Fall Weekend Getaways: Speed Pass
A fall weekend is a terrible thing to waste—use these out-the-backdoor escapes to make yours count.
Text by Jim Gorman Photograph by Jad Davenport
||DINNER THEATER: Watching the light show off British Columbia's Vancouver Island
Cast Away in a Canyon, Colorado
Eat. Sleep. Fish. On a float through the Black Canyon of the Gunnison River, life's priorities quickly fall into place. Guides on Dvorak Kayak & Rafting Expeditions' two-day trips ($790; www.dvorakexpeditions.com) set up your camp, prepare tasty meals, and steer oar rafts through Class III rapids where
10- to 36-inch (25-to-91-centimeter) rainbow trout lurk. Your sole concern: making the perfect fly cast.
Find Yurtopia, Idaho
Coyote Yurt ($25 per person; www.svtrek.com), at 8,700 feet (2,652 meters), near Sun Valley, is the proverbial catbird seat. Inside, windows are filled with knockout views of the pyramid-shaped Pioneer and Boulder Mountains. Outside, a bonanza of bikable runs, such as Curly's Trail—a 12.5-mile (20-kilometer) loop—converges on the hut. Coyote sleeps eight and can be reached by foot, bike, or car. Sun Valley Trekking offers a gear shuttle and a "hike-along chef" ($150) for hike-in guests.
Save Your Hide, Montana
Lost in the woods with night falling, your best choice for shelter is: a.) a debris hut; b.) an improvised lean-to; c.) a garbage bag. If you answered anything but "c," head to OutdoorSafe's Back Country Survival Techniques course ($250; www.outdoorsafe.com), held September 1-3 near Missoula. Instructor Peter Kummerfeldt, a former survival training director at the U.S. Air Force Academy, says, "We teach modern survival, not primitive skills—those are useless."
Hike Mini-Mountains, North Carolina
Geologists speculate that the Uwharrie Mountains, east of Charlotte, once made the Rockies look puny. They may be a little less jagged today, measuring just under a thousand feet (305 meters), but they still pack a wallop. Combine the Uwharrie and Dutchman's Creek Trails for a 28-mile (45-mile) circuit that hugs ridgelines, drops to clear-running streams, and inventories unusual plant pairings, such as Schweinitz's sunflowers and mountain laurels. Alternatively, arrange a car shuttle and hike the 21-mile (34-mile) Uwharrie National Recreational Trail past abandoned homesteads into the Birkhead Mountains Wilderness. Uwharrie National Forest provides maps (www.cs.unca.edu/nfsnc).
Ride in Technicolor, Vermont
With Winnebago-driving leaf peepers on the loose, Vermont byways can be a hazard for cyclists. Stay out of harm's way by opting for dirt roads and singletrack on a self-guided inn-to-inn tour in the southern Green Mountains arranged by Extreme Adventures of Vermont ($470; www.extremeadventuresvt.com). Tell the EA staff in advance how far and how aggressively you plan to ride, and they'll devise a three-day itinerary, pack you a lunch, and vault your luggage ahead to that evening's inn. Lodging options include the very proper Four Columns Inn, where rooms have fireplaces and breakfast is all-you-can-eat.
Join a VIP Rock Show, Virginia
Normally, 300-foot-high (91-meter-high) outcrops in the Middle Atlantic Region attract climbers like enviros to an Al Gore flick. But the Plunge, a granite-greenstone crag near Charlottesville, is red-rope exclusive. For access join OWLS Rock Climbing School's Intensive Climbing Weekend ($195; www.owlsadventure.com). You'll learn to belay, anchor, and smear—the fine art of trusting all of your weight to a seemingly negligible foothold. "The rock has great texture, so you really gain purchase with your feet," says owner Eric Henyon. Accommodations at nearby Wintergreen Resort range from studios ($129; www.wintergreenresort.com) to seven-bedroom houses ($579).
