Off Yonder – Adventure Travel Stories - Seeing the world for what it is

Swiss Adventure: Bungee Jump (fall)
Mount Titlis, Engelberg, Switzerland

It wasn’t possible for all of the 600 delegates attending the Adventure Travel World Summit to participate in one of the many Pre-Summit Adventures like the one I shared in my last post. So, the first day of the summit is actually a “Day of Adventure” before filling the halls of the conference center for all the various sessions.

I was assigned to document the Bungee Jump. Or, as I indicate in the title, it was more of fall, or teeter. At the base of Mt. Titlis near the town of Engelberg south of Lucerne in Switzerland, we boarded a large rectangular cable car or gondola with a hole in the middle. I found out in a little video clip that I did (see below) that I was with a bunch of rookies. Nobody on this trip had ever been bungee jumping before. And, to complete the rookie-ness, I had never been either. The closest thing I’ve done like bungee jumping was the Canyon Swing just the day before as seen in the last video. Since we were “jumping” from a gondola, they asked us to just teeter forward and pivot over our feet to fall, not to jump and push the gondola away causing it to swing.

Check out the full story for the video!

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Swiss Adventure: Canyoning and Hiking and Swinging, Oh My!
Jungfrau Region, Interlaken, Switzerland

Pre-Summit Adventure No. 1 – Four amazing days in and around Interlaken and the Jungfrau Region of Switzerland.

Day 1 – High ropes course with ziplines and other balancing elements high in the trees.

Day 2 – Canyoning where we followed a creek into a canyon and jumped off 35′ waterfalls, rappelled off higher ones and slid on the shallower descents.

Day 3 – An awesome 6 hour hike through the Bernese Oberland (highlands) to Grindelwald.

Day 4 – Canyon Swing: Attached to a rope 300 feet above a roaring river we jumped, we fell, we swung on the rope.

Awesome. Video.

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Peru’s Challenge
Cusco, Peru

Voluntourism is an awkward word but what it means is incredible. It adds the idea of volunteering to the concept of tourism. It’s a great way to add some substance to your travels. Beyond just visiting and seeing a place foreign to you, you now have a chance to get your hands dirty and contribute to a community and a people less fortunate than you. This is a rewarding and authentic way to see the world.

I was privileged to join a number of American teens this summer as they traveled to Peru to build a classroom. There are many voluntourism companies around the world and the one we were working with is called Peru’s Challenge. In 2002 founders Jane and Selvy started a program to work with rural Peruvian communities to help them build a sustainable infrastructure. Peru’s Challenge works with the community to establish a 3-5 year plan to address education and utilities. In our case, we were helping with the education side of things by building a classroom in the small village of Miskiuno near Cusco. In other instances, Peru’s Challenge builds greenhouses, aqueducts, sewage systems and more. They also provide social services to help the community apply for government assistance, train teachers for the school, teach community members how they can use the greenhouses to grow and sell food and flowers as well as weaving and other textile skills to take products to market.

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Slot Canyons
Coyote Gulch, Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, Utah, United States

Hidden in the southeast corner of Utah down the long Hole-in-the-Rock road lies a series of canyons – tributaries to the Escalante River. Thirteen miles down Coyote Gulch takes you through a series of environmental shifts. Starting on the dry, hot and barren plateau, the trail quickly descends into a dry wash. Trees start to appear providing some nice shade and suddenly the ground is wet and water starts flowing. Sandstone cliffs begin to tower above you, shafts of sunlight stream past the rim and the riparian zone bursts into lush foliage. Tents are optional as camp can be made under the sandstone overhangs carved out by centuries of passing water. But there is little need for concern with regular sunny days and scant rainfall. Though flash floods are possible so keep an eye on the upstream weather. Click “Full Story” for more photos.

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Hiking the Grand
North Rim & Inner Gorge, Grand Canyon, Arizona, United States

It doesn’t matter how you access the Grand Canyon, so long as you actually get down into it. Sure, the views are impressive from the rim looking down into and along the big red gash in the earth, but it’s too big to fathom just from above. By boat or by foot, you’ve got to get into it.

Matt, Agnes and I, planned on a four day backpacking trip descending from the North Rim along the Bill Hall Trail and into Deer Creek Canyon for the first night. Well, technically our first night out was car camping on the North Rim which offered the aforementioned amazing though limited view from above. The morning sun crept down along the walls, displacing the dark pooled in the canyon as we packed up our car camp and got on the rocky trail taking us down.

