Each one of us has different expectations in what we desire in a vacation. Some of us want excitement, scenery, warm weather, good beaches, fine food and perhaps luxury accommodations. Some folks are looking for a good camping spot in order to get away from today’s hustle and bustle.
Others desire adventure vacations.
The adventure vacation is available in many locations around the U.S., Canada and some islands not too far away as well as far off lands.
Close to home is the Grand Canyon. I have spoken to many people here in Arizona who tell me they have not visited this behemoth of a canyon yet. They tell me it’s close to home and will visit one day soon. Well, perhaps this is the year to see one of the Seven Wonders of the World. If you are into whitewater and calm water rafting you can cruise along 277 miles of river. Horses and helicopters can take you down to the river’s edge where you can board a raft. You can book anywhere from a one-day rafting tour up to five-day tours. You sleep on the riverbank in sleeping bags and the guides provide food. Horse stables operate just outside the park’s south entrance.
Yosemite National Park in California is 1,200 square miles of one of America’s first national parks with top-notch hiking trails to waterfalls, Giant Sequoia groves, meadows and the iconic granite cliff, Half Dome. Three stables inside the park boundaries lead horse and mule rides that last from two hours up to a full day. If you wish to stay in one of the park lodges, book early.
Up at Moab, Utah you have three scenic byways, plus Canyonlands and Arches national parks close at hand. Moab inspires outdoor desert adventures. You can cycle, climb or hike among sandstone cliffs and mind-blowing rock formations, raft the Colorado River or take a four-wheel day trip through the arid backcountry.
Back in California again is Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park. Here are dramatic canyons, the world’s largest trees and the presence of Mount Whitney, the tallest peak in the lower 48 states. These combine to make a dream terrain for hiking and backcountry camping. During the summer, stalactite-draped Crystal Cave is open for guided tours. In winter, sledding, skiing and snowshoeing are popular.
Olympic National Park in Washington State provides plenty of opportunities for day hikes and camping excursions in this Pacific Northwest park.
You can take in the high rain forest, nearby mile-high Hurricane Ridge and oceanfront Rialto Beach. When the snows fall, the cross-country and downhill skiing, tubing and snowshoeing cater to outdoor enthusiasts of all ages.
Hood River, Ore. was part of the Lewis and Clark exploration and they discovered this glacial stream that travelers today are drawn to. The breezes from the Columbia River Gorge, particularly midday, make it an ideal windsurfing and kiteboarding destination and numerous local shops offer lessons for newcomers. There are numerous vacation rentals in Hood River as well as hotels. Information about this location is available on the Web and at the hotels.
The Hawaiian Islands offer so much in the way of pleasure it’s hard to pick one or two out from the many. One outstanding scene is the ashy plumes of smoke and red-hot lava streams coming from the active craters in the Big Island Park. It’s 30 miles southwest of Hilo. Crater Rim Drive takes cyclists through deserts and rain forests and into the caldera of Kilauea volcano. More than 150 miles of hiking trails cover its 333,000 acres.
Over on Maui the Haleakala National Park offers miles and miles of hiking trails cut through the cinder desert landscape. Here is the world’s largest dormant volcano. The Maui Park is even open around the clock for high-altitude stargazing. There are programs for adventurous spirits in the 7 to 10 age bracket and these can be found at visitor centers.
Back on the Big Island, located about two miles north of the airport, the Kona Coast State Park’s trio of tranquil, uncrowded beaches cater to swimming, kayaking, picnicking and snorkeling. It’s possible to spot Hawaiian green sea turtles among the arches and caves of the offshore coral reefs. Surfers congregate in the winter for the big surf.
In Montana at Glacier National Park there are more than 700 miles of trails cut through the forests, alpine meadows and jagged peaks of this park near the Canadian border. You will find ranger-led walks, horseback rides and boat cruises exploring the park’s heritage and geology. In winter, cross-country skiing and snowshoeing routes delve into the wild interior.
In Alaska, there is Denali National Park and Preserve. A single road accesses the 6 million acres of wild landscape in Denali National Park. The park provides vehicles that transport visitors into the wild for backpacking, wildlife spotting and attempts to climb the 20,320-foot Mount McKinley — North America’s highest peak. You can see sections of the park from a train window on the Alaska Railroad if you want comfort while you view the countryside.
Over in New England you can drive through and view the beauty of Acadia National Park in Maine. This was the first national park east of the Mississippi River. Outdoor activities include climbing pink granite cliffs, horseback riding or cycling on 25 miles of rustic carriage roads, and both fresh- and salt-water fishing. The park’s 125 miles of hiking trails traverse rugged coastline, forests and mountains.
Further away you can find adventure by booking an Antarctic cruise during the winter months here. The seasons are reversed down there. Several cruise ships do this each year. You fly into the city farthest south in South America, Ushuaia, and board your ship either there or in Buenos Aries. The sea may be rough between the bottom of South America and the Antarctic continent and I’m talking 30- to 50-foot waves. If you can stand this, you are ready for the ice continent. From the ship you would board rubber landing boats and be taken ashore where you can connect with the millions of penguins. You can smell the mess the birds have created from a half-mile out to sea. It’s not nice. But there is the thrill of being on the frozen continent of Antarctica. Not many Americans have been there, which makes you a real explorer.
Another explorer vacation is camera hunting wild game in East Africa. You would first fly into Kenya, landing at Nairobi. Take a couple days to acquaint your body with the heat and high altitude. You will have already booked a land tour through Kenya and Tanzania, which most likely will depart from Nairobi. You will view more wild animals than you will have ever hoped to see. Thousands are out there waiting for your lens and camera. It’s one of life’s great thrills to camera hunt in East Africa. You’ll never forget the experience.
I hope we have given you a few good ideas for your next adventure vacation.