Follow a Movable Feast, British Columbia
If plain oatmeal tastes better in the outdoors, imagine a hot-smoked tuna niçoise salad—complete with local organic greens, free-range eggs, organic baby potatoes, and fresh basil vinaigrette. Restaurant-worthy cuisine is standard at every meal on a three-day, two-night sea tour of the Gulf Islands with Blue Planet Kayaking Adventures ($549; www.blueplanetkayaking.com). Screened by Vancouver Island's high peaks, the Gulf Islands claim the sunniest, driest climate in all of Canada. From the base camp on De Courcy Island, clients explore the sandstone-rimmed islands and crystalline waters filled with porpoises, seals, and otters. It's all prelude, though, to the paddle's focal point: "Our meals are why people sign up for the trip," says guide and chef James Bray. Carmelized apples with hazelnuts, anyone?
Walk on the Moon, California
Peaceful though it appears in its mountain setting, the charmingly creaky Drakesbad Guest Ranch ($147; www.drakesbad.com) is surrounded by mayhem. This is Lassen Volcanic National Park, where tentacles of magma reach for the surface. Within walking distance, mud pots gurgle, fumaroles steam, and geysers whistle. This 110-year-old guest house with three bungalows and four outlying cabins was built two decades before the park existed and remains an ideal departure point for trips—on foot or horseback—to nearby Devil's Kitchen, Terminal Geyser, or thundering King's Creek Falls. Strong hikers can also trek 11 miles (18 kilometers) on the Pacific Crest Trail to Cinder Cone through a lunar landscape of pitch-black lava beds and painted dunes. Just be back to Drakesbad in time for the barbecue cookout and a swim in the pool, which taps a natural hot spring.
Romp in the Rain Forest, Washington
It takes a lot of rain (14 feet or 4 meters, annually, to be precise) to cultivate the giant trees and hanging moss gardens in Olympic National Park's Hoh Rain Forest. Fortunately for you, nary a drop falls this month. Explore the terrarium in solitude on the Bogachiel River Trail. For a peaceful overnight, simply walk upstream four and a half miles to where Sitka spruces soar 300 feet (91 meters) and date back a thousand years, and find a soft sandbar on which to pitch a tent. For a weekend-length expedition, continue east to Sol Duc for head-swiveling views of 7,980-foot (2,432-meter) Mount Olympus and its brawny glaciers. The 28.5-mile (46-kilometer) end-to-end trek takes three days and requires a car shuttle from Windsox Trailhead Shuttle ($120; www.windsox.us). For wilderness permits, contact the park ($7 a day; www.nps.gov/olym).
Climb a CoolHigh Point, Arkansas
If there's a cool breeze blowing in Arkansas, you'll find it on Mount Magazine— at 2,753 feet (839 meters), the highest point in the state. For a weekend of late-summer heat relief, reserve a spot in the mountain's small state-park campground ($13; www.mountmagazinestatepark.com) or book a room ($119) in the just completed lodge perched on the edge of the summit plateau. Rooms have balconies and big views of the Petit Jean River Valley. Mountain bikers can take advantage of the nearby 12-mile (19-kilometer) Apple Loop, which drops off Mount Magazine toward Big Shoal Creek and has minor foot and hoof traffic. Climbers can explore more than a hundred sandstone routes on the 80-foot (24-meter) cliff just below the summit.
Paddle Into Autumn, Wisconsin
Mellow doesn't always equal dull. Case in point: the Namekagon River, which raises barely a riffle as it flows 98 miles (158-kilometers) from its headwaters in northwestern Wisconsin to its rendezvous with the St. Croix River. On the section from Trego Dam to Riverside, the Namekagon shakes free of Highway 63 and offers 35 miles (56 kilometers) of solitude through an unbroken forest of oak, pine, and birch. Keep an eye out for herons, black bears, river otters, beavers, trumpeter swans, and a burgeoning population of bald eagles. As part of the St. Croix National Scenic River, the Namekagon is protected, and primitive campsites abound on its sandy banks. Canoe rental and a shuttle can be arranged with Wild River Outfitters ($90; www.wildriverpaddling.com).
Adventure's September 2006 issue features 31 amazing adventure towns; chaos at the top of Mount Everest; an inside look at surfing California's Lost Coast; 11 fall weekend getaways near you; the best high-tech footwear, world class adventure travel; hiking the Alps, and more!
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