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NOLS Pro & Deuter Packs Trip
Union Pass, Wind River Range, Wyoming, United States

If you have been on a NOLS (National Outdoor Leadership School) trip of any sort, you know the value it provides participants with technical outdoors skills as well as the “Expedition Behavior” skills to not only get along with the members of your group but to make the trip, or expedition a resounding success. NOLS has been offering their “Pro” (short for Professional) program for a few years but are ready to ramp it up. NOLS Pro will set up a course for any professional team looking to build group dynamics, leadership, risk management and/or outdoor skills anywhere you like.

Our group was lead by two NOLS Pro instructors, Marcio Paes Barreto and Brian Fabel, who took us into the Wind River Range in Wyoming for a few days and they shared the NOLS Pro program with us. Another component included Deuter Packs as NOLS uses Deuter Packs as their robust pack rental fleet. Built to suit the rugged nature of NOLS trips, these packs are out in the field a lot and get many lifetimes of use as compared to how often a privately owned backpack gets out into the field.

Click the title above for more photos.

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Wine & Spirits – Beaver Creek
Beaver Creek, Avon, Colorado, United States

Don’t let the lack of snow fool you. Beaver Creek is not just for winter fun. The mountains are beautiful all year around. You may find it curious that as a teetotaler I attended the Wine & Spirits festival, but I wanted to see if even I, without a drop of alcohol, would enjoy it. I did, but how?

Check out the full story to hear about walking around the green summer ski slopes, eating gourmet food, watching others sample and discuss the nuance of tannins and other wine talk all in the first day! Then we ride the chair lift, go for a jeep ride, play disc golf and finish it all at the Walk Around tasting which seemed to me to have more gourmet food than wine & spirits! Also, there are two videos, one for each day in Beaver Creek. Check it out!

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Maroon Bells Cycling Adventure
Maroon Bells, Roaring Fork Valley, Aspen, Colorado, United States

If you’re into cycling, Aspen is the place to be. We were under the care of the Little Nell Adventure Center in Aspen and they outfitted our merry band of bicyclists with top of the line Orbea and Colnago carbon frame bikes which were nothing but a pleasure to ride. Pro rider Scott Kasin led us up the 10 mile 4-5% grade climb. Remember that Aspen, where we started already sits at 7,900 feet and we climbed nearly 1,600 feet to 9,500 feet. Just short of the top, I passed a guy and asked him how he was doing and his reply was “Just trying to keep up with Lance!” I chuckled and replied “Aren’t we all!” Thinking he was speaking in cycling generalities. But low and behold, I pulled up to Scott chatting with a group of cyclists in the shade, and one of them was wearing a black jersey with a yellow LIVESTRONG stripe across his chest.

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Ellingwood Ridge Challenge
La Plata, Collegiate Range, Colorado, United States

I had the pleasure of guiding a trip in the Colorado Rockies with Mark James for the Adventure Unlimited Ranches. We took a group of intrepid adults from A/U’s Adult Base Camp (ABC) program to La Plata where the plan was to traverse Ellingwood Ridge. The five of us (two guides and three adult campers) camped at the base of the western ridge. The next morning we made it up the western ridge to the 14,334-foot summit where a batch of my mom’s home made oatmeal chocolate chip cookies were delivered. That was a treat. Once rested at the summit one camper opted to turn back and was accompanied by Mark while the rest of us started our descent along Ellingwood Ridge. This is not a trail and is a technical route. About an hour into the traverse we realized the best idea was to turn back to the summit instead of continuing on along the ridge all the way down as planned.

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RMC Centennial Reunion
White Mountains, Randolph, New Hampshire, United States

Back in the fall of 2006 I enjoyed a beautiful season as the caretaker for a cabin in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. This weekend, I’m back in the small mountain town of Randolph to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Randolph Mountain Club (RMC) with many of the great people who have also served as caretakers as well as those who have worked on the trail crew. On Saturday morning Al (who hired me to be the caretaker) and I hiked up to Crag Camp where we sat in the mountain sunshine and chatted with a few folks who stayed up there that night. We then hiked over to Gray Knob Cabin where I lived for two months. The large logbook on the table only had a dozen blank pages left and was the one I had started while working there. It was fun to read the entry I wrote about the first substantial snowfall that season on the first page. I wrote a little note to document this visit and headed back down.

That evening over 150 people gathered for dinner (I made a pot of chili to contribute), dessert, RMC trivia, and photos of previous caretakers and trail crews from each decade represented. We even did a photo of RMC Antarcticans as it seems this little club sends quite a few folks down to the ice.

Below are some of the photos I took as a caretaker in the White Mountains. Photos of the reunion are most likely to be found on the RMC website.

Click on any image to see more photos or to buy a print.

And there it is: Gray Knob Cabin. Tucked in just below tree line on the north side of Mt. Adams in New Hampshire. At 4,370' it is the highest year-round residence in the northeast.

Click on “Full Story” below or the title above for a quick look at a few more images.

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