Destinations for intense exploration
Photos by Shannon Cornman
When it comes to getaways, there are those who want to relax, and those who want to step outside themselves into the world, crank up the endorphins and live in wonder. We push ourselves. We walk on the edge of elation and fear; awe and “Aaah!” In this month’s 405 Magazine, we’ve put together a list of some of our favorite adventures near and far to inspire that intrepid spirit in you.
As the tide recedes, there are but a few seconds to exit the small watercraft onto this remote Panamanian beach before the surf returns with the kind of power that will all but ensure that today’s adventure with UnCruise will begin wet. The emerald water of the Pacific is warm, and the humid air clings. Howler monkey calls reverberate, thunderous, as raucous scarlet macaws sail overhead, landing in the tops of the palms that delineate rain forest from beach … one adventure from another. As my feet hit the warm ocean water, typically something a landlocked Okie like me enjoys, I moved to land a little faster than usual. Lightning fast.
Earlier in the morning, as the sun rose, a curious crocodile had circled our small expedition ship for more than an hour. Snorkeling was on the agenda later that morning, as was birdwatching – and as the croc circled the boat, mouth ajar and eyes locked, the birdwatching group rapidly began to outnumber the snorkeling group. Spotting a toucan or a perhaps an elusive manakin seemed a hair safer than snorkeling with a crocodile. Either way, welcoming the morning alongside such a primordial, menacing creature, on a day abounding with ocean activities off the shore of a remote island chain 14 miles off the coast of Central America, suggested only one thing: adventure.
The week with Uncruise had been filled with remote adventures such as this. The wildlife-rich, adventure-heavy journey began in Puerto Caldera Costa Rica and would conclude a day later after a memorable trip through the Panama Canal. There had been rain forest hiking, whale watching and snorkeling in addition to beachcombing, conservation initiative participation and, of course, cocktails on the beach – and all without seeing another soul, save fellow travelers, conservationists and staff. – Matt Payne
Ruidoso, New Mexico
Outside Ruidoso is the Apache Wind Rider Ziptour – one of the world’s longest zip lines. It starts at the top of Ski Apache (11,489 feet altitude), and its longest stretch is more than a mile long. Seriously. While the last two are shorter, they are also considerably steeper. You’ll soar over treetops and ski runs with panoramic views of the surrounding mountains, returning to earth a mere 8,900 feet later. The views are a big part of what makes this zip line so special, but the actual zipping takes only a few minutes, since airborne adventurers reach speeds of 65 miles an hour. – Elaine Warner
Fayetteville, West Virginia
Named one of the top six adventure resorts in the country by U.S. News and World Report, Adventures on the Gorge is an adventurer’s paradise. Outdoor experiences include whitewater rafting on the New and Gauley rivers and an aerial adventure park with two zip line courses, plus rock climbing, rappelling, kayaking, stand-up paddleboarding, fishing, mountain biking and hiking. Overnight river trips complete with food prepared by chef-trained expedition guides really raise the bar. – MP
There is no spot in the United States that defines outdoor adventure quite like Yellowstone National Park. However, although breathtaking, Yellowstone can also be so congested with fannypackers and selfie sticks that you can forget you’re in nature to begin with. As true adventurers, these people frustrate us, so the best thing to do is to get above them. Literally. Cody sits on the edge of Yellowstone, and hang-gliding specialists Airborne Over Cody offer even the beginner opportunities to sail through the canyons and over the forests, for a new and exciting perspective on a natural wonder. – MP
Zion National Park, Utah
Utah is a mecca for adventure. With five National Parks, each uniquely epic, one could spend months exploring the mysterious desert tableaus and vast canyons. Canyonlands, Arches, Bryce Canyon and Capitol Reef are among the finest sites in the National Parks system, but to crank up the endorphins, look no farther than Zion National Park. The harrowing 2.4-mile climb up to Scout Lookout features narrow pathways, sheer drop-offs and an epic view at Scout’s Landing for those brave enough to make it to the top.
Sometimes adventures call for us to climb – and other times, adventurers must simply push through. No place in Zion is this more evident than in the famed Zion Narrows, where a one-mile trail leads to the entrance of the rushing Virgin River. Over centuries, water has carved perfectly sculpted rock walls, and it is through these beautifully sculpted walls we walk. Kind of. As the National Park Service website states, “It is not, however, a trip to be underestimated.” This is because approximately 60 percent of the hike in the Virgin River involves wading, walking through water – and sometimes swimming. There is no trail, and the current is swift with slippery rocks underfoot. During heavy rains, areas of the Narrows will flood, which can be dangerous in certain spots where there are no large boulders to climb and wait it out. Sound adventurous? It is. – MP
Are you rarin’ to go ridin’? Laramie River Ranch is horse heaven in the Rockies of northern Colorado. Bill and Krista Burleigh have made the horse program the signature of their historic dude ranch, and from the rawest novice to experienced riders, there are activities for all levels. I thoroughly enjoyed my easy rides through the valley and along the river. Other guests, looking for more advanced treks, rode on mountain trails and even cattle round-ups.
Laramie River Ranch offers all sorts of activities and educational opportunities for horse lovers, but guests also enjoy fly-fishing, tubing in the river, hikes and nature walks. Families can ride together, or youngsters can participate in special children’s programs. After sundown, there’s cowboy music or poetry, square dancing or simple stargazing. For those who want an action-packed vacation, you’ll find it – and plenty of fresh air – here. –EW
► Elaine Warner Is … Adventure Grandma
Years ago, my husband Jack, son Jay, daughter Julie and my parents visited Grand Teton National Park, the epitome of rugged beauty. I took Julie on a walk to see the cygnets. Taking the trail beside the pond, we finally spotted them. As we stood watching, I became aware of movement across the water: It was a mother moose and her baby. How cool is that?
Until the animals entered the water and started swimming toward us. At that moment, young Julie needed a pit stop. Meanwhile, the moose were making progress. Our lives in danger, we did what was necessary – logically, we popped behind a tree so she could tend to nature’s call.
As I waited and the moose bore down, my photographer’s instinct kicked in. I grabbed my camera, took a quick shot, grabbed Julie’s hand and hurried down the path in the wrong direction.
Fortunately, I saw a hiker coming toward us. I quickly told him of our dilemma.
“Don’t worry,” he told me, “moose have bad eyesight. We’ll hike up into the trees and cut around them.”
Relieved by his woodsman-like skills, Julie and I followed.
Soon we were past danger and I thanked my new hero. “I’m glad we ran into someone who lives around here,” I told him.
“Oh, I’m not from here. I’m from Corpus Christi,” he answered. I guess my ignorance was bliss.
That evening I told my family of our harrowing adventure – complete with a description of the moose’s hot breath on the backs of our necks. It was impressive until the photos were developed. Yup, the momma moose and baby looked like they were in the next county! Now I use a camera with a telephoto lens.