You Can Be Indiana Jones on a Budget
By going to the source--a local adventure tour operator--you can enjoy spectacular travel thrills for wonderfully low prices
Buy your adventure tour directly from a local outfitter, a person on the spot who actually organizes and supervises the activity, and you can save big bucks, sometimes a thousand or more. That was the message I advanced in a recent issue of Budget Travel, citing examples that ranged from diving in Fiji to mountain biking in Thailand.
But it isn't only overseas that small outfitters actually operate the tour and yet receive only a small fraction of the fee charged for it. Here at home, the overwhelming majority of domestic adventure tours are also operated by modest, local outfitters charging reasonable rates. But far too often, their prices are marked up by big national tour companies whose strength is in marketing, advertising, and sales. Innocent adventure travelers buy their tours from national companies when they could have gotten them straight from the local source, and hence pay far more than necessary.
Here are 12 outstanding American adventures that you can buy directly from distinguished local outfitters for a fraction of the cost charged by nationwide concerns. Each is available in 2002 (and most will also be available in 2003), and all but one are priced below $150 per day, sometimes for considerably less, but only when purchased directly from the outfitters mentioned in the text.
Fishing and canoeing in the boundary waters of Minnesota
Maybe it's the one-million-plus acres of seemingly endless wilderness--a whopping 1,300 miles of canoeable waters through countless lakes, rivers, and ponds--that gets paddlers all dreamy-eyed over Minnesota's northern frontier, the Boundary Waters. You can go days without seeing another person, intent instead on moose, whitetail deer, black bears, beavers, otters, and those laughing loons. Wilderness Outfitters in the border town of Ely has been taking people away from civilization since 1921 (800/777-8572, wildernessoutfitters.com). In 2002, they're offering five 6-to-10-day guided trips through the Boundary Waters and neighboring Quetico Park in Canada.
This area is truly an angler's paradise, to name just one of its attractions. Crystal-clear waters hold trout, walleye, bass, and northern pike in abundance. Since there is almost no motor access to the Boundary Waters and Quetico, fish are plentiful. The cost of most six-day trips is $895 per person, including canoes, guides, food, and tents. Of course, Wilderness Outfitters also offers food, canoes, and maps for alternative self-guided trips, which reduce the price for the latter to $55 per person, per day.
Backpacking Yosemite National Park
It began more than a century ago in the rugged wilderness of the Sierra Nevada. Deep among the towering sequoias and cascading waterfalls, John Muir and other leading conservationists founded an enduring group dedicated to preserving this awesome mountain range. Today, the Sierra Club has more than half a million members and offers guided trips throughout northern California and around the world (415/977-5522, sierraclub.org/). One of the best of the bunch is a seven-day backpacking trip through Yosemite.
Called "Majestic Yosemite," this 65-mile, on-trail trip leads you to unforgettable vistas at heights of well over 10,000 feet and past deep-in-the-woods waterfalls that few people besides Muir have seen. The trip begins and ends in Tuolumne Meadows, where the wildflowers are at their peak during the dates of the trek, July 9-16. Cost of the backpack adventure is $485, including all food.
There are many reasons for bikers to cherish Vermont. The numerous back-country roads connect picturesque hamlets, all with very little traffic. The rolling hills challenge the novice, but also allow the experts to feel a sense of accomplishment. Yet it's the scenery that makes a bike trip in Vermont so appealing. Around every bend there's another meadow greener than the last, another freshly painted white steeple piercing the clouds overhead, and another Green Mountain standing tall in the distance. Strict environmental statutes prohibit roadside billboards and other eyesores. In their place stand small signs advertising pure maple syrup or identifying the types of cows found on a farm-Holstein, Hereford, or Jersey. This state was meant to be seen at a slow pace.
Depending on your ability, budget, and length of stay, Vermont Outdoor Guide Association (800/425-8747, voga.org/) will develop a detailed itinerary that includes accommodations (B&Bs, youth hostels, or campgrounds), bike routes (including a map and a description of the terrain), even a bike. This is a self-guided tour of the state, so luggage will be transported by the lodging properties and each night's accommodation will keep track of your route in case of an emergency. Take a weeklong tour in the affordable and majestic northeast kingdom of Vermont, and your total cost, including bike rental, inns, and food, will be $500-$600. If you prefer to camp and want to bring your own bike, the weekly price plummets to about $150, not including meals.
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