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Two-Day Triumph

By Jim Gorman - October 16th, 2006

National Geographic Adventure Website


Explore a Lost Canyon, Utah
Of the hundreds of canyons in Grand Staircase- Escalante National Monument, two see a majority of the visitors: Paria River and Coyote Gulch. But Rick Green of Excursions of Escalante hopes to change that. On a three-day canyoneering trip into Death Hollow ($200;, guests slither, swim, and rappel into tight slot canyons that haven't recorded a footprint in the seven years Green has been guiding in the area. Along the way, visitors explore caves filled with arrowheads and pictographs and retire to a lofty base camp, where the setting sun illuminates a sea of white-and-pink sandstone.

Give Up the Ghost, New Mexico
In the ghost town of Kingston, the Black Range Lodge ($59; is the liveliest thing going. Come spring a parade of urban escapees pulls off State Route 152 and through the wagon-wheel gateway, drawn by two chief attractions: the lodge's setting beside the Gila National Forest and owner Catherine Wanek's green chili salsa, which goes nicely on any breakfast dish prepared with eggs from her "free-thinking" chickens. A short but steep drive to Emory Pass delivers hikers and mountain bikers to the Black Range Crest Trail. Bikers roll south eight miles (13 kilometers) to Sawyers Peak (9,668 feet or 2,947 kilometers). Hikers can follow the trail north five miles through a wilderness of ponderosa, Douglas fir, and aspen to grassy 10,011-foot (3,051-meter) Hillsboro Peak for views of the Mimbres Valley.


Paddle a Pirate Lair, Georgia
A boneyard fits right in on the former island-home of pirate Edward "Blackbeard" Teach. Today, however, the skeletal remains aren't human, but wave-blasted remnants of live oaks. During a two-day tour of Georgia's sea isles with SouthEast Adventure Outfitters ($225;, clients paddle to Blackbeard Island from a base on Sapelo Island then hike two and a half miles (4 kilometers) to the log-strewed beach. Back on Sapelo, visitors stay with the local Gullah people, sharing stories and a meal of fried-fish casserole.

Breeze Through History, Maryland
Pedaling the towpath beside the Chesapeake & Ohio Canal is not unlike Zen meditation. With no interruptions from cars or rocks, the sensual pleasures of still water and cadenced pedal strokes take hold. The 124-mile (200-kilometer) section from Cumberland to Harpers Ferry offers mountain views, a mix of colonial and Civil War history, and a 3,118-foot (950-meter) journey through the Paw Paw Tunnel (headlamps mandatory). Rent fat-tire bikes and arrange for a shuttle with River Riders ($90; Spend the night in Hancock at the 250-year-old Cohill Manor B&B ($75; +1 301 678 7573).

Catch the Snow Show, New Hampshire
The last chairlift in the East shut down weeks ago, but ski season is only now heating up at Tuckerman Ravine, on the southeast flank of 6,288-foot (1,917-meter) Mount Washington. From Lunch Rocks, cheer on the daredevils attempting the remarkably steep Headwall, then join Chauvin Guides on a day-long ski tour of Gulf of Slides and Oakes Gulf ($125; Stay mountainside at rustic Joe Dodge Lodge ($57; including breakfast and dinner;, the unofficial base facility for skiing "the Tuck."


Bike With Bison, South Dakota
If the technical mountain biking on the 111-mile (179-kilometer) Centennial Trail doesn't stop you, an ornery bison just might. "There's a good chance you'll whip around a corner and run right into a buffalo," says Tim Rangitsch, who works at Acme Bicycles, in nearby Rapid City. Best advice in that case: Give the big bruisers wide berth, especially during spring calving season, when moms are hypersensitive. Stage your explorations of the Centennial from a lakeside cabin at Legion Lake Resort ($95;, in Custer State Park. From there, ride the Big Tree Robbers Roost Draw loop, which climbs to the second tallest ponderosa pine in the nation before dropping into the sheer-sided canyon along French Creek.

Hike Like a Sooner, Oklahoma
Backpackers can be excused for thinking of Greenleaf State Park as a private enclave. At their disposal they have a smartly designed 17-mile (27-kilometer) loop trail, unlimited swimming options in clear Greenleaf Lake, ample hills with gratifying views, and near perfect waterside camping. Better still, the Greenleaf Trail runs through the quiet Cookson Hills section of the park (+1 918 487 5196), which sits on the bank opposite the park's RV hookups and recreation facilities. Be advised: Mountain bikers share the trail, but a rocky tread and a lack of publicity keep their numbers down.


Go Coastal, California
State Route 1 loses its stranglehold on the Pacific coastline in northern Mendocino County, home to Sinkyone Wilderness State Park and the beginning of the 54-mile (87-kilometer) Lost Coast. To access Orchard Camp and other prime drive-in sites, approach from the north via a dirt road out of Whitethorn. The nearby Lost Coast Trail, Sinkyone's main drag, travels 22 miles (35 kilometers) atop a bluff and along black-sand beaches where elephant seals bask.

Ride Sierra Surge, California
River rats recognize the 22-mile (35-kilometer) Forks of the Kern, located at the south end of the Sierra Nevada, as the best white-water run in California. Some even contend it's tops in the whole country. But the Kern is also so remote that rafters must hike three miles to reach a put-in and mules are enlisted to ferry supplies. Kern River Outfitters runs three-day trips ($798; Previous paddling experience is recommended.

Cruise the Green Room, Oregon
Every trip has a clinching moment. On Oregon Ridge & River Excursions' three-day, 77-mile (124-kilometer) mountain biking tour through the southern Cascades ($150;, the Dread and Terror trail is it. Riders cling to the narrow path as it climbs an exposed ledge several hundred feet above the emerald North Umpqua River. While bikers white-knuckle it, guides leapfrog ahead to pitch tents and prepare a barbecued salmon dinner.

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