Two of the hottest types of vacations being promoted this year are adventure travel and eco-tourism. But is there a form of adventure geared for the less adventurous? And can out-of-shape ecology-minded tourists visit exotic landscapes without doing harm to their own fragile ecologies?
The answer is definitely yes, says Patricia Dickerman, who has made a successful living for more than four decades by spotting America's vacation trends.Dickerman noticed the growing desire for adventure vacations back in 1971 and launched an adventure travel newsletter, the first-ever compilation of trip operators "who took neophytes as well as experienced outdoors people down rivers, up mountains and across plains."
She also is the creator of the popular guidebook "Farm, Ranch and Country Vacations," which for more than 40 years has been the bible of cityfolk seeking fun on the farm and other rural destinations.
Now Dickerman has just published the 20th anniversary edition of "Adventure Travel North America," targeted at those of us interested in "soft adventures that bring refreshment and rewards to adult and family vacations."
She says the adventure trips covered in her 288-page book can be enjoyed by travelers of virtually every age and shape, including families with children. (One of the book's cover photos shows a less-than-svelte middle-aged man pedaling a bicycle along the rim of the Grand Canyon.)
"They are people with an adventurous and inquisitive spirit, but the journeys they take are not difficult," Dickerman says. "Seldom do they encounter spine-tingling challenge or a test of skill. Nearly all the trips in the book are open to everyone, whether or not they have ever hiked or backpacked, rafted or paddled, ridden a horse, sailed a boat or trekked in a wilderness."
"And it also soon becomes obvious to participants that besides the pure delight of adventure travel, another reward is a deepening understanding of our environment.
Dickerman's book describes the many types of adventures available and in each category lists geographically the outfitters and trip operators who endeavor to take the rough edges out of roughing it. (Outfitters, she explains, are not the people from whom you purchase outdoor gear. The term is used for experts who guide and provision trips, usually into wilderness areas.)
About 400 outfitters and trip operators are listed in the book along with addresses, telephone numbers and rates.
For instance, if you're interested in taking a pack trip by horse, you might head for the Bar Diamond Ranch in Hotchkiss, Colo. Dellis Ferrier notes that his pack trips are geared to families with children six years and older and that they'll be riding "some of the gentlest, best-trained trail horses in all of Colorado. If you've never ridden a horse or it's been a few years, don't let this stop you."
"Llama excursions are zooming in popularity," Dickerman says, noting that five years ago they were a relatively unknown form of adventuring. "Outfitters are increasing their uses of llamas and today they trek through ... wilderness regions all through the West and in Maine and North Carolina."
She says covered wagon trips also are very popular this year. "These are great trips for families," Dickerman says.
And the trip needn't be too bumpy, according to the outfitters of Wagons West in Afton, Wyo., whose "gentle horses and mules pull wagons over trails and remote back roads in the Grand Teton area" while adventurers are ensconced in "modernized covered wagons with rubber tires and foam-padded seats that convert to deluxe beds."
From descriptions like that, you can see "soft adventures" aren't hard to take.
They are zooming in popularity.
Dickerman's book, "Adventure Travel North America" (Adventure Guides Inc. $15.95) is available in bookstores, or by calling 800-252-7899.