4 (free; www.skyislandalliance.org). Camp and train with leading wildlife biologists and trackers, then stalk the rugged but remarkably lush Huachuca Mountains south of Tucson for signs of ghost cats and black bears. "You're not tracking the animal to find it. You're looking for what it left behind," says Sky Island Alliance Executive Director Matt Skroch. Telltale signs include tracks, scat, fur, and the occasional kill, all of which get fed into an ongoing population study. During downtime, volunteers hike the seldom visited Fort Huachuca Military Reservation.
Paddle Back A Hundred Years, Wyoming
The wild and wide-open West still exists along the North Platte River in south-central Wyoming. Topside, the river runs fast but smooth for 44 miles (71 kilometers) between Saratoga and Fort Steele, with the ghostly peaks of the Snowy Range and Sierra Madre almost always in view. Below the surface swim 2,200 trout per mile, making the Platte one of the premier fisheries in the lower 48. Rent canoes and arrange a shuttle with Hack's Tackle and Outfitters ($35; www.hackstackle.com), in Saratoga. Begin or end your trip at Saratoga's nine-room Wolf Hotel ($57; www.wolfhotel.com), a national historic landmark and first-rate chophouse that looks like it's straight out of HBO's Deadwood.
Inhale Deeply, Pennsylvania
The perfume department at Bloomie's can't compete with the spicy aroma wafting over the Black Forest Trail every summer. In the third week of June, entire hillsides flash to white, pink, and purple when mountain laurels—the dominant understory plant in the Endless Mountains west of Williamsport—burst into bloom. Let the sweet smells ease the sting of the 42-mile (68-kilometer) trail, which runs down to cool, hemlock-lined ravines, then straight up to rocky ridges. (Shorter loops of 13 and 22 miles [21 and 35 kilometers] are also accessible from Slate Run.) Camp beside one of numerous icy streams that pool into dip tanks just right for soaking sore muscles. Pine Creek Outfitters (www.pinecrk.com), in Wellsboro, sells maps.
School of Hard Rocks, New York
During Alpine Adventures' two-day Introduction to the Vertical World course ($299; www.alpineadven.com) in the High Peaks region of the Adirondacks, newbies progress from basic knot-tying to cleaning cams and nuts on 80-foot (24-meter) lead climbs. Above all, though, they learn that a skeptical climber is a safe one. "I don't want any climber I've trained to entrust their safety to anyone just because of that person's credentials," says owner R.L. Stolz. When the climbing day ends at 5 p.m., head to the Baxter Mountain Tavern, in Keene, for Adirondack ravioli, then retire at the laid-back Mountain Meadows Inn ($115; www.adirondackinns.com).
Play in the Waves, West Virginia
It takes a big raft to tame a big river. Or so was the prevailing philosophy before ACE Adventure Center developed its 12-foot-long (4-meter-long) Team Extreme rafts for running Double-Z rapid and other behemoths in the New River's thousand-foot-deep (305-meter-deep) lower canyon. More agile than the industry-standard 16-footer (5-meter), Team Extreme rafts exploit summer's shrinking water flow for thrills. A full-day Team Extreme Lower New River trip ($129; www.aceraft.com) includes a barbecue lunch. ACE offers a wide range of lodging options on its 1,400-acre (567-hectare) property on the banks of the New, from primitive tent sites to fully equipped chalets.
Pick up the June/July 2006 issue for 50 top adventures in the national parks; how to move to Montana; the best ten-day Brazil vacation; 11 instant weekend escapes; and new watches, cameras, and sunglasses for summer.